SINGAPORE — Steven Lim wears many hats, from YouTube star to Muay Thai fighter to talent manager to fitness instructor. But Singapore’s COVID-19 lockdown that began in April enabled him to pivot into an Instagram sensation when he started recording birthday video shoutouts for customers who couldn’t see their friends, family and co-workers in person because of movement restrictions.
And people can’t get enough of it. Steven told Yahoo Lifestyle SEA that he has made over 350 such videos for customers since 10 April, the same week that schools and most workplaces were closed upon government orders.
Customers pay Steven S$100 for each customised video, in which he sends a happy birthday message (or any special occasion) to their loved one on their behalf. Steven will also dance, sing and say nice things about your friend. You can then share the video with your loved ones for everyone’s amusement.
We’re really not sure how to describe the videos that Steven makes for customers. They are simultaneously entertaining and perplexing. He has posted many of these videos on his Instagram; here are some of them:
Although the government has relaxed lockdown rules and now allows people to dine outside and visit each other at home, Steven, 43, is still managing a roaring business.
He posts three to six shoutouts on his Instagram everyday, so he’s not exaggerating about the number of videos that he’s made.
Assuming Steven really has been paid for 350 of these videos, and each one cost $100, that means the wannabe celebrity has experienced a windfall while everyone was stuck at home during the last few months.
According to one of Steven’s Instagram posts, the unique service was launched when a fan reached out to him to do a birthday video for their friend as they couldn’t celebrate it with him during the lockdown restrictions.
Steven said that his fitness classes had to be cancelled during the “circuit breaker” restrictions, so the video shoutout service became a “workable” alternative. “The birthday or special occasion videos provide a timeless, rewatchable, memorable fun experience!” he said.
When asked what he had been doing before Singapore was struck with the coronavirus outbreak, Steven said that besides being an entertainer, he managed artistes and trained them in singing, fitness, kickboxing and dancing. He said his artistes appear in commercials, dramas, movies and photo shoots.
We really didn’t understand why he imitates the sound that chickens make (“pok pok kay”) in all his videos, so we asked him about it. “The intention is to make it fun and interesting,” he said. “I realised I have the talents to do many animal sounds. I have fond memories of me doing animal sounds and animal actions for fun while playing with my younger brothers when we were very young.”
Steven’s impressive abs are also on display in his videos as he appears shirtless in all of them. He said he was inspired to improve his fitness after his fateful, highly publicised Muay Thai fight with the late bodybuilder Pradip Subramaniam in 2017.
Pradip shockingly died from pre-existing heart conditions the same night of the exhibition match at the Asia Fighting Championship. The coroner said he died of a natural cause.
Steven’s video shoutout service is part of a growing trend in which people pay celebrities, influencers and popular personalities to record personalised video messages as gifts for friends and family.
Last month, an unknown someone at the National University of Singapore hired porn star Johnny Sins through Cameo to make a video to congratulate the graduating cohort of 2020.
Cameo mostly features American celebrities, but local services featuring Asian celebrities have also emerged recently – these include Sendjoy and Ace.
On Sendjoy, you can book celebrities such as Ah Boys To Men star Maxi Lim and comedians from Sgag like Fauzi Azzhar and Mark Kinoshita.
On Ace, you can book people like comedians Gurmit Singh and Kumar, and drag queens such as Vanda Miss Joaquim and Becca D’Bus.