Get behind the scenes of this food artist's cute feed.
It started with sneaking into the kitchen as a little girl. Food artist Shirley Wong often made unhealthy snacks like rich butter toast and 'Milo bread'.
"My mom never said 'Oh, don't mess up the kitchen'. She was never like that. She welcomed us to make a mess in the kitchen," she recalled.
As she grew older, Shirley experimented with making bento, intricate Japanese-styled meals, for her lunch boxes.
"I made lunch boxes even when I was in high school, I gave it to my boyfriend. I used to bring lunch boxes to him almost every morning," she recalled fondly.
Today, Shirley still makes bento, but for a different purpose.
Better known by her Instagram handle @LittleMissBento, Shirley fills her feed with images of adorable bento sets, desserts, and even homemade bread.
Shirley has over 316k followers on her Instagram account, and has published five cookbooks with recipes for cute desserts, adorably decorated sushi and, of course, her famous bentos.
The local food artist began her journey in 2011 when she started her food blog, Little Miss Bento.
"I didn't start this out because I wanted to be known on social media. I just started it because I enjoyed doing it," said the 35-year-old food artist.
In fact, she was encouraged by friends to document her work on social media.
"They said: 'You know, your things are so creative and it's so cute, it's such a waste that you're not posting these online'. So, I was like okay fine, I'll give it a try," chuckling as she recalled her early days as Little Miss Bento.
Shirley signing copies of her latest cookbook at the Miffy X Kumoya Pop-Up Cafe, where she styled and consulted on the cafe's menu.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/AMIRA RAHMAN
Shirley's popularity surged after she started her Instagram account in 2013.
"I have to attribute quite a fair bit of what I've done today to the exposure I got through Instagram. Instagram is so visual, it's literally like a photo album. I think what I'm doing lends itself very well [to Instagram] because it's very visual.
"It's quite amazing that you get to know other people and artists. People from overseas get to know you and they start inviting you for events or conducting sessions," said Shirley, who previously worked as a dancer for over three years.
On top of creating her intricate bento sets, has she ever struggled with taking photos for her Instagram feed?
"In the past, my photos and the backgrounds were really random. The lighting was really bad sometimes but it didn't bother me. You look back on your old photos and think 'Oh God! The lighting is so bad!' or 'This photo is so overexposed!'.
"Now, I'm really particular about how my feed looks," she shared.
Besides the support she receives from her followers, what else keeps Shirley going?
"It's important to find something that you like to do because that's the only way you will continue to pursue it.
"You need to be determined, the grit needs to be there. And, if you don't genuinely like what you do, you can't get past that stage. You can't persevere to get to the stage where people know you," said the petite food artist.
What's next on her plate? "I would love to have my own space. A studio where I can do my creative work and also run classes. I really hope to do more video content. With my current schedule and resources, I can't churn as much of the video content as I would like to have," shared Shirley.
This is part of Behind the #gram, an ongoing series on Instagram influencers. In this series:
1. Chester Lee of @oddtattooer
2. Naomi Anneliese of @nehohmee
3. Xavier Lur of @xavierlur
4. Leonard Giam of @leotomatic
BANNER PHOTO CREDIT: @LITTLEMISSBENTO'S INSTAGRAM PAGE
TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/AMIRA RAHMAN