What does your age mean to you? Is it a mere numeral, a yearly reminder of the passage of time, or a guide to how well you ought to live your life? In our ‘Age Is Just A Number’ feature, Her World speaks to Singapore women from their 20s to 80s, and delves into how they feel about age and ageing.
These are their stories.
Lim Shi-An, Actress & Graphic Designer, 24
The only daughter of actors Tan Kheng Hua and Lim Yu-Beng radiates a quiet maturity that is both earnest and alluring. In 2021, Lim Shi-An graduated with a business and art degree from the National University of Singapore (NUS), and she’s now exploring various creative pursuits, including acting, graphic design and singing.
“I just graduated in December from NUS, and am doing a bit of acting for Mediacorp. I’m also doing freelance graphic design work, so I have a few long-term gigs – one is with Love Bonito, the other is with an ad agency. Acting with my dad in the MeWatch TV production Sephia (2021) was both fun and natural. It’s an apocalyptic series on MeWatch. The director was Raihan Halim, who’s known for his work on Suria. This was a pilot – he got us to do just one episode. I’ve noticed this trend in Singapore where children who are born into a family of actors also become actors themselves. I think it’s also because you are exposed to it from a young age, and as it’s something that your parents genuinely enjoy, you are drawn to it naturally. I went to School of the Arts Singapore (SOTA) before NUS and studied theatre, and I guess I cultivated more of an interest there.
But at NUS, I was a business and art student, and so it was completely different. And now that I have some free time, I think I’m discovering it again. It’s early still, and for a long time I didn’t want to try acting because I know what the climate is like right now. It just seems super scary, and I’m still finding my footing. I’ve been working with Love Bonito for over a year as an intern. The role was to design prints on clothing. Now that I’ve graduated, they got me back on a freelance basis. A lot of people are scared of the freelance life, but then, because I’ve seen my parents work through the freelance world, I think I can kind of see how it can work out sustainably. I’ve always wanted to do a mix of things, and I don’t want anything that I’ve worked on to go to waste.
My mum has been a constant inspiration to me. Even though she’s away right now, our relationship is such that we rely on each other for very important things. She’s always a voice of reason, so that’s definitely one way that she inspires me. We are also very close. The chemistry between us is good. I know it’s not that way for a lot of people and their parents, but it’s a very natural kind of relationship that we have. I take on a lot of the values and outlook that she has towards life. My parents have given me a lot of freedom, and my friends have joked that ‘reverse psychology’ has occurred. I’m super guai (well-behaved), but maybe it’s because of my character. I’m very grateful for it, because there’s never been a time where I had felt pressure to think or act in a certain way, and that was the greatest takeaway from them giving me this freedom. It’s not like I can go out and do whatever I want, but it’s more like I know they will support me in whatever decisions I choose to make, as long as these are grounded in good things. It’s inspired me on a career level, because I’m less afraid to pursue many different things at one time, and to be a freelancer.
I take on a lot of the values and outlook that [my mum] has towards life.Lim Shi-An
I sometimes hope that my friends’ parents can see me as an example of someone who can grow up to not be a ‘delinquent’ under the guidance of not-so-strict parents. By and large, I feel like I’m fairly conventionally well-behaved, and even though I’m choosing the freelance path, I think about it from a logical point of view. I’ve got the financial part of it laid out. All the acting roles that I have had so far are pretty standard. Because of how I look and my age, I’m always acting as a student – my characters always have some sort of conflict with their parents. I have yet to be cast as someone who is actually my age. Having a role as a working adult, and the kinds of problems that they might face, is something that I’m looking forward to venturing into.
My age is a double-edged sword, because people are always telling me that it’s good that I’m acting much younger than I actually am, as it increases the longevity of my career. I’m glad that I’m not being cast as a 35-year-old, but on the other hand, I have to work on how I present myself sometimes, so I can be considered for older roles as well. But generally, it’s less about my age and more of how I choose to approach certain auditions. Telling people that I want to be seen as older might be a step back for myself. Generally, age hasn’t really been an issue. Since I graduated, my goal is to find what I’m passionate about and, of course, making a decent living while at it. I want to see where acting takes me, because I genuinely love it.”
PHOTOGRAPHY Brendan Zhang, assisted by Ryan Loh
CREATIVE DIRECTION Windy Aulia & Elizabeth Lee
HAIR Colin Yeo & Doreen Low / Tress & Curvy, using Wella
MAKEUP Red Ngoh