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Singaporean ex-teacher and now full-time content creator Chanel Yui caused quite a stir when she spoke candidly on a podcast about pursuing a career as an OnlyFans model.
OnlyFans is an online subscription service heavily associated with raunchy content.
In a TikTok video with host Esther Lai-Joseph of the That Mom Chat podcast, Chanel said that she had been stuck in a “suffocating environment” where she would be told off for “not very appropriate” content that she had put up on her social media pages.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Chanel quickly became a target of nasty comments on the video.
“You just want quick and easy money, simple as that,” said a comment from one Bruce Liang, who then went on to call the creator “materialistic”.
Another accused her of disgracing the profession:
“I feel misunderstood sometimes”
About a month after she made headlines, I caught up with Chanel to ask how fame (or notoriety) has been treating her so far, and how she deals with nasty comments like these.
“If you were to say that it doesn’t affect me at all, it’s a lie,” Chanel says.
She’s used to people thinking of her as “weird” her entire life, since she enjoys dressing up flamboyantly and “doing weird things”.
But the online comments are a whole new level.
“People, [when] they don’t have to show their faces, they can type anything they want… Some of them do get very, very hurtful.”
Chanel has realised though, that it is often not worth the effort to explain herself:
“I feel misunderstood sometimes because I feel like these people… they’re ignorant that’s why they write these things, then it’s very hard to correct them, because they’re not willing to listen as well.”
An unconventional career switch
Going from teaching to creating adult content is a big jump, and I ask Chanel about the push factors that led her to making this life-changing decision.
The change, she admits, was “a very scary step”, and something Chanel mulled over for a very long time.
Ultimately, she reached a “breaking point” with her old job, and decided to take the plunge.
Chanel explains that she had always dabbled in cosplay and modelling even as a teacher, but clarifies that she did not take payment for any of these jobs.
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In Singapore, civil servants, including educators, are not allowed to take up side jobs.
One particular shoot that got her in trouble was a collaboration that she shot with another model, which she admits had “some lesbian overtones”.
“The photoshoot wasn’t very sexual. It was just, like, two girls [in] very close proximity. Not even sexy outfits. It was like, long sleeves with bralette and skirt… But it wasn’t acceptable by conservative standards, I guess.”
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But that was not her only brush with the school’s management, who on numerous occasions asked her to remove personal posts or content that she had appeared in.
When I ask her if she knows who complained to the school about her content, Chanel says that she was never given this information.
“They won’t tell you who was the one that complained. But they will just say, oh, there was a complaint made,” she tells me in a resigned tone.
According to Chanel, she was also criticised for wearing make-up when she first started out, a teaching that her late mother had ingrained in her:
“When I was very young, my mum taught me that when you go out to work professionally, you should put on some make-up to look presentable, and look your best for the job,” she explains.
However, after being censured for putting on make-up, Chanel decided that she would just “look a bit uglier” on the job.
Mum’s death was the “turning point”
But despite her frustrations with her job, Chanel kept at it for almost eight years as it provided a stable income.
She had grown up in a low-income family as the second of four siblings, with her mother as the sole breadwinner.
When her mother later contracted a terminal illness, that responsibility fell to Chanel, who also became her mother’s main caregiver.
She explains that at the point in time, her older sister had already moved out, though she helped out as much as she could, while her younger sister was between jobs and her younger brother was still schooling.
“That was a lot of stress… I had to think about, like, where the money for the bills next month is going to come from, and how to put food on the table,” Chanel recalls.
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Her mother’s passing in May 2022, says Chanel, was the “turning point”, as she felt that it was “one huge responsibility that [she’d] completed”.
When I asked if her three siblings were supportive of her career switch, Chanel lights up.
“I’m very fortunate to have very loving and supportive siblings. They’re open-minded,” she says with a grin.
While she used to make just under S$4,000 a month after CPF (Central Provident Fund) deductions, Chanel says that her current income is much more unpredictable, with “highs and lows”.
The CPF is Singapore’s compulsory pension scheme for its residents, and employees aged 55 and under pay 20% of their monthly wages into it. This is supplemented by an employer contribution of 17%.
When asked for a rough estimate, Chanel says that she’s trying to open up different income streams, but makes about S$1,000 each month just from OnlyFans.
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But it’s also this uncertainty that keeps her motivated.
“When I was under somebody else, all you had to do was listen to what comes down from the top, and then carry it out,” she says, “But being your own boss definitely is very different. Like, if you don’t do anything, you don’t get anything.”
Chanel says that her motivation to get up and to work is “10, 20, 100 times more” than when she was a teacher.
When asked if she’s had to make any major changes to her lifestyle, Chanel shares that her spending habits have evolved significantly.
With a stable income previously, she wouldn’t think twice before treating herself to good food like sushi or Hai Di Lao (a famous Chinese hotpot chain).
Now, she would rather cook for herself and spend the money investing in new outfits, networking or to “make [her]self look better”.
How about the future?
I ask Chanel if she’s concerned about the sustainability of her career, and her answer is a brutally honest one.
To her, becoming an OnlyFans creator is something that she wanted to do while she was still young, calling it a job that has an “expiry date” that you “cannot do after your 50s”.
“[While] I’m young, I just want to do this first before I regret it,” she says.
And what happens after she reaches this “expiry date”, then?
“There are actually many other routes that can happen after being in front of the camera, you know, once people don’t find you funny or attractive anymore,” she shares bluntly.
These job options include becoming a producer or manager for other creators, or even going into event organisation.
When asked if she has any advice for those looking to follow in her footsteps, Chanel jokes: “Make sure you’re of age!”
On a more serious note though, she reveals that she has been approached by aspiring creators since the podcast for help with starting out, and her experience as a teacher has made her well-placed to give advice and warnings about the pitfalls to avoid.
“You’re not afraid of them being competition?” I ask.
Chanel says that she isn’t competitive by nature, and prefers to collaborate with these new creators instead.
“If there’s more people to work with, and more people to have fun and share with, it’s better for business.”
Top image via Saeyeon Lee and Chanel Yui.
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