Sedulous, humble, elegant.
Dr Georgia Lee is a sedulous doyenne of Singapore’s aesthetics industry. Ying Ying Lee uncovers her humble beginnings, how she maintains her elegance in the pursuit of success, and skincare tips for busy female professionals.
“A powerful and successful woman is someone who actually knows her stuff and can carry the business in an elegant way.”
Dr Georgia Lee is a sight to behold. Donning an emerald green drape dress, the celebrity aesthetic doctor glides into Passion Hair Salon, an institution for Asia’s celebrities and high net worth individuals.
“Sorry for being 14 minutes late!” she apologetically exclaims, extending her slender arms towards me for a hug. The first thing I notice about Georgia is her clear and seemingly luminous skin, which made her smouldering, dark eyes stand out. I blush as her eyes briefly scans my face but I couldn’t help noticing how nurturing her gaze is.
Settling into the comfortable lounge area, Georgia speaks of entertaining overseas friends until 2am that morning. I don’t detect any signs of fatigue during our mid-afternoon interview. “How do you even find time to rest?” I ask. “Whether it’s time to relax, be a friend, mother, doctor, it’s about giving your 100% to the task at hand. I think people who say they have no time are giving poor excuses,” she replies. “I was very focused.”
Since the age of eight, the pioneering aesthetician worked towards becoming a doctor. Recounting her relentless pursuit, Georgia tells us how she strictly kept to a handwritten timetable. Every task had to be completed within a scheduled timeframe. If anything went off-schedule, everything had to be rewritten.
That’s not all. Georgia was also assiduous in her habit of staying up late to study. “We were so poor, there was only one writing desk. To use the table, I had to study very late, after my siblings were done,” she says.
Despite the odds, Georgia’s humble beginnings did not stop her from pursuing the ambition she always wanted. Without her family’s knowledge, she volunteered at the Singapore General Hospital’s C-class wards at age 14. For two years, she changed bedpans, cleaned patients up, and soothed their pain. Her voice softens as she places a comforting hand on my shoulder: “I wanted to help people, and being a doctor is one of those professions with a healing touch.”
“I learnt a lot from simply being quiet and observing people… Beyond physical appearance, it’s what you have in your mind that empowers you.”
Doyenne: As one of Singapore’s first aestheticians, what kind of challenges did you face when you first started out?
Georgia: Although I had first-mover advantage in the nineties, I had nobody to learn from. Back then, there were no courses available. I had to research, go to different countries, talk to people and ask for permission to intern with them.
During the first six years of my career, I spent a lot of time overseas doing weekend courses. That was also how I learnt to drink! You bond with the doctors over drinking – that’s when they teach you more.
After that, I dissected what I learnt, harvested it very well, and made it into something that would be good for my patients. I am glad aesthetics has now found its own niche and people want to do it.
D: How do you feel about being the go-to aesthetician for celebrities and socialites?
G: To me, a celebrity’s time and a regular person’s time are the same. It felt odd in the beginning but after a while, I realised that everyone has the same fears, insecurities and issues.
In fact, I treat everyone equally. They all go through the same queue system. Even if they come early for their appointment, they still have to wait because it is fair to do so.
D: How did you achieve prominence and respect in the aesthetics industry?
G: It’s about staying true to your calling and trying your best not to be affected and distracted by unwanted noise. It’s like being a performer – if there’s only one person in the audience, I will still perform for that one person. It’s important to do what’s right for people who support you. In order to focus on the necessary, we need to take all unnecessary trimmings and frills away.
D: What drives you to achieve success?
G: I think in the very early stages of my life, it was pride. If others tell you that you can’t do something, you show them you can. At different stages of your life, we must use different ways to motivate ourselves.
Sometimes, you need a sense of responsibility to support your team members who depend on you for livelihood. Other times, you need money, and it’s not wrong to use money to motivate you the right way.
More importantly, you must learn to give yourself pep talks. You can’t use the same fuel all the time because you’ll run out of steam. Some days you have to think that even though you’re unwell, you need to turn up because you can’t let your team down. Or perhaps, you need to hit a sales target so you can pay the bills.
D: Do you have any mentors or people you look up to?
G: There’s no one in particular. I learnt a lot from simply being quiet and observing people. Be it in an academic or social environment, I learnt by watching the dynamics among people, how they behave, the way they dress, whether they believed in a certain way, and what my impression of them was.
Over time, you will learn to adopt these different things. They will fall into place like a jigsaw. Our brains are very good processors – beyond physical appearance, it’s what you have in your mind that empowers you. So put whatever tools you have to good use.
“Sometimes, you need a sense of responsibility to support your team members who depend on you for livelihood. Other times, you need money, and it’s not wrong to use money to motivate you the right way. More importantly, you must learn to give yourself pep talks.”
D: Is the skincare industry male-dominated?
G: In terms of business, it is still very male-dominated. Many brands are owned or acquired by male-led conglomerates. Maybe, eventually, my dream would be for DrGL to be bought over by one of these conglomerates, which is why I spend a lot of time and effort building my brand. This way, it will be harder for it to erode if it gets out of my hand.
D: How, then, can women achieve success in a male-dominated industry?
G: I don’t believe in achieving success by being very “manly”. If you want to hang out with the boys, be all fraternal, and “play politics”, you’ll only get caught up after a while and become an empty shell.
I like the analogy of opening presents at Christmas: sometimes, we are drawn to presents with attractive wrappings. Packaging is so important, but if you open the present and find that it is not useful, you probably won’t keep it.
A powerful and successful woman is someone who actually knows her stuff and can carry the business in an elegant way. Although you need to package yourself to get noticed, the important thing is to empower your mind and have substance. That’s when you’ll have staying power.
D: If your 25-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?
G: I would think, “Wow, she has mellowed a lot and has become more patient with people.”
I used to be very impatient with those who were slower than me and couldn’t think like I did. Now, I am more tolerant because not everybody in the world needs to be like you. It’s more interesting to have different kinds of people in the world!
D: Tell us about your motto “Less is More”.
G: I believe in doing only what’s necessary and keeping life simple. I’m always amazed when patients perform so many steps in their skincare regime. Not only are you spending money, but you are also putting chemicals into your skin.
Skincare should be simple. Anyone can look great, but the magical part is looking good using the least amount of time and effort. It’s also more challenging and fun, for me anyway.
D: Lastly, what are your skincare tips for busy female professionals?
- Try not to use makeup at all. On regular days, you should be confident enough to step out without any makeup.
- If you must, put some light eye makeup to enhance your face. The eyes get people’s attention.
- Don’t forget to put sunblock on the eyelids. Can you imagine, your face will be nice but the skin around your eyes will start to sag! Without sunscreen, our skin sags five times faster. Invest in a 2-in-1 sunblock and moisturiser with high SPF.
- Always remove grime, makeup, and sunblock with a good milk-based cleanser. The more water there is in the cleanser, the more emulsifiers there are that will harm your skin.
- Good skin is the best form of foundation. When you buy skincare products, make sure they contain the highest quality of ingredients. You should spend money on what’s inside, not the packaging.
Images by DrGL Facebook Page
TLC Lifestyle was founded by Dr Georgia Lee in 1999 to promote general well-being through lifestyle modifications, coupled with non or minimally invasive methods and technologies. DrGL is the skincare line and DrSpa is the spa service. She is joined by Dr Wang and looking into growing their regional footprint.