Report by Jewel Philemon / Photos by Jeremy Philemon
“THE PRESSURE to succeed is even higher because people are watching you every step of the way. People do notice you and they do judge you in a different scale,” says Vernetta Lopez when asked if it is easier to be an entrepreneur if you are a celebrity.
Vernetta Lopez, perhaps best known for her role in Under One Roof, was the guest celebrity entrepreneur at ‘Celebpreneur Uncovered’, an event organized by the Spirit of Enterprise Student Alumni (SSA) at the National Library on 13 October.
The event, presented in a talk-show format, saw Vernetta sharing her highs and lows of being a celebrity and an entrepreneur in Singapore.
She recounted her childhood living in the former Turf Club at Woodlands and was naturally creative and imaginative. She did her mass communication studies at Ngee Ann Polytechnic and interned at Heart 93.5 soon after getting her diploma.
She was first noticed at a press party at the Plaza Hotel. Vernetta recalls that going to the press party was a big step for her. At the party, she was noticed by a TV producer and asked to go for an audition. Soon after, she took a course at the then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) and among her course mates there was Wong Lee Lin, who would later become a TV personality herself. Soon after completing the course, Vernetta hosted a music video show but it was her role as Denise Tan in the hugely popular sitcom Under One Roof which turned her into a mega TV star in Singapore.
Vernetta has tried her hands at various start-ups - from flower shops to voice training businesses. Currently, she is the proprietor of Eternally Yours - a wedding planner.
When asked what was difficult about her running a wedding planning business, Vernetta replies. “It’s difficult because it deals with emotions.” She credits the failure in the flower shop business and a book she bought at Borders on Wedding Planning for her success with Eternally Yours.
It were these, she says, which gives her a passion for details and beauty, which are essential for the success as a wedding planner.
She also provides her expertise as a lively and energetic master of ceremonies at the weddings her company organises, and this is an added incentive for the business to thrive.
She says that she is a successful entrepreneur probably because of her personality, perseverance and stubbornness.
“There is no point in having a back-up plan if your business plan isn't working”, she says, though she admits that her biggest fears are bankruptcy, being in debt and incurring a bad reputation.
Eternally Yours tries to distinguish itself from other wedding planning businesses by riding on the brand name and by pricing her services right. “We are personable and take care of our clients’, says Vernetta.
Anyone aspiring to be a celebrity should identify what they are really good at and pursue it. She advises aspiring celebrities to be bubbly, friendly, and to make themselves distinct and more importantly, to market their skills. When asked whether she can do this forever, Vernetta says that she hopes she can.
Vernetta then went on to talk a little about ONE Singapore, A Non-Profit Organisation in which she is president, and explained that it is dedicated to raising awareness and taking concrete decisions on poverty. She aims to make an impact on the lives of people and that ONE Singapore is the perfect avenue for her to do that.
In the meantime, she hopes to manage her schedule, business and interests successfully.
She advises aspiring entrepreneurs to love what they are doing, to have a road map for their plans. These, she says, will “bring you forward”.
Vernetta Lopez’s (VL) exclusive interview with The Online Citizen (TOC):
TOC – Why did you agree to do this interview for the SSA?
VL – It’s a chance to share what little I know (laughs) and I hope I made sense today and I guess it’s nice to see who the next generation of entrepreneurs are. It’s nice to see people who are willing to take a chance because some people maybe would just be happy working for someone as opposed to having their own business. And having a business is not easy and you just cannot jump into it. So yes, it’s nice to see these people.
TOC – Do you promote your wedding planning business on your radio show? Why or why not?
VL – No! no! That's just...rude! (laughs) I mean no because...if it were my own radio station I'd do it, you know? But it's not my own radio station. If it were my own radio station it would make sense to do it. But this one, it's not my company and it would be really, I think, unethical to do so. Plus also technically, it's not allowed lah. You know, you cannot do personal advertising and neither can you do personal messages to entice people towards you, so it just doesn't make sense to do it. And I think that doing it would be unfair.
TOC – Is it easier to be an entrepreneur if you're a celebrity?
VL – Um, slightly, I think, but the pressure is even higher because people are watching you every step of the way. They think that your family looks at you, your friends look at you and they judge you but it’s the whole country, man! The more popular you are the more they look at you- and not evil as in America, lah, I mean it’s not evil. But it’s something that people do notice and they do judge you on a different scale.
TOC – Being a celebrity is one of your plus points. How can one identify his or her plus points and use it to market their businesses?
VL – You ask people. People who know you well and good friends that are brutally honest with you. Ask them what it is that they like about you. And also your personality. Your personality, I think, is a big part of your business plan. Um, and I think, bank on your good points. Whether you speak well, whether you're good with numbers, whether you're creative, I mean these are some obvious plus points. And then there are some subtle ones which you have to find out for yourself. And you have to know yourself well.
TOC – In a 2005 interview, you claimed that your DNA proved your African ancestry. Do you consider that a plus point as well?
VL – No, I think it’s a plus point for every single human being, because we're all derived from the same person (laughs). So I won't say I'm unique, I'm just part of the human race so, no. Are we all from Africa? I haven't done any reading on that. It’s just fun to learn new things. At least I know for a fact that my DNA is from an African woman trapped in the glaciers coming from Eurasia. So, it’s just nice to know. On my mom's side, I don't know about my dad's side! (laughs)
TOC – During your wedding in July, you claimed that your husband, Wayne Gladwin, makes you feel 'so important and special'. Is he another plus point? If so how?
VL – Oh hell yeah! (laughs) He's the biggest plus point in my life because he's so supportive in everything I do. He's no pressure or competition, you know what I mean? Because, I think, if couples compete or let egos get in their way, that is so detrimental to any relationship. He's been a source of joy in my life. He's taught me so much in terms of how not to take myself so seriously and how to enjoy the things in life and how to up the moral standing on how you value people, how you see situations. So I've learned a lot from him and I've learned also how to just chill as well. He has a very eco balance of all these qualities and I'm a very lucky person and I've had gal pals come up to me and say that you know you've really gotten yourself a really good catch. So I'm quite happy with that! (laughs)
TOC – Besides ONE Singapore, have you adopted or are volunteering at any other charity?
VL – Besides ONE Singapore I didn't. I mean whoever I supported; I made some money here and there (for other charities). You know, Singapore's Children Society, SPCA, whichever came along and asked me. But, I never had the inclination to say, look, I'm going to join this charity and stick to it because I've never had anything happen to me. But I truly believe that you don't have to be the person involved in order to get into it, you know what I mean? It's just that if someone had someone in their family die of cancer they get so emotionally involved with it that it’s compelling. But I've, thank goodness, not have had that experience, but I've always had an affinity for others. I've always wanted to help somebody and ONE Singapore gave me the opportunity because they are the group that helps everybody, you know? Because of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which encompasses environment, children, disease, healthcare, blah blah, all these little things that if you achieve those MDGs you can effectively end poverty. So what happens is you actually help groups across a wide spectrum. So I don't have to be like, I only go for one group. Because then I always feel like what about that other group. And this way I can help as many people as I can. And we're not a perfect group yet. We can't help every single person at the same time, but we're doing our best to at least, spread the love.
TOC – Under One Roof was the series that brought you fame. Are you currently acting or have any plans to act in other serials?
VL – I would love to keep on acting for as long as I can. Right now I'm on Cosmo and George on the Okto channel. That was my last acting project and it's been a while. I think I'll be on the third or fourth episode, maybe later, but I had so much fun on that show. It’s absolutely the most corny show on the face of the earth! It was so fun! I hope it comes up properly. It has some very good directors, including Gurmit (Singh) himself. So I wanna see that. I play a psycho woman! (laughs) They got me stereotyped! (laughs)