Cool Chicks Who Rock

Cool Chick: Stefanie Sun
Rock Factors:
This sweet Mandarin pop star hit stardom at just 22 with her self-titled album, Yan Zi. It was number one on the sales charts of two of the biggest record stores in Taiwan, remaining in the top three for 11 weeks. The album sold 250,000 in Taiwan and 200,000 in China.
Her second album, My Desired Happiness, released in December 2000, sold more than 750,000 in Asia. Since then, Sun has made nine albums, and won over 33 awards in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. Most notably, at the prestigious Taiwan Golden Melody Awards, where she walked away with the Best Newcomer prize in 2001, and the Best Female Mandarin Singer prize in 2005. She also made it to the MTV Chinese Top Ten Most Popular Artist in 2001, and won the MTV Asia Aid Awards Singapore’s Most Popular Singer prize for four consecutive years.
Sun is currently on a regional concert tour, performing in sold out concerts in Hong Kong, Nanjing, Shanghai and KL. She was quoted as saying that her priority is to make quality music, instead of over-commercialized products that sell well but have a lower level of artistic quality.
What rule do you live by since becoming an international pop singer?
Don’t do it for the fame or the money.
What don’t you like about your work?
Incredulous journalism.
What gets you out of bed each morning?
My sense of responsibility, but most of the time, the alarm clock.

What pisses you off?
People who are selfish, mean or unbelievably clueless.
What turns you on?
Humor. OK, and big hands.
Cool Chick: Braema Mathi
Rock Factors:
Braema Mathi is a prolific champion of the underprivileged. Few know that she initiated The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund in 2000 when she was a journalist, and is the main driving force behind Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) which advocates improved working conditions for foreign maids.
More might recognize her as a former Nominated Member of Parliament (2001-2004) and the immediate past president of Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE, 2004-2006). As if that’s not enough, Mathi is also the Vice-President of Action for Aids and a member of the Singapore Children’s Society.
If you could give yourself your own title, what would it be?
Advocate or Busy Body Extraordinaire.
What drives you to be involved with such causes?
Conviction and passion. If it is within our means to improve the human condition and clear the messes that we are party to, then we should in one way or another.
What don’t you like about this work?
Navigating through the systems to get to the point you want to be.
What rule do you live by since being an activist?
Try to live by the standards that you raise awareness to the lack there(of). For example, working through from a feminist perspective, not to take away the space from men or ridicule their behavior by default.
What pisses you off?
Not being upfront and open and having to resort to talking around.
What turns you on?
View from the top of a mountain, poetry, sunsets by the sea, wind in my face on a bike, injustice, the special people who pass through my life …
Life is like … ?
… the colors of the ocean because there is a sameness in the human condition and an unpredictable uniqueness about us.
Cool Chick: Cherry Chan
Rock Factors:
This avid music fan and accidental track-dropper found herself spinning at her own birthday party in September 2004. Surprised by the warm response, she gathered other gal-pals and has been spinning since, as the leader of Pop My Cherry, a platform for female DJs to experiment and try their hands at DJ-ing in the male dominated industry. To date, 15 girls have spun with the group.
Venturing beyond our borders, Pop My Cherry was the only female DJ group to play at the Hong Kong Fringe Festival at the Fringe Club in February this year, and they also played a gig at Zouk’s The Loft in Kuala Lumpur.
Describe your sound.
I like tunes from various genres, from down tempo to house, to minimal and drum ’n’ bass. So I just play different stuff according to the moods and events.
Who are your influences?
Laurent Garnier and Josh Wink for set programming; Doc Scott, Amit, Technasia and Loumo for music production; and local boys Ash & Kiat for homegrown quality drum ’n’ bass tunes.
What do you like about being a DJ?
When a good tune is dropped and you see punters smiling or getting really happy and excited to the tune, that makes me happy.
What don’t you like about it?
Climbing five flights of stairs with a very, very heavy record bag.
What rule do you live by since being a DJ?
Must not spend ALL pay on records and music stuff, and wine is not water.
What turns you on?
Looks of concentration and good conversations.
Cool Chick: Eleanor Wong
Rock Factors:
This Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore’s law faculty is better known as a published playwright whose acclaimed works have been produced in Singapore and ASEAN. Her trilogy—Mergers & Accusations, Wills & Secession and Jointly & Severably—was one of the first few plays that made a social impact on the Singapore theater scene and, when they were staged in the 1990s, became some of the first gay and lesbian plays. Mergers is about a lesbian lawyer who conveniently marries her male best friend to maintain some form of social respectability while continuing her relationship with her lover, with her husband’s acceptance of her sexual orientation.
Wong was quoted as saying that the main impetus of these plays was to enlarge the sphere of understanding and celebrate diversity. She has since written over 10 plays to date.
Why these themes?
The themes often come to me and knock me on the head! My themes choose me, perhaps? The themes that seem to like me (and that I like back) tend to deal with questions of self-actualization, honesty and fairness.
Written in 1992 and staged several times thereafter, how was the response to Mergers each time?
Well, in 1992, I think there was a lot more “shock and awe” when Ellen and Lesley kissed. By the time it was restaged in 1996 and then again in 2003 (Mandarin version in 2004), the audience was a lot less “squeamish” about certain representations that might have been unfamiliar in 1992.
What rule do you live by?
Be as true as you can.
What pisses you off?
Intolerance and bullying.
What turns you on?
A sexy mind (uhmmm, but to be honest, sexy other parts also help).
Cool Chick: Jo Soh
Rock Factors:
Funky fashion designer Jo Soh is the creative brains behind hansel, the distinctly quirky womenswear label found exclusively at Felt. After graduating with first class honors in fashion design from Central St. Martins in 1999, she spent the following four years working with some of the best in the fashion industry, sewing haute couture for Tristan Webber in London to designing for Song+Kelly21.
Named after her Jack Russell Terrier, hansel made its debut at the Mercedes Australian Fashion Week in Melbourne in November 2003 and has since been invited to present at the event ever since, garnering local and international acclaim. Soh was awarded the Moet & Chandon Fresh! Designer/Label of the Year at the Singapore Fashion Awards 2004.
What do you like about your work?
I love the positive impact my clothes have on the people who wear them—the wearers get complimented, the wearers feel good about themselves, they feel confident, and with the light-hearted humor and details that go into my clothes, the wearers feel happy wearing hansel!

What don’t you like about your line of work?
The insecurity and the bitching that comes with it.
What pisses you off?
Irresponsible people who blame anything and everything when something goes wrong.
What turns you on?
Blue skies and blue seas.
What rule do you live by since becoming a fashion designer?
Same rule I have lived by all my life—follow my intuition.
Cool Chick: Catherine Lim
Rock Factors:
Singapore’s most internationally renowned writer, who is also known to be an “intellectual, a political commentator, a feminist and an incorrigible young-at-heart,” got published only by accident. She wrote six short stories as supplementary reading material for secondary students— part of a course she was taking. These stories stayed in her drawer for years until she told a friend about them and he took it upon himself to bring them to the attention of a local publisher. In 1978, her first book, Little Ironies: Stories of Singapore, was published. Since then, she has written seven novels, one novella and 11 short story collections to wide acclaim.
Bondmaid, her best-selling novel, sold 75,000 copies and has been made into a film by Hong Kong Director Stanley Kwan, starring Fann Wong. Her e-novella, Leap of Love, will be on the big screen by Raintree Pictures.
How do you choose your themes for your short stories/novels?
I am generally interested in the theme of the special psychodynamics of men-women relationships, especially against the background of the Hokkien traditions I grew up with in a little town in Malaysia in the ’40s and ’50s, when the traditions seemed to be especially oppressive to women.
When did you start writing political commentaries? Why?
My first two political commentaries appeared in late 1994 and early 1995. I have always been a keen observer of the political scene in Singapore, especially in the relationship between the government and the people, and I wrote the commentaries when I felt I was ready to share some strong views with fellow Singaporeans.
What rule do you live by?
Always be AUTHENTIC, being oneself, keeping faith with one’s strongest beliefs and instincts, never allowing oneself to be influenced by, or worse, dictated to by outside forces such as power structures, social convention, the commercial pull etc.
What pisses you off?
Insincerity and dishonesty, pretence and deceit.
What turns you on?
The sheer wonder of being alive and well, and happy, living in the most interesting of times, having access to a phenomenal amount of knowledge that is still daily building up, being surprised, almost on a daily basis, by the mind-boggling (sometimes scary) advances of science.
Cool Chick: Ginny Phang
Rock Factors:
Ginny Phang is the only local full-time doula in Singapore. What that means is that she is a trained person who assists another woman during labor, providing non-medical support before, during and after childbirth.
In 2003, together with another single mum, Frae, Phang co-founded Flying Solo, a support group for unmarried mothers in Singapore, to provide information and support. Phang is herself a single mum, having decided to go through with her pregnancy five years ago, despite the fact that her relationship with her ex was beyond repair and that her parents disapproved. She was just 23, with no money or a job at that time. Today, she shares her experiences and offers advice to more than 80 Flying Solo members who meet each month.
What made you start Flying Solo? Why?
When I found myself pregnant, one of the things I wanted to do was to find someone else in a similar situation and I did not manage to until I met Frae. So when our monthly meetings became regular (though there were only the both of us), we figured that there must be more of the same people in similar situations. That idea started it all. I have always been blessed no matter what happens to me and I believe in giving back what I have been fortunate enough to receive. So this is my way of giving back to society.

What obstacles did or perhaps still do you face being a solo mum?
The balancing act of being a mother, and running my own business, as well as nurturing myself … finances and dating are the biggest issues.
What rule do you live by?
Whatever does not kill you will only make you stronger. Our lives are the result of the choices we make, both big and small.
Cool Chick: Theresa Goh
Rock Factors:
This wheelchair-bound sportswoman has been swimming competitively for the past seven years. Despite being born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which part of the spine is not properly formed, Goh has gone on to win numerous sport medals.
Adding to her collection most recently are three gold medals at the ASEAN Para Games 2005 in Manila. In fact, she won seven gold medals in the World Wheelchair and Amputee Games in Brazil in 2005 too. Most recently, she was just 0.05 seconds shy of the world record at last month’s Telkom SA National Aquatic Swimming Championship in South Africa. Given her astounding track record, the Singapore Disability Sports Council is confident that she is within reach of a Paralympics medal in the 2008 Beijing Games.
Back home, Goh has won SportsWoman of the Year 2004 and the Singapore Youth Awards (Sports and Adventure) 2005.
What made you decide to be a professional swimmer?
I’m not sure. Everything happened too quickly for me to say. I am still swimming competitively because I still haven’t achieved my goal in the Paralympics. I’d like to end my career on a high, with probably a medal in the Paralympics and a couple of world records along the way.
How do you personally deal with the disparity between able-bodied and disabled sportsmen—physically and monetarily?
I don’t. Personally, I feel that the able bodied athletes getting more monetary benefits than the disabled athletes is no big deal. I went into competitive swimming not for the monetary awards, and so I feel the money would be nice but it’s a bonus. However, I want to add that a lot of disabled athletes train as hard or even harder than some able bodied athletes.
What rule do you live by?
Never give up till the goal is achieved.
What pisses you off?
Politics. I hate politics. I also hate it when people walk by and kick my chair.
Cool Chick: Anamah Tan
Rock Factors:
Tan is the President of the International Council of Women and the first Singaporean to be elected to the United Nation Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). She also founded the Singapore Association of Women Lawyers and the Singapore Council of Women’s Organization, being the president of both organizations for several years.
Her name is synonymous with the women’s movement in Singapore, and she is proud to have played a major part in changing the Women’s Charter twice—once in the late ’70s and again in 1995. A mother of two, and a grandmother twice, Tan still runs her own law practice and also serves as an active council member in the National Crime Prevention Council, and is Chairperson of the Security for Senior Citizens Committee.
What do you like about all the community work you do?
The feeling that you have done something and made a little difference to an individual, group or community.
What don’t you like about it?
Sometimes when I am in these positions, my good intentions get misunderstood and pot shots are targeted at me indiscriminately. I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t please everyone. As long as I know that what I’m doing is for the general good of everyone, and that it benefits my community, I just put it behind me and move on.
Where do you find all the energy to do all you do?
You’d be surprised … when you have to do it, you just have to do it. I sleep less, and work through holidays most times.
What rule do you live by?
I enjoy every minute of the day of whatever I’m doing.
What pisses you off?
Bullies … That’s why my kaypoh (busybody) instincts come on.
Life is like…?
… a lotus pond. From the murky water, a beautiful lotus flower can bloom. Human beings can rise above the murkiness and bring joy and peace to our surroundings.
Cool Chick: Sylvia Lim
Rock Factors:
Being the Chairman of the opposition Workers’ Party, Sylvia Lim is the only female political leader in Singapore. This being her first election year, she’s up against the old guard in an arena dominated by men.
Trained as a lawyer and called to the Bar in 1991, she joined the Singapore Police Force as a Police Inspector, but returned to practice law three years later. Today, she lectures at Temasek Polytechnic, though that had to be put on hold during the hustings leading up to Election Day. She contends that, “The real service is rendered not by the critic who stands aloof from the contest, but by the man who enters it and bears his part!”

When and what spurred you to join the Workers’ Party?
It was after the General Election 2001 and 75 percent of the votes were won by PAP. I decided it was time for me to do my part—no point wishing for a strong and credible opposition if one is not prepared to do anything. I met the “street-fighter” Mr Low Thia Khiang on 13 November 2001 and got myself “enrolled.” The first evening when I made my way to the Party office for a meeting, my heart was beating like crazy and I kept looking around to see if anyone was following me!! That fear has now largely passed. It gets easier each time and what is important is taking that first step to put away our self-inflicted fears.
Were you always politically inclined?
I am not by nature a political animal but I do believe that having opposition political parties and opposition Members of Parliament is important for Singapore. I suppose the natural instinct of lawyers is to value diversity of opinion and to question propositions.