Growing Up as an Ugly Kid: A Blessing in Disguise

When I was born, I had a head full of curls, a sharp elfin face, nice nose, big happy round eyes. I was baby show winning material.
But somehow, along the way, being a middle child, a tomboy, having darker skin than my siblings, bunny teeth and frizzy hair started to all come together and work against me.

By the time I was in about Primary 3 or 4 , I outgrew my cuteness, and settled deep into ugly.

Growing up ugly ... my self -esteem really took a beating. When we were in primary school... it was the norm for giggling girls to pass secret notes to boys in the class... "Will you be my boyfriend?" Then right under the note there would be little hand drawn boxes he could tick....  Yes, No,  Maybe. 
I always got back a NO. Not even a Maybe.

Later on in secondary school... with my cheap mushroom head haircut .... I have vivid memories of two guys in class loudly discussing the money they'd pay for each girl. I realised they had a pattern, the fair, long haired Chinese girls would be deemed to be worth $100 or $50. The busty Indian or Malay girls would get $30 or $40. Then fat or not busty girls get about $10. But then... I heard, "Holly? Ten cents."

Oh what I would have given to be worth that $100 back then. (LoL but sad true)

Things only started to turn around for me in college. I looked less tom boy and just a bit more nerdy... but my school uniform happened to look better on me (in secondary school, it was way too huge). I also started wearing contact lenses all the time.

In my first month of college, I landed a cute boyfriend who was a year ahead, and many girls swooned over him. I spotted a crowd of girls looking at the basketball court one day, and went over too look at what (or who) they were fussing over. I noticed they were looking at this one guy. So in my scheming ways, I landed detention the same time he did ( he was forever late for school, and in detention every Friday).. and asked him out to a movie that i supposedly had free tickets to (I didn't, I had to buy them lol).

Well, anyway, suddenly the NO box wasn't ticked anymore. I went on to date many other cute guys after that.... and started modelling too. But somehow, Ugly has always kinda stuck with me.

I suppose you don't offload a decade of ugliness just like that.

My parents have always seen my beauty (biased as all parents tend to be). My mom is especially proud to point it out to people.  This has been happening since I was a teenager. 

That's my daughter on the magazine cover ( This was when I was 15!).
This is my daughter Holly, She's a finalist for Miss Singapore Universe .
She's on the pizza hut commercial.
She's in the NewPaper New face.
She's the one on S-factor.
She's on the coffee commercial.

And most recently, she pointed out to the staff while we were in Watsons that I was on the cover of their magazine... *excitedly* "that one is my daughter!"

And ALL those freaking times, I would stand there squirming, wishing she hadn't pointed it out. I'd be standing there with my hair either unwashed or not combed properly. Geeky specs on. Not a stitch of make up. Comfy clothes. Flip flops. And when those people looked at me, they smile uncomfortably and say "ohh... so that's you?" .... But I can read their faces straight away- They all think I'm ugly.

You think I'm bullshitting you, but I'm really not. I clean up well.... but I can also look (on the surface level) dog ugly.

On the flip side, growing up ugly taught me a lot. Things like:

Excel in something...
In primary school, I was both undesirable (looks wise) and freaking last in class when the exam results came out as well. I was posted to the normal stream (instead of express) in secondary school. And secondary school... for a late bloomer like me... secondary school just amplifies how undesirable you are to boys. So I thought to myself, fuck this, I'm going to focus on school and get to university so I won't have to deal with these people. It worked. Top in class and level... all distinctions when I graduated (except for the Malay language paper which I had to take, because everyone needed a second language at O level exams... that one I got a C).

Enjoy your childhood
Having no boys interested in me when I was younger meant I had more time just being a girl. While my counterparts were out dating, or (worse still losing their virginity... and a couple of girls even got pregnant halfway through school!).... I went home after school to finish my homework and then play with my barbie dream house (which my best friend, of the same age, gave to me when she outgrew it at 13). Oh yes, I had this barbie dream house all the way until I was 17. I loved it! I DIYed extensions for it and all.. I was quite the young architect.

Make the first move
The fact that boys weren't showing up at my doorstep dying to date me (they thought I was worth 10cents, remember?!) ... meant that I developed a thick skin and was used to rejection. I was never one to wait and leave things to fate because I was used to working at getting what I wanted. If I liked someone, instead of playing games, I just make the first honest move. That's how I got my husband. Not everyone sees you as ugly. 

Be a good person
Yeah sure, the cat claws come out when I need to stand up for my self... because I can. But I would never put a person down or bully them. I don't like it when people bully others because I know how it feels.

Growing up as an ugly kid was a blessing in disguise for me. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger... and perhaps... even more attractive. :)


  1. Anonymous3:42 pm

    Holly is a MUSE, we love u lots xoxoxo

  2. I didn't have girls in my school in sec school. I wonder if it was a good thing haha

  3. Anonymous7:34 pm

    love honest posts like this! :)

  4. I think growing up as an "ugly" child also makes it such that nobody will have that much of an expectation for you to grow up to be pretty/handsome. Unlike if you were already good looking as a child and you grow up to be less than what they expected lol.

  5. Well those boys that said you were worth "10 cents" must be kicking themselves now... you've turned into a beautiful, articulate woman and married a man who appreciates your beauty! :)

  6. Anonymous8:56 am

    I enjoy this post very much n i must say you have such a great mom who stands by you.

  7. Thanks for being real, Holly.

  8. u r worth more than 100!

  9. Anonymous9:35 pm

    which miss singapore pageant were u a finalist in?

    1. Miss singapore universe, 2003? 2004? It was the year after Joanne Peh won... Cos I remember her hosting our semi finals

  10. Anonymous12:20 pm

    So lucky to hv such a supportive mother who is proud of you. My mother was not like this.. Instead she always putting me down when I was growing up, never side me from the unkind outsiders, unhappy I dressed up, and even threw my beloved barbie dolls down the rubbish chute as she was not happy I spent too much time playing them. Sometimes until now, I still blame her for such and no wonder I was not happy most of the times back then..

  11. I’m so sorry to hear this. :(. Hugs


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