Queen of Instagram

Socialite Jamie Chua, 39, leads a picture-perfect life, showcased on her Instagram fashion blog daily with photographs of herself in different designer outfits, taken by her two maids.

She has close to 89,000 followers on the year-old social media account, making her one of the top Instagram fashionistas in Singapore.

She not only posts photographs of her outfits, she also shares pictures of her shopping buys and her extensive designer handbag and shoe collections.

One picture shows her cleaning her bag closet with the caption: "There are some things that cannot be left to the help.''

Fan comments range from thumbs-ups for the day's outfit and handbag, to excited reports of sightings of Ms Chua as if she is a celebrity. At least two separate fan clubs have been set up on Instagram to repost her pictures: jamiechuafcsg and jamiechuafansclub.

"It's great. I get to share my fashion sense," the mother of two teenagers says at her bungalow in Merryn Road, perfectly attired in the last of three outfits chosen for this three-hour-long interview - a white Givenchy top, a trailing black skirt by Balmain and, of course, her signature Christian Louboutin heels that are at least 10cm high.

Though she greeted this reporter and photographer in a loose sailor top, shorts and fuzzy pink slippers, she insisted on changing into more formal clothes to show us around the "2.5-storey" house she has occupied since 2008 with her children and parents, who are in their 60s.

The house comes with an L-shaped swimming pool, a wine cellar with prestige labels such as Chateau Lafite Rothschild and a walk-in wardrobe that is almost as big as the attached master bedroom.

She has spent most of her life under the spotlight. The oldest child and only girl of three born to a travel agent and a housewife, she started modelling at age 15 while studying at CHIJ Toa Payoh. Advertising campaigns for fast-food chain KFC and electronics giant Sony paid for her first designer piece - a $2,000 Chanel bag that, to her rue, she ruined by spilling ice kacang on it.

At age 20, after three years as an air stewardess with Singapore Airlines, she married Indonesian tycoon Nurdian Cuaca, about nine years her senior. They have two children, son Cleveland, now 19 and studying in Australia, and daughter Calista, now 14 and studying here.

The couple filed for divorce in 2010, making headlines as Ms Chua had sought $450,000 in monthly maintenance, based on the standard of living she had enjoyed. The suit was resolved confidentially in November 2011. Earlier that year, she had closed the two Manolo Blahnik outlets that she ran at Hilton Hotel and Marina Bay Sands.

Only a handful of shoes from that label are in her wardrobe. She now prefers the crystal-encrusted range from Charlotte Olympia (cat-themed "kitty flats" that cost $900) or Christian Louboutin's eye-popping red sole shoes that cost at least $1,000.

Her closets are a multi-million-dollar fashion fantasy, with about 200 Hermes Birkin and Kelly bags arranged in glass cases according to design, ostrich leather separated from crocodile. She declines to reveal their cost but says that a favourite bubblegum pink one bought from a reseller in London was so pricey that the retailer hand-delivered it here. She says: "I certainly paid a lot more for it than he did."

Retail prices for a Birkin bag in a non-exotic skin begin at around $12,000.

In velvet-cushioned drawers and cases nearby are even more glittering accessories, including bracelets from Chrome Hearts and Cartier and hair clips from Alexandre de Paris.

Clothes are grouped by style - one closet for furs, usually worn on overseas holidays, especially when visiting her son in Melbourne; another for full-length evening gowns and still more for cocktail dresses, day dresses, jeans and tees. As she responds to requests for description, labels such as Fendi, Alexander McQueen and Oscar de la Renta trip off her tongue.

The Instagram fashion diary began as a way to stay in touch with her children online but now helps her keep track of what she has, she says. "Some pieces I might keep for a lifetime. It's important to keep track of how we mix and match, we don't want to be caught wearing the exact same thing twice."

She changes twice during the interview, also wearing a grey print Mary Katrantzou and a Balmain skirt and Roland Mouret top. Asked how much the outfits cost, she winces. "Won't it be a bit crass?" she says, sliding on a diamond-studded, one-of-a-kind Tourbillon watch from Richard Mille, which retails in the range of $800,000.

She knows exactly how she wants to be showcased.

When the photographer tries to take candid shots, she pauses mid-conversation to flash a practised smile. Later, she directs one of her two maids to take pictures at the same angle and the shots appear on Instagram within hours.

Her helpers take all her photos for Instagram, often re-shooting several times until their employer's exacting standards are met. Friends help her document outfits on overseas trips.

A hairstylist and make-up artist have been kept on standby for the day, though she usually does her own, taking up to 90 minutes before she is satisfied.

After showing off the ripening custard apples in her new kitchen garden, she returns to the air- conditioned house and calls out: "Powder puff!" to repair the slight damage caused by sweating in the sun.

Ms Miki Gao, 23, of Kim Robinson does her hair. Her make-up artist of 20 years, Ms Cecilia Chng of Vive Salon, who declines to give her age, touches up her lips.

Ms Chua ignores the brightly lit mirror at her dressing table in favour of taking a smartphone picture of herself to study the result.

The walls of her bedroom and reception area are decorated with blown-up pictures taken at magazine shoots for society and fashion magazines. They complement the bling and brands of her home decor - Hermes cushions and crockery, Swarovski crystal-studded chandeliers adorn the living area, done in dramatic black and white.

She is at home in the limelight. "Even as a child, I've seen lots of pictures of me," she says. "I would use my mum's make-up, she bought me high-heel shoes. I would design my own clothes. I would take a flower, hold it and say, 'Take a picture of me'."

She declines to talk about the recent past or her current boyfriend, who appears often in her Instagram profile. She does say that the past two years have been healing, especially with her parents around to help. She is limiting herself to three balls a year and shopping online or at Singapore fashion events rather than jet-setting to Paris' annual Fashion Week, as she used to, where influential designers trot out their latest creations and VVIP customers watch from the front row.

She likes to spend time working in her garden and having brunches and tea sessions with family and friends at home. "I love to eat, I can eat five times a day," she says, pressing home-made bee hoon and fried chicken on her guests and explaining how she used to cook every night until her maids graduated from cooking classes at Tanglin CC a few months ago.

She tops up tea cups and takes a thick slice of pound cake from the array of pastries carefully arranged on a three-tier cake tray.

She keeps in shape at home with yoga and thrice- weekly swimming sessions. Daily face masks and Sunday spa sessions at LS Philosophy are part of the regime, as are at-home manicure and pedicure sessions, often with her daughter and son, when he visits.

Her fame rubs off on them too, especially when a photoshoot she did with Calista for Chinese fashion and lifestyle magazine Icon became the top-read story on news site AsiaOne this month, but she hopes the exposure will not turn their heads. "I hope they realise they have a pretty blessed life," she says.

She shrugs off detractors who might think her Instagram image is all there is to her. "The people who matter to me know who I am and what I'm about. What I show on Instagram is just a small part of me.

"Contrary to what people see of me, I'm actually simple at heart," she adds. "I only want what every girl wants in life. You want to be loved by your loved ones, you want to have nice things."

akshitan@sph.com.sg


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