Esquire Singapore — 100th Anniversary Issue

Editor-in-Chief: Mitchell Oakley Smith
Cover Photograph: Zhong Lin

Though this May 2021 issue marks my tenth as editor-in-chief of Esquire Singapore, it’s a milestone for a much more significant reason. After years of producing some of the most innovative journalism, groundbreaking visuals and special events in the region, we’ve reached that most celebration-worthy of numbers: 100 issues in print.

Ordinarily, this mightn’t be cause for popping open the champagne, but if you’ve been keeping track of the media landscape in recent years, you will have noticed a remarkable shift. The freedom of the press is under attack, print has been significantly usurped by digital, and there’s been a major reckoning in terms of representation and diversity. That we are still here—and, more than that, command a place of strength and audience rapport—is testament to the talent and creativity of those that work behind the scenes here at Esquire: the writers, photographers, designers, marketers and brand partners. Without their dedication and inspiring ideas, we might have gone the way of many other traditional print ideas.

So how do you celebrate a centennial? Rather than anything too self-congratulatory, we thought it only right to continue doing what you know and—based on the fact you’re still here, all these issues later—love us for. But we also decided to add something special into the issue, too, and I’m really proud of our team’s collaborative effort in producing a spectacular portfolio celebrating Singapore-based creative talent (‘The Creative Class’, page 148), with some 36 artists, designers, musicians and more.

And in his first sitting for Esquire, we are delighted to present an exclusive, in-depth interview with this month’s cover star, JJ Lin (see page 50). Arguably one of Singapore’s biggest creative exports, the singer, songwriter, record producer, actor and designer has just celebrated his 40th birthday and feels ready to tackle the next decade of his continually successful career. As he tells Esquire, “I think I draw my energy from knowing that I still have so much to give in life, and it could range from the most massive plans to the simplest things in life. I do have a secret fear that one day I might just wake up and not feel inspired anymore, and that will be the darkest day of my life… I just tell myself to be grateful at all times, no matter where I am.”

The world has watched over the last few months a sharp rise in anti-Asian sentiment in the United States—an undercurrent of hate fuelled by populist political rhetoric and misinformation about COVID-19— with many physical attacks, racial slurs and, tragically, killings drawing widespread outrage. And yet, of course, this bias and inherent racism dates back centuries, and more than that, it’s very much rooted, often times silently but nevertheless insidiously, in contemporary western culture. We are privileged in this issue to publish an incredibly personal and very moving essay by Vietnamese- American writer and educator Xoai Pham, who as a trans woman, a refugee and an activist, shares a unique perspective on many of the issues that Asian American women—and, for that matter, Asians across the world—face, still today. I implore you to read her essay, ‘Sex, Lies, and History Books’, from page 190.