In this edition of Humans of Kontinentalist, we catch up with Naomi, our resident writer and Myth Buster!
Hi Naomi! Tell us a little about your journey with Kontinentalist!
Hello! I have been working at Kontinentalist since January 2018, so it has been 1.5 years already!
I am a writer, but my official title is “Myth Buster”, because of the way I approach writing: I like to explore all sides of a story, giving the full picture. I find that often people think something is either black or white, but to me there is always a grey area, and that is what I like to explore. Issues are always more complex than they are made to seem.
Having said that, I haven’t always had this perspective. Growing up, I was usually quite one-sided in my thinking, which can happen quite often when you are an animal advocate. But after going through university and starting work, I learnt more about what actually happens on the ground, and that there is always more than what is conveyed to the public.
With shark conservation issues….the western media completely dominates, but I feel that if Asia had a bigger voice, a lot of people would start seeing things more holistically.
That’s really reflective! How have you found working at Kontinentalist so far?
I love that at Kontinentalist we are allowed to write transparently, and to explore all sides of a story. I also love the idea that we are telling stories from an Asian perspective, which has been sorely lacking. For example with shark conservation issues (particularly fishing and finning), the western media completely dominates, but I feel that if Asia had a bigger voice, a lot of people would start seeing things more holistically.
I also really enjoy the very real, immersive and funny conversations that I have with people at work. We talk about everything from gastrointestinal issues, parenting, gender identity, and period cups to which era of music was the best! I keep saying we should make it into a podcast!
What has been your favourite story to write/work on thus far?
Can I pick two?
The wrestling story, and the ornamental fish story. For the wrestling story, it’s quite straightforward. I have been passionate about wrestling since I was a kid. I grew up here in Singapore, and I would watch wrestling on TV and I would see that Asians were not given the same opportunities, and now that things have changed, I took note of the changes and really wanted to write about that. For the ornamental fish story, I enjoyed it so much because as I was researching, I felt like I was learning a lot. The topic is really poorly documented, and I had never read about it before, which is rare because I am well educated and I read extensively. [Laughs awkwardly] Wow that came out really arrogantly! What I mean to say is that I have read so much about animals, but nothing about ornamental fish, so I really felt like I was learning something completely new, and I really enjoyed the process!
If you could write about any other topic (other than nature and conservation and animals) what would you choose?
Travel because I would write about eco-tourism.
Okay fine. People and society. But only because people are animals and I prefer animals!
Do you have an exciting upcoming story you can tell us about?
Yes, I am really excited about my upcoming trophy hunting story because it links back to how I would describe my kind of storytelling. In the media, coverage of trophy hunting is incredibly one-sided but I feel that if people understood the other side of the argument, they would understand that it is not that simple. I also feel that it has not been written about much, because organisations and journalists are a bit wary of delving into the truth behind it, so I’m excited to do that!
What is your writing process like?
A lot of the stories that I write are based on topics that I do have some background knowledge on, so I usually already know the angle that I want to talk about. What I do is spend the bulk of my time doing research. I actually like to make myself a fact bank of information on an excel sheet, and from there I begin to understand how the information ties together and what the flow of the story should be. Once I have put my facts into the different sections of the story, the writing comes easily to me. I spend so much time researching, but only a day or two of actual writing.
Outside of Kontinentalist, you do some really exciting work! Can you tell us a bit more about it?
I lead an independent shark and ray research project, funded by Wildlife Reserves Singapore, where my team and I visit Singapore’s fishing ports to collect data. We hope that the data will help us understand more about the fisheries in the region.
I also write a kids wildlife magazine under WWF! This is just so much fun. It allows me to do a brain-dump of all my fun animal facts.
As a freelancer, I wait for projects to come along that I think are worthwhile. I even did a project for National Geographic — life goals!
I like anything where your body is pushed to its limits.
That’s cool! What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to wrestle! I am currently training to be a wrestler with Singapore Professional Wrestling (SPW). It’s the WWE style of wrestling (not the Olympic style!). I also like running and weightlifting with my husband, and I play squash with my dad. I also like to travel (as sustainably as possible) and free-dive.
I like anything where your body is pushed to its limits. I began to feel this way after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and understanding what it means to lose physical function. In free diving, pushing my limits means diving to up to 20m underwater without an oxygen tank. In wrestling, it means practising moves that are violent and can be quite painful, but learning how to do them without hurting your body — and having fun at the same time! Actually, wrestling is using your character to tell a story.
If I’m not being active, I can be found learning mandarin, reading my NatGeo magazine, or, I always have an animal book on the go. Right now I’m reading a book on the minds of fish, and I’m fascinated to learn about what they think and feel.
I feel the least stressed and genuinely inspired when I am spending time in nature, be it walking in a forest, or on a beach, or diving in the ocean.
What would you say inspires you? Where do you draw strength and inspiration from?
I know that this might sound very boring or cliche, but for me it’s nature! For my clothes, I tend to go with earthy tones. For food, my plant-based diet aims to protect animals and nature. In my work, everything I do is about nature and for nature. Even my looks: all my products are made of natural ingredients, with no chemicals, I never do any hair grooming or upkeep! My best look is when I have come out of the sea and I’m a total mess, but I love it because that is what nature has done to my hair! I feel the least stressed and genuinely inspired when I am spending time in nature, be it walking in a forest, or on a beach, or diving in the ocean.
While nature does inspire almost everything that I do, I think that WWE wrestlers inspire who I am as a person. They teach me that it is okay to be weird, unique, to voice your opinion and not take shit from other people.
If anything, at Kontinentalist, we all know that you are a very genuine person! Thank you for sharing Naomi. Let’s do a quick round of this or that!
Ocean or Mountains?
Sharks or Whales?
Flowers or Trees?
Writing or Reading?
Diving or Wrestling?
Swimming or Hiking?
Cats or Dogs?
What is your favourite food?
Vegetarian Pad Thai.
What is your favourite drink?
Do you have a favourite plant?
What is your favourite animal?
Oh that’s a tough one!! Goats.