HUMAN OF THE WEEK ⋆ JEAN SEIZURE

Human of the Week is an initiative by KosmicKult, featuring queer individuals who are killin’ it in their fields. Every week, we celebrate an individual (preferably human) by showcasing their work and talent. Through this, we aim to create a platform for representation of queer folk.

Jean Seizure

Jean Seizure (Pronouns: He/She/They) is a Singapore-based multi-disciplinary artiste. They are a familiar face in Singapore’s arts and entertainment scene, being a singer-songwriter, actor, and more.

Born into a family of performers, Jean’s acting career began at a young age of six. They starred in memorable roles on TV dramas such as The Price of Peace (1997), Stepping Out (1999), and Let It Shine (2007). Jean also acted in short films such as Autograph Book (2003) by Wee Li Lin, Love Exists (2016) by Hers Productions and A+Z (2016) by Jedidah Neo.

In their journey as a singer-songwriter, Jean wrote their first song at the age of 17 and hasn’t stopped writing since. In 2016, Jean was mentored by Sara Wee from 53A under the Noise Music Mentorship, and in 2018, they released their debut single, Night. The track ranked 3rd on Spotify’s Viral 50 Singapore playlist. They also worked with established Singaporean Producers Goh Kheng Long and Ruth Ling and was given the opportunity to perform as a live concert backup vocalist for world-renowned singers such as Jacky Cheung at his Classic World Tour in Harbin and Daqing, and Joanna Dong at the Esplanade Concert Hall.




Aside from being a solo artiste, Jean is also part of local a cappella group, The Apex Project. The Apex Project, formed in 2016, had become an actively sought-after performance group for local and international events, and released videos that garnered over two million views on YouTube, Facebook and Weibo. In 2018, The Apex Project was invited to perform at the International A Cappella Music Festival Tour in Hong Kong alongside award-winning a cappella groups The Nor’easters (Boston) and Accent Vocal, a collaboration between musicians from several countries.

Jean’s talents don’t end there - they also do spoken word poetry and has been featured on platforms such as Foreword by Esplanade, Destination: INK and SPEAK. They also recently started a casual, but intimate, podcast series, ‘Talking Nonsense with Jean’, which is available on Spotify. On the series, Jean shares their thoughts on life experiences, healing processes, and current affairs.

We spoke with Jean to understand more about their life and experiences as a queer artiste navigating Singapore’s entertainment scene.

 

1. We asked our followers to tell us who they wanted to hear from in our Human of the Week series, and more than half of them sent in your name! How does that make you feel?

I’m honestly shocked and pleasantly surprised! I don’t always feel like people want to know what’s going on in my life but when I find out that they do it’s always a great feeling :’)


2. As a sing-songwriter, actor, and performer, how did you find your footing in the arts and entertainment scene in Singapore?

My parents were both singers in the 60s and they enrolled my brothers and I into a mandarin drama school when we were younger. We’d go for classes every weekend and somehow that landed me my first audition at the age of 6 for a Channel 8 period drama called “The Price of Peace” by Mediacorp (it was still TCS back then) I played a character close to the lead (James Lye) and then there was a really memorable scene of me being bombed to death and I died... in his arms. That was where the acting stuff started.

For singing, it started when my mum opened a singing school. We would often be invited to events where my mum and I would sing. I really grew up in a music-filled household, and at one point I was living in my mum’s studio and would listen to all her uncle and aunty students sing all day and night. Later on, when I was around 17, I created a YouTube channel and would post a lot of songs and covers because I had a lot of time and feelings. That led to me performing more at art markets. I ended up realising that people like my music - I somehow also ended up in an a cappella band (The Apex Project) and now I’m stuck. Wow.


3. We saw that you started a podcast - Talking Nonsense with Jean - on Spotify, what made you want to do it and how's that coming along? Is it going to continue as a long-term project?

Oof. So this was just for fun because I was bored at home and I thought I’d just create a podcast seeing that my bandmates are also recording their own podcasts. I used to have a habit of blogging, so it felt nice to put aside some time to record my thoughts again. I’ve received DMs from strangers about how they relate to the things that I talked about so it’s nice to know that it’s making a difference to someone. I’m still on the fence on whether to continue this podcast or not though. I have about 60 days to think about this before my free trial runs out. Hmm.


4. What do you think was a pivotal moment in your career as an artiste?

There were so many moments that felt pivotal to me in the different aspects of performance art that I’ve been involved in. There were those moments where I worked really hard for something and the process was very difficult, but at the end of the day it turned out well. Or those moments where I ended up places I never expected myself to end up in - like being given the opportunity to be Jacky Cheung’s backup vocalist for a bit. Those were great! But I think the moments that I’ve shared with people that made me feel like what I’m doing is worthwhile were the ones that really stuck to me. They’re pivotal in the sense that they reminded me of what is meaningful to me. I guess constantly performing/singing/acting can feel exhausting and can become sort of a mundane routine after some time until someone or something happens and you snap out of it.

Once, I was playing an acoustic set on my own at a very chill art market and someone came up to me and told me that my music has helped them through some really difficult times. They shared a little bit more about themselves and I found out that they were in the same kind of environment that I grew up in so I was speechless for a bit after that. You wouldn't expect such a strong moment to happen at a random art market. We just stared at each other knowingly and both tried not to tear up. I cherish moments like that.


5. We know you're doing a lot of things - as a solo artiste, as a part of The Apex Project, and even acting and podcasting (and even taking art commissions now?!). Is there a favourite? If you could only choose one, which would you do for the rest of your career?

HELP. See this is a good and a bad thing because while there’s a lot of variety there are also a lot of things that I do halfway. Honestly, it has always been difficult for me to choose - I mean - just look at all that you’ve mentioned :’D but if I really really really really had to pick one as a career, I would choose acting… it’d be great if my character happens to sing too.

 

6. In addition to being a well-known figure in the arts and music scene in Singapore, you do also have quite an influence in the queer community. What's it like knowing that you have quite a following of queer youths that look up to you?

I grew up feeling very out of place and guilty for a lot of things (sexuality, identity, body image etc) which also brought forth some really unwise decisions that have hurt people, and thought patterns that I’m still in the midst of unlearning. I never would have expected that in stumbling around trying to navigate life in our society, I’d eventually end up with people who’d look up to me. But knowing that also encourages me to work towards learning from past mistakes and becoming the best version of myself. I’m very thankful for people who think well of me because that energy is powerful and it positively influences the way that I see myself as well.


7.  You're very open about your relationship, both on social media and in real life - was it something you've always been comfortable sharing about? Were there any obstacles you had to face, introducing your relationship to friends or family?

It was really a long journey of coming to this state of openness. When I look back, it was really so different. There was definitely a point where I was constantly hiding my relationships from my family and everyone else earlier in my youth (I sound old!). I’ve also been verbally attacked in public before for just leaning a little too close to my ex-partner on the bus and we quietly took the insult because internalised homophobia was real. I’ve had a history of being in underground relationships and it wasn’t pretty. Just constant hiding, being ashamed, being wary of people staring at me, and no space for self-growth because I was way too focused on trying to convince people to stick it out with me. I’m very close to my brothers so it was painful to not be able to be completely honest with them. When I went through my second breakup, I was so done with hiding that I came out to my brother and sister-in-law. I’m lucky because my family is very accepting and we’ve really been through way too much together to fall out over something like this. When I came out to my mum years later, her immediate concern was how society would treat me.

I’ve definitely had a bunch of difficult conversations with them so they’re able to understand where I was coming from, and how I really worked as a human being as compared to any preconceived notions that they had. I had a lot of difficulties outside of my family after coming out publicly though, because I was also quite active in church. My whole experience changed overnight. It was honestly difficult to accept and traumatising even though it wasn’t like they were mean to me or anything; I think they just didn’t know how to handle the situation back then so it left a lot of scars. Years later, here I am. I do sometimes still feel uncomfortable sharing this part of myself to certain people, but for the most part, I want to just be myself whenever I can.

Xener, my partner, is also one hell of a badass because this time, it was she who had to come out to people and she did an astonishingly amazing job. She really made sure that I got to experience a relationship that I’ve always wanted. My family loves that I have her in my life.


8.  How have people generally responded when they learn that you're in a queer relationship? Have you ever received negative remarks because of it? If so, how did you respond?

I think the negative stuff happened more in the past. I’ve had people insist that I would meet the man of my dreams. I’ve also had a lot of “counselling sessions” with people who thought that I was confused. In the past, I guess I was a lot more afraid to stand up for myself - also because these were people I really respected and I tried my best to see where they were coming from - but now, I’m out of that environment because I started to realise how much these things have affected my mental health. It’s been a while since anyone has responded negatively (and it’s been a while since I cared too, haha) I just sorta plonk it on people as a matter of fact if the conversation involves me mentioning my partner or my sexual orientation. I remember while on tour, someone I just met - whom I heard also has a tendency to make homophobic jokes - he assumed that I was straight and made a comment about how there would be lots of handsome dancers around for me to choose and I straight up casually said I was more interested in the ladies. It was funny watching him almost choke on his food.


9.  Do you think queer issues are being spoken about enough in the arts and entertainment scene, especially in Singapore? Is there more that should be done to increase queer representation in media?

I think even though queer content is way more visible and available now compared to the past, there is still censorship within Singapore and that’s frustrating. Queer people still don’t really exist on national TV and even if they do, it’s either too subtle to be noticed or a stereotypical/heteronormative version which really just adds to public misconceptions. I’m glad that there are platforms that queer representation can exist on - (like yall <3), QZF, spoken word events, theatre etc. But for sure, there’s definitely huge room for more queer content when you look at the grand scheme of what’s shown and what isn’t.


10. Any words of encouragement or advice for our queer readers out here? (:

There’s a saying in my mum’s tribe (she’s from the Bunun tribe of Taiwan) - that even if the sky falls on them, they wouldn’t hesitate to use the sky as a blanket. This was something that my mum constantly tells me because it was I guess a mantra that helped her through some really tough times. And she’s been through a LOT of difficult and crazy dramatic movie-worthy situations during her journey of leaving her tribe at a young age to pursue music and ending up in Singapore. Watching her do well now is always inspiring to me because of the fact that she just relied on one simple belief. Being able to still find some form of peace no matter how small to be thankful for or happy about even in the midst of what feels like a catastrophic chapter is a powerful survival tool. So... I hope this little tip will help all of us to hang on a little longer every time it gets difficult. The sky definitely makes a beautiful blanket.


11. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you so much for having me and for wanting to hear from me! This really made my week. Thank you for adding colour to my circuit breaker experience <3 

 You may find Jean Seizure on Instagram and Spotify