Who doesn’t love a fairy tale? Millionaire guy meets all-American girl, they fall in love, get married and travel around the world. But what happens next? Well, if they are famed financier Jim Rogers and gemologist Paige Parker, they start a family and move to Singapore. The Southern gent swept the girl from North Carolina off her feet, and they spent the next three years travelling the world in a bespoke Mercedes-Benz SLK.
When the couple returned to New York after achieving a Guinness World record for their journey, they celebrated the birth of their daughter Hilton Augusta, or Happy, as she prefers to be called. It was Happy’s arrival that made them start thinking about their next adventure—moving to Asia.
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With an eye always on the future, Rogers knew Asia was the place to be. The only question was, which country would they live in? They spent the next three summers in China, travelling to other countries in the region while they were there. They had already visited Singapore on their round-the-world trip, and it was starting to tick all the boxes. “My initial impression was a pretty clinical one, based on what I had read,” says Paige. But experiencing it for themselves, they realised: “This place has so much to offer. So many people who are interesting and interested. It’s an exciting place.”
While still living in New York, they enrolled Happy in Nanyang Primary School. She had a place at a school near their home in Manhattan, but when a space became available at Nanyang, the Rogers packed up their belongings, sold their house and moved to Singapore. A nerve-wracking time for some families, but not for one that thrives on adventure. And little did they know, life was about to become even more exciting. Within three weeks of arriving in Singapore, Paige became pregnant with their second daughter Beeland, or Bee. In fact, Paige still says her favourite day in Singapore was the day Bee was born.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
While some expats float in and out of the Lion City, the Rogers have fully embraced what Singapore has to offer. “We weren’t put here by Texaco or Amazon. We chose Singapore. We decided it would be home,” says Paige. “We put our children into local schools. We immersed ourselves in it.” Paige says it’s with thanks to the people that they have been able to do this. “Singaporeans have been very kind to us. They have welcomed us with open arms. It’s been an easy place to come and immerse ourselves.”
The family first chose to live near the Botanic Gardens, before looking for another home closer to Happy’s school, and this is where they’ve lived ever since. “When we were looking for our house, we wanted it to be surrounded by greenery. And after living in New York, a city where you walk everywhere, I also wanted to be given the chance to walk to the market,” Paige elaborates.
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Upon their arrival in Singapore, the first thing Paige wanted to do was create a home. Their three-storey house near Holland Village has art in the front garden, including a pachyderm from the Elephant Parade exhibition, as well as a yellow Mercedes and family trishaws in the driveway. Once you walk through the double wooden doors, you enter a hallway filled with globes and photographs of the family covering every surface. Whitewashed walls have been covered in colourful wallpaper and the tropical dining room features two round tables so that they can squeeze in as many guests as possible.
While Paige and Jim may always top the Most Invited List for glittering soirees, when they’re at home, they’re just Mum and Dad. Saturday mornings see Paige rolling up her sleeves to help Happy and her friends bake cakes in the kitchen, while Jim pedals the girls to school in the trishaw that he had shipped over from Europe. Well, maybe not so much Happy, as at 14 years old, Jim jokes that this is now ruining her street cred.
Paige calls herself a Tiger Mum, and you can see some of the trappings of her philosophy in their home—there isn’t a TV; exam test papers are placed outside of the girls’ bedroom; and she has a “three veto rule”, where she can use a veto if she thinks they are making a bad decision. However, her daughters say that no matter how much she tries to be a Tiger Mum, she’s too much fun.
It’s clear that it’s Happy and Bee who are their parents’ real pride and joy. Happy is a teenager who is as talented as her idol Taylor Swift (she’s won awards for speaking Mandarin and, with her sister Bee, recently sang at Carnegie Hall), while Bee is a bundle of energy who is ready to take on the world.
The girls have also been able to put their own stamp on the house. Paige gives them choices, but it’s the girls who decide how they want their rooms to look. Bee, who wants to be an actress when she grows up, chose to paint hers green as she liked the idea of having a “green room”.
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And, like their mum, they also have a penchant for fashion. Like any true style maven, they love to mix designer and high-street brands. “We shop at Kids21 in Singapore, but we also shop at H&M or Target. We kind of shop across the board,” says Paige.
The family travels with Jim occasionally when he’s giving talks, but most of the time, the girls are busy with school, and Paige is either busy with her work for the Singapore Society of UN Women, raising funds for institutions like the National Gallery Singapore or penning her upcoming book. Based on her trip with Jim, her impetus to finish it is for her daughters—and revisiting the journey has made her think about the sights she’d like to show them. “I’d like to take them to the Great Mosque of Djenné, Lalibela in Ethiopia, and I’d also love to drive Iceland’s Ring Road with them.” Jim echoes the sentiment: “I hope to take the girls on a road trip. They are too young to appreciate it now. But they can be my interpreters.”
Happy and Bee’s World
Photographed by Veronica Tay; Styled by Debby Kwong; Hair and makeup: Angel Gwee; Producer: Dana Koh