12 inspiring Singaporean women over the age of 60

At age 71, folk rock icon Joni Mitchell is now the new face of Saint Laurent, just a couple of days after writer/every indie girl’s heroine Joan Didion, aged 80, became the star of a new Celine campaign. It’s official, then: “Pioneer Generation” women are cool. And here are 12 of our very own whom we think should get starring roles in fashion campaigns, too. Are you listening, Ashley Isham?

, 12 inspiring Singaporean women over the age of 60

Amanda Heng

Though she’s one of Singapore’s most established contemporary artists and our answer to Marina Abramovic, artist Amanda Heng isn’t (yet) quite the household name she deserves to be. She introduced feminist performance art to Singapore in the ’90s, a daring move in a much more conservative context back then, and has since gone on to produce striking pieces on female infanticide, sexism in art, punishing beauty standards and the problematic Singapore Girl icon, among others. Read our interview with her here.

Kanwaljit Soin

Though she’s now enjoying quite a conventional career as a surgeon, Kanwaljit Soin is a real pioneer. She was the first woman Nominated Member of Parliament in the ’90s, founded women’s avocacy groups AWARE (Association of Women for Action & Research) and WINGS (Women’s Initiative for Ageing Successfully) and lobbied successfully for the implementation of restraining orders for domestic abuse victims. Read our interview with her here.

Violet Oon

The doyenne of Peranakan cuisine needs no introduction. But when we spoke to her recently, we were pleasantly surprised by just how sharp, critical and interesting this woman really is. Plus, despite her busy schedule she makes time to hang out and people-watch at old school kopitiams as well as Bar Bar Black Sheep. Very cool, in our books.  Read our interview with her here.

, 12 inspiring Singaporean women over the age of 60

Catherine Lim

The prolific fiction writer refuses to keep her controversial political opinions to herself. Last year, her critical open letter to PM Lee went viral, making the rounds online and in the papers. The single (and dating) writer is a total catch: whip-smart, sexy, fiery and enlightened. Her latest book comes out some time this year; in the meantime read our interview with her here.

Margaret Leng Tan

Perhaps the most high-profile Singaporean woman in music worldwide, Margaret Leng Tan is best known for her collaborations with avant garde composer John Cage and playing on unconventional instruments like toy pianos, toy drums and cat food cans. In 2002 she made history as the first Singapore-born musician to play at the Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium, and is consistently lauded by publications like the New York Times and the New Yorker for her outstanding contrubtion to avant garde music.

Angela Liong

This accomplished choreographer and founder of Arts Fission, an experimental, multi-disciplinary dance company, is a real creative force; outstanding pieces include a modern reimagining of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata and a dance performance on a makeshift stage of PVC pipes on the 35th floor of the Centennial Tower. Her dance company now provides support, training and a fertile creative space for budding artists.

, 12 inspiring Singaporean women over the age of 60

Ivy Singh-Lim

Just ’cause she works on a farm doesn’t mean she’s some sweet country girl. The owner of Bollywood Veggies is a serious firecracker. She’s opinionated, loud, well educated, patriotic and a fierce champion of sustainability and the preservation of Singapore’s countryside. “If it wasn’t for the bloody government, I’d be queen of this country,” she says in our interview, which you can read here.

Anastasia Tjendri-Liew

The founder of baked goods empire Bengawan Solo began as a humble home baker, making simple chiffon cakes and kueh lapis in her Marine Parade flat. Word of her delicious cakes spread, prompting her to set up shop (which is named after her favorite Indonesian folk song), which expanded into a chain of 38 outlets islandwide. Naturally, she’s one of Singapore’s most recognized entrepreneurs and has even made it into the pages of hipster bible Monocle.

Han Sai Por

One of Singapore’s best sculptors and most important producers of public art pieces is a 71-year-old woman. Despite her unassuming, gentle manner, her sculptures tend to be muscular, bold and unapologetic; even if you’re not familiar with her name you might recall her gigantic “seeds” (which look more like cacti) at the Esplanade and intricate white “floral” buds at Changi Airport.

, 12 inspiring Singaporean women over the age of 60
credit: Singapore Tourism Board

Geraldene Lowe-Ismail

Sinagpore’s oldest working tour guide (she’s recently been presented the lifetime achievement award by Singapore Tourism Board) has so many stories up her sleeve that just casually chatting with her can turn into a whirlwind mental tour of our history. Her passion is infectious precisely because it comes across as completely genuine and not at all preachy or nationalistic. Read our interview with her here.

Claire Chiang

The business entrepreneur co-founded the luxe resort chain Banyan Tree, but her focus was and remains very much on marketing traditional village crafts of developing Southeast Asia, selling their products directly to tourists as well as commissioning resort furnishings. The committed feminist broke into the then all-male Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and has also contributed to AWARE and other women’s welfare agencies. Read our interview with her here.

Stella Kon

Everyone’s at least heard of (or studied) her magnum opus, Emily of Emerald Hill, one of Singapore’s most iconic plays. The one-woman show (the unforgiving titular role has been played memorably by Ivan Heng, in drag) about womanhood and identity, is, creatively speaking, quite risky, which makes its status as one of the most-performed local plays all the more more remarkable. Read our interview with her here.