Meet Annette Lee Rochelle aka Sue-Ann or Suezanna Chloe Tan
Video: Genice Ooi
If internet memes and short video clips are your bread and butter, chances are, you might be familiar with some of Annette Lee’s work on SGAG, a popular social media website that is also known as the local spinoff of 9GAG. You may even recognise Annette from her infamous online personas: ‘Sue-Ann,’ aka the office lady who falls in love with her Korean boss in an SGAG clip called My Spicy Seoulmate, or ditzy news reporter Suezanna Chloe Tan, who wears a yellow wig that can only be described as “striking”.
The 25-year-old, who graduated from NTU (Nanyang Technological University)’s School of Art Design and Media (ADM) two years ago, was apparently “talent-scouted” via an illustration blog (if only we fart flowers, where she drew comics and shared stories about her “fleeting existence”) that she ran during her university days. SGAG offered her a job, Annette took up the offer, and the rest, as they say, is history.
She started writing scripts and directing videos, but one thing led to another and she eventually wound up starring in SGAG’s online productions, where she had to do everything from walking a pet rock around Orchard to showing up on dates dressed in cosplay.
In an interview with Toggle, Annette, who is much mellower and more intelligent than Sue-Ann, shared how the character came to be. “I was actually the first person in SGAG’s video team and I was trying to set up a team. I wanted to make videos ‘cos I’m really passionate about it, but there was nobody available apart from Xiaoming (aka SGAG co-founder Adrian Ang) [to act in it] – but I can’t just be filming Xiaoming all day! You know what I mean?
Annette plays Sue-Ann in SGAG's My Spicy Seoul videos (Screenshots via SGAG)
“So I was like, okay, I’d just have to show up on the videos too if I want a variety [of characters], and we just came up with this name (Sue-Ann) for me. [Eventually] I started dragging random colleagues like ‘Kenny’ and ‘Bobby’ [to act in the videos] too, and we just grew like that.”
Explaining why she decided to use a pseudonym, instead of going with her real-life moniker, Annette said: “Because I knew I was going to do a lot of rubbish too. Oh my god, I have done so many rubbish things that I don’t think I’d have done if I didn’t have the disguise. (Chuckles)”
To a certain extent, she’s happy to keep her characters separate from who she is and from her personal projects.
As for whether people she knows offline associate her with her airheaded personas, Annette waved it off, laughing, “Most people won’t be able to recognise me in real life – of course, if I wore the spectacles, people would know.”
Case in point: Annette told us about how one of her friends, who, after learning about her day job at SGAG, sent his buddies a picture of them together, only for them to accuse him of bluffing.
So what else distinguishes Annette from Sue-Ann? Apart from the creative work she does at SGAG, Annette is a talented singer and has spent the last two years working on her debut EP, All Our Achilles Heels. The five-song album was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee with award-winning producers and brothers Ed and Scott Cash over a week-long period.
(Continued on next page: Annette hopes to sing under a persona? She tells us more)
(Photo: Annette Lee/Facebook)
Calling it her “passion project,” Annette (she goes by ANNETTE for her music work), who has never received any formal training in music, shared that she has been burning the midnight oil to work on this EP. She also wrote all five songs herself by herself and received some help from the producers with the bridge for her fifth song when she was in Nashville.
Annette, who first got acquainted with music through piano classes when she was younger, shared that she started songwriting after teaching herself to play the guitar at the age of 12. “Eventually I learned how to write [songs] and wrote my own stuff too. I never actually paid for a singing class – the only thing I was more properly trained in was art and film-making.”
Even with a grant from the National Arts Council, Annette had to dip into her savings to fund this EP -- an endeavor made possible by her full-time job at SGAG.
“I got a day job so that I can spend on this,” she laughed. “In that sense, this is not the money-making thing that’s supposed to feed me right now too. [But] if it makes it any better, I really enjoy my job too.”
For the past year, things got “quite crazy” when she had to juggle between work and her music project (“some weeks I just have no life,” she says), but everything worked out with the support of her bosses, who are generally “very supportive” of everybody’s hobbies and stuff they do outside of work – “as long as you don’t compromise on work,” she said.
Some of Annette's illustrations (Photos: Annette/Instagram)
For someone whose creative work is viewed by hundreds of thousands of people on a daily basis, has it ever occurred to Annette that her online personas may one day overshadow her other creative projects – be it singing, drawing or film-making? “I always feel that with a persona, you can always push [yourself to do] something a bit crazier. [For example, for my illustrations] I’d draw myself doing something I won’t be able to show in real life.”
“In the same way, I can do whatever crazy stuff I wanna do [on videos] too… It’s fun, I’m ok with this persona thing. In fact, if I could sing under a persona, I would too,” she added.
We’ll keep an ear out for that when it happens.