Germaine Tan: “Happiness Is A Full-Time Job”

Tan may be an established name in radio, but she feels like a work in progress. Here, she opens up about overcoming challenges, building resilience, and why she’s ready for her 30s
Singapore radio DJ Germaine Tan is our GRAZIA Girl of Jun/Jul 2024. On Germaine: GIVENCHY dress, kitten heels
Germaine Tan is our GRAZIA Girl of Jun/Jul 2024. On Germaine: GIVENCHY dress, kitten heels

Germaine Tan hates small talk. Within moments of speaking to her, you will likely find yourself in the sort of conversation that most people would only dare to have in the shadows of a bar—once they’ve downed a couple of drinks. But Tan is keen on connection. For someone born under the mysterious sign of Scorpio, she taps into her reserve of raw, emotional honesty so readily that, at first meeting, she feels familiar.

In a sense, she is. In the last nine years, most Singaporeans would have heard Tan on the radio, whether as a part-time presenter on the popular Class 95 show, Muttons In The Morning, or more recently, as a co-host of 987FM’s The Down Low. You may have seen all the fuss that was made online about her Tesla car, which was bought by her father, or her family’s Good Class Bungalow. Her wealthy background has also earned her the label of a “nepo baby”. This is despite the fact that she works in mass media—an entirely different line of work from her father, who is a businessman and an entrepreneur—and her entry into the industry would have been unlikely if she hadn’t won second place in 987FM’s Radio Star competition in 2015.

Radio DJ Germaine Tan GRAZIA Singapore photo shoot 2024
KATE SPADE top, trousers, sandals, earring, ring

Tan has worked in radio for close to a decade, which reflects a commitment to her career that is often lacking in famous nepo babies like, say, Kendall Jenner, whose experience in the fashion industry has somehow led to her founding a tequila business, or Kaia Gerber, who ventured into acting after her short modelling career.

But nine years is a long time for anyone to stay in one place, and the thought of finally changing her career path did occur to Tan last year. “[I felt that] I have learned everything I can learn, I have done everything I can do [in radio],” she says. Instead of acting on the thought, though, she followed her intuition to simply wait. Eventually, she says, “I realised that I want to stay in this job, and I want to do better at it. I want to reinvent myself.”

Tan wasn’t just referring to her career. In the past year, the 29-year-old has been rethinking her entire identity. “I think, generally, as you approach your late 20s, everyone kind of goes through like a bit of an existential crisis,” she says. “Who is Germaine Tan? What am I without my job? It kind of freaked me out a little bit. I felt like I would be very lost without [my job], because it’s been my anchor.

“But I think as you grow older, you have to put down everything—ego, pride, what people think of you, what you think of people. You have to realise, who are you? I’m still figuring it out.”

Radio DJ Germaine Tan GRAZIA Singapore photo shoot 2024
BALENCIAGA top, skirt, sneakers, scarf

Tan is serious about self-discovery. She shares that she began working with an executive coach and a psychologist last year to support her professional and personal development, respectively. Her quest to become the best version of herself was partly inspired by her relationship with her boyfriend, Andrew Li, the CEO of Zouk Group. “He is the first guy [I’ve dated] that I feel that I respect as an equal,” she reflects. “I didn’t want to project my unresolved issues onto him.”

Despite her age, Tan holds no illusions about the realities of romantic relationships. She elaborates, “We think that love should be effortless and easy. We think it’s such a big grand gesture that makes your heart filled with joy—and yes, love can be that. But love is also work. Love is holding up a mirror to the worst parts of yourself. I know a lot of friends who aren’t willing to confront that and therefore cannot find themselves in a relationship. Because it’s scary. Dating is rough, man.”

Radio DJ Germaine Tan GRAZIA Singapore photo shoot 2024
FERRAGAMO top (worn underneath), tank, skirt, earring

Besides her career and her relationship, another thing that Tan is working on is building a sense of resilience. It’s not just for the critical or downright hateful comments that she gets from strangers online, as someone in the public eye. Tans recalls a business venture that she had taken on while juggling two jobs a few years ago—and which ultimately failed.

“What I didn’t anticipate and that I really regret is that life knocked me down,” she reflects. “I didn’t have the resilience or the grit to make the business succeed. I couldn’t separate my personal life from my work. And I was incredibly depressed at that time. It took me many years to be able to talk about it. I’m so ashamed of it, and because of all the people that I let down.”

At the time, Tan says, she was going “in and out of the hospital with weird diseases and illnesses”, because she wasn’t taking care of herself, much to the alarm of her friends and family. Following the experience, one of her father’s life lessons became especially clear to her: that money can’t buy you health.

Today, Tan is finding her footing in the world. “I’m trying to regulate my emotions better, to be a more balanced person,” she says. She is also getting better at the work-life balance thing: she schedules time to do the things she enjoys, like walking her dogs or reading a book.

Radio DJ Germaine Tan GRAZIA Singapore photo shoot 2024
BALENCIAGA hoodie, trousers, thong, sneakers
Radio DJ Germaine Tan GRAZIA Singapore photo shoot 2024

Despite not feeling as resilient as she would like to be, Tan sure looks tough. During her interview, she is wearing a black leather jacket from Rag & Bone and is still sporting the smokey eyeshadow look from her GRAZIA Girl photoshoot. Couple those things with her piercing gaze, and it’s no wonder that many people, she says, have perceived her as intimidating. But Tan is also quick to be kind: she greets every crew member at the photoshoot by name and with a smile, and she is likewise warm to the staff at the café where she does her interview.

“I’ve been trying to figure out what my purpose in life is, and I always thought it had to be something massive, like, to change the world,” Tan shares. “[What I’ve learned is that] your purpose can be something as simple as making someone smile every day.”

With all the lessons that Tan has learned so far, she is excited to take on her 30s. She is thrilled, even, which is not something you often hear from a 20-something in Singapore. “I’ve realised that happiness is a full-time job; you have to work towards it,” she says. She sure sounds like she’s ready to do the work.



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