This is Vietnam’s Renovation Generation. Sonic portraits of young minds re-shaping the country’s future.
In Episode 15 we talk to Plaaastic, the fashion blogger and Internet artist who has established herself as a queen of virtual emo. She lives in a part of the Internet where Hello Kitty meets bondage fantasies and teenage souls find comfort in being weird. We spoke to her about the blurred lines between her art and commercial endeavor, how intense loneliness led to online success and getting married to a guy two weeks after meeting him.
She is wearing a denim mini skirt buttoned down the front, a black leather crop top with fake nipple piercings, and a pair of her signature platform shoes. Her perfectly combed high ponytails have dark purple highlights and her lipstick is the same colour.
For me fashion is a way to show myself respect… It is important for me to dress how I feel like dressing and looking like yourself is the first part to self awareness.
Her unapologetic attitude to fashion and out-there styling has become her career. As a teenager she could not afford the clothes she wanted to wear so she simply started making and selling them herself. And being a digital native, she used the Internet to help…
I open a blog to like showcase how people can wear the clothes from my brand. And then somehow the blog got more popular than the clothing store, so I closed down the store and then I just make the blog bigger and bigger, to what it is today. That is my main mainly earning job now…
How does that work? for somebody who doesn’t know how to make money of social media, like how do you?...
It’s fairly simple, the bigger the audience that you have, the more money they will pay. And I work as a producer between, so they send me clothes and I will produce the images to advertise for that product and I post it on my social media site.
They being indie fashion labels who ask Plaaastic to feature their clothes on her blog, because of her numbers that are currently:
Seven-hundred-and-thirty-thousand-two-hundred-and-forty-six visits on her blog
Three-hundred-and-forty-three-thousand Instagram followers
Twenty-eight-thousand likes on Facebook
Thirteen-thousand-one-hundred-and-sixty-eight fans on Lookbook
Plus Tumblr, Twitter and Snapchat
Numbers that she had never calculated for.
I did not expect that to happen at first. It was just simply, I was just lonely. I am very open in writing online, so I write everything online. But I don’t necessarily share everything with my friends. I am an open book, I don’t really hide anything, but I don’t really share until someone asks the right question.
She started her online work four years ago and her mix of personal diary entries, fashion photography, inspirational quotes and style guide quickly led to success.
The reason why I got popular so fast, because I am not like, you know other fashion blogger, that usually writes about fashion like they go to fashion week this place or they wear this Hermes bag today, whatever they do. I post an outfit post, which is like you know my fashion editorial post, with what is going on. So my blog is like my dairy and my fashion diary at the same time. I share my real feelings like I share everything about my life online. And people relate to it, because they say they can see that like behind everything that is so shiny, there is something else and like that.
The result is a somewhat sinister collage of grunge, a longing to connect, light Satan worshipping, 90s nostalgia and the usual suspects for emo inspiration including Sylvia Plath and Nitzsche…
I am very heavily influenced with the Internet culture. So you know cyberwave, young blogs and 90s movies at the same time, with the neon vibe, grunge, punk rocks. It’s very difficult to explain what is going on right now in the cyber culture, cause you know it’s the Internet, you have to see it to understand it.
Her aesthetic lands her jobs in fashion PR, modeling, the odd appearance in Russian music videos and writing. Currently she is working on two fiction books and despite being only 21, she was asked to write her lifestory to be published by Bloom Book later this year as part of a series of female role models.
All the other girls are writing about relationships and being business wives, but she wanted me to write a book about addictions and mental disorder, recovery, so she said that that is something that no books in Vietnam has written about yet, especially a Vietnamese girl.
She says she has struggled with all kinds of addiction…
I would not call myself as having an addictive personality, it’s more like I am trying to find a different way to cope with pain in different times. It’s really just different types over different time, it never really end, and it never really started.
One of these pain is how her family dealt with her acting up as a teenager.
Well I was 15 and I told my parents I don’t like school, I don’t wanna go to school anymore, I wanna quit…
And how did they react?
They sent me to Singapore. I think that it’s, I don’t know, I think that it’s just wrong.
To just send you kid off?
In Singapore she made connections to the creative scene through the dance community. She says only few people know that she has had a side career as a dancer specialising in popping, in her brother’s dance company, but it has shaped her life and career significantly.
When you are a dance right, you have a community, that is really helpful to each other. We have a lot of exchange program with Singapore dancer, like they come over for dance event and we come over there for dance event so I just kind of know people in Singapore.
Today she is a fiercely independent, business savvy young woman who is making a living seemingly without losing the air of authenticity that makes her so appealing. And she is mostly self-taught.
For me right you can learn anything. Like I don’t believe in talents and shit, you know.
But hard work was not the answer when it came to dealing with the loneliness and the emptiness.
I was trying to find adventures, because I did not feel anything. I truly wasn’t feeling anything. I am like I wanna feel scared, like I wanna feel scared for once, I wanna know what it feels like to be terrified, but I don’t. After I got married, it’s kind funny, every day I wake up I feel so many things and I haven’t even get out of the house yet. I don’t feel missing in that part anymore.
Her husband is a friend of a friend. They met on a road trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and got married 12 days later.
We just go to do the paperwork, we don’t actually have a wedding… Do you want to?… no. Flashy stuff is not for me. It’s not really about the commitment either, because we just kind of know that we’re going to stick together. I don’t know we just feel like we need to do it.
And they did and her family’s reaction certainly wasn’t flashy either.
When I got married I was dancing for my brothers show. My actual brother, he is a dance choreographer, a contemporary dance choreographer
What’s his name?
Le Vu Long. I was telling him like hey I may come a little late to the dance practice this afternoon I gotta get married and he is like ok you can be late, but don’t be too late. And no one in my family, knows about his existence. My parents are very very strange people, so I have not talked to my dad in years. And when I call him, like hey I just got married he say ‘oh really? take care’ and he just hang up.
Getting married on such a whim does not quite gel with how Plaaastic usually makes decisions.
I am definitely not an impulsive person. I am the directly opposite of an impulsive person. I think very carefully about what I do, and about consequences and I am actually the type that is always overthinking.
It has been half a year in the marriage and she is slowly getting used to it.
Marriage is a very strange thing for me. I have been living alone for a long time and even when I was living with my parents, when I was like very little, I was always on my own, so I have to do everything by myself, but then like sometimes right when I was just doing something I was like oh my god, I got so many things on my hands, and then I just realised I can get him to do it. You know it’s a very strange feeling, every day I go through it. Whatever happens that day I am just like wait I got another person going on right here.
Is she worried about losing her independence?
I am not scared about being dependent I am more like a perfectionist. I have to plan out everything and it has to go exactly my way, I have to be in control of everything. When I have to work for other people it piss me off, I cannot do it. But when I am my own boss right, I control everything, so it’s easier for me that way.
But life and work with her husband is teaching her to change that.
You know it’s kind of funny, like right now, I am learning to let got. I am learning to be more chilled.
It is produced by Eliza Lomas and Fabiola Buchele, our production assistants are Trang Nghiem and Trang Ngo.
Jacques Smit is our photographer and the narration was done by myself Bill Nguyen.
An And Of Other Things production.
In episode 16 we will hear from four young women in their late teens who we took out for coffee and cake to chat about privilege, not being taken seriously by the generation that precedes them and their hopes for the future.
Be sure to listen!