Here's My Story #5: Singapore's most controversial siblings Preetipls and Subhas on family, fame, and finding their voices
In their own words
The truth always hurts.
That's my biggest takeaway after reflecting on the events of the past couple of months. I've also realised the importance of my mental health. When everything came crashing down, my brother and I were bombarded with messages and calls from people who we didn't even know. Our faces were plastered everywhere in the media and it hit me at that moment that no one's going to check in on me to see how I'm doing besides myself and my loved ones.
I don't remember much about my childhood, but I know there are pictures of Subhas and I just running free without a care in the world. Those were probably our happiest days.
We've always been close and protective of each other as siblings. My mother constantly reminds us of this one time when my brother got bullied at the playground and how I threatened to beat the kid up when I was just five years old.
As a family, things were a little more complicated. We moved houses constantly. I remember we moved three times in one particular year, which inevitably led to friction. I can't imagine how much our Jack Russell Terrier Mini — who passed last year — had to endure through it all. Thinking about the amount of times she ran into my arms terrified, she was probably traumatised from all the yelling and fighting.
School wasn't easy, either. In secondary school, I was part of an all-girls friend group and I happened to be the only brown girl. I became a meme before memes were a thing. There was a bully at school who put up a picture of me in a basketball jersey that said, "Her parents were being sarcastic when they named her Preeti". They went on to make fun of my name and how it apparently didn't match my looks. That's pretty much how the self-hating started.
I wouldn't say that I'm completely out of it now; I'd definitely still describe myself as insecure. Even till today, there'll always be haters who take shots at us and make toxic content at my expense, but I cope with it by having fun with Preetipls. Letting my creativity flow and bringing my ideas to life give me fulfilment.
My brand of comedy has always been about satire and social commentary. I'm not going to change my content because it's too real for someone. My work has always been intentional, sarcastic, and masked with an insane amount of exaggeration. I personally would never call it confrontational.
Considering that I've received a conditional warning, I'm certainly going to be checking in with various people regarding my content in the future, but there are no plans to stop. If the media is going to use my face to sell clicks, I'm going to use my conditional warning status to make more content.
In terms of projects that I'll love to do one day, I've always wanted to voice an animated character because I'm a huge fan of shows such as Bojack Horseman and appreciate it as a tool for storytelling. Until then, I'll keep using my voice on my platform.
I'd also love to go on tour with my brother someday.
It sounds totally cheesy to say this, but I just want my brother to be happy. I want him to know that his work is being heard and there's actual change happening. Today, people are thinking and talking about things that are so important; things we grew up never having the space to discuss.
In the meantime, look out for my Deepavali content. This year, we've got an original song and a special Deepavali tutorial for all my makkals. By the way, Subi is on TikTok now and I hate his content.
My career and my life are intertwined as one large process, but wow, what a 2019 I've had so far.
My sister and I have been through some serious stuff in our lives, so this wasn't our first rodeo. At the end of the day, we aren't going to stop doing what we love to do. My music has always been deeply personal and sacred.
Similar to how Preeti described, our childhood was quite traumatic. I carry a photo of my sister and I, together with a tiny feather of our pet African Grey parrot, in my wallet everyday to remind me of times past. I found the feather years after we had to sell him when we had to move houses and didn't have money for movers.
Growing up, the problem was that our parents kept lying to us about everything. Until today, I can see the keloids of all that numbing that had to happen for my mother to move forward with her life. It's what she had to do because we were in survival mode for most of our lives. Even today, things could go wrong and we could lose everything.
On a happier note, I fondly remember the inside jokes Preeti and I shared. We told our jokes in this weird language that mixed both Mandarin and Tamil together, so only both of us would understand.
The problem with learning Mandarin at school though, was that it uprooted us from our Indian-ness. We knew that we were always outsiders in Chinese-dominated spaces and we didn't fit in with our community too. It became one of the best and worst moves that my parents made. I had to deal with that impostor syndrome my whole life. Why do we have to attribute Mandarin as the only language of economic empowerment and social mobility? We have to learn and speak our dialects.
I grew up loving languages; words are so beautiful to me. Indian movies are musicals, so there was so much music in the house when we were young. My dad would whistle and my mum would sing along, so the flows and rhythms stuck with me.
50 Cent's The Massacre was one of my first CDs that I bought. Preeti bought Britney Spear's music, and we had a bit of Ricky Martin and Michael Bolton too. I would go to Clementi Interchange often to buy rap and hip-hop CDs while downloading mixtapes online.
I would spend literally hours just listening to everything. I liked rap that spoke to an experience that I could see and feel in my own life, but I couldn't hear about in Singapore. I was feeling emotions that I couldn't articulate, yet I could feel so viscerally.
Rap is an incredibly powerful act; it's history-making. At Yale-NUS, I was writing essays as part of the Urban Studies curriculum; today, I write my dissertation in music.
At the end of the day, I'm doing this to inspire change and music is the best means to achieve that. It can never be controlled. Even if I die, my music will outlive me. Art and music can really change circumstances and give hope to people. When I committed myself to being an artist, I completely surrendered myself to the poetry that's around me.
Migrant justice is an issue that I'm deeply passionate about. I want a minimum wage for Singaporeans and anyone who comes to Singapore. I wish to live in a country that's built on values, not on value. Shout out to Migrants Band Singapore. We made a track together called "UTOPIA". If you come to a live show, you'll definitely hear it.
My latest track "Runaway" is very special to me. Dnl. (@dnlfullstop) produced the track and played it in studio while we were chatting about 'making it' as independent artists in Singapore. We wrote the track in a few hours. The team behind the MV was incredible. It wouldn't have been possible without Nat (@nathanielmah), Marcus (@dauntlus), Lucas (@itslucassss_), Jake (@jakelow.co), Shyam (@u.k.shyam1037), Sonny (@sonny_liew), and all the other folks who agreed to be in the MV.
I am grateful that I get to create. We must always keep listening, observing, creating, and inspiring. In the process of fighting our own fires, it's always important for Preeti and I to do more with our platforms by giving back and finding a way to bring attention to important issues and helping others who need our voices. I'm so proud of the work that my sister is doing. I hope that one day Preeti and I can lean back, sip an adult beverage, surrounded by people who we love, and look back knowing that it was all worth it.
For now, our stories are still being written. One day I may leave Singapore, but Singapore will never leave me. I will go where my music takes me. Oh, and don't follow me on TikTok.
Styled and photographed by Faiyaz Kolia
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