New book pays tribute to 'power women' in Singapore

Reena Devi
Lifestyle Reporter
The Madonnas and Mavericks Book Launch. Photo: Melvin Chong

“Madonnas and Mavericks: Power Women in Singapore”, is the latest effort of Loretta Chen, theatre director, creative consultant and activist. The book pays tribute to 17 Singaporean women who “have scaled the peaks and thrived in unexpected places.”

Profiling personalities like Jennie Chua, Olivia Lum, Ivy Singh-Lim, President Halimah Yacob, “Madonnas and Mavericks” cuts across diverse fields such as business, politics, advocacy, sports, lifestyle and the arts. According to Chen, there were three denominators the featured women had in common.

Speaking with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore at the book launch on 1 November at Gallery & Co., Chen said, “They are Singaporean, they contributed significantly to Singapore’s growth and they are all women.”

Regarding the indicators she used to select the women profiled in the book, Chen said, “I did not set out to look at markers of success per se, but I turned the familiar question on its own head to ask, ‘How did you cope with your biggest failures?'”

She added, “These 17 women, in my eyes, believe in something more than just the sum of their parts and are able to embrace challenges, roll with the punches, march to the beat of their own drum and make a difference to all they meet and touch.”

No one fits the description better than Singh-Lim, the Women’s Hall of Fame 2014 inductee and President of Kranji Countryside Association, a group she founded to enable her passionate advocacy for the farming community, as well as enabling Singaporeans to commune with nature and to nourish their souls. Singh-Lim said the book had to include her for it to be complete.

“Surely they must include me in a book like that – otherwise, the book will never be complete. In any book on powerful women, surely they must include me,” she said. “I like [the profile] because she wrote it exactly as I said it. She didn’t mince words, and you know, a lot of people when they interview you they water it down; then what’s the point of interviewing you? [You] might as well write what you want.”

Chen wanted a “combination of more-familiar faces on our cultural and media landscape, as well as feature the more introverted ones who prefer to have their actions speak louder”.

The book also includes Sylvia Lim, currently the Chairman of the Workers’ Party and an elected Member of Parliament representing Aljunied Group Representation Constituency; Theresa Goh Rui Si, Singapore’s Paralympic medalist; and Tjin Lee, founder of the Mercury Group which organises Singapore Fashion Week.

“It’s definitely a huge honour being involved in this with so many amazing, honourable and accomplished women. I think all of us have stories to tell and we can learn from each other on how to make life more fulfilling and help make life easier for each other,” said Goh. 

“I’m really honoured to be in the book. Some of the women here are role models I grew up with like Jennie or Olivia Lum – they are really trailblazers. I think it’s always good to have a book about inspiring women because women need more real models,” agreed Lee.

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