Paul Foster was about to get a tattoo when he received this message from his girlfriend, who’d just moved back to Canada from Singapore: “I don’t think you should move to Canada.”
This was one month before Paul was due to move to Vancouver to be with Jenna, his girlfriend of five years who had just moved home after four-and-a-half years in Singapore. She’d been living and working at Bread Street Kitchen as a manager. Of course, the 37-year-old actor-host did not see it coming. By the time she sent that fateful message, Paul was already in the final leg of planning his big move to Canada. He'd already turned down jobs that required him to commit in the long-term from September (he was scheduled to leave Sep 19), met with three agents in Canada who were keen to represent him, was scheduling a rabies vaccination for their cat Jewel that he’d take with him to Canada, and about to shell out $10,000 for a Business Class ticket that would allow him to take Jewel onboard with him.
It would be another 36 hours before Paul and Jenna ended their almost-five-year relationship (they would've celebrated their fifth year anniversary next month). In those 36 hours, the host of Ch 5 docu-variety Special Delivery was “a bit of a mess”. "[A message like that] is huge. It's not like we're breaking up immediately, so in those 36 hours, I was just trying to process everything," he opines.
So the last thing we expected when we meet Paul was a man who's all smiles, radiating heaps of positive vibes. Though the wounds are still fresh (it only happened two weeks ago), you won't be able to tell from looking at him today. So where did it all go wrong, and how did he make it alright? If there was ever a guide to surviving break-ups, this may just be it.
8 DAYS: How are you feeling now?
PAUL FOSTER: I’m okay. It’s been two weeks. [Jenna] was with me from the age of 22 to 27 — it’s the time you experience a lot in your life generally. She came over for her exchange at SMU — that’s how I met her — and the plan then was for her to come on exchange, visit and experience Asia. But little did she know she was going to end up staying here for four-and-a-half years. She learned a lot, but I think she was beginning to feel a bit of a disconnect and that’s why she wanted to go back to her roots. For [her time in Singapore], I was a very good partner to have for her. I balanced her a little bit, taught her a little bit more about life — I’m 10 years older than her. From her perspective, [moving back to Vancouver] was a new life, home, job and friends. She finally had her own space to become her own self. She was living with me at [my family] home [with my mum, sister and niece as well], and had been working very hard as well and didn’t have much of a work life balance. She was a manager for Bread Street Kitchen at MBS, and F&B life is hard. So she needed to go home, and that’s fine. This was about a year in the plan, and I also had the plan to move over there. Luckily, Vancouver has a good entertainment industry, and it was somewhere I would’ve an opportunity to work. But life has a funny way of throwing curveballs at you.
You seem to be handling it quite well.
It wasn’t a bad break-up. It was a very difficult decision and my heart aches. It’s never easy. But what made it easier, if that’s the way to put it, is that we’re doing it for the right reason. It’s just the timing —the time for our roads to split and now our journeys are supposed to be without each other. I get why Jenna chose to tell me before I moved, so I didn’t spend $10k on the air ticket, pack all my stuff and go there. She said, “What if you came and after three weeks I felt the same, or that it didn’t work? I kick you out? That would be worse.” In retrospect, it sounds correct so that’s why she decided to tell me when she did. It was heartbreaking. It was tearful. But we are mature adults and we still maintain a friendship and are communicating to a certain extent.
Was marriage ever on the cards?
Not really. Maybe that’s why we didn’t see a real long future, perhaps? It popped up every now and then but never like, “We gotta get married in two years”. The whole point of Jenna moving back now and me moving over is to see if I could work there and how we’d develop as a couple. I gave myself one year and if by the end, we didn’t feel like we were going to be together anymore, we’d have stopped seeing each other anyway. Unfortunately, we never got the chance to try. It would’ve been nice to try.
Was that ever an option
No. As soon as she said, “I don’t think you should move to Canada”, I was like, “You don’t want me to move there and you don’t want to stay here. What are we going to do? Are we going to have a virtual relationship or what? What’s the end goal?” And when these questions can’t be answered, then there felt like there was nothing left for us. But I give her a lot of credit for how she was able to at least identify a feeling and speak up.
Was there anyone else involved?
No. There are no scandals, no one cheating. It was nothing dodgy. It literally was the way it was. It was very out of the blue, though. That’s the scary part. I’d just gone to visit her for nine days, prior to the break-up, and it was all good. She said that once I’d left and she had some time to be on her own, she felt a sense that she needed to be on her own to concentrate on herself. If you think about it, it kind of makes sense. The only thing was it was kind of a shock at how fast it was, and people were quite shocked at how we publicly announced it.
Yes, you had an Instagram post dedicated to the break-up. It’s rare for people to announce it publicly, and so graciously also.
I wanted to make it public and get it out there because I don’t want people to keep asking questions throughout a longer period of time. And a lot of people are trying to organise going away dinners and parties and catching up with me to say goodbye. So I thought, how am I supposed to tell people that I’m not leaving anymore? One by one? So I thought let’s just publicly put it out there. The number of people commenting or messaging me or wanting to meet up with me, it was…wow. It’s very, very sweet. I wasn’t expecting it. What’s even more of a surprise was the amount of strangers who started to write to me to share their stories too.
Most people go through a lot of pain, bitterness, maybe even anger after a break-up. But you seem to have overcome all that.
I’ve been in three long term relationships prior to Jenna, and these break-ups have all been amicable. I’m still friends with all my exes because I believe people must have come into your life for a reason. I did feel emotional, mental, spiritual pain, which then leads to a physical pain ’cos you’re stressed and down. I’m usually at home a lot to recharge [on a normal basis]. And as much as I’d like to do that [after the break-up], it’s a little bit difficult to stay at home ’cos there are a lot of memories. That’s been the only hard part in the last two weeks. I want to be in a place where I’m comfortable and recharge, but it’s also the place we lived together for four-and-a-half years. She’s not there anymore, but there’s still the energy of that place which was technically ours anyway.
Did you do anything different to the room to help you move on?
I was cleaning out my cupboard and putting away some clothes and medical supplies to send to Lombok [to help earthquake victims]. Cleaning out is always therapeutic, but doing it for this cause is extra therapeutic. Cleaning out more of Jenna’s stuff, is an extra, in a way. But it’s all positive. I’m a ‘less is more’ kind of guy and have been cutting down on the clutter in my life for the last one-and-a-half years anyway. It’s just about streamlining myself a bit more again — so cleaning things out, getting back into a work mode, getting back into a fitness and training system, and figuring things out. Sometimes you want to wallow, be angry or upset or so many other things, but that negative energy is no good for you.
Did you force yourself to not get to that place, or are you just naturally optimistic?
I’m naturally positive. Of course, I have bad days too. I’m human. This definitely broke my heart. You can spiral down into a dark hole, but you really shouldn’t. There’s so much more to life. I’m a little bit different because my perspective of life has been shaped from a relatively young age. My father passed away from cancer in 1999. I was 18 and just about to take my final exams; and we had to move house. Because of my father’s passing, I had to learn a very hard lesson in life earlier, but it did shape me to be the human I am today. I had to step up to be the man of the house, and had to take care of the family funds to a certain extent and be the strength for my family. To be honest, losing a loved one is the worst. There’s no coming back from that. Not to trivialise it, but what’s a break-up? So it didn’t work and my heart is broken. But both parties are still alive. That’s also why I wanna maintain a friendship. You shouldn’t take people for granted, basically. I lost someone forever, and I won’t be able to hug or say ‘I love you’ to them again. So I learnt a long time ago that nothing will hurt as much as that.
How is it like now when you communicate with Jenna?
It’s not strange. It’s different. (Pauses)
Yes, bittersweet. That’s a good word. There’s a lot of love that doesn’t dissipate immediately. We still miss each other and message each other every few days. But there are lonely times. I do like being alone, but I’ve never felt alone when I’m alone until now, for the first time in a long time. But I know at some point in my life, I will find [love] again. Obviously. (Chuckles)
Now that you’ve had some time to think about it, are there any what ifs that run through your mind?
A lot, of course. What if I went to Canada and did amazingly well in the acting industry there? That’s such a major what if that in fact, I do still wonder if I could still go up there and work.
You’re single, but are you ready to mingle?
Definitely! I’m going to take my time and I’m not going to jump into another serious relationship, but I’m going to definitely suss things out. I need to focus on myself a bit now, and get back to perhaps meeting someone, but more importantly, get back to work and locking in projects. I was out last weekend and met a few people and I guess you do put out a different vibe when you’re available, without even saying it. So many people were like, “I’m so sorry to hear about your break-up, but oh my god, you're single now! Pauly is back!” (Laughs)
What are you looking for in a partner now?
Someone slightly older. I don’t know if I want to settle down but I do want to meet someone who’s already established in her career to a certain extent, or has that goal. [She should also be someone who] calls Singapore home forever, whether she’s Singaporean or an expat. This has always has been the battle and downfall of all my relationships — they either moved away or are in Singapore for only a period of time. Actually, that’s what I said after my last relationship before I met Jenna, then I met her and fell for her. But I believe it’s all about timing — meeting the right person at the right place and the right time. I could meet the person of my dreams right after this interview, right?