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All things beauty and then some. Andrea Claire has been a hairstylist and makeup artist for 23 years now. A Canadian based in Singapore since 2007, she has appeared on Asia's Next Top Model, Yahoo Asia, Canadian Idol, So Chic and more.

Wondergel relief for osteoarthritis sufferers!

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By Andrea Claire · October 25, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

It was a weird invite for me to get, a medical device press luncheon. I did email the pr company back who invited me explaining that this was not in my realm of writing but I would love to accept the invite if that offer still stood. Frankly I think they made a mistake and was hoping I'd decline; but considering my autoimmune disease there was no way I was missing the opportunity!

Flexiseq is a new topical gel targeting pain in osteoarthritis sufferers. You may know that since suffering through chikungunya in 2008 I am now laden with a reactive arthritis in my hips, wrists and ankles. I take a lot of pills twice daily.

The good news is FLEXISEQ does not contain any pharmaceutical active ingredients which means there isn't any risk of interacting with medication you may be taking for your pain or any other ailment.
As when I'm given any opportunity to speak I could hear my inner voice telling me to stop monopolizing the conversations but - I rarely listen to that inner voice - cranky old thing. I was intrigued because well - this is what I need.

The lunch at Catalunya was an intimate lunch with health writers who clearly had experience writing these pieces. Joan Chew, a journalist for The Straits Times Mind Your Body had some amazing questions for Michael Earl COO of Pro Bono Bio, the makers of Flexiseq; I look forward to catching her piece written by a real journalist. ;) 

Professor Herbert Kellner, Munich, one of the panelists at the BVDA awards said, “More than 50% of people over 65 have already developed OA and its prevalence is as high as 90% in people over 75. Thus OA is of enormous social and economic significance.” [source]

As a sufferer of OA, I am often showered with tips from people whose family members suffer from it too - but their relatives are typically grandparents or a great aunt or uncle. My knee jerk reaction is always wanting to tell this people to sod off because sadly, as it would suggest this illness tends to hit the elderly and I'm the ripe age of 42.

But what about us younguns who are suffering? I found it interesting to learn the glucosamine and chondroitin only have a 4% success rate! And this is only if the two are taken together. Using glucosamine topical gel? Apparently that itself is bogus and more of a placebo effect.

Flexiseq has zero interaction with other drugs because it's not a drug. The gel was originally invented to be a carrier aiding in the penetration of a drug however the testing resulted in the control (only consisting of the carrier) having the best results. The birth of Flexiseq. It works physically vs chemically. It can be compared to a Synvisc (hyaluronic acid) however Synvisc is an injectable lubricant that is painful, expensive and needing to be done often with the guide of ultrasound - at least for the hips - I've had this done in both of my hips.

FLEXISEQ has an innovative mode of action due to its use of Sequessome Technology and its convenient gel formulation enables patients to self-administer FLEXISEQ topically to the affected joint. The Sequessome™ vesicles contained within are proven to enter the synovial joint after application and increase phospholipid levels in the synovial fluid where they are known to be depleted in joints affected by OA. This physical, mode of action reduces the pain, (in phase III clinical trials, as effectively as the frequently prescribed oral drug medicine - celecoxib) and also improves joint mobility, thereby giving easier movement to patients.  [source]

Flexiseq is about to release in Singapore and there are talks about its release in Canada. The US may get relief in one to two years.
*Note: I suffer from reactive arthritis from my chikungunya -I have deterioration in both hip joints, and cysts that seem to multiply with each yearly MRI -  osteoarthritis - yay me!  Prior to getting this illness I had zero health issues. I worked out at the gym 2-3 times at the gym and once a week with a kick-boxing trainer. So you can bet when the whole 'what's your excuse' hit the airwaves I was a little sour too but mainly because I am unwell and depressed. I know this wondergel is not a miracle-gel - I do have reasonable expectations plus two tubes to try. Fingers-crossed this gives me some relief.

My medical journey.

Rebuilding your physical fitness while living with an autoimmune disease

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By Andrea Claire · August 22, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

 c'est moi.

It's an odd place to be in - young(ish) with a diseased body which I have touched on here and there in my blog.


2007 I was married and relocated to Singapore. Ahh... The whirlwind of romance and relo's.

2008 I had Zoie Jean in May followed by chikungunya in November. Chikungunya is an insane mosquito disease that has attacked my joints beyond repair. It has led to me being cursed with an autoimmune disease which the doctors have called 'reactive arthritis' - affecting my wrists and ankles but more so, my hips.

Before you brush this off as a waa-waa poor me post, it gets better, I promise. I have cysts that have formed in my hip joints that cause me a great deal of pain but not consistently - daily yes, but not 24/7. It has taken many different doctors and misdiagnoses and  thousands of dollars worth of second opinions in the U.S to finally get a solid answer as to what is happening to my body - all from one mosquito.

As a hair and makeup artist I used to be a regular beauty expert on Canadian TV and lead teams for shows, countless editorials and ad jobs etc etc; moving to Singapore was not supposed to be a hindrance to my career (it has a little but that's another story).

During my pregnancy with Zoie I managed to get to the gym and do pre-natal yoga - let me paint my fitness level for you 'I ain't no gym bunny' - it was always a chore for me because I get so bored in the gym. I don't want to talk to people as some of the smoky-eyed spandex sistas do - I wanted to get in and get out.

In Canada I LOVED boxing. Clearly I have anger issues. Post Zoie I found a personal coach in Singapore where I was perfecting my roundhouse - the modern day Charlie's Angels avec Drew Barrymore was my inspiration to be a badass hair & makeup vixen. Alas, post-mozzie bite my roundhouse days are over - but I am strong, determined and motivated to maintain my career as well as a healthy lifestyle.

Surrounded by friends who are fit and or getting fit I have spent ages asking them for trainer recos and referrals - they only have contacts for the physically able albeit lazy or fit - not for someone like me: neither physically able nor lazy. Physiotherapy didn't seem to be an option either as they treat you like a senior citizen in need of some kid glove handling until you are ready to roll over. Clearly, I had to move forward on my own accord.

I can't tell you how frustrating it can be. I have stopped doing regular outings to the zoo with my hb and daughter #3 because I can't walk around the zoo, bird park etc... without pain. My hb has tried encouraging me to hire a motorized scooter to traipse about but you know when I see able-bodied [looking] people on those things I immediately think 'get out and walk you lazy ass!'

Just like handicap parking, you should have to show a doctor's note to use one - with the growing concerns of obesity in adults AND children physical activity should be encouraged.

Moving on...

So guess what all of you yoga fans who suggest that I do yoga: yoga for someone with my medical condition is a no-no. Over stretching of the joints can result in more damage BUT Pilates is a yes!! (But this won't stop me from trying YogaFly!)

I have tried to find someone in Singapore. I worked with a celeb who has a back condition that hinders her ability to do certain physical activities and when I heard her mention that, I had to ask her where she goes. Well, I called her recommended place and had the worst front desk reception experience - the woman who had answered the phone seemed to be on medical marijuana (impossible as it's Singapore) and she was completely clueless - maybe she was a temp?? Since I was going to Canada anyway, I decided to hold that thought until I returned.

Just prior to my trip to Canada I was shooting a job in Thailand where I met Joyce Fredericks - her and her husband were selected as our real life couple for our advertising shoot - as luck would have it - Joyce is a Pilates / yoga instructor!

Having Joyce cornered in my hot seat every morning for a week gave me the opportunity to chat fitness with her. Finally! Someone who could steer me in the direction that I needed. She agreed - yoga was out. In fact she added, that the new findings for yoga lovers out there is that you should balance your yoga with Pilates which supports your joints better taking you to a new level of fitness... That's a little FYI for you. AND - planking!! (I didn't know planking was a real thing - I thought it was an Instagram hipster thing) Joyce says a solid two minutes of proper planking a day does wonders with your core. She added that I may not get past 15 seconds in the beginning...

"Pilates is not just for the celebs- it's truly for all people, of all ages, abilities and even disabilities. It focuses on strengthening the mind-body connection, and places an emphasis on controlling how the body moves. The more Pilates you do, the more you realize the aesthetic results you love come from training a particularly important muscle- the brain. To sum it up- Train the brain, to train the body." Joyce Inbody trainer, Toronto Canada

image source

While I was staying in the KW area I found Stephanie Benninger at Absolute Rehab. I booked a few one on one reformer Pilates sessions with her. It was a love/hate experience. Love Stephanie. Love that I didn't end up bedridden with pain post workout. [Last time I did a good old fashion gym bunny workout I was bedridden for 5 days on painkillers and crying;  gym + arthritis = FAIL.] Hate that there isn't a magic pill. It is still work. Stephanie has amazing bedside manner - encouraging, positive reinforcement but there to get the job done without kid gloves. Now I just need to find a Stephanie in Singapore...

Update even before I post this blog... I think I have found my Pilates guru...

Vicki Berman
Stay tuned as I will share my progress. For people with legit health issues - there is a place for us in the healthy lifestyle world after all. Don't wallow! Get fit!

 **Did you know? Suffering from an illness like mine you need to avoid certain foods? Deadly nightshades are among the list of foods to avoid. For example, I love gazpacho but tomatoes are on that no-no list and coincendently when I eat it I have massive pain the next day in my joints. Same goes for red wine - sigh - grapes are bad for us. 

***Anyone reading this who I work with regularly - don't worry - I am A.O.K to work. I've been dealing with this since 2008 and if you choose not to hire me because of this then you are being a jackass actually, soul search and pick your own word here.

New work || Women's Weekly

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By Andrea Claire · December 16, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

I love Women's Weekly for a few reasons -

1) The pages offer everything from fashion to beauty to lifestyle.

2) Real women are often featured which you, the reader, can relate to better.

Sophia has her hands full with three adorable boys. It was a pleasure being in her apartment - full of love. Sophia's husband is a performer - check out his site: creamofmaestro to see what tricks he has up his sleeve.

Celeste is the owner of Heels Diva, accessories for your shoes.

and 3) ...
They included me not only as the hair & makeup artist this time around but as part of their closet raid story! GULP!

My outfits top left Calvin Klein, BCBG (6 years ago), Sabrina Goh (the hot pink) and finally American Apparel leggings, Mango tunic and a splashy fun capelet by Bolongaro Trevor

If you read my blog regularly then you have seen this word before that was noted in Women's Weekly: Chikungunya aka F*cking Mosquitos.

In 2005 this (then) single mother of 2 finally met the man of her dreams. He swept me off my feet for two years in a dating whirlwind full of travel. In 2007 I married a cute, funny (for a lawyer), intelligent, caring, adventurous man. We had a shotgun wedding - he joked; not from pregnancy but from a job perspective. We moved to Singapore.

Fast forward...

2008, my third daughter, Zoie is 5 months old and I am in the hospital with a viral fever; later to be diagnosed as the glamorous chikungunya - gets the name from 'walks like a chicken'. Bloody hell. I am in fashion! Can't it be a fashionable disease??

Fast forward...

We are at the end of 2012. I still have massive issues growing from one mosquito - as an example - I cannot take my daughter to the zoo because I cannot do that walk around and I refuse to ride the motorized scooter chairs that scream: GET OUT AND WALK LAZY BUM! Anything over a ten minute walk cripples me. I don't take public transit because I don't want to ask someone for their seat when I look perfectly capable of standing and I am but I could really use the seat.

I was recently in the U.S seeing a team of doctors for more opinions and tests. Holy M.F U.S!! I am pretty sure my tests paid for the three doctors and their residents to take their families on a week holiday - and I had ZERO procedures! You see, that one mosquito from 2008 has really wrecked havoc on my body. I now have cysts on both of my hip joints caused by that one minuscule blood sucker. I have pain daily. This is something no one would know unless I tell you because I am not ready to roll over yet. Eventually I will need both hips replaced. Many people I do tell, tell me stories about their parents or other relatives who get hip replacements - they are all 60+. I am 41. I know they mean well but being compared to someone 20+ years your senior is hard to swallow. It doesn't help. I could go on and on about what ails me and what limits I have but I will save that for much later.

The mosquito has caused my body to be in auto-immune disorder mode - they call it a 'response'. Um. Ok...

To simplify: I have reactive seronegative rheumatoid arthritis with dormant lupus (drs had a different word other than dormant) - the dormant lupus I may have had anyway or it may be another mozzie triggered gift that revealed itself in my blood work.

I used to do kick-boxing. I *proudly* did a mean roundhouse - probably inspired after watching Charlie's Angels - the Flower Power editions. There is no more kickboxing for me. I tried the stationary bike two years ago and then spent five days crying in pain on the couch - no exaggeration. Needless to say - my waistline has expanded a little...sigh. Ageing isn't helping either. I need to figure this part out...

Women have it tough. {click that.

We have comments made about our bodies from strangers in store dressing rooms to friends or relatives we haven't seen in months - even co-workers week to week. Whenever I am asked if I have lost weight I know it's just an excuse for opening dialogue, but honestly - it's not a conversation I want to have - nor do you want my answer. I'll rant. I'll rant about why do we think weight should be an opening to a conversation? I had a woman who I haven't seen in 6 months tell me that I lost weight - she 'knew' she said that she could tell. Well, if she could tell that to my jeans that don't fit that they're clearly mistaken then perhaps my day would look brighter. (Cheese with your whine Ms Claire?)

Sure. I have issues. We all do. Mine are stemmed from a little pest that the local fog couldn't control and now I am stuck with it for life BUT - as much as I whine, rant and cry I need to share with you this: I love my family, my friends, my career and I love helping others. Sure - I risk sounding cheesy. Don't care. My greatest joy is feeling like I have made someone's day. I know - le grande fromage - I made a career out of making people feel good. Sure - it's about hair and makeup - one could argue that is superficial but - you are how you feel and how you look adds to that becomes it is a forever moving cycle. Being a woman - we have bad hair days - they throw off our days.

The question then shouldn't be 'How Do I Look?!' The question is: How do YOU feel? Because they do go together but how you feel is a little more important than how you look. I don't think everyone understands that.

What makes me feel good? Aside from private moments with my family - Smiles on faces of people in my chair when our coiffey time is done. Models whom I have helped look good - therefore feeling good in front of the camera. A day well spent.

I think I am rambling now. Happens. meh

Again... I could go on and on about what I have learned dealing with a degenerative illness and perhaps my life story will get inked when I can no longer work on my two feet -  the doctors agree that that is at least 10-15 years from now - perhaps longer with successful surgery (10-15 years from now). Sounds dramatic doesn't it? I do have that flare. Actually - it does kinda suck.

Let's summarize:

LOVE the Lovelies at Women's Weekly. Thrilled to be in their pages. THANK YOU! I always have fun with you and the flip-side of the camera is always fun.
Don't let an illness stop you - let it motivate you. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger and trust me - I am an awfully strong person...

I have not let it stop me. Almost the opposite - I am on a race to do as much as I can until my illness potentially cripples me (15+ years from now) - this is how much I love what I do. I want to shoot as many shows as I can, lead as many teams as I can, cut as much hair as I can... Am I ridiculous? Maybe. Do I have bad days? Yes. We all do.

I could go on and on and on and...

moving on...

You can see me on Yahoo Glam Up - my beauty tip-driven online series and of course countless shoots. Recently I had a Priceless moment with Seal!! You read: Seal - right? Yup. Although it is not new for me to work with A-list celebrities I thought Seal was an added cool factor. He was a joy to work with. Oh - and I do have something else coming up soon - watch this space.

Angelique Teo - a TV host here in Singapore had posted once: "Don't judge my path if you haven't walked my journey."  Author unknown. I remember when she posted it. I was having a particularly bad day. I am not sure if that had helped me but I remember thinking how much that rings true.

La Villa, Singapore Review: Brunch, Bubbles and Babies

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By Andrea Claire · February 6, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Today we had bunch at La Villa, Singapore. .

We had been regulars of the sister restaurant, La Nonna on Namly from 2007-2009 when we lived around the corner. (Yummy! La Nonna Singapore pizza with asparagus, egg and truffle - trust me...HEAVEN)

Back to topic:

People can be so annoying.

Yup. I am purrrr-fect! (sarcasm)

Brunch. While I do think I may be too much a stickler for customer service and appearance...

  1. I noticed a light was burnt out. Too picky? Probably. But I then I think: If they can't change a light bulb what else do they skip on? (frankly, mid-day Singapore the lights could be off anyway)
  2. We had two adults, two teens and a toddler (under three eats for free!); our bill reflected four adults and when I brought it their attention one wait staff actually rolled her eyes and huffed. Um... it's your fee schedule, not mine. Don't roll your eyes when you are charging me $40 extra. (adults are $65 and teens are $48)             
  3. Prior to leaving my youngest daughter, Zoie Jean, wanted to jump on the 'bouncy castle' once more. Many parents were gathered telling their children not to jump as they just ate. Um. Two words: Bouncy. Castle. If you don't want them playing so soon after eating maybe keep them at your table? #parenting101 *Note: There was also a pair of sunglasses amongst all the shoes and a parent pointed out I should not step on their glasses. Um... your specs are amongst 20 pair of shoes on the ground... Just sayin'
  4. When we went to leave there was no one at the hostess desk to help with calling a taxi, I tried from my own mobile phone with no luck. I then tried to use their phone but couldn't dial out. (Singapore taxis recognize addresses associated with phone numbers) Finally, ten minutes later I got a cab. (Still no one at the hostess desk)



 The food is ok but it's very family- friendly;  for that I'd comeback. There is a buffet of salads, prosciutto, croissants etc. You can order a choice of eggs to start (I had poached eggs with asparagus and hollandaise) followed by a choice of 'main'. I had steak and frites.

I know. A little reminiscent of...

 The 15 (16, I counted) french fries don't really make up for it either. The steak is a little chewy and they had obviously pounded it a bit - an attempt to soften the gristle. Aside from that - I shouldn't be so ridiculous over portion size; we all over-eat these days anyway.

The flavours are good. The food is on the upper side of 'OK'. It's not a spectacular brunch like at the Shangri-La, but then again, in all fairness, I don't think that La Villa's goal is to compete with the Olympians of brunch. [Shangri-La Singapore brunch is a MUST]

It's a relaxed atmosphere with a large grassy area fit for a bouncy castle,  free flow and good food.

There is a swing and slide; which you need mozzie spray and patches. [I have suffered through [and still effects of] chikungunya. I highly recommend mosquito patches and spray.]

If I had to 'star' this place: 3/5.

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