Sonia remembers being 19 like it was yesterday: It was when the Internet and mobile phones were just taking off in a big way. “Pagers were just beginning to go out of fashion, and most people still had to rush to payphones and use phone cards or coins to call home. I was excited to get my first handphone, though back then, it could only be used to make calls and send SMSes,” she says, adding that chatting with people on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) was also all the rage back then. Her mum Nancy, who grew up in Hong Kong, says of being 19: “Like most people back then, I was partying, but had an 11pm curfew!” That said, she had her priorities in order, as she was also researching schools in Canada to pursue her higher education. “I remember being busy too, preparing to take the TOEFL examinations,” she says with a laugh.
What was the most memorable incident when you were 19?
Nancy: My school had selected me to give a speech to fellow schoolmates at Hong Kong City Hall. I spent three weeks composing, memorising and rehearsing the speech. It turned out to be a great success as my fellow students listened attentively to what I was saying. I learned that if I worked hard at something, I would achieve the result I wanted.
Sonia: This was my gap year before going off to the US for my studies. A big tree-hugger at the time, I had just been named Singapore’s Young Environment Ambassador a year earlier. I took an internship at the Singapore Environment Council, where I was tasked with research, producing articles and corporate presentations, and menial tasks such as cleaning the labels off 200 donated glass bottles for terrariums!
Favourite song/band/singer that year?
Nancy: Queen and Michael Jackson! I loved dancing to their songs at the disco.
Sonia: I enjoyed pop music and boy bands as much as any teenager, though I must say I had a super soft spot for Celine Dion, who spoke to my insecurities.
Advice for your teenage selves?
Nancy: I remember having to choose between science and arts for streaming purposes. I choose arts because I struggled with physics, and that closed some career and study options for me. If I could travel back in time, I’d tell myself not to give up so easily.
Sonia: I’d have told myself that life is more than just about being accepted into university. I would have asked myself tougher questions about the career I wanted and would have chosen my path accordingly. I would also have told myself to pay more attention to style and what works for me – and not just blindly follow fashion trends!
Is there an item of clothing or accessory from that time that you still have today?
Nancy: There is the pearl necklace my mother gave me when I was 12, but I’ve passed it on to Sonia.
Sonia: Some of the clothes I wore when I was 19 are still stashed away somewhere in the basement! My mum bought me some amazing pieces from Sportmax – there are some pieces that still look new and I can still wear them today. I’m thinking about a particular Victorian-inspired winter jacket with a stuffed ruffle that goes all around the edges. The quality is terrific.
Art direction: Audrey Chan
Photography: Joel Low
Hair: Christvian Goh & Zoel Tee, using Revlon Professional
Photography assistance: Alfie Pan