55 Inspiring millennials

These 55 women aged 20-34 dare to follow their hearts and do what they love. Here, they put their best faces forward.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang
55 millennials – we love them all because they know it all, want it all and will do it all.


She’s taken social media here by storm.

The fashion and travel blogger started an Instagram account (@dreachong) three years ago and has chalked up a following of 164,000. Th e stylish influencer, who is studying English literature at Nanyang Technological University, won’t reveal how much she makes from her blogging, but hints that it pays well enough to be a full-time job.

How did you get such a huge following?

“Instead of sticking strictly to fashion, I incorporate a lot of travel elements into my posts – to me, the millennial woman is a well-travelled individual who isn’t afraid to try new things, which makes my blog an interesting and useful read.”

What’s your take on the local blogosphere? Be honest!
“We need to aspire to be like A-list bloggers like Kristina Bazan, Gary Pepper Girl and Olivia Lopez – they’re professional, hardly engage in online brawls, and provide their readers with useful and hard-to-obtain information about products. Even though there are moments of animosity and tension within the local blogosphere, I hope we bloggers can overcome that and be seen as a more respectable lot, in time to come.”

Any haters?

“Definitely! And they’re mostly men! They criticise my ‘small boobs’, ‘Asian eyes’ and ‘weird feet’. I complain to my friends and we just laugh it off.”

Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang


She turns music into fashion.

Even from a distance, the electronic beats thump audibly from within Linda’s studio – it’s unsurprising, considering that she credits music as her creative influence. “I listen to it every day… new sounds inspire me. Take my Spring/Summer 2015 collection, for example: After listening to experimental artist Nosaj Thing’s tracks, I could visualise designs for the collection and how they would look on the runway,” says the Shanghai-born fashion designer, who started Yesah in 2012 as a multi-label import boutique.

In 2013, she relaunched it as a designer label offering apparel and totes (under the sub-label Yestotes). Since then, the Singaporean permanent resident has collaborated on a capsule collection with local illustrator Teresa Lim (aka Teeteeheehee) and debuted at Bangkok International Fashion Week. As a freelance stylist, Linda has worked with international brands like Gap and Topshop. “It’s more fun than designing.

I get to experiment with different styles,” says the social-media star – she has more than 32,000 followers on Instagram – whose quirky OOTDs feature multicoloured fur-lined sneakers and bubblegumcoloured holographic skirts. All these are accompanied by the facetious hashtag, #anyhaostyle. “My style is quite literally ‘anyhow’!” says Linda with a laugh. “My wardrobe’s just filled with such unexpected, weird pairings.”

Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang

DIANA GOH (left), 33 & ASHLEY SOH, 33

They pioneered the drinks-with-yourblowout concept.

It all started in 2003 with a pushcart. The two friends, who had been secondary school classmates, had their first taste of running a business by selling hair extensions and tooth crystals at Cineleisure Orchard.

A decade later, having cut their teeth in the beauty industry, Ashley and Diana decided to join forces again. Th is time, they wanted to run a salon because, according to Diana, “nothing beats the sensory experience of getting your hair done”.

At the time, Ashley lamented how some women didn’t stay loyal to any salon because many of them lacked standardised services and failed to provide customers with the same experience each time they visited. The solution: a menu of six signature blowout looks that could be replicated by any of the salon’s stylists.

Thus, Blow+Bar was born in 2013. A month later, it expanded its menu to include cuts, colouring and perms so that customers could enjoy all the perks of a full-service salon.

And where does the “bar” bit come in? The wine and cocktails served in the salon, of course. “We want to make the salon a place for social gatherings, where a woman can chat with a stranger in the next chair,” says Diana. “The way our mothers and grandmothers used to!”

Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang


She makes and sells skincare with natural ingredients.

The founder of Katfood – no, not chow for felines, but a beauty brand specialising in natural skincare – left the law profession after three years because “I didn’t want to spend the next 40 years slogging in the same job”.

When did you start using natural skincare? “In junior college. I went chemical-free! I experimented a lot; I would look for recipes online and use olive oil on my hair, for example. I found that synthetic products ended up providing short-term relief but didn’t work in the long term. I wanted something I could use my whole life. Over the years, it’s become more of a lifestyle change. When I decided to leave law behind, turning to natural skincare and making a business out of it was the most obvious direction.”

What drives you? “The fear of regret. If you don’t take control of your life, you’ll never be truly happy. If I want to do something, I will do it.”

What are your plans for Katfood? “Katfood is still a one-woman enterprise, but as I grow the business, I plan to turn it into a social enterprise. I volunteer at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore, and somewhere down the line, I hope to employ people with cerebral palsy to help in Katfood’s production process.”

My Reading Room


She’s revamping the death industry.

Jenny grew up watching her father dedicate his life to sending off the dead in a dignified manner. Th e University of New South Wales business and marketing graduate – who became the managing director of Direct Funeral Services in 2014 – tells us more about overseeing a funeral parlour.

She upgrades the business continually. To make her staff look more professional, she ditched the polo-tee-and-jeans get-up and replaced it with shirts and vests. She also developed an in-house iPad app that allows the funeral directors to schedule funerals and send orders to the head office.

She’s always on standby. “Th is is an industry where you have to move quickly. If I don’t pick up my dad’s calls within three rings, I’ll get an earful from him!” says Jenny.

She’s willing to get up close and personal. “Often, the families of young women who have passed on will request that I do the deceased’s makeup because they prefer a woman to handle their loved one,” says Jenny. “Another memorable case: A 100-year-old lady from an old folks’ home had no next of kin, so I took it upon myself to see to her funeral arrangements. I also did her makeup and helped scatter her ashes at sea.”

Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang

These gold-getters are the reigning Asian netball champs

The national netball team became a source of sporting pride last September, when they defended their champion’s title at the 9th Asian Netball Championships in Singapore.

This year, the players are gearing up for the 28th SEA Games, hosted by Singapore. “It’s the first time that netball has been included in the SEA Games since 2001 – we’re hyped!” says captain Micky Lin Qingyi. To remain in tip-top condition for the SEA Games and 14th Netball World Cup in August, the women – most of whom have full-time jobs – put themselves through rigorous training six days a week.

Their regimen includes pre-work shooting sessions that start at 7am, and postwork court training that ends around 10pm. On weekends, they hit the gym and attend sports psychology sessions. After all, the sport is becoming increasingly competitive. “In the past, netball was more of a non-contact sport where pushing and shoving would draw you a penalty.

These days, you can rough things up a little as part of your strategy,” says Premila. “In fact, everyone on the team has crooked fingers!” adds Nurul.

From left: Nurul Baizura (vice-captain), 25, teacher, position: centre/wing defence; Chen Huifen (vice-captain), 30, teacher, position: goal attack/wing attack/goal shooter; Charmaine Soh, 25, risk and compliance associate, position: goal shooter; Micky Lin Qingyi (captain), 30, systems manager, position: goal defence/goal keeper; Premila Hirubalan, 32, doctor, position: goal defence; Kimberly Lim, 20, student, position: wing attack; Ang Shiqi, 27, corporate service executive, position: wing defence.

Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang


She writes – and sings! – our favourite drama-serial theme songs.

You may not recognise her face, but you might have heard her music on television – especially if you’re a fan of Channel 8 drama serials like Gonna Make It (2013) and Against the Tide (2014).

Here’s the rundown: She’s a singer-songwriter... and a boss. The theme song she composed and sang for Against the Tide was nominated for Best Theme Song at this year’s Star Awards. “After it was nominated, my parents started to look out for my name in the papers.

These days, my dad also nags me to post updates about my music on Instagram and Facebook!” says Si Tong, who runs her own artiste management and events company, Haha Music & Entertainment, and is a songwriter under Warner/Chappell Music Taiwan Ltd.

Her parents were not in favour of her musical pursuits.“I wanted to take singing lessons in secondary school, but they wanted me to focus on my studies, so I waited until I’d completed my A levels,” says Si Tong, who obtained a diploma in pop vocals from the London College of Music while she was at university.The multi-instrumentalist also plays the keyboard, guitar, ukulele, violin and bass guitar.

She’s a music teacher to the stars. She taught actor Xu Bin how to play the harmonica and gave actress Kimberly Chia singing lessons. Earlier this year, she coached actor Pierre Png and TV host Dasmond Koh, who performed and recorded three of her compositions for the drama serial Life is Beautiful.

Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang


She created an online platform that lists event venues in Singapore, so users can find exactly what they need.

A three-month-long internship with a local start-up inspired the economics graduate to launch her online venue listings platform, We Are Spaces, from scratch in 2012. The catalyst: Event planners were frustrated with the difficulty of finding suitable venues for their needs.

Sharon’s solution: Offer a one-stop platform for users to filter venues according to their preferences. Her company would get a cut from venue owners who listed on the site, and receive a commission with every successful booking. Despite starting with only 20 venue listings and minimal marketing efforts, site traffic increased steadily in six months.

Her business partner left the company shortly after, and multiple job offers were pouring in. Yet, Sharon kept her eye on the prize. She ramped up her marketing efforts, hired part-timers to better manage the cash flow, and improved customer service. The website now features more than 300 listings, sees 30,000 to 60,000 unique visitors a month, and to date, has received referrals worth an event-budget total of $8 million. Says Sharon: “This is just the beginning.”

Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang


She is the highest-ranking woman fighter pilot in the air force.

Straight out of junior college, Mei Yi took up an SAF scholarship to study economics and political science in the United States. A chance encounter with a former Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) woman pilot during her Basic Military Training inspired her to become a pilot herself.

Following a three-year training stint in Australia, France and the US, this F-16 fighter pilot returned to Singapore and was posted to 145 Squadron as a junior pilot. Subsequently, she qualified to lead a flight formation of two fighter aircraft and, in August, she will be involved in the SG50 National Day Parade flypast.

The journey to becoming a fighter pilot is no easy feat – all applicants, male or female, need to meet initial physical requirements, such as having uncorrected vision of less than 500 degrees (minus 5.00 dioptres) in each eye and being able to endure extreme gravitational forces. Only those who show an aptitude for military aviation are shortlisted for further training.

“Ultimately, everyone is expected to perform the same tasks – whether it’s being able to assess potential threats or accurately navigating the aircraft back to the airbase during an emergency,” explains Mei Yi, who holds the rank of Major. “These require skills, such as being adept at prioritising tasks and making accurate and quick decisions, which are gender-neutral.”

So are guys intimidated by this cool, spunky lass? Rather than being put off, most of them are genuinely curious about what Mei Yi – who is single – does. She has fielded questions like how she relieves herself in the cockpit (she holds it in or simply drinks less water before the flight) and how to eject herself from her seat in case of an emergency. With regard to the latter scenario, she says: “Thankfully, I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to try it!

Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang


She gives people with disabilities a chance to get fit.

When a visually impaired friend was stopped from entering a public gym (for safety reasons), Debra was prompted to start Society Staples, a social enterprise that organises inclusive sports initiatives and team-building activities, which she cofounded in 2013 with her friend, Ryan Ng.

To what extent was money an issue when you wanted to open an inclusive gym? “It was a real headache! We needed at least $1 million to secure a location and buy the specialised equipment. Eventually, we managed to secure $10,000 through the Young Social Entrepreneurship programme, organised last year by the Singapore International Foundation.”

How did that help? “We learnt how to downsize our costly gym idea and started with Strongman exercise sessions in public spaces like parks. These sessions aim to improve the functional strength of the participants in day-to-day activities like climbing stairs.”

How have the Strongman sessions fared? “We held two pilot sessions last year, which saw a turnout of about 80. Th is year, we hope to hold Strongman sessions on a regular basis. It’s a far cry from my grand plan of opening a gym, but I’m still happy to make a difference and contribute to a cause that I strongly believe in.”

Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang


She started a subscription service that delivers fresh flowers weekly.

A claustrophobic, windowless storeroom in an industrial building wasn’t the best place for a florist to start her business, but Jaclyn persevered in such a space. She took on freelance writing assignments to pay the bills and eventually moved out of the tiny storeroom when she became the creative force behind The Bloom Room – a flower shop in Joo Chiat that she co-founded in 2013 with her husband, Kevin Poh.

“At first, orders were few and far between, and the long hours were very draining,” says Jaclyn, who was inspired by the strong and successful women she had interviewed during her three-and-a-half-year stint as a features writer at Her World. Jaclyn herself, however, had a background that was just as inspiring. When she was still a student, her father’s business failed, so she had to discontinue her studies in Australia. Because of their financial distress, they couldn’t pay the utility bills, and the electricity and water supply at home was cut off.

Eventually, Jaclyn’s family lost their house, and her parents divorced. “I hit rock-bottom (in those days). So when it came to starting this flower shop, I felt that I had nothing to lose,” says Jaclyn, who’s now paying it forward in her own way. “Some of my customers have stressful jobs, so a trip to my little shop becomes an escape, and they leave with smiles on their faces,” she says. “Flowers are their moodboosters!”

Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang


She sells hundreds of bowls of piping hot prawn noodles a day.

Affectionately known to friends as hei mee soh (“prawn mee auntie” in Hokkien), this third-generation hawker serves prawn noodles at Tekka Food Centre – just look for 545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles (#01-326) and you’ll find her. Ruifang shares: “My grandfather used to cook and sell prawn noodles in the Whampoa area in the 1950s.

My dad took over in the 1970s and then I did in 2014. I’ve been helping out at the stall since I was in primary school – so yes, I ate a lot of prawn noodles growing up! “I gave up my job (at an MNC) to become a hawker because I felt it was a pity to let the family recipe and business end with my dad’s generation.

I’ve seen many of my favourite food stalls disappear over the years because there’s no one to take over the business, and I didn’t want the same thing to happen to us. “It’s hard work, though. I’m up at 3am every day – I need to wash the prawns, slice and cook the pork, brew the broth and pre-cook the vermicelli, all before I open the stall at 6.30am.

And then there’s the cleaning up after the stall closes (between 1pm and 3pm), and the preparation of ingredients for the next day, which takes about two hours. “The most painful part of my job? Getting scalded by hot water and soup, and cutting my fingers while peeling prawns. And I smell of them – constantly!”

Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang


She opened a nail and foot salon that combined foot reflexology and pedicures, and created her own non-toxic nail polish brand.

“Looking after your nails isn’t about vanity; it’s about basic grooming,” says the owner of Hands + Feet Studio. “First impressions count.” And she should know, having grown up in a family of entrepreneurs, to whom image is everything. “I always knew I wanted to do something related to beauty,” says Caryn, who opened her nail and foot spa in Siglap in 2012 after working in the banking industry for a year and a half.

Her plan: to attract women with natural nail products, such as non-toxic nail polishes from brands like Ginger + Liz, and men with foot reflexology – and it has worked out pretty well for her, seeing as how the spa now boasts a clientele that is nearly 40 per cent male. Caryn lets on that she was frustrated with the limited colours that nail polishes with a five-free formula (free of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, camphor and formaldehyde resin) came in, so she co-created her own – and Singapore’s first – organic, non-toxic nail polish brand, Coat. “Th is way, I could make the best-quality organic nail polishes in colours that flatter Asian skin tones,” she says. Coat currently has nail polishes in 20 colours. Seasonal limited-edition colours are also released twice a year.

Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang


She saves sharks (and shark fishermen) in Lombok, Indonesia.

There the sharks lay, lifeless and finless on the floor of a fish market. As Kathy, founder of eco-tourism company The Dorsal Effect, continued to watch the documentary Sharkwater in horror, she knew that something had to be done about the shark fishing industry. So, in December 2012, the secondary school teacher quit her job of seven years and headed to Lombok, Indonesia.

She’d learnt about the island and its booming shark-fin business (about 400 sharks are killed daily) through Shark Savers Singapore. Th ere, she spoke with the fishermen and learnt how hard it is for them to earn a living. “They have to fork out about US$1,000 (roughly S$1333) for boat rental and supplies, which places them in debt even before they head out to sea.

Also, they earn a measly US$85 per hunting trip – and each trip could last up to 20 days,” says Kathy. Inspired to give these fishermen a sustainable alternative livelihood, she started Th e Dorsal Effect in July 2013, and hires shark fishermen to run eco tours in Lombok, paying them US$150 each per tour.

Currently, The Dorsal Effect has only two fishermen on its payroll, and Kathy – who gets a stable income from giving tuition to primary and secondary students here – plans to drum up more business and financial support for these eco tours in 2015, so she can “convert” more shark hunters into full-time eco-tour guides. It’s an uphill task, she admits, but adds: “I want to live in a world where my children, and my children’s children, can still see sharks alive in the ocean.”

Photography Winston Chuang
Photography Winston Chuang


She wrote her first staged play when she was 21.

Playwright Faith Ng, who is one of Checkpoint Theatre’s associate artists, wrote her first play, Wo(men), when she was just 21 and still a theatre studies undergraduate at the National University of Singapore. She tells us three things about herself.

Secondary school wasn’t all that great for me. “I was in the Normal (Academic) stream in secondary school, and I kept diaries all through my teenage years. When I reread them, I realise that it was a really dark time for me – and this was what inspired my latest play, Normal.”

My plays are as Singaporean as they get. “They are an extension of what I cannot stop thinking about. I hope they reflect an authentic Singaporean experience through the dialogue, which I pepper with dialect and Singlish. I try very hard to mimic how Singaporeans speak – it’s never proper English; that’s not what I hear every day.”

Playwrights are not weird! “You grow up with the myth that writers are supposed to be mysterious and enigmatic, but I’m really not like that! Honestly, if you behave that way, no one will want to be around you.