Vivian Lai is pondering life as she waits for her makeup artist to finish applying a slick of lipstick to her carefully made-up face. She then picks up her phone to quickly record an IG story for the benefit of her fans on Instagram.

Her doe-like eyes crinkle at the corners when she smiles and she lets out a hearty laugh as she describes getting all dressed up for our January cover shoot.

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How Fast Can You Bubble Tea with Vivian Lai?

It’s a different and more lighthearted side to the actress, one that has rarely been seen in recent months, as she navigates the pitfalls of her husband’s career troubles.

Criticism is my motivation to do better.

Vivian Lai

Vivian’s husband, Alain Ong, was deputy group CEO of Pokka Corporation (Singapore) and CEO of Pokka International before he was removed in September 2018 following internal investigations. He no longer works for Pokka, and Vivian, too, has been dropped as the beverage maker’s ambassador.

Vivian’s husband, Alain Ong, was deputy group CEO of Pokka Corporation (Singapore) and CEO of Pokka International before he was removed in September 2018 following internal investigations. He no longer works for Pokka, and Vivian, too, has been dropped as the beverage maker’s ambassador.

Krinou Corra top from SocietyA.

Keeping Her Chin Up

Since then, Vivian has taken to reflecting on her life’s path more, and is adamant that she remains in good spirits despite the swift backlash thrown her way when the story was made public last year.

“Criticisms are a natural thing. There are people who don’t like me, and that’s their opinion and they are entitled to it. I usually just brush it off and not think about it. To be honest, other people’s criticism is my motivation to do better,” shares the 43-year-old.

“It’s all about your mindset. Staying positive isn’t a problem for me at all. I’ve learnt that you just have to separate the important things from the not-so important things in life to do so.”

Dress from Chloe. Leather boots from Tods.

Family Comes First

And what exactly has been the most important to her throughout last year’s messy ordeal? It’s no surprise that it’s Vivian’s love for her family.

“My family is the single most important thing in my life. My family is what makes me a happy and cheerful person,” shares the mother to two girls, Vera, 13 and Ariel, nine. “Due to social media and the way society is today, my children do face a lot of negativity, and to protect them from that, I talk to them often and am always ready to share my advice with them.”

So protective is Vivian of her daughters that they were the very reason she decided to break her silence on her family’s troubles last August, even though her husband’s case was still pending in court.

My family is the single most important thing in my life.

Vivian Lai

“This news happened more than a year ago. Back then, I did not speak about it because (I wanted) it to be handled through the proper channels. So it was not convenient for me to say too much. Now, a year later… reporters have appeared outside my home, wanting to chase the story,” she revealed.

“It has affected the life of my family. I am not just by myself. I have a family. To (my kids), a home should be a warm place where they feel free. (They shouldn’t) feel scared (about) coming home. It might be a difficult time for us now. But no matter what, we will get through it.”

Rotate Birger Christensen ruched crinkled-jacquard mini dress from Net-A-Porter.
Korean Collectives earrings from Net-A-Porter.

Paying It Forward

More than just putting her face to a brand and collecting a paycheck, Vivian not only wants to build a tea empire, she hopes to empower the farmers she collaborates with and to give back to this group of workers whom she deeply respects.

“I like drinking different types of tea, and two years ago I had the chance to meet with tea farmers in Taiwan. The one thing that struck me was that even though they were producing a good product, they didn’t know how to properly (promote) the tea and were losing out (in business) because of that,” explains Vivian.

“I can’t say that Teabrary is very successful yet because we’re still new, but at the stage we’re at now, I feel fortunate that I’m able to help improve the lives of the farmers I work with.”


Photos: Joel Low, assisted by Alfie Pan
Art Direction: Barbara Koh
Styling: Neo Li Rong, assisted by Rin Low
Hair: Jenny Lee/Monsoon Novena Square, assisted by Leon Li/Mingu x Mstylist
Makeup: Suhuan Li 
Location: The Alkaff Mansion