“At the end of the day, no matter what [your mum] did, be forgiving and remind yourself of all the hardship she has gone through to nurture you,” wrote Naomi in a poignant blog post nine years ago. She was only 14 then. Now 23, the social media star and first-time mum shares the seven realisations that she’s had in the past year.
#1: You have to learn to love yourself before someone else can love you
“I used to be that girl whose life revolves around her partner,” says Naomi. She recalls canceling plans at the drop of a hat just to accommodate the schedules of her exes.
“In retrospect, I don’t think I really loved those guys. I didn’t love myself enough to say ‘no, I have my own plans and I’m not going to cancel them for you’. I didn’t love myself enough to walk away. I always needed validation, so I kept trying to fill that void with guys who would validate me.”
#2: Think before you retaliate
She’s known for being a firecracker on Twitter and Facebook in the early stage of her social media career, and was quick to snap back at her detractors. But over the last few years, Naomi has been rethinking this approach.
She recalls incidents when she reacted without keeping her emotions in check that didn’t turn out well. “It’s something that I do differently today,” she says.
“I remember the last time someone tried to get me involved in some online drama —I remember typing my response out and was ready to post it, when my then-boyfriend (now my husband) told me to take some time to cool down first. After I had calmed down, I realised I didn’t feel like hitting back anymore.”
#3: I’m surprised by how much I’ve changed
“I used to be fearless. And as a by-product of that, I was impulsive. Although I’ve made a lot of mistakes because of it, they made me who I am,” reflects Naomi.
“If I could do it all over again, I’d be more careful about what I say. I used to be very vocal without thinking about the consequences or how people might interpret what I say. It was never my intention to cause any harm, but I was rather insensitive,” she adds.
“Today, I’m more responsible. I’m still the same person, just that I’m more mindful about the things I say and how I react to situations.”
#4: Never tattoo something you got off Google translate
Before Ariana Grande and her “seven rings” tattoo fiasco (it reads “small barbecue grill” instead), there was Naomi Neo and her “I love my dog” tattoo. She got it on a whim five years ago.
She’s in the process of lasering it off, and the Japanese characters are now nothing more than a muddle of faded pigments on her right forearm.
“It sounds so shallow now,” she says with a small chuckle. “I thought, ‘oh, let me make it more sophisticated by translating it to Japanese.’”
#5: You’re not alone in a lot of things
Two years back, Naomi started @uaintalone, a more contemplative counterpart to her main Instagram account that encourages her followers to talk about their feelings.
On that account, she dishes out advice like “It’s OK to take your time to feel hurt and angry” and “Wait for a guy who doesn’t mess with your mind and insecurities”.
“It’s not a one-way street of me sharing my personal life online. My followers also talk to me about what they’re going through, and their stories and experiences inspire me so much. In a way, they’re also guiding me and letting me know that there are better things ahead.”
While there are other influencers who have leveraged their social media presence to launch product lines or talent agencies, Naomi candidly shares that that’s not for her.
“People always ask me what’s my end goal. All I know is that I enjoy sharing my experiences, and I want to create a platform for a positive community. I’ve been wanting to work on something that’s a feel-good space—where we can all learn and grow from each other’s life experiences.”
#6: My life will never go back to how it was before I had my son Kyzo
“I thought I’d be the cool mum who goes clubbing,” says Naomi with a shake of her head. “I’m a huge party animal, and I thought everything would go back to normal. Like, if somebody was helping me to take care of Ky, I could still go clubbing, you know?”
“I did try—though I didn’t drink because I’m breastfeeding—but the whole time I was just like: ‘I want to go back and sleep. How is Ky now? I don’t want to spend the next day catching up on sleep and miss spending time with my baby,’” she recounts, laughing at her naivety.
“I really enjoyed clubbing,” she reiterates. “The fact that I’m willing to give that up so easily is very surprising to me.”
“I didn’t foresee myself settling down so soon… And I didn’t expect myself to be in such a different place, physically, mentally, and spiritually.”
#7: “Ah well, I’ll post when I have something to share.”
As we’re driving to get lunch after the photoshoot, our conversation in the car turned to Instagram algorithms. I asked if feeding her Instagram account is more stressful these days, especially when she has her hands full with baby Ky.
I mentioned that some influencers have talked about how they had to post something almost every day, or else their content doesn’t get pushed out onto their followers’ feed.
“Oh sh*t, really? I haven’t been posting as often!” Naomi exclaims, her voice an octave higher.
“I mean, that makes sense… but at the same time, I don’t want to put up content for the sake of putting up content. It’s very obvious when you do that and you lose that authenticity.”
“Ah well, I’ll post when I have something to share,” she concludes with a shrug.
Photography: Ivanho Harlim
Fashion direction: Janice Pidduck
Styling: Sifra Vania Yulius
Fashion assistant: Foong Kai Yu
Makeup: Hongling using Nars
Hair: Ash Loi /Sonder Hair using Keune Haircosmetics
Vintage car: Kombi Rocks
Flowers: Flower Story