WP's Sylvia Lim talks about romance with boyfriend in new book on power women in Singapore

PHOTO: Sylvia Lim and Marshall Cavendish

When Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim was involved in a war of words with Law Minister K Shanmugam five years ago, it probably never occurred to her that her future boyfriend was watching - and falling in love.

In a new book launched recently by local theatre director and creative executive Dr Loretta Chen, Lim gives an honest and candid account of her budding romance in 2013 with football hero Quah Kim Song.

During a Parliament session in 2012, Lim had posed a question about prominent plastic surgeon Woffles Wu, who was fined $1,000 for getting an elderly employee to take the rap for two speeding offences.

The opposition party member was concerned over the public reaction to the verdict, which resulted in a heated exchange between her and the law minister.

But little did she know, Quah was so impressed with her then that he started asking one of his friends about her. Romance blossomed between the two when they met in January 2013 at a Workers' Party variety show and the couple have been together since.

In Chen's new book, titled Madonnas and Mavericks: Power Women in Singapore, Lim gives a candid account of going through hormonal changes in her 40s, how her parents have impacted her, her sacrifices on privacy and handling the press, and the lowest point in her life - the auditing issues of her town council.

Lim is but one of the 17 women profiled in Chen's latest book, a collection of stories from Singaporean women who have scaled the peaks and thrived in unexpected places.

The personalities in her book cut across diverse backgrounds, race, religion and sexuality, ranging from President Halimah Yacob to dessert chef Janice Wong, "Singapore's Grande Dame" Jennie Chua, and actress Xiang Yun, among others.

All these women, although different, have one thing in common: They have redefined what it means to be a 21st century woman.

And their stories needed to be told, said Chen, who is now based in Hawaii and teaching at two universities there.

For someone like Chen, interviewing these 17 successful women seems like a walk in the park. Having been a television presenter, radio personality, international consultant, and author, the 40-year-old has her own success story to tell.

But the multi-hyphenate admitted that it wasn't the case.

"Truth be told, there were times when I was afraid that I wouldn't sound smart or knowledgeable enough to interview these women, but I knew that it was all in my head and knew better than to listen to my inner critic," said Chen.

Dr Loretta Chen recently released her new book titled Madonna and Mavericks: Power Women in Singapore.Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua

She revealed that when she met them, all her fears swiftly dissipated, as all the women were supportive and keen to share their stories.

What struck Chen the most were seeing the vulnerable sides of them, their dilemmas, experiences with discrimination and personal admissions.

"All these stories are so refreshing to hear, as they are not the standard fare one would expect in the newspapers or magazines," said Chen.

Madonnas and Mavericks is Chen's third book. Her first book in 2014, Woman on Top, is a biography of her life as a sibling of local actor Edmund Chen, dealing with her partner's suicide, and parents' illnesses. She launched her second book, a biography of entrepreneur Elim Chew, in 2016.

Photo: Marshall Cavendish

As for why she chose to name her book Madonnas and Mavericks, Chen explains in her introduction: "Madonna as a steadfast and virtuous woman.. She is a disciplined professional with specialised mastery… This contrasts with the Maverick… a game-changer and a dynamic individual, who revels in taking the bull by its horns and seeking new adventures."

Chen herself is pretty much a maverick too.

Ripping both her knees while surfing in Hawaii left her homebound, which propelled her to embark on the book - a project that took two years to complete.

"I decided that writing was a great way for me to connect with Singapore while I was in the process of moving countries," said Chen, who was shuttling in between Hawaii, Singapore and Bhutan from 2012.

In 2014, she decided Hawaii was home and left with just her suitcase. She met her Korean husband there in 2015 and the two tied the knot after six months.

"I knew I was going to marry him the minute we met. He knew the following day - men are always slower," said Chen jokingly.

Chen is currently working on her fourth book Mana Wahine: Power Women in Hawaii, which will be launched next year. She also plans to work on another book for 2019.

"Perhaps I am on my way to being the Woody Allen of books, with one offering every year."

Madonnas and Mavericks: Power Women in Singapore ($32) is available at all major bookstores in Singapore.


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