As the year ends, we invited 13 of Her World’s kind of woman – ranging from a cancer researcher to a budding singer – to tell us how their 2018 went, and model 13 of the best holiday looks.
Click through to find out how Peggy Chang quelled her anxiety attacks, what’s the next phase of Tjin Lee’s Life Beyond Grades campaign, and how body dysmorphic disorder and Cheryl Wee’s new baby, Marc, influenced the way she runs her business.
Watch the video here.
This story was first published in the December 2018 issue of Her World.
Photography Cher Him
Styling CK, assisted by Kelly Goh
Hair Peter Lim/Mosche Salon, Christvian Goh & Zoel Tee, using Hanz De Fuko
Makeup Zoel Tee & Hongling, using YSL Beaute and Jyue Huey/The Make Up Room
Mawocha is a Singapore-based Zimbabwean, UI/UX designer/actress/model/writer/entrepreneur/Youtuber/polyglot.
2018 has been a busy year for the Yale-NUS graduate: she helped produce Singapore’s first all-black play, Pioneer Passages: The Stories of Black Women; co-founded people analytics start-up Panalyt; took part in The New Paper New Face contest; joined Now Model Management; took up taekwondo; and taught herself to reupholster a couch. Already fluent in English and French, she is learning four more languages – Shona, Czech, Korean and Italian – while writing two short stories in her free time. And in December, she also went to Munich as one of the finalists for the Digital Female Leader Award, chosen by Global Digital Women for her contribution to digital works.
But her long-term goal is to act (she studied at Acting International in Paris and the Haque Centre of Acting and Creativity in Singapore). “In 2019, I hope to enrol in either the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art or LAMDA in London.”
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Chang is the founder of cafes The Tiramisu Hero (which recently opened a new counter space at co-working space Found) and Butter My Buns.
Anxiety attacks led to Chang practising yoga more in 2018 to help her “clear her head”.
“I want to be physically stronger. It makes me feel good about myself. Yoga also helps me to become mentally stronger. I’ve tried many different breathing techniques, but I found that having a peaceful mind is the most important. Yoga is a great place to start.”
Last year, Chang also fought her fears of travelling alone and went on a solo yoga retreat to Phuket on her birthday in August. “It was a challenge for me, because I tend to worry about scenarios like falling sick when I am alone, but I wanted to put myself out there and do something I was not comfortable with. It was a good experience.”
Nylon dress, $3,570, nylon boots, $4,600, and earrings (price unavailable), Balenciaga. Turban, Chang’s own
Adsit is a model and owner of her own modelling agency, Mint Singapore, which specialises in commercial modelling where “people work with their own age, size and shape”.
“After 25 years of modelling and having been in eight agencies, I have seen how nasty people can be, and how they put you in a certain box and dictate that you have to be a certain weight and certain size. The last thing I want to be is a person who does that. We build people up rather than break them down or judge them on ridiculous ideals.”
Through Mint, Adsit is now working on a project which she hopes will “let both women and men know that it’s okay to not be perfect, and to love ourselves”. “It will either be a photo exhibition or an interview-style dialogue with pictures. Everyone has issues with themselves, and flaws, hidden or not. We want to bring attention to those flaws and show them off. It’s about letting go of that urge to be perfect.”
At home, Adsit is working on natural living and preparing more home-cooked meals. While she lives in a high-rise condo, she has been raising three ducks at home since May. They laid their first eggs in mid-October. The urban farmer also grows her own fruits and vegetables like bitter gourd, kang kong, and chia seed sprouts at home, which mostly all go to the ducks.
“I want to be my authentic self, and to live a life that is more efficient. I don’t want to be made up, filled with chemicals, or live in a way that governments and society tells you to. Doing the 15-step skincare routine is not for me.”
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Yu is the founder of design studio Foreign Policy Design Group.
Her biggest project this year wasn’t judging the D&AD Awards (“it’s like the Oscars of design”) or the Kyoorius Design Awards. Nor was it her sponsored-by-Samsung work with The Social Co. to create awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. Or the ongoing project to rebrand second-gen woodworking company Roger&Sons. It was her two-month-old daughter Rei, whom she and her husband Arthur Chin, adopted in October.
“We applied to adopt in 2017, and Rei came suddenly in October 2018. We had to quickly turn a room for her.
“I am planning to create and commission some artworks for her room, and relook at our storage system since we now have a new ‘housemate’ with different needs.”
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Tan is the director of local hair salon chain Kimage, which now boasts 10 outlets.
“I started travelling solo four years ago. I had heard so much about it before, but to actually take that first step was very scary. So for my first trip, I spent just 10 days in Bhutan. Everything was properly planned, I had a full itinerary, and I knew exactly where I would be staying and what I was going to do. After that, for subsequent trips, I didn’t plan anymore. Now I just go with the flow. I will buy the air ticket, but I don’t book hotels or plan anything else. For my second trip, I spent two weeks in Tibet. The one after that was 24 days in South America, during which I managed to cover every country in that continent – though logistics were a nightmare because of all the air travel needed. Then this year, I wanted to do something other than hiking, so I went on an 18-day driving holiday in Spain, Portugal and Morocco. I am planning a cycling holiday next, in Canada, because the country has a flat landscape – ideal for cycling.
“I enjoy solo travel so much because I am not a business owner or mother to my children, or daughter to my mother; I am just me.”
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Tan started posting her song covers on Youtube when she was 14. She launched her debut album, Joie, in April this year. She was a music and art teacher at a preschool for a semester. And a volunteer dog walker for The Right to Live.
Tan grew up around music, started posting covers of pop songs on YouTube at 14, and even launched her debut album, Joie, in April this year to positive reviews. But is singing the be-all and end-all for Tan?
“To many people, becoming a successful singer is to be touring and selling out an arena,” says Tan. “But I realised that is not what I want. I had a life question – do I even really want to be a singer?”
But as she is figuring that out, Tan is sure of something else she does want. “My main goal in life is to be a mum – being a mother has always been my dream. Working with young kids makes me very happy.”
Earlier this year, Tan taught music and art at a pre-school for a semester, and is now looking to take up a similar job while awaiting the results of her US artist visa application. She is hoping to spend three years living and performing in New York City. “I travelled there for the first time in February 2017 to meet my boyfriend, whom I first met online in December 2016. I fell in love with the city immediately – it’s like Singapore but on steroids. I feel like I am at the age where I can explore being in different situations and if I fail I can just come home.”
But eventually settling down in NYC is not in the cards for Tan. “I prefer to settle down in a quieter area. But even as a kid, I never really saw myself living in Singapore forever. I think Singapore is too expensive and I don’t agree with the education system here. Children here are under too much stress. People are sending their seven year old kids to tuition and I think it will progressively get worse. But I do understand their perspective: when you have so much access to tuition and enrichment classes, even online, why would you refuse your child these? Every country has its flaws.”
While she is still in Singapore, Tan also walks dogs at a shelter in her free time. “I have been volunteering at The Right to Live for a while now. I try to go as much as I can. There are over 100 dogs there living in cages, and some of them have trust issues and can’t be touched at all. You can go there to adopt, or if you can’t, you can help to walk them. They lack volunteers who can walk the dogs on weekdays. If you can, go in a group of six because there is a family of six dogs there who have to be walked together.”
Cotton tee (price unavailable), and calf leather skirt, $895, Coach.
Lou is a singer-songwriter and co-owner of Baju Mama Vintage store.
Lou has added two more hyphens to her CV in 2018: She now chairs tech and cybersecurity events, where she uses her skills and contacts in the music industry to help clients like IBM and Microsoft inject the arts into their networking events; and she mentors students and Raffles Girls’ School and Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
The former “is my way of gaining credibility not just in the arts world, but also in the corporate world. I am not happy doing just one thing – I am multifaceted”.
The second “helps younger people discover their potential and energy. I am relatively young, but I think I have a lot to share that people can learn from. I want the next gen to be much more successful and empowered than I am”.
In December, she released her Christmas single, Christmas in My City, which she wrote two years ago and has been performing for two Christmases.
“It’s about what a Singaporean Christmas is like – not having winter, but walking in malls and feeling like it’s 10 deg C, people complaining every year that the Orchard Road lights are not as nice as last year’s, but ultimately also driving home that those are not the important things.
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Eng is an Ecole Gregoire Ferrandi-trained pastry chef known for her beautiful French desserts and pastries. She joined Swiss luxury home appliance brand V-Zug as a gourmet pastry chef in October last year.
Working from the brand’s new showroom at Scotts Square six days a week, Eng not only conducts events and demonstrations for V-Zug’s clients (many of whom are real estate developers), she holds “little classes” as well, for customers who want to know more about the brand’s kitchen appliances.
“My job also takes me overseas. Through this, I want to take myself further and learn from the people I respect.
“My goal is to set up my own school, hopefully in a few years, where I will teach and invite overseas chefs I respect to hold masterclasses here.
“I see a market in teaching because I think Singaporeans are more interested in learning stuff than eating it. And with a school, you can let people see the work that goes into making pastries.”
Cotton lace dress and leather boots (prices unavailable), Fendi.
The former engineer and her husband, Sean Ashley Gabriel, started posting their travel snaps on Instagram in 2013. Then they opened photography studio Oooze, which specialises in still-life styling, set design, and photography. Clients include P&G, Samsung and The Ritz-Carlton, and assignments have taken them to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Kuala Lumpur this year.
“I have this crazy idea of merging photography and motion graphics. It is still quite a niche skill here. Photography has some limitations, so if we know animation, we can incorporate it into our still-life work to achieve, say, the perfect-looking bubble for our clients.”
“2018 has been quite incredible – we had opportunities to travel for work for the first time. The projects are getting bigger now. We are planning to slowly evolve into a production house where we will continuously build on in-house visual content creation in both stills and motion.”
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The Italian citizen is a full-time cancer researcher at the National Cancer Centre and designer of Oliveankara, her label of ankara-themed clothes and accessories.
What started out as a side project has morphed from online sales and pop-ups to a permanent showroom at #03-82, 57 Eng Hoon Street, for Oliveankara.
“I was getting more and more stuff, and needed more space, so my husband and I rented another apartment to showcase my designs and work there. The good thing now is that with a separate studio, we can close the door to work and say we are done for the day, which was hard to do previously.”
Ubby’s bigger focus is, of course, cancer research. “I’ve just submitted a publication about mutation of the P53 gene and am waiting to see if it’s accepted by the reviewers.”
Silk twill long-sleeved shirt with attached fabric scarf, $2,810, silk twill jacket, $5,240, silk twill skirt, $2,620, and shell pendant earrings, $1,240, Gucci.
Lee is the founder and managing director of Mercury Marketing & Communications; and co-founder of Life Beyond Grades, a social movement which was launched in September 2018.
“A mindset shift doesn’t happen overnight. We are now executing the second part of the campaign, which is about the future of hiring and skills of the future, because after all, the purpose of school is to prepare us for our careers. We will have a series of four talks where employers such as DBS and hedge fund companies share how they use video games or personality tests to recruit people. The first one kicked off on Nov 10; the rest are planned for the first quarter of 2019.
“We want parents to understand that employers are shifting the way they hire. We want to show parents the jobs they don’t even know exist. It may then relax them in the way they view grades.
“We are also in conversation with the Ministry of Education, because I believe that to effect change, we need a three-pronged approach – the public sector, private sector, and people collaborations. It should not just be the public sector making policies that the public doesn’t believe in.”
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Wee is an actress, founder of wellness and weight management centre, Cheryl W, and mother of a baby boy.
The arrival of her son, Marc, in April 2018 marked the start of Cheryl Wee’s life as a mum – and the end of her five-year fight with body dysmorphic disorder, which began when Wee was developing her acting career in Taiwan.
“I was 42kg at 1.63m, but was constantly told I needed to lose weight. I was already a size zero, but was obsessed with being size 00 and 40kg.”
Concerned family members eventually persuaded her to return home and put acting on pause. In 2016, Wee started her own wellness and weight management centre, Cheryl W, on the advice of her mother, beauty mogul Jean Yip. “My mum thought it would be a good way to re-direct my obsession with food and weight management.”
Her own body image struggles set the philosophy for Cheryl W. “Every woman has her own ideal body shape and weight. I never want women to come here to be a size zero, because that kind of thinking was what made me crazy. I want to advocate a healthy body image.”
Marc’s arrival also motivated Wee to make changes in her business. “I wanted to come up with products that would be safe even for pregnant women, so I switched the sugar substitute I used, replacing xylitol with plant-based stevia in my entire batch of detox drinks.” Plans to develop more products are in the pipeline, with the aim of scaling the online arm of Cheryl W.
“Now that I have Marc, I want the freedom to work anywhere, even if it’s from home. That’s why I am so motivated to take the business online. I want more children, and I want to be able to grow up with them, accompany them to classes, and be with them for the everyday things. My parents were not able to do the same for me not because they don’t want to, but because they didn’t have the luxury to. Now, I am so much luckier.”
Wee is also acting again. “I really missed it. So for a few days in December, I filmed a short teledrama, which will air on Toggle or Channel 8.”
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Chia is the principal dietitian at Raffles Medical Group.
Her patients range from pregnant women to sufferers of anorexia to tube-fed patients. Her work extends to health talks, conducting cooking demonstrations to help even inexperienced cooks put a meal together, and designing workplace weight management programmes to improve the health and lifestyles of employees.
“My passion is in public health. I want to extend the benefits to everyone, not only to the people who walk into the hospital.”
That is why Chia is developing a phone app to help users achieve their health goals and connect with doctors or trainers. “The app will help people to identify the health goals they want to achieve, then show them how to achieve it. For example, they can set goals to lose weight, eat healthy, achieve better control of diabetes, or improve their mental health. The app will send reminders, allow users to log actions and track their progress, and link them to professionals if they need to see them. It will be especially good for mental well-being, for people who want to help themselves or seek help, but don’t know how. It is now going to solve mental illness or depression, but it is a good start for people seeking help.”
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