“Props to the lady in the video for her selling skills and attitude. She’ll go far if she put her mind to it.”
“She’s speaking unpretentious authentic Singapore street Singlish and is trying to make an honest living.”
These are just some of the more than 4,000 comments that recent viral video sensation, “Funniest Ah Lian Salesperson”, received.
The recorded Facebook Live video featured an ‘ah lian’ selling a hole-styled t-shirt. In her sales pitch, she claimed the shirt was super useful because people could place an S-hook into any of the holes on the t-shirt to hold their numerous belongings, from EZ-link card pouches to food packets.
During S-Hook Ah Lian’s (whose real name is Lerine Yeo) YES 933 interview today, she further shared that her idea was inspired by hairdressers and renovation contractors who “hook things”.
So far, S-Hook Ah Lian has been praised for her ingenious sales tactics, her informal speaking style, and her refreshing ‘authenticity’. As one commenter mused, the woman was the ideal salesperson: she gave no shits about what people thought of her, as long as she could sell her product.
Recall that earlier this month, local twitter sensation @SharonLiew86 made waves with her infuriatingly ignorant tweets. Even though @SharonLiew86 is a parody of the quintessential unenlightened Singaporean, her ah lian persona and brutal irreverence resonated among netizens. Most importantly, she didn’t bother with ‘political correctness’, boldly espousing racist views.
Within a few tweets, @SharonLiew86 established herself as the antithesis to the stereotypical meek, obedient, and cautious Singaporean afraid to speak their mind.
We are thoroughly fascinated with S-Hook Ah Lian, @SharonLiew86, and any other ah lian, because they dare to do and say the things that we don’t. In short, we want so badly to be them.
However, as admirable as they may be, their current fame begs the question: viral videos and tweets aside, does Singaporean society actually embrace ah lians for who they are?
Granted, we like nothing more than when people are “real” and cut the bullshit, as ah lians do. We constantly place unpretentiousness on a pedestal, glorifying every minute instance of humility. When it shows itself, this realness is even more significant because it is largely unexpected. After all, we usually expect fellow Singaporeans to keep within the lines.
To us, this authenticity manifests itself through speaking without an ‘ang moh’ accent, voicing out one’s honest thoughts, and being willing to get one’s hands dirty. And apparently, there’s nowhere else we can find a greater collection of these factors than in a loud-mouthed ah lian.
If you’ve ever had the fortune of being in direct contact with an ah lian, you’ll know ah lians are as straightforward as they come. In fact, their forthcoming nature can be sometimes unnerving. But we continue to be obsessed with their candour because they walk the talk. With them, you can be reassured that what you see is what you get.
Yet, there is a certain, painful irony to our fervent admiration of ah lians.
While we revere their realness, we stop short of truly celebrating them. For many, the ah lian is still a cautionary tale of the kind of woman not to become: no matter how much we like her authenticity, we still consider her vulgar, brash, and lazy.
In reality, ah lians exist as comic relief—a reminder not to take ourselves too seriously. As much as we respect their hustle, they still don’t fall into society’s conventional model of success. None of us actually want to become these ah lians. We might romanticise the ah lian, but it’s their raw honesty that we really admire.
So here’s an honest take: S-Hook Ah Lian and @SharonLiew86 will be just another blip in our browsing history once the next social media cycle rolls around.
If society were really committed to expanding our definitions of success, we wouldn’t be so quick to pass judgement on how someone talks, how they carry themselves, and how they look. Treating someone like S-Hook Ah Lian as a role model wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. But we don’t even need to be ah lians to know this reality is still far from being true.
Go ahead and admire S-Hook Ah Lian. I know I do.
Just remember that it’s less important what you think of her than how you think of her.