In this month’s issue of AUGUSTMAN, we photographed and interviewed 10 local personalities whom we felt have made, and are still making, the greatest impact on our country. It took a while to whittle down the shortlist of people, which numbered more than 50, to our final 10 and while there might be disagreements in a few quarters regarding the names that made the cut, this is our definitive list of 10 Singaporeans who are actually influential. It’s a great feature (if we do say so ourselves) and you should get your copy of the September issue when you can.
We featured the first five personalities in an earlier article, which you can read here. To whet your appetite even further, here are a bunch of stories + quotes + observations revolving around the five remaining personalities that make up our list of the 10 most influential local people in Singapore. Enjoy.
Photos by Joel Low
Post-mortem interview thoughts: Honestly, I was nervous about meeting Kit Chan. I had heard a lot of unsubstantiated stories (he says, she says) about the local songbird and her allegedly aloof behaviour. “She’s quite the diva,” someone hissed. “She might storm out,” another cackled. All of them could not be further from the truth. Chan was an absolute gem to talk to. She was all smiles and laughs, and never once displayed the arrogance that one tends to associate with somebody who has been in the limelight for as long as Chan.
On the craziest thing she’s done in life: “Well a lot of the ‘crazy’ things I’ve done have got to do with travelling. As a kid I wanted to see as much of the world as I could because I truly believe that we only live on this planet once. The last place I went to was to see the Northern Lights. That was great. I really want to go to Machu Picchu next. I’ve been saying this since, oh God, 1998 (laughs). I even have a book about it but I’m sure it’s outdated.”
Kit Chan is performing this weekend, 10 September at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Get your tickets here.
On his favourite films: “Wow there’s so many. If you’re talking about the paranormal genre, I love Dark Water and Shutter, and probably this ’60s flick titled Rosemary’s Baby by Roman Polanski. If you’re talking about visceral gore, I thought Train to Busan was brilliant. I also really loved Evil Dead by Sam Raimi and this small film called Braindead by… Peter Jackson (laughs). He went on to be a big-time director after that of course.”
On Jack Neo and artistic integrity vs commercial success: “There’s good arthouse and bad arthouse films, and good and bad commercial films. Seriously though, I think the only local director who can gross close to the amount of an Avengers film is Jack Neo. You have to take your hat off for him. The Ah Boys to Men films did more than $10 million. That’s insane. There are a lot of wannabe commercial filmmakers who are trying but none can reach his level of success. Commercial film is still an art form.”
On dealing with fake X-mini speakers: “We embrace it (laughs). Honestly, in the beginning, we took it personally. We got agitated. They were copying our products and ruining our reputation. But we’ve come to accept that it’s part and parcel of the industry; it’s the nature of the beast. There are a few ways you can deal with this. One is going down the legal route. We chose the other path – faster innovations. We want to be leaders in the innovation front. Every time we launch a new product, our team has already planned for a few more.”
On why there are no big Singapore tech companies: “Singapore is a great place to be an entrepreneur. The government provides you with all the support that you would never get if you were an entrepreneur in Jakarta or London. But you need a big natural market. The big companies that made it – Razer, Creative, ourselves – started in an international market. We only started selling in Singapore much later after we had established ourselves. Now the next challenge after you solved market sizing issues is the understanding of how to brand and sell internationally.”
From the writer’s notebook: The smartest people are the ones that can explain a concept to you using words that you can understand. Laurence Lien firmly belongs in that category. Lien is also remarkably funny with a rather dry sense of humour.
On Asian philanthropy: “To a large extent we’re still defining it. Nobody has really developed the model for Asia. We’re always borrowing from the West. However the context of Asia is different, which is why the solutions must be different too. Family, business and philanthropy tend to be closely intertwined in Asia whereas in the West, corporate and family philanthropy tend not to mix at all. In Asia also, there is a lot of faith-related giving, a lot given to religious causes. In fact more than 50 per cent of giving is to religious institutions. There are some exceptions of course. In post-Communist Asian countries, faith-related giving isn’t as strong (laughs).”
“We kind of expected it, to be honest, because in the process of designing the logo, we shortlisted 200 – 250 to six. The final logo wasn’t even a unanimous decision internally. I really wanted to push the National Gallery Singapore to another level. You can do a logo that’s very safe and when you put it up, nobody will say anything. It can represent growth, etc. But it wouldn’t have the same impact because it would mean that it’s the past. If you see the architecture, it’s a very grand building and we could obviously take hints from that direction. But we felt that for a museum of that importance, it should really be about the discourse. Art is about discourse. We wanted it to be forward- instead of bad-looking. People always think that art is about the past, etc.”