She's A Sabbatical Beauty: Melissa Tsang

Melissa is one of the most brilliant and interesting young people we know. We're thrilled to feature her today!
Melissa Tsang
(Melissa: "Me and the partner, when he dropped by during my break. It was his day off.")

Tell us about you!
I’m 23 this year, Singaporean, and currently working in a Chinese (Cantonese) restaurant in downtown Singapore. There’s nothing much interesting about me, but this is my story:
When I was 20 I dropped out of law school, and started working part time at a tiny cafe while writing for a startup. A friend (who was a pastry chef) advised me to go to culinary school if I was serious about this kitchen life. So I decided I was never going to go back to college, and signed up at a local culinary school.
I left myself behind. My life had been (in many ways, still is) drenched in privilege. My parents paid for private tutors and enrichment classes. They told me I was special, really smart, was going to go places, etc. When I was 18 I told myself I was going to study sociology or anthropology, become an academic, write and read things, organize with other queer activists, hang out with my 27 cats.
Like in the US (I’m guessing), there aren’t many Singaporean workers (cooks, servers, dishwashers, bussers, not employers and owners) in the restaurant business. Most workers are from Malaysia and China. This phenomenon is even more apparent in the Chinese restaurant business, where the pay is even lower, the hours longer, the working conditions worse, the benefits poorer, the career climb much slower.
My online circle remains highly academic and social justice-oriented, my Facebook feed is this endless page of Big English Words and memes. My work environment is a universe apart. My work is manual and repetitive. The kitchen is exclusively male. Any women are either front of house or in the dim sum department. My colleagues speak a mix of Chinese and Cantonese (a dialect from Hong Kong and Southern China, commonly spoken in Singapore and Malaysia). They don’t really “text”, they voice message on WeChat in Cantonese. Orders are printed in Chinese. I fit in just fine, because if I have no other gift in my body, at least I have one - I adapt easily to any environment. I can cuss in Chinese, Cantonese, some Hokkien, but still I am the alien, the ~girl~, the ~Singaporean~ girl, with the English words coming from her fingers.
It’s a bit lonely. But I chose this life, and every day I work is my own small act of defiance to every person who has said to me that women don’t belong here, that I’m insane, that I’ll never amount to anything. Recently the executive chef popped by, and said to me “Remarkable, you are remarkable”. “What did I do,” I said, thinking he was being sarcastic. He chuckled and said, “I didn’t think you’d stay this long, but still you’re here.”
What makes you angry?

People who are unkind to people with less power/authority/rank. Classic human behavior, where people only behave generously when it benefits them.
This colleague who is chronically late, complains a lot about how he’s so tired and overworked, takes it out on me, yet has no problems slipping away for a 15 minute smoke break every service.
Textbook misogyny, I see it all the time so I’ve become a bit numb.
What makes you happy?
Cuddling and napping with the partner when we get the same day off (he’s Malaysian, been in the Chinese restaurant business for 17 years).
If you were an SB product, which product would you be, and why?
Asian Power House serum. Basically because it’s my favorite smell, has ingredients I really really recognize, and because I 100% aspire to be Asian Power House.
What’s your desert island SB product, and why?
The Sake and Rice sleeping pack. Whenever I do remember to use it (not as often as I should!) it really leaves my skin softer and calmer. Probably essential on a hot sunny desert island.

What is your favorite thing about your skin?
I’ve always disliked my skin for being acne prone and on the oily side. But I’m thankful it’s not sensitive, doesn’t break out in rashes, doesn’t get irritated easily by substances, chemicals, chillies. Also my skin endures frequent burns, calluses, scratches, it’s a tough cookie <3



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