Sukki Singapora’s ‘albino Indian’ look

From ‘Burlesque babe’, 21 April 2013, article by Melissa Sim, Lifestyle, Sunday Times

For more than a year, burlesque dancer Sukki Singapora, 26, led a double life. By day, she worked in IT support – wearing formal skirts and fitted shirts – but once the work day was over, she cast off her office wear for corsets and sequined outfits. “It was very much a Clark Kent existence,” says Singaporeconnected, Britain-based Sukki, who quit her IT job with the British cycling Olympic team to become a full-time burlesque performer in April last year.

…“I was fortunate enough to be offered enough shows that I no longer needed a day job,” says the dancer, who uses a peroxide cream to create the look of an “albino Indian”

…What keeps her going, she says, are the letters she receives from Asian women and men, nearly 100 from Singapore alone. “Some want to learn how to do it. However, more often than not, they are too scared to try because of their strict backgrounds and feel they have no one to talk to except me,” she says.

So she set up The Singapore Burlesque Society, a Facebook group which has 64 members, to provide a “safe community” for those interested in burlesque in Singapore. She also started The Singapore Burlesque Club, a touring show which has a policy of hiring at least one Asian burlesque performer at every event.

…Denying that she chose her stage name because it was more exotic to be from Singapore than the UK, she says: “I picked it because it represents where I felt I was from. I still consider myself a citizen.”

Born to an Indian Singaporean father and a British mother, both doctors, Sukki Menon was a Geography major before achieving grand diva success. She became a British citizen when she was 18, and would give our very own drag queen Kumar a run for the money. Most Singaporeans, however, would rather play Angry Birds than see dancers dressed up as peacocks, this despite Moulin Rouge and the less successful Burlesque movies spurring the revival of a vintage stage show. ‘Showgirls’ probably gets more illegal downloads than both movies combined.

Sukki isn’t the first Asian sensation to seduce audiences with wild, sexy dancing. Malaya used to have her very own ‘Queen of Striptease’ in the 1950s, none other than the late, great Rose Chan. Referred to as a ‘stripper’ in those days, her shows were banned here by the police in view of its ‘improper nature’. She was also badass enough to wrestle with pythons. Today’s burlesque artistes settle for boas instead.

I suppose many Singaporeans have matured since then to accept burlesque dancing as a respectable profession, nude or no-nude, but it’s mostly viewed as a hobby to tone your abs or surprise your husband on Valentine’s Day (for $180 you can have 10 hourly lessons of Exotic Dance/Lap Dance). I’m not sure if albinos or Indians would take offence at Sukki’s use of whitening face cream. I’ve never seen an Indian albino in the flesh, but I doubt they look like Courtney Love as Sukki does. Going ‘Blackface’ for your company DnD with a Bollywood theme, however, is a terrible idea.

Crazy Horse, which bears similarities to burlesque though it boasts as the most ‘avant garde’ all of Paris cabarets, failed in Singapore after just 14 months.  Supporters were quick to denounce the country for being intolerant of such ‘raunchiness’. But it also offended housewives who thought it was ‘pornographic’, ‘derogatory to women’, and promoted all sorts of wrong values. A layman would find difficulty differentiating burlesque, cabaret and exotic dancing, though flashy costumes (and eventual lack of it), ample cleavage, flirtatiousness and feathers are all common elements. Some would call her a ‘high-class’ stripper, and in fact Sukki in her Facebook page has acknowledged her job as a ‘striptease artist’. Here’s a video of her jiggling out of traditional Indian dance costume into a slutty red bikini:

Burlesque dancers tend to give themselves names indistinguishable from adult movie stars or James Bond girls (think Pussy Galore).  Not all have glamorous monikers like Dita von Teese, which sounds like a villain from a 101 Dalmations cartoon. Here’s a quick test to see if you know your burlesque from your XXX stars.

1) Aurora Galore
2) Aurora Snow
3) Lexi Belle
4) Dottie Lux
5) Dirty Martini
6) Summer Haze
7)Lady Beau Peep
8)Vicious Delicious
9)Kalani Kokonuts
10)Calamity Chang
11) Kitten de Ville
12)Lily Labeau

*2, 3, 6 and 12 are porn actresses

Dancers also tend to argue that their art is a ‘celebration of feminity‘, yet  there is an internet magazine for ‘all things burlesque’ named An organiser for international events like the All Asian Burlesque Spectacular calls itself THIRSTY Girl Productions.  Sukki herself acts in The PEEP SHOW, and performs at a La Bordello Boheme. It’s all in the name of good ol’ naughty fun, of course, but I doubt the folks at AWARE are amused. I’m sure the Esplanade can bend its ‘No Sleazy Uncles’ rule to slot in a Sukki show somewhere.

Incorporating Singapura in her stage name aside, she has also wowed audiences with what she calls The MERLION strut,  a homage to a ‘mythical beast’. There is also the “Sparkle for Singapore’, complete with ‘glistening Singapore orchids’. We should rope Sukki in for the next National Day Parade since we’ve done pole-dancing anyway, and pair her up with Kumar in a Battle of the Divas. With our ailing fertility problems, perhaps sexy burlesque is one way to sizzle up our bedrooms, and no one better to promote it than our Burlesque Ambassador and Superheroine, Sukki Singapora herself.

Transsexuals in Miss Universe Singapore

From ‘Beauty contests’, 28 April 2012, ST Forum

(MR ACE KINDRED CHEONG): ‘Transgender participants should not be allowed to participate in beauty pageants meant for women (‘Miss Universe Singapore: Could the next one be originally male?’; Wednesday). They will have an advantage over biological women as some, if not all, will have undergone cosmetic surgery. Instead, why not have beauty pageants meant solely for transgender participants?

Transsexualism has been discussed rather openly in Singapore since the early 80’s, where attempts have been made to distinguish the terms ‘transvestite’ from ‘transsexual’, as well as define the colloquial ‘ah kuas’, the latter often used interchangeably between a transsexual, an ‘effeminate’ man or  ‘sissy’ or a ‘male prostitute’, yet SBC deemed it ‘appropriate‘ for use in drama serials.’Transgender’ was coined as recently as the 1990’s, as in LGBT, a term that may be preferred when addressing the community as a whole as it seems to take the ‘surgical knife’ undertones off ‘transsexual’, though both are still commonly used in the media today. ‘Ladyboy’ and ‘bapok’, however, have become derogatory, though ‘bapok’ in Malay literally means ‘effeminate’ (like the equally offensive catch-all that is ‘ah kua’), while ‘Tranny’ and ‘shemale’ are reserved for porn genres. When it comes to transsexualism, even quotation marks can be highly offensive, as in ‘woman’, ‘sister’ or ‘queen’ to describe transwomen (men who became women).  The Malaysian press has even hidden the full word behind an acronym, TS.

Even the same act of ‘going under the knife’ has been euphemised over the years. Today it’s called SRS or ‘sex reassignment surgery ‘, when we used to call it a ‘sex change operation’. The Miss Canada Universe who started it all, Jenna Talackova, herself underwent ‘GENDER reassignment surgery’, the term ‘assignment’ making the procedure as innocuous as amending one’s birth certificate. Like most behavioral deviations, transsexualism has also become medicalised;  if you’re born a man and feel like a woman you have a ‘gender identity disorder (GID)’, which implies that ‘feeling like a woman’ when you’re a man is a form of ‘sickness’. The term ‘intersex’ has been proposed as the ‘third gender’ for official purposes, though being ‘intersexed’ could also refer to a sex development disorder in which one was born with ‘ambiguous’ genitalia i.e hermaphrodites, a term used to describe flowers and worms other than human beings.  Hermaphrodites, other than getting embroiled in sporting arena controversies, also have their own problems dealing with transsexual beauty contestants who were born 100% male.

Allowing transsexuals in pageants puts judges in a spot, even if it may well boost up ratings. You don’t want to appear to cast a sympathy vote nor do you want the LGBT community to complain about discrimination if their representative fails to even make the top 15. Cosmetic surgery also may not give that desired edge over female participants (unless the writer was thinking of shocking beauties like Thailand’s Nong Poy below). But perhaps this is more a victory for ‘medical science’ than anything else. Or rather medical science AND make-up. But wait a minute, since when was Miss Universe JUST about LOOKS (or femininity for that matter) anyway? Didn’t ‘masculine’ Tania Lim take the crown in 2010?

For every Nong Poy...

...There's this.

There are already transgender Miss Universe-ish pageants as we speak, such as the Miss International Queen pageant (which allows transvestites as well), not to be confused with Miss Tourism Queen, Miss Global Beauty Queen and Miss QUEEN OF THE WORLD. Still, this is a vast improvement from our stigmatisation of transsexuals in the 80’s, when they were barred from such contests because it was seen as an ’embarrassment’ and  a ‘big joke to organisers’. It would be a while before we see transsexuals or transvestites in high-flying positions such as doctors, lawyers or politicians (though some may be closest cross-dressers…there’s a difference!), but pitting them in competition against natural-born females could be symbolic of this social ‘inclusiveness’ that the PAP has been bragging about, even if the platform is as superficial as a beauty contest, or in the promotion of ‘cabaret’ shows (Does that mean our pageants need to be R18 as well?)

Audiences are suckers for underdogs, and since the Miss Universe franchise here needs saving, a transgender Miss Universe Singapore hopeful could very well be a Beautiful Boxer in the making. But first, we’ll have to lift the bar on transsexuals into certain clubs, and that includes Ladies’ Night, to show that we really mean it. Still, it’s hard not to be hypocritical when advocating equality for transsexuals as a heterosexual man. Some would rather be seen in public with an openly gay man than a transsexual, and I for one have reservations about getting a hot oil massage from either.

NDP should be NC-16 because of cross-dressing

From ‘One people , one dress code, please’ and ‘Change to a neutral hue’, 11 Aug 2011, ST Forum

(Ronald Seow): …The National Day Parade is a celebration of citizens, united as one people, regardless of race, language or religion – and more so, political differences.

It should be a significant annual event uniting all political leaders to celebrate Singapore’s birthday. I hope future parades will see all MPs dressed in the national colours – a combination of red and white or the official orchid-patterned shirts and dresses.

MPs must make an effort to stand as one united people to serve the people of Singapore. They should take pride in their efforts to lead in nation building, and not show off their political party colours.

(MR ERIC ONG): I couldn’t help but wonder why no MP turned up in red. Instead, they wore white or light blue tops. Surely they should be together as one with fellow citizens in celebration. A red top with a pair of white trousers or skirt would not go amiss in the sea of red we saw in the stands.

We have had 46 years of independence and NDP celebrations, so why bring up minister dress code only now?  The PAP’s all-white get up has become an indispensable prop at parades by tradition, like marching soldiers or the playing of the national anthem. It is an iconic feature and source of countless ‘men in white’ puns throughout the PAP’s reign as the only political party ever to govern this young nation, which explains why it never struck us to have our ministers wearing red or orchid motifs for a change.  It’s like seeing a clown perform without a red nose, Professor Dumbledore without a flowing white beard, or Hawaiian hula dancers without coconuts.

The VIP stand in 1967

It only makes sense for the Workers’ Party MPs to come dressed in their own party colours because PAP wouldn’t budge having dressed white for half a century, nor would they don red because that also happens to be what SPP ‘s Lina Chiam was wearing that day, despite red being the most obvious alternative to white. If anyone had the foresight to picture this awkward situation even happening, they would have chosen non-flag colours for party logos in the first place. Like how Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United fans all wear England jerseys to a World Cup match, despite being loggerheads when dressed in their respective club jerseys.  Some MPs like Penny Low would gladly welcome the idea of being nondescript and disappearing into a sea of red, but for all the wrong reasons. Heck, why bother with the VIP stand at all and just  do away with the formality of physical segregation altogether? Why not make our ministers march with the contingent and perform for us like they used to do way back in 1966 (Day and night of fun and joy in S’pore, 10 Aug 1966, ST), mingle with us, sing NDP songs with us and rummage through Fun Packs with the enthusiasm of a child opening Santa’s present like everyone else?

From ‘Drag wrong, guys’, 11 Aug 2011, ST Forum

(Ivan Lau): ..As a parent of three young children, I question the appropriateness of cross-dressing in the segment on racial harmony and nation building.

Prominent male comedian Gurmit Singh, known to young audiences in his role as a male alien in the television series Cosmo & George that airs on Okto, was sari-clad as an Indian woman.

Talented male actor Chua Enlai, known to children as a male host of many programmes on Okto, was dressed as a young, modern woman.

Was such casting necessary in the context of portraying racial harmony and nation building on national television? Or was it the organising committee’s intention to portray harmony of another kind, namely that of transgender or transsexuality? It that was the intent, then the show should had been more aptly rated NC-16.

Singled ladies

Well you’ve got to admit, men in dresses are cheap sight gags and worthy of a snigger or two if you’re the kind who used to tape America’s Funniest Home Videos and play them at family gatherings,  but I thought in the spirit of family-friendly wholesomeness  it would have been more appropriate to rope in the Dim Sum Dollies for this skit. The trio has disappeared since the ‘Love Your Ride’ jingle-torture and are probably on indefinite hiatus from public service announcement jobs considering the fact that their boa-swishing and harmonised cooing did absolutely nothing to improve comfort or graciousness in trains. We even have to pay more for it now.

It probably didn’t matter who performs anyway because the script was a sheer waste of the gender-bending comedic talents of both Singh and En Lai, with both resorting to pitch changes and maniacal shrieking to amuse the crowd. And the problem with dolling up two men going over-the-top just to justify the extra weight of fake boobs and leaving one actual female actress in the cast is that it effectively renders the real woman invisible. As for rating, I thought slapping a NC-16 on cross-dressing was a tad harsh. Children are already familiar with the likes of Liang Po Po and Aunty Lucy on national TV, so a milder PG-13 would surely be enough.

More boys like girls

From various letters in ‘Cross-dressing’s a drag’ 5 June 2010, Life! mailbag ST

(Lee Kah Cheng, Grace): We have no issue with cross-dressing being featured on late-night programmes, in M-18 rated movies or at nightspots patronised by adults.

…Why is there a need to have cross-dressers in cooking programmes?

(Chuan Hwei Nuan): Cross-dressing is disgusting and in bad taste. It mocks gay people.

(Jeff Wong): Cross-dressing is a form of sexism….(it) degrades women.

(Vincent Ho): …Aunty Lucy is gross and disgusting. It is contrived, affected and not at all funny.

At least Kumar is not on TV. He performs in a bar, so if you want to watch him, you have to pay.

It’s people like Chuan Hwei Nuan above who reinforce the misconception that people who dress like women are necessarily homosexual. Such biased and erroneous statements are exactly the reasons why our kids will never grow out of their sanitised lifestyles. The complainants here assume that kids learn everything from TV, totally oblivious that in this day and age that even if one bans harmless drivel like Aunty Lucy from all programmes, they would dig underground to get more insidious sources from the internet, where they would realise that there’s more to cross-dressing than cheap laughs; a world of dark fetishism where exponents of the art take it dead seriously, like Buffalo Bill in the Silence of the Lambs for instance.

Only missing a boa

As usual, these people fail to consider the logic that if cross-dressing does statistically lead to an increase in the number of boys prancing about in bonnets and carrying handbags, what grevious harm would that do? Compared to say, breaking their spinal cords by imitating wrestling, B-boy dancing or parkouring? And don’t forget to censor the cartoons too, if that’s the case.

Boobs bunny and Grandma Wolf

The other silly argument is that men are permitted to dress up solely for the sake of storyline, which begs the question what would be considered an acceptable storyline? Is Mrs Doubtfire, a tale of deception and stereotyping of nannies, acceptable? How does having a storyline justify cross-dressing unless there’s a moral to the story that cross-dressing is wrong, which is exactly the stance of these writers? Does everything have to have a point and lessons to be learnt? Does Tinkie Winkie carrying a handbag in Teletubbies have a point? If instead of drag, you have men dressing as clowns or wearing afro wigs doing cooking shows, does that need any explanation at all? If you don’t like it, stop watching and stop coming up with groundless discriminatory arguments that cross-dressing turns children gay. Here’s the letter that started it all.

Wild Rice nudity

From ‘Wild Rice picture is too wild’ 15 may 2010, Life! mailbag

I was disappointed and disgusted at the choice of the picture which appeared on the cover of Life! on May 6…The cover of the apparently nude Glen Goei and Ivan Heng is inappropriate. I question the intention of the choice of the picture. Frankly, it bordered on pornography.

As a parent of a young child, I would not want any young person to think that art means overt sexual references that leave little to the imagination. What message are we sending to the young?

Rice to the occasion

Funny no one complained about the same two men cross dressing as SIA stewardesses. If there’s anyone to blame, it’s the producers of American Beauty, the iconic poster of Mena Suvari nude behind a blanket of scattered rose petals being the inspiration of similar shots of softcore porn that leave ‘little to the imagination’. Really, Ms Adeline Ng, your kids will be exposed to far worse objectifications of the human anatomy in no time.

Sarong yet so right

And wouldn’t children be spending more time watching reruns of Mr Bean than reading the papers? What would you think of this then?

Bean there done that

No transgenders allowed

From ‘Right to ban trangenders from clubs?’ 6 May 2010, article in My Paper

Lawrence (manager of China One, who refused to allow transgender customer back into club): “You have to realise the problems (of letting transgenders in). For example, are they supposed to use the male or female toilets?”

Mr Bendini (victim): “If clubs don’t welcome us, they should put a sign on the door. It should not be on a case-by-case basis.”

Mr Bendini’s experience led to at least 500 transgender people coming together to rally against discrimination.

Hey sista soul sistas

By the same argument club managers should ban girls who dress like boys, in fear of traumatising patrons in their toilets. Looking at Ms/Mr Bendini above (what a name, Bendini), what are the chances you’ll see her/him pissing at a urinal next to other men and confusing the shit out of them? Another club, Butter factory, was reported to ban entry to an amputee in fear of crutches posing a safety hazard in 2009.  Which led one to wonder what a man with one leg is doing at a dance party. But that’s another story altogether. Funny how no action is taken (yet) against transsexual people coming together and yet the authorities clamp down on gay conferences and straight politicians. Still, try explaining sex change to the kids.  More  Ah Kua discrimination here.

Boys like girls

From Why this cross-dressing fever on TV 3 March 2010 ST Online forum

The recent spike in the popularity of cross-dressing, promoted in the media, seems to have sparked controversy as to whether it could have a negative psychological effect on the younger generation.

The recent appearance of crossing-dressed characters in sitcoms, such as The New City Beat, evokes a sense of deja vu – the familiar outlandish parading of a man with fake boobs and mascara, and in this week’s episode, a woman with a moustache and a flat chest, but with a change in name

It is reasonable to suppose that the rise in publicity of cross-dressing, in the name of entertainment, could subconsciously manipulate the minds of the young and possibly encourage them to emulate such acts.

My concern would be the fact that we still pander to humour of the lowest common denominator. Dressing up as women used to be a respectable endeavour since actors did it in the first plays. Still the initial natural response to a man in drag is arousal (aka the Crying Game) or disgust, not a starry eyed desire to put on the nearest fishnet knickers.

Pretty boys


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