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A love of conversation

Jasmine Alimin
Jasmine Alimin • 10 min read
A love of conversation
Paige Parker proves that it is possible to be a philanthropist, tiger mum, author and podcast host, and still look this good!
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At age 52, Paige Parker shows no signs of slowing down. Now that her daughters are older and more independent — her 17-year-old Hilton recently returned to a boarding school in the UK while her “baby” 13-year old Bee is in secondary one at Nanyang Girls’ High — the American-born Singapore PR has time to sink her teeth into a new and meaningful project — a podcast series called Pass The Power, featuring in-depth conversations with a diverse group of thought leaders and trailblazers based in Singapore.

Produced by talent agency Gushcloud International, Parker sources her own interviewees (many of whom are personal friends), conceptualises the content, conducts the research and writes the scripts. The first season launched on 1 March and features 14 episodes which Parker describes as “conversations of hope, bringing substance and inspiration to people.”

Dressed in a well-cut animal print suit by CH Carolina Herrera, strappy heels by Gianvito Rossi and well-accessorised in jewellery by local and international designers, the petite blonde sits down with The Edge Singapore at Straits Clan club in Bukit Pasoh — where she is an investor — to introduce her new passion project.

“I hate calling it that,” she confesses. “I’ve always believed that if we all do a little to improve the world, then these small additions can manifest to create genuine impact. I know my podcast will not bring world peace, but it will brighten someone’s day and perhaps give them an ‘aha’ moment. My personal mission is for the podcast to share conversations of hope with young people because I think they are genuinely needed”.

Pass The Power features a power packed list of who’s who in Singapore like Ambassador-at-Large Professor Tommy Koh, restaurateur and hotelier Loh Lik Peng, Economic Development Board chairman Beh Swan Gin, STPI director Emi Eu, Singapore Exchange CEO Loh Boon Chye, pastry chef Janice Wong, theatre practitioner Tracie Pang, and more.

Each episode is recorded in person, not virtually, using professional microphones to ensure clear and consistent sound quality. “A lot of people do podcasts over Zoom but that’s only feasible if both parties have proper mics,” she explains. Seeing her interviewees in the flesh not only helps to break the ice but observing body language also helps Parker steer the conversation better.

Parker promises that her podcast will be both engaging and relatable to listeners aged 25 to 45. She also hopes that by plucking the great minds of her guest speakers and tapping from her own life experiences, meaningful conversations will arise that will hopefully help navigate people to causes that she strongly believes in.

Some of the topics she will cover include supporting homegrown businesses, promoting the arts, gender equality, parenting and education as “these are my obsessions, and I believe by including them, we can encourage more thought and discourse in these areas”.

Desperately seeking Tommy Koh

When asked who Parker first approached for the series, she says it was always Koh. “But he rejected me at first,” she reveals. “I felt so deflated because he was the first person I asked. I persisted as we went back and forth over email until he finally agreed”.

Launching the show with the veteran diplomat was the obvious choice, given Koh’s vast experience covering everything from diplomacy to his commitment to the arts.

Hoping to inspire and educate the younger generation, Koh and Parker talk about the importance of a well-rounded education, from the sciences to the humanities and the arts. The pair also share a deep conversation on the pandemic, Koh’s thoughts on feminism and gender equality and the importance of taking ownership of climate change.

“I ask everyone about their favourite drink, and who dead or alive they would like to share it with. Koh was so funny, he said something like, ‘I better say water or else my wife will kill me’ which I thought was pretty hilarious,” she enthuses.

Another memorable interviewee was Tracie Pang, artistic director of Pangdemonium, who revealed how the entertainment industry was gravely affected by the pandemic. She shared that her theatre company collaborated with fellow companies Wild Rice and Singapore Repertory Theatre for the very first time to produce a satirical comedy The Pitch, which was shown online.

As a devoted patron of the arts, Parker stresses the need to support the arts even more now, and how fundraisers have had to reinvent themselves. She also shared how Singapore Dance Theatre held its first virtual fundraiser last July featuring a livestream dance performance, successfully raising $250,000.

She is also a board member for the United Women Singapore, which also is thinking outside of the box to raise funds during the pandemic. The non-profit could not hold their annual Buy to Save event, where pre-owned designer clothes are sold to raise money for their STEM Girls2Pioneers programme. Instead, they recently joined forces with LuxLexicon on Instagram Live to auction preloved purses, raising over $50,000. “Fortunately, people have really stepped up,” she adds.

In several of Parker’s podcasts, discussions touch on hot topics like “reverse mentoring” where adults learn from young people, the importance of knowing how to “swipe” and AI, and a shared optimism in millennials, who according to restaurateur and hotelier Loh Lik Peng, are “the most creative he’s ever seen”.

While Pass The Power is focussed on familiar issues for a local audience, Parker is not opposed to inviting speakers with a more international appeal for the next season. “This first season, I’ve invited thought leaders from Singapore to begin with very solid footing. For the second season, I’d like to include celebrities, influencers, as well as more rock star thought-leaders, and perhaps an international guest or two. I may add a topic for a longer discussion, to give the conversation more depth. I am learning as I go, and want to keep the conversations engaging and entertaining, while also educating a bit”.

Don’t Call Me Mrs Rogers chronicles Parker and Rogers’ three-year journey over six continents in their “sunburst yellow” coupe and trailer, ultimately setting a Guinness World Record

She who wears many hats

For those unfamiliar with Parker, she is the wife of investment guru Jim Rogers, 78. The couple moved to Singapore 14 years ago to give their two daughters the opportunity to master Mandarin and embrace Asia’s rich melting-pot of cultures, cuisines and language.

The early riser packs her day with daily exercise, sends Bee to school, researches her upcoming podcasts, writes daily, attends meetings with various organisations, picks up her daughter from school ... and when she is lucky, she finds enough time to prepare a home cooked meal for the family.

She (along with her husband) holds the Guinness World Record for travelling to 116 countries over the course of three years — an experience she documented in her book Don’t Call Me Mrs Rogers, published by Epigram Books.

Parker is also a TEDx speaker and a certified gemmologist with the Gemological Institute of America. To add to her expanding resume, she was even certified as a spin instructor last January but “then the pandemic happened and I never started teaching!”

While women her age are in the throes of planning for early retirement, Parker looks as if she’s been fitted with a new engine and is gearing up for the Grand Prix. “Age is a mindset and I feel really good! This is my time to thrive. As my daughters get older, I have more time to focus on lending my voice and energy to causes and work I believe in”.

Does she even sleep? For Parker, it is all about the importance of prioritisation of time. She explains: “Honestly, there are so many women who do so much more than I do. I’m blessed and fortunate to live a full and productive life, but it’s not without help. Plus, with age, we become far better at cutting out the noise, and not booking time in our schedule unless it makes sense”.

We ask her if she would be inviting Rogers on the show and she reveals that she has in fact already recorded a session with him and their eldest daughter, Hilton, to close out the season. “Hilton talked about how she feels we’ve stripped her American identity from her by raising her in Singapore, and what it was like to be the only blue-eyed girl in a local school,” she says candidly. “In 20 years, I think she will thank us, but she’s 17 and right now, most everything is her parents’ fault,” Parker adds with a laugh.

A new way of news consumption

A wordsmith who has contributed columns to a local newspaper, Parker’s natural flair for writing and genuine love of conversation essentially sparked the idea to launch her podcast. “I think it’s partly the pandemic that slowed everything down and offered all of us time to pause and focus on what next, how to spend our energy. I was also getting a lot of feedback from young people on my Instagram that conversations of hope are needed now,” she discloses.

The way in which a vast majority of people consume news now was what prompted Parker to consider creating content for a podcast. “People are not reading newspapers; they are getting their news and information online and via social media apps. Since we’re all overwhelmed with work and life, we sometimes want to experience content in a more passive way. We want to multi task: Listen to a podcast while in the shower, walking the dog, cleaning the kitchen, while exercising, driving, or even when working on the laptop,” explains Parker.

She also shares that search engines are more sophisticated and intuitive, and it is just a matter of time before we may search for information, then the exact portion of her podcast that offers the answer will appear on the feed. “Audio will be the future of content, not only words or blogs,” she insists.

But why do a podcast now, especially when everyone else is doing it? She replies: “It does feel like everyone, and their mother and sister, is starting one, right? But the market isn’t that saturated. In 2020, there were only 850,000 active podcasts, compared to 600 million blogs”.

The podcast arena is a fast growing market in Asia and she says podcast listeners in the US consume an average of seven podcasts a week. Parker believes that with more vocal networking apps, like Clubhouse — which Parker also does every Sunday night with different industry personalities — Asia will get there.

An avid podcast listener herself, she recommends WorkLife with Adam Grant; The Business of Fashion Podcast; Go Ask Ali with Ali Wentworth; On Purpose with Jay Shetty; McKinsey Future of Asia; The Daily from The New York Times and The Joe Rogan Experience “because he’s insane and it’s the world’s most popular podcast!”

Pass The Power With Paige Parker is available now on Spotify, Apple and Google podcasts.

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