Singaporean entertainment industry personality Paul Foster is these days considered a veteran after more than a decade seen on TV screens across Southeast Asia as an actor, model and host at the ripe old age of 37.
Of British and Chinese heritage, Paul started out in reality and variety shows in 2002 and has since built a name for himself by appearing on HBO Asia, Mediacorp Channel 5 and Mediacorp Suria.
He has also covered travel and sporting events and hosted infotainment programs for Channel News Asia, Okto, Channel 5 and Hub Sports Arena.
Paul is also a highly sought after emcee for live events, including product/store launches, gala dinners, press conferences and various other media events, and as the inaugural co-host of the upcoming Saigon Tattoo Expo in November.
He is a popular brand ambassador for Under Armour, Lacoste, L’Oreal and Tag Heuer, and also for charitable causes and organisations, such as Run for Hope, Animal Lovers League, Habitat for Humanity Singapore and Happy Hearts Foundation Indonesia.
The Bureau was lucky enough to catch Paul during a short break in his busy schedule jetting about the region and asked him a few questions.
B: You said in an interview once that you are “Singaporean to the core.” What does it mean to be Singaporean to the core?
PF: I meant that even though I don’t traditionally look like I’m Singaporean on the outside, deep down inside, through and through, I’m as Singaporean as one can be!
B: How have you handled your British/Chinese heritage over the years? Mixed parentage is a relatively new and growing phenomenon in Vietnam. Do you have any advice for young people out there who may be having difficulties with it?
PF: I think I’ve handled it pretty well to be honest. But mostly because I was very fortunate to have amazing parents who gave me the best of both sides of my heritage. I think the main thing is to know who you are, regardless if others don’t. Staying true to your core and being comfortable in your skin are the most important things, because by portraying the right energy, confidence and staying positive no one can ever question who you truly are.
B: What kind of social issues does Singapore currently experience in terms of race?
PF: Singapore is a multi-racial and multi-cultural country, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still issues unfortunately. But I’d like to think they are less rather than more when it comes to the discrepancies in different races viewing each other. It’s mostly the same as many other countries, that sometimes people just don’t see eye-to-eye, when race comes into the equation, it just makes the situation a lot more difficult. Singapore isn’t perfect, but it’s still a safe, clean and efficient city to live in.
B: You travel a lot. Which destination has had the most impact on you?
PF: I’m very fortunate I get to travel so much with my work and when I can just for me. So many places have touched me in different ways, so I can’t just have one favourite, but my list includes: Varanasi, Hamilton Island, Ladakh, Halong Bay, Bangkok, Manila, Jakarta, Melbourne, Sumba, Cape Town, Labuan Bajo, Okinawa and Moutai Town. I’m very sure I’ve missed a few other places, but I assure you, I’ve loved how every destination has given me something!
B: You’ve volunteered in the past in Vietnam as an ambassador for Habitat for Humanity Singapore. Tell us about that experience.
PF: Yes, I’m an ambassador for Habitat for Humanity Singapore, so I’ve helped to build several homes around the region. In 2013, as part of the Mekong Build I was a house leader for a mixed team of volunteers to build a home in Tien Giang. It’s always a truly gratifying and inspiring experience to help build homes for those in need. In Vietnam, we were able to complete a house for a young family in 5 days, which was hard work, but with a great team of like-minded individuals, we did it! The emotion and the happiness of being able to literally give a home is really indescribable, but if you want to know, just come build with us!
B: Every now and then there are calls for the countries of ASEAN to unite. What would be one way to unite the people of ASEAN?
PF: Tattoos!!! But I think a great way to always bring people together is food! I love my food and it makes me so happy, so bringing people to eat good food would be my way to unite everyone. Oh, and while we are at it, we can throw in some drinks too!
B: There are more “Asian” men represented globally on TV and cinema these days, for example, Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) and Joshua Dela Cruz (Blue’s Clues). Are you hoping to go on to become globally recognised? What do you have in the pipeline in terms of your acting, modelling & hosting gigs?
PF: If it happens, it happens. I really love the work I do, but I don’t crave or need the global recognition. That isn’t the true factor of success, rather it’s enjoying the work that I’m grateful to already do. I don’t have any acting gigs lined up just yet, modelling is also something that happens sporadically now, but hosting live events and a travel show are keeping me busy for the moment!
B: You’ve said that you don’t know the power of love at the age of 17. Do you think you have a handle on it now at the age of 37? What advice do you have for young men when it comes to falling in love?
PF: Wow, did I say that!?! Ah, the young Foster still had a lot to learn. Twenty years later, I think it’s safe to say I’ve loved and lost a few times over. When it comes to falling in love, don’t break the fall, enjoy the feeling. To be able to love someone else and to feel that love back, is a true feeling of happiness, so if you can find it, respect it and enjoy it!
B: You claim to be very good at eating. What are you looking forward to eating while you’re here in Vietnam?
PF: I’ll eat pretty much anything! I definitely want a pho and a banh mi very early on, but after this I’ll be taken care of by my hosts, so I’m sure they’ll introduce me to some amazing foods! If anyone has any recommendations, pleassssse let me know!
B: You look pretty ripped in the photos we’ve seen. How do you stay in shape with such a busy schedule? Any tips for the busy travelling businessman who finds himself in airports a lot?
PF: I haven’t been that diligent recently, but I think I’m starting to work on my dad bod now, hahaha! It really is just that — hard work, keeping balanced, working out and training where possible, and as you get older, trying to control the diet more. Having said that, I live to eat and not eat to live, so my whole life I’ve just tried to keep my fitness going to stay in shape. It’s definitely harder if there’s a lot of traveling too, but you just have to find the most suitable ways that fit your lifestyle. Running through the airports, using your luggage as weights whilst lunging through immigration and getting your push ups/sit ups done whilst waiting at the gate could be an appropriate airport workout?! But I usually save the training for at the hotel. You’d be surprised what you can do in your room with minimal or no equipment.
B: You’ve got plenty of ink. Give us the backstory to one of your pieces that you are particularly fond of.
PF: All my tattoos mean something to me and they represent my family or myself. I’m still building my story, so I have three more lined up. They are all amazing, but if I had to choose one to talk about now, I would have my monkey holding a rat tattoo by Ael Lim, which represents my family. Dad (1944) and I (1980) are monkeys, whilst my Mum (1948) and sister (1984) are rats in the Chinese zodiac, so it was really an idea I had to have the two animals together to show us together.
B: What excites you the most about the upcoming Saigon Tattoo Expo? Are you planning on staying around a bit longer after the event?
PF: I think just being invited to host the event was awesome! I have hosted the first two Singapore Ink Show conventions, but I think it’s exciting that now I have a chance to host an international tattoo convention. I’m really excited to see friends in the tattoo community and, of course, meet more amazing tattoo artists in Saigon, too. I do hope to have a few days to stay for a bit, but depending on my travel show schedule, I could be needed as well for filming!
B: If you got organiser Danis Nguyen from Saigon Ink to give you a tattoo, what would it be?
PF: Danis has a Japanese oriental style, so if I were to get something from him, it would be of Buddha, just from seeing some of his work. But I always want the tattoo artist I work with to help me create the piece I want, so we would develop an idea together, so we are both happy with it.
— Photos provided by Paul Foster
Paul is co-hosting the Saigon Tattoo Expo on November 10 & 11, 2018 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. For more information, go to: