Bullying is a prevailing problem in Singapore.

In fact, youths in Singapore experience more bullying compared to their peers in 50 other countries. A 2017 study found that Singapore has the third highest rate of bullying globally, only behind Latvia and New Zealand.

I used to be on the receiving end of bullying for three years too, during my secondary school days, where my self-esteem took a hard hit as a result.

I was often looked down on by my classmates because they perceived me as a quiet and insecure person who was unable to defend myself, therefore an easy target.

Fortunately, start-ups such as The Final Bosses give a voice to victims of bullying, particularly those who often suffer in silence or are afraid to speak out about it.

The Final Bosses

The Final Bosses
Some of The Final Bosses collectibles displayed at the PALADIN exhibition at Gillman Barracks. Each of the toys are a hybrid of one another, and each colour represents a unique meaning. (Image source: Nixon Ong)

Founded during the pandemic last year, The Final Bosses is like Singapore’s version of KAWS or Bearbrick – but with a unique twist, as most of its collectibles are commissioned with a specific purpose.

The Final Bosses is more than just a name of the start-up.

The founder, who recently quit his job to focus full time on the brand, tells The Pride: “We are known as The Final Bosses, because the hardest stage in video games usually takes a lot of time and effort to overcome. Therefore, our collectibles portray those heightened challenges that most victims of bullying go through on a daily basis.”

The young Singaporean prefers to stay anonymous as he wants to focus on the art rather than the person behind it.

He adds that the collectibles and artworks are designed episode-by-episode each follows a specific storyline that illustrates issues such as bullying and mental health.

Each of the collectibles are specially curated with the intention of raising awareness for the younger generation.


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Taking a stand against bullying

It has been more than a year since Covid-19 started, so as we continue to practice safe distancing and communicate from behind screens amidst school closures and working-from-home, it can be easy to forget that social issues like bullying are still prevalent. In fact, cyberbullying has become more common.

The founder shares that he has also experienced bullying himself. He recounts an instance when he was verbally abused on holiday overseas. It made him feel belittled and inferior to the locals in that country and to this day, it still leave a lasting impression on him.

“Experiences like these can kill your self-confidence. So I feel like we at The Final Bosses have to find a way to overcome this stigma,” he says.

That experience was one of the driving forces behind setting up The Final Bosses.

“Bullying is often overlooked by many at times. We feel that it is important to give more insight towards this as much as possible so we are excited to converge art and designer collectibles as a medium to do so,” he adds.

He says that many of the artists he collaborated with look forward to receiving the collectibles because they can share about the anti-bullying messages behind the designs with their family and friends.

It also gives them the assurance that they are doing something beneficial for the community, he adds.

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Raising awareness

Anti-Bullying Toy Exhibition
Image Source: Nixon Ong

Following a surge in designer collectibles and resurgence in figurative art, the founder wanted artists to come together to translate their thoughts and lived experiences onto the toys weaving narratives through their art.

So together with 18 other international and local artists, The Final Bosses launched PALADIN at 47 Gillman Barracks, based on the principle of protecting the innocent and upholding the law, inspired by the hero character so often found in role-playing games.

It aims to use art to shed light on the topic of bullying as well as encourage more local appreciation for art and designer collectibles.

To date, about 420 people have attended the exhibition, which ends this Sunday.

“We are creating meaningful collectibles which are designed for a purpose with a positive message. This is something that is particularly unique in the industry today,” says the founder.

He adds that the proceeds from the collectibles are not going to charity for now, but intends to explore this option once he has secured enough funds to sustain the brand.

What’s next?

Anti-Bullying Toy Exhibition
Image source: Nixon Ong

Following the PALADIN exhibition, the founder says that he aims to take the brand up a notch post-pandemic through curating similar exhibitions and collaborating with artists around the world.

In fact, he is in contact with renowned artists such as London-based artist Marcus Aitken –  who are willing to work with them following the exhibition.

The Final Bosses is also looking to continue its partnership with Art Outreach Singapore, with the founder thanking its chairman Mae Anderson who played a crucial part in giving him the opportunity to showcase the works.

“We are thankful for all the support that we have received so far. Ultimately, we are always looking to play our part in changing the world and make it a better place for everyone, that’s the goal.”

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Top Image: The Final Bosses