HW60 #Her World Her Story

For decades, Her World has been a champion for women – in mind, body and action.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

For decades, Her World has been a champion for women – in mind, body and action. To celebrate Her World’s 60th anniversary this year, we present #HerWorldHerStory – a collection of 60 inspiring real-life stories on print and on herworld.com. And it starts with you: real women. In this third of our six-part series, which runs till our August issue, #HerWorldHerStory will feature 10 women who encapsulate what it’s like to be a woman in Singapore. They share their successes, challenges, passions and ambitions – these are their stories.

Christabel Chua, 28


Once a victim on social media, the influencer shares how tech can make us vulnerable to dangers that were previously unheard of. 

I never thought that I would become a victim of the Internet – a platform that launched my full-time job as an influencer. But it happened two years ago, when an intimate footage was circulated online without my consent.

Prior to that, I was a happy-go-lucky girl who used Instagram to connect with others who shared the same hobbies as I did. I would regularly update my followers with the happenings in my life. 

Imagine: the worst thing that could ever happen to you, uploaded on the Internet for the world to see. Despite your best efforts, you’re unable to stop the circulation that should never have been shared. My life was turned upside down. When your work is so closely intertwined with your life, everything is personal. I couldn’t “resign” from the constant scrutiny, harassment and judgement I received from people who didn’t understand the context or put themselves in my shoes. I even received lewd messages in my inbox from strangers.

My Reading Room

Styling Isabella Chan

Dress, Shirts & Accessories H&M

Suits Seed Heritage

Hair Ash Loi/Sonder Hair, using Keune Haircosmetics Singapore

Makeup Zoel Tee, using Estee Lauder

Nothing in the world can prepare you for something so sudden and so cruel.

It was the lowest point of my life. Nothing in the world can prepare you for something so sudden and so cruel. I asked myself, “How do I make this all go away?”, “What am I to do next?” and “How am I going to overcome this... or will I not?”

Months later, I decided to distance myself from people on social media. So I immediately unfollowed everyone, and followed only accounts with positivity. It took me a year to get back on my feet... but it wasn’t easy, although I had a lot of support, encouragement and love from my parents and best friends.

I figured that it I had to be the one to make the first step to regain myself and my confidence. So, I put all my energy into my work (outside social media). Even if I had to get out of the house to meet people, I did so. I told myself that I have to restart my life at some point.

I also took the time to grow my business, Kai, an online lifestyle brand that sells accessories and stationery. It helped me keep my mind off negative thoughts. It took time but gradually, I regained control of my life.

I believe there are others out there who need to hear my story and know that they’re not alone. I walked away from all the trauma a better person than I was before, and if I can do it, so can you.

My Reading Room

Hair Ash Loi/Sonder Hair, using Keune Haircosmetics Singapore

Makeup Marie Soh, using Shu Uemura

Jessie Soh, 58


She was one of the few female engineering contractors in the ’90s, but curious stares didn’t stop her from excelling in what’s traditionally a man’s job.

I remember the shock on people’s faces when I put on a hard hat and met with my clients, suppliers and sometimes, the authorities, at the construction site.

They couldn’t believe what they saw – a woman! I found their reaction amusing as it was an uncommon sight to see a female contractor in the 1990s. 

I got used to the curious stares, and was often asked why I took up engineering – a man’s job. 

At that time, I had just set up my own engineering business Joho Engineering with two business partners. I was then in my 20s... gung-ho and still inexperienced in many areas. 

But I was determined to continue where my father, who is also my mentor, had left off after his electrical engineering business closed. I also took an interest in this field because I found it so fascinating. What I love most about engineering is the level of innovation and creativity required to meet the ever-changing demands.

Gender is never an issue in any type of work for me.

I took up a Technician Certificate in Electrical Engineering at Aljunied Technical Institute. I remember I was one of the three females in a class of 40. After graduating and completing a one-year internship at a mechanical and engineering consultancy firm, I joined my father’s company in 1987.

Over the decades, I have seen more women joining the engineering sector. They’re good at what they do as consultants, managing projects for the mechanical and electrical (M&E) consultancy offices.

This desk-bound role is more appealing to women in this field than being an engineering contractor who dons the hard hat and surveys the construction site, which is perceived to be a demanding job or an inconvenient role for women to take on. 

It’s also the reason why being a contractor remains very much a man’s job till this day. 

But for me, I never felt intimidated working with the opposite sex. Gender is never an issue in any type of work for me. As long as you have the skills, positive attitude, integrity and discipline, that’s all that matters.

My Reading Room

Outfit Maje

Hair Ash Loi/Sonder Hair, using Keune Haircosmetics Singapore

Makeup Angel Gwee, using Chanel 

Location Our Tampines Hub Swimming Complex

Quah Ting Wen, 27


The national swimmer and 2019 SEA Games gold medallist went through a period of self-doubt before she found herself after a wake-up call.

At one point in my life, I didn’t embrace my identity as a professional athlete, and failed to communicate my struggles to those around me. For three years, I was so unsure of what I wanted. 

It wasn’t until last year that I had a wake-up call, having to make the decision whether to continue till the next Olympic Games or to retire. I finally reached out to my friends and family, and opened up to them about my insecurities. 

It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted – but I did eventually. That is to continue competing, and embrace my identity as a professional swimmer.

Swimming is an extremely cruel sport. You put in hours and hours of work – with everything on the line – without knowing if any of it will pay off. I joined the national team when I was 11, training 10 times a week with only one rest day. My schedule has not changed much in the last 17 years, except with additional weight-lifting sessions as I got older. 

Since then, I have competed in seven Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, four Asian Games, three Commonwealth Games, six World Athletics Championships and two Olympic Games.

Still, my most rewarding moments are watching my siblings, both national swimmers, compete. 

What fills me with pride and joy is watching my sister, Jing Wen, winning her first SEA Games medal; my brother, Zheng Wen competing at the Olympic Games; and every relay I’ve swum with them.

Now, when I think about my next chapter, I can see so many different paths. But I’ll definitely find a way to give back to the sport that has given me so much.

The most rewarding moments in my journey: watching my siblings, both national swimmers, compete.

My Reading Room

Hair Ash Loi/Sonder Hair, using Keune Haircosmetics Singapore

Makeup Marie Soh, using Laura Mercier

Ang Jia Xin, 16


This multitasking teenager juggles homework, co-curriculum activities and being a successful “slimefluencer” who makes $3,000 a month from homemade slime.

I love making slime as it’s very therapeutic, satisfying and stress-relieving.

It was love at first sight (and sound) when I chanced upon a Youtube video of slime ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) when I was 12. But I never thought making slime would become a business for me. 

I love making slime as it’s very therapeutic, satisfying and stress-relieving. And I wanted to share this experience with people, and so I started selling slimes on my Instagram account, @bobbasliime, a few years ago.

My youngest customer is six years old, and the oldest are in their 40s. 

Today, my slimes are also sold on consignment at seven shops. After some research, I rented my first small display locker in a consignment shop at Ang Mo Kio Hub two years ago to 

sell the slimes more efficiently, as I was struggling with the mailing of the weekly orders because of school work. 

At first, my parents thought of my slime business as gimmicky. But as business grew bigger, so did their support! 

They realised it was a great way for me to gain entrepreneurial experience, and understand the value of hard work and earning your own money. 

The best part about making slimes is that it allows me to be creative, and there are endless possibilities in the way I can decorate my slimes. 

My homemade slimes are high shine and thick in texture, with a tendency to squeak! They are made with lots of polyvinyl acetate or PVA glue and contact lens solution. 

My slimes come in a variety of colours and patterns, too! I sell about 1,000 tubs of slimes, making a monthly income of up to $3,000, with the highest earning of $7,000. One tub costs $4.20 to $4.50.

Last year, I purchased (with my own earnings) an industrial-sized mixer at home to handle more orders. I pondered over this purchase for a very long time before I finally put down $1,700 for it!

But juggling school and a growing slime business isn’t easy. You see, after a long day of classes and co-curricular activities, I’d rush home to complete my homework before spending the rest of the day making slime. 

I had to put my business on hold for six months last year to focus on my O Levels, because ultimately, studying is my first priority. 

But I will continue making slimes for as long as there’s a demand. And I plan to pursue a marketing degree when I finish my marketing diploma at Temasek Polytechnic.

I hope to become a property agent when I graduate, because I want to help people find a home where they can go back to and relax after a long day of work, which, if you think about it, is not so different from what my slimes bring to people.

My Reading Room

Outfit Sandro 

Hair Ash Loi/Sonder Hair, using Keune Haircosmetics Singapore

Makeup Zoel Tee, using Estee Lauder

Jenny Lai, 52


More women in their 40s and 50s are seeking divorce, but this family lawyer doesn’t always see it as the only solution.

My job was never about taking on more cases to make more money.

It pains me to see women who’re helpless and in abusive relationships. One of the most frustrating cases I handled a few months ago was a pro bono case involving a mother of one who came to me for help.

Her ex-husband cancelled their child’s monthly tuition fees after a quarrel, and skipped court on the day of settlement. When she spoke to me, I saw the worry in her eyes. 

I used to think of divorce lawyers as professionals who make a living through other people’s misfortunes. But when I completed my law finals two decades ago at Keele University in Newcastle in the UK, I wanted to specialise in family law to help women get out of their painful marriages. 

I run my own law firm, Jenny Lai & Co, and I’ve been practicing for 25 years, taking on 10 to 15 cases a month. I’m also a volunteer mediator for the Family Justice Courts. 

Divorce rates have gone down by 3.1 per cent between 2018 and 2019, according to official figures. In recent years, I’m seeing more female clients…more in their 40s and 50s are seeking divorce compared to say five years back. 

Women are speaking out because of the availability of information on marital rights, thanks to organisations like Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), and the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Those in their 40s and 50s look for a way out of a stressful marriage that lasted for many years. Others in their 20s and 30s don’t see eye-to-eye with their spouse’s parenting methods or lifestyle.

I don’t encourage anyone to exploit the circumstances for personal gain. I once had a high-earning client who wanted to seek compensation from her ex-spouse. I told her it wasn’t worth it as she was earning a higher salary than he was. 

The children would be the ones most affected seeing their parents fighting in court. 

I don’t always see divorce as the only solution. I’ve turned people away whom I feel can still work things out. I’d advise them to first go for counselling, unless they’ve thought it thoroughly and divorce is inevitable.

My job was never about taking on more cases to make more money.

My Reading Room

Outfit Cos

Hair Ash Loi/Sonder Hair, using Keune Haircosmetics Singapore

Makeup Eunice Wong WY

Irene Chui, 55


The breast cancer survivor is now captain of a team of female dragon boaters who bonded physically and emotionally through the sport.

We take dragon boating seriously even though we’re a team of aunties!

I never thought I would say this, even after surviving breast cancer, but the human body is much stronger than you think it is. I joined the Breast Cancer Foundation’s (BCF) dragon boat team, Paddlers In The Pink, to keep fit. 

In 2014, I took over as captain and went on to lead the team to represent Singapore in many competitions, such as the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission Dragon Boat Festivals in Italy and the US. It has been an empowering journey, and I never imagined that I could achieve something like that! 

When I first joined Paddlers In The Pink, it was just a small group of survivors who came together every weekend for practice. Today, we’re a 56-strong team. 

The sport has bonded us, making each of us physically and mentally stronger. 

And, we take dragon boating seriously even though we’re a team of aunties! Every weekend, rain or shine, we train at Kallang Water Sports Centre at 7.30am. 

This year, we started the Tuesday evening boot camp sessions and most of us turned up even though we all have day jobs! We’re like a family. We love going out to “yum cha”, and we always have fun. 

Last year, when the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival got cancelled due to the riots, we went urban hiking. When we couldn’t meet due to social distancing, we kept in regular contact by phone. 

The best part is having friends who understand the severity of breast cancer. Together, we raise awareness through the sport we love.  

My Reading Room

Suit Maje 

Hair Ash Loi/Sonder Hair, using Keune Haircosmetics Singapore

Makeup Marie Soh, using Laura Mercier

Glory Barnabas, 78


Nearly 80, the ex-national sprinter and teacher is still going strong as a track and field competitor, and she hopes to inspire youths to take up sports as a career.

An athlete has to have CPF: commitment, perseverance and focus.

My former coach used to tell me, “An athlete has to have CPF: commitment, perseverance and focus.” It’s a quote I live by, and the reason why I still compete today! I recently won the gold and silver medals for the high and long jump events at the 2019 Asia Masters Athletics Championships (veteran athletes aged 70 and above) in Kuching, Sarawak. It was fun, and beating my competitors gives me an adrenaline rush.

I trained for this at the Kallang Practice Track every day. I’m proud to say that I cleared a clean 0.85m for high jump this time – not far from my previous high-jump win (0.92m) at the 2013 International Gold Masters in Japan. Competitions give me the opportunity to carry on the skills I learnt and have excelled in. I switched from sprints to jump events in 2004 to try something new. 

I always think back to the days when I competed for Singapore in track and field events. It reminds me of my deep passion for sports. What kept me going as a Physical Education (PE) teacher were the students. They’re the reason why I spent 58 years as a PE teacher in primary and secondary schools. 

I enjoy their company, and they would ask me, “Mrs Barnabas, what was your timing in 200m then?”, “Were you the fastest runner in Singapore?” and “Wah... how many medals do you have at home?” I hope I can inspire these youngsters to consider a career in sports. 

Even though I’m retired, I still apply for relief and adjunct teaching positions. What it comes to keeping fit, there is no such thing as being too old! I also continue to train, running around my neighbourhood in Marine Parade.

I started sprinting competitively when I was in secondary school, and got my big break at 30. In 1973, I won a gold medal for the 200m sprint at the Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games, now Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. I remember the cheers from Singaporeans at the booths. I felt so exhilarated! 

My team took home a gold medal for the 4x100m event, with a record timing of 3:43.85. This record was broken 42 years later by our national team at the 2015 SEA Games!

I still follow the track and field scene closely, and I hope our athletes get more support from Singaporeans.

My Reading Room

Dress Cos

Hair Ash Loi/Sonder Hair, using Keune Haircosmetics Singapore

Makeup Zoel Tee, using Estee Lauder

Janice Yap, 42


This single mum has made it her personal mission to bring joy to underprivileged kids by organising birthday parties for them.

The most innocent victims are the children of divorces.

You’d be surprised that some children have never celebrated their birthdays because their families couldn’t afford it.

Early last year, I set up Birthday Blessing & Single Mom Community SG page on Facebook. It’s a page where people can contact us to make birthday donations for underprivileged children, and an online support group for single mums.

A few volunteers and I use these donations to organise birthday parties for underprivileged kids at their homes and childcare centres.

I feel that the most innocent victims are the children of divorces. I wanted to do something for them... to make their lives a little better, and bring a smile to their faces in my own small way.

I know what it’s like being a single mum. I went through tough times, dealing with the heartache of a failed marriage, and the anxiety when I was pregnant with my daughter, who’s now three years old.

I was also burdened with the thought that my daughter would never have a complete family, and I dreaded the unkind comments and criticism that I would possibly face.

I got back on my feet with the support of my family and friends. But it made me realise that not every single mum is as lucky as I was. 

My job as a real estate agent gives me the flexibility to organise these group birthday parties. Each party costs about $80, and a friend and I buy the cake and gifts like swimming floats, clothes, stationery, or anything the kids or mums may need. Sometimes, I spend a little bit more out of my pocket if the donations are limited.

So far, we’ve celebrated more than 30 birthdays, and the community now has over 300 followers, including single mums. What makes my heart full is seeing the kids smile and laugh during their birthday celebrations.

My Reading Room

Hair Ash Loi/Sonder Hair, using Keune Haircosmetics Singapore

Makeup Zoel Tee, using Estee Lauder

Lin Yi Xin, 34


Not one for a corporate career, she found her calling in an unusual job and wants to help people through spirituality and positivity. 

I don’t see what I do for a living as a job, but my purpose in life.

I used to face lots of criticism that I was not knowledgeable as a spiritual practitioner because of my age. I’ve learnt not to take it to heart. For me, age is just a number. 

I spent over a decade in spiritual exploration. Last October, I finally opened my new age and holistic shop at North Bridge Road, 7una 7avenda. 

I’m a one-woman show, managing everything from sales, marketing, merchandising and readings. I only take appointments for aura, tarot and face readings. In between appointments, I continue to help out at my parents’ geomancy and fengshui shop at Fu Lu Shou Complex – I’ve been doing so for 17 years now. 

People always ask me why I chose this profession. Well, it has always been my calling to be in this trade because I have that strong desire to help people get through the negativity in their lives and uplift them by instilling positivity. 

In fact, I don’t see what I do for a living as a job, but my purpose in life. 

Although I have a certificate in film and media studies, I just can’t see myself working in a corporation. I’m free-spirited, independent, and I dislike office politics and people-pleasing. My personality isn’t quite office-friendly!

Instead of following my parents’ footsteps in traditional practice, I was drawn to new age spirituality and western culture. My shop caters to a majority of young working adults in their 20s and 30s who seek serenity in their lives.

It heartens me when people tell me that I have helped them to release their negativity.

My Reading Room

Top Cos

Hair Vintage Studio

Makeup Lolent Lee, using Estee Lauder

Jayley Woo, 28


The actress shares her struggles with grief and moving on after the loss of her boyfriend, the late actor Aloysius Pang.

I trudge on in life with an image of him smiling at me.

A year has gone by since I lost my boyfriend, Aloysius, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. They say time heals all wounds... the hurt has faded, but it never left me. It’s a hole in my heart... and things will never be the same. It’s hard to explain... only those who’ve lost a loved one will truly understand this.

I flew to New Zealand last year to see Aloysius after I got a call on Jan 19 from his brother, who told me that Aloysius was seriously injured during reservist duty. He succumbed to his injuries a few days later while I was with him at the hospital.

My heart dropped, and a wave of emotion came over me... I hope never to experience this feeling (again). 

When I returned to the Airbnb house from the hospital, I was all alone... I wasn’t in my right mind... I had lost my entire world. When the news broke, I got messages from strangers from all over the world. Many were concerned about my well-being. I was surrounded by a lot of love from my friends and family in my difficult time. 

After my loss – and inspired by Aloysius, who never called in sick even when he was – I immediately returned to work to continue filming Channel 8’s Jalan Jalan. I kept busy to distract my mind. I also turned to things that I love, like content creation on social media with my sister.

I always pray that Aloysius will appear in my dreams. In my dreams, we’re reunited. We call each other “B” as in “baby”. Though I’m tomboyish around others, around him I turn into quite the little lady. Aloysius was kind, caring and diligent... he was crazy about acting. He also inspired me to want to settle down and start a family. I always look at his photos, videos, and messages on my phone... it makes me feel like he has never left. I trudge on in life with an image of him smiling at me... and Aloysius still makes my heart flutter. 

In memory of our time together, I continue to do the things that I had promised to do with Aloysius, like going for treetop walks – he wanted to take me (in 2018) but never found the time due to work.

I don’t think I’ll ever move on. But my heart is always open and ready to love and be loved… not necessarily romantic love, but love for a job, family or friends. I’ve matured tremendously since and I’ve come to realise how strong I can be... simply for being alive and to see the best in everyone despite all the negativity.