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We are Singapore

We are Singapore: 20 Singaporeans making the city proud

Meet the locals that are shaping, changing and making Singapore more exciting in their own way

By Cam Khalid, Michelle Ng and Nicole-Marie Ng

It’s been said a thousand times – Singapore’s most valuable resource is its people. It's not just because we have no other natural resources to speak of, it's because the people living here are more than awesome at what they do. We speak to the locals shaping, changing and making Singapore proud in their own way.

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Marcus Tan Carousell

Marcus Tan, 34

Co-founder of consumer marketplace app Carousell

I want to inspire more people to use technology to solve problems. When we first started, online buying and selling mostly took place on internet forums and message boards. So we built an app that leveraged the features of the smartphone. Anyone can snap a photo, list an item and sell it all in one place. It’s our goal to build an enduring company that empowers people to sell and buy online. Whether the app is used to declutter lives or make some side income, it’s a seamless and safe experience everyone can use.

Preetipls Preeti Nair

Preeti Nair, 23

Comedian and radio DJ Preetipls

I never planned for my videos to go viral, but I’m glad that people share the same sentiments that I do. I believe that there’s a lack of avenues in Singapore for important conversations to take place. For me, I tackle touchy topics and issues the way I know best – with humour. I don’t do this for people outside of the nation to understand Singapore better, it’s for people in Singapore to understand each other a little better.

Speak Cryptic
Photograph: Speak Cryptic

Farizwan Fajari, 38

Visual artist behind Speak Cryptic

The name Speak Cryptic came about in 2005 when I got myself involved in the street art movement. I created a campaign addressing the issue of self-censorship and how we have to speak in codes to get our points across. I’ve been developing a set of characters for my art over the past 13 years and have applied them in my works – inspired by my own observations on current affairs in and around Singapore. The inspiration is really just from living life and trying to make sense of it all. That has manifested in my paintings, drawings and even live performances.

Gaurav Kripalani
Photo by: Tuck Hong

Gaurav Kripalani, 46

Artistic director of Singapore Repertory Theatre

Singapore is 53 years young with a burgeoning arts scene. As artists, we have the opportunity to shape the cultural landscape and also evolve the Singapore identity. There’s more of an awareness of the need for a holistic lifestyle and an appreciation of the vital role that the arts play. I am excited about getting to a stage where every Singaporean makes it a point to check what’s on culturally every week.

Wee Li Lin

Wee Li Lin, 44

Director at Bobbing Buoy Films best known for Gone Shopping and Forever

I’ve always felt the calling to tell stories of Singapore – we are so peculiar and special in so many ways. I like to tell stories based on personal encounters. Though the stories are fictional and not autobiographical, I have to connect with them. It’s important to keep learning and being polite as filmmaking requires a lot of collaboration and goodwill.

Edmund Wee

Edmund Wee, 66

Founder and publisher of independent publishing house Epigram Books

Why do I publish? Perhaps to indulge my love of literature. To champion Singapore authors. To put Singapore in your hands. To provide jobs. I suppose the one-word answer would be pleasure. Today, there’s even a word like SingLit. Epigram Books publishes a range of books that is as broad as it is broad-minded – all manner of fiction and increasingly non-fiction, food and art and photography. In seven years, we’ve published nearly 350 titles – all deserve to be read by as many Singaporeans as possible. We started the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2015 to encourage Singaporeans to write novels – it’s a manuscript prize rather than the usual published book prize. The stories we publish have the power to create new experiences, rewrite history and power the imagination of generations to come. I hope our authors never stop telling them.

Siew Tuck Wah SOSD

Dr Siew Tuck Wah, 39

President and co-founder of animal welfare charity SOSD

Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) helps improve the lives of homeless and abandoned dogs in Singapore through rescue, rehoming and sterilisation. What motivates me to fight so hard for dogs is the respect for the preciousness of life – I believe there are other solutions to get stray dogs off the streets aside from culling. SOSD has rescued and rehomed more than 1,000 dogs since it began, though the number is limited by manpower, space and money. What’s limitless, however, is the message of kindness and compassion. We hope to foster a society that is kinder and more compassionate towards animals. If we can learn to be kind to the animals around us, I believe we can also naturally be kinder to our fellow human beings.

Fakkah Fuzz

Muhammed Fadzri Abdul Rashid, 31

Stand-Up Comedian Fakkah Fuzz

I’m just a simple kid with from Geylang Serai with three other siblings and Malay parents who are always supportive of their children. I feel a sense of home and belonging in Singapore. I wouldn’t complain if someone was to regard me as a representative of the country. However, I’m not exactly a squeaky clean role model. But I make sure that my heart is in the right place. I’m happy providing laughs and inspiring people who want to pursue comedy as a career.


Lim Kell Jay Grab

Lim Kell Jay, 36

Country head of Grab Singapore

I have been with the company since 2013 – back when it was still an unknown start up. When Grab first started in Singapore, we struggled to convince taxi drivers to use our app – or tech in general. On top of convincing them to use the Grab app, we even had to teach them how to use a smartphone! Today, the entire taxi industry has embraced tech in a huge way, digitising so much so quickly. As a result, transportation has become a lot more efficient. Grab has definitely shaped everyday Singaporean life – gone are the days where we have to wait hours for a taxi on rainy days and drivers no longer have to drive around aimlessly to look for passengers. I’m proud to be a part of that change.

Yip Pin Xiu

Yip Pin Xiu, 26

Three-time Paralympic gold medalist

I’m a national swimmer and I’ve been swimming competitively for 14 years. When I was 12 years old, I was scouted for the national team. I love the water – I feel so much freedom in the pool – and I’m a naturally competitive person that enjoys pushing myself to the limit. Through my journey, I’ve been able to create more awareness of parasports and champion equality in the sporting arena. By breaking world records in the pool, I’ve helped put Singapore on the world map and also inspire other athletes to walk their journey. Whatever other people can do, I can do too.

Old Chang Kee

Han Keen Juan, 67

Owner and executive chairman of homegrown curry puff brand Old Chang Kee

I embarked on my dream to be an entrepreneur with much trepidation but my determination and vision outweighed my fears. I gave up a stable job in a multi-national company to stand outside a hot coffee shop and sell curry puffs. My message to anyone who has the dream to be an entrepreneur in any field is to go for it and work hard. Make sure you have a clear brand path planned and put in the work to achieve it. When you work with a reliable and hardworking team who share your passion and nothing is impossible.

Yuni Hadi Objectif
Photo: Bonnie Yap

Wahyuni Hadi, 41

Co-director of non-profit art gallery Objectifs Centre for Photography & Film

I’ve done everything from giving out photocopied flyers on the snowing streets Utah during the Sundance Film Festival to giving an acceptance speech at the Golden Horse Awards. It’s been a humbling journey. Investing in our own community is very important and that’s the core of Objectifs. We need to create opportunities to keep up with what’s going on. This can be done by investing in creative labs and residencies where the creative process is fed and nurtured, and seeking out collaborations that are beneficial to the community.

Becca D'Bus

Becca D’Bus, 40

Drag queen

I’m your girl about town, about the interchanges and about to eat a burger. I like to work with the elements of performance and entertainment, and on occasion, outrage, anger and hope. As an activist, I am interested in queer liberation. I believe in a space for art and expression, as well as people imagining and creating the world they want. I want me and my friends to be free, alive, able to create this world together.

Tracie and Adrian Pang

Tracie, 49 and Adrian Pang, 52

Artistic directors of Pangdemonium

We honestly feel that there has never been a better time for the arts in Singapore. There is still a long way to go, but we have to appreciate the seeds sown over the last decades that are bearing fruit. As Pangdemonium, we’ve always wanted to tell stories on stage that move, stimulate, provoke and inspire us, and hopefully, the stories have that kind of effect on our audience too. In turn, they inspire us to continue pushing and challenging ourselves with their support. It’s very humbling and it keeps us hungry.

Balk Kampong Labyrinth
Photo: Gabe Chen Photography

Han Li Guang, 33

Chef-owner of one-Michelin-starred restaurant, Labyrinth

For years I struggled with what what Singapore cuisine stands for. I’ve reinterpreted hawker food, glammed it up, changed its texture but I’ve only recently felt confident enough to define Singapore cuisine on my own terms. I cook food from the heart, inspired by memories of my favourite dishes, combined with my technical know-how and the values I stand for. The ingredients I use need to be local. I’ve found over 180 unique local ingredients by exploring what our farms and fisheries have to offer. I’m championing a new expression of Singaporean cuisine.

Yip Yew Chong

Yip Yew Chong, 49

Accountant and mural painter

While holding a full-time finance job in a multi-national company, I pursue art as a hobby and paint murals and street art during weekends. Since 2015, I’ve spent many weekends painting murals in various street corners of Singapore and have since painted over 30 murals, mostly relating to scenes of Singapore’s bygone era. Some friends have told me that the murals have moved them to tears while others just have fun posing for Instagram with them. So in a way, I think, and hope, my art has inspired people and promoted the rich heritage and diverse cultures of Singapore.

Homeground Studios

Jason Gelchen, 24 and Tan Ming Jie, 25

Producers, composers and arrangers at local music production house Homeground Studios

We work behind the scenes to produce music for top Singaporean acts like Jasmine Sokko and Gentle Bones. We’re still a young start-up with goals to play a role in making Singapore a cultural hub within Southeast Asia. It’s about slowly changing the perception that you need to look outside Singapore for good music production. Alongside other music production houses like Zendyll and GRYD, we feel that every success contributes to the overall growth of the Singapore music industry.


Paerin Choa, 42

Spokesperson for LGBTQ movement Pink Dot

When the first Pink Dot was held in 2009, the LGBTQ community was not heard or seen in public and our issues were swept under the rug. We were often told that Singaporeans are conservative and are not ready for change. But we believed that attitudes could shift. Before, attendees were predominantly LGBT individuals but in recent years we’ve seen more straight Singaporeans turn up at the annual rally – turning it into a mini Singapore in its diversity! We even see new businesses and entrepreneurs supporting the movement through Red Dot for Pink Dot this year. The hope is that Singapore can one day be truly home for everyone. A home where everyone is treated equally with respect and dignity, regardless of race, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Dennis Tay Naiise

Dennis Tay, 33

Founder of design and lifestyle e-commerce and retail brand Naiise

Naiise started out with 10 Singaporean brands. Today, we carry over 800 local labels in our stores. We’ve made the most original products we can find in Singapore accessible to the public – over the years, we’ve seen a real growth in the creative industry in the country and we hope to continue to encourage that. By working closely with the community and believing in the value of homegrown products, we’ve managed to educate our consumers on the stories of these brands and the price points behind the products. I hope to enable more creative entrepreneurs in Singapore, watch them scale their businesses overseas and more importantly, make a positive impact in people’s lives.

Darren Soh

Darren Soh, 42

Architectural and landscape photographer

In the last ten years, it’s been a race against time to document our changing landscape as buildings are demolished all the time. Many of them are considered vernacular or deemed too ordinary to be captured. And when they are gone, the lack of images can lead to their eventual loss in Singapore’s collective social memory. I hope that one day, my endeavour to photograph most if not all the buildings in Singapore starts conversations about building conservation, redevelopment and rejuvenation.


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