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Who mattered most in Singapore 2009
A beauty queen, a local hero and a captured terrorist -- just a year in the life of an island Republic
From scandal shockers to awe-inspiring heros, we look at the biggest names to make an impact on Singapore in 2009.
Ris Low: Catchphrase queen
Ris Low is singularly responsible for giving Singapore its catchphrase of the year -- the infamous "Boomz!" Crowned Miss Singapore World in July, Ris made headlines with her ... unfortunate command of the English language, finally giving us a defensible reason to laugh at beauty queens. If that wasn’t enough, it was later revealed that she was convicted for credit card fraud earlier in the year and sentenced to two years’ probation. She revealed in an interview with The Straits Times that she suffers from bipolar disorder and subsequently stepped down as Miss Singapore.
APEC 2009 organizers: Efficiency experts
Singapore hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings this year, culminating in a visit by various prominent world leaders in November. Thanks to the smooth coordination of the whole event, Singapore, once again, showed the world that we are tops in areas such as efficiency and cleanliness. Oh, and who can forget the batik shirts, designed by Wykidd Song?
Glen Goei: Comeback director
In 1998, Glen Goei’s "Forever Fever" was the first Singaporean film to enjoy commercial distribution worldwide. Anticipation for the director’s follow-up brewed for a whopping 11 years, but boy, did he deliver: last November, murder mystery "Blue Mansion" screened at the Pusan Film Festival to a rapt audience, and subsequently at the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF).
Budi Soehardi: Shining beacon
SIA pilot and CNN Hero Budi Soehardi is living proof that one person can make a difference. Budi and his wife Peggy single-handedly built Roslin Orphanage in East Timor, which currently provides food, shelter and education for 47 children. Budi’s single income contributes to about 80 percent of the US$6,000 needed to support the orphanage, and his commitment to this project shows that, perhaps, there is some hope for mankind after all.
The women of AWARE: Drama mamas
Homosexuality, religion, women bickering with one another -- sounds like a midday melodrama, but it isn’t. It’s a summary of events that transpired over just a few months at AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research). As a result, Singaporeans became more aware (pardon the pun) of the organization’s activities -- and got a bawdy charge out of it, too.
Daniel Boey: Stylish show-stopper
Runway show producer Daniel Boey has styled couture giants like Louis Vuitton and Herve Leger. This year, the dandy dresser made his musical debut in Victor/Victoria alongside jazz great Laura Fygi. Fittingly, Boey played Andre Cassell, the flamboyant owner of a 1930s Paris nightclub.
F1 Rocks organizers: Concert supremos
Beyoncé, Black Eyed Peas, No Doubt, A-Mei, Jacky Cheung … just about everyone you might line up for a dream mega-concert. Unfortunately, it ended up more closely resembling a nightmare. F1 Rocks aimed to mix the excitement of pop music with the thrill of F1 racing, but what the organizers didn’t realize was that our sunny island is simply too humid for an outdoor gig, let alone one lasting three nights. By the end of each evening, partygoers were shining brighter than Beyoncé, thanks to sweat, not sequins. Sound was another issue, especially on the first evening, when the likes of A-Mei took to the stage. We hope they get it right next year.
Jamie Yeo: ESPN hottie
The title of "most-Googled Singaporean blogger" goes to sports host Jamie Yeo. Her website’s sultry photos and posts have gotten locals talking. And watching -- as a presenter on ESPN and Star Sports, Yeo pulls in a weekly audience of over 10 million.
Sylvia & Sezairi: Singapore Idol finalists
After a three-year hiatus, the reality pop-star TV show was back on screens and once again serving as comedic fodder for Singaporeans. The final showdown takes place on December 27, between Sylvia Ratonel and Sezairi Sezali. Do we care? Nope. Just be prepared, kids: your 'singing career' might lead to a co-hosting gig next season, as with Season 2 winner (and Asian Idol) Hady Mirza this season.
Fann Wong & Christopher Lee: Celebrity couple
It was dubbed 'the wedding of the year,' but most people we know didn’t give it a first thought, let along a second. Still, Fann and Christopher got a TV show out of the deal -- after all, someone had to pay for those big, elaborate dinners. We thank them for finally tying the knot, so we no longer have to read 'are-they-aren’t-they?' articles anymore. Until Fann gets pregnant, that is, when we can look forward to a deluge of 'is-she-isn’t-she' articles.
Singapore's first swine flu victim: First contact
When swine flu first made headlines all over the world, Singapore was again at the vanguard, thanks to a 22-year-old female Singaporean student. She was our nation’s first swine flu victim, having contracted H1N1 on a trip to New York. No matter the conversation, Singapore's a part of it!
The brains behind ION Orchard: Mega shoppers
Opened in July, ION Orchard made a splash in the local retail scene, thanks to its design and sheer size. Covering 66,000 square meters, the mall was developed by Orchard Turn Retail Investment Pte Ltd, a joint venture company between CapitaLand and Sun Hung Kai Properties. We’d like to thank the company for giving us another desperately needed shopping mall. But, seriously, thanks for bringing Dunkin’ Donuts back to Singapore.
The people behind Marina Barrage: Green thumbs-up
Constructed to increase the water catchment area in Singapore, the Marina Barrage also serves as a good spot for water-based activities. Thanks to its constant water level, it’s perfect for sports such as boating and windsurfing. We’re not so big on water sports; we’re just grateful for being given a new place to loiter.
Gary Ng: Sex scandal
Dubbed "Singapore’s Edison Chen," the mysterious Gary Ng videotaped his romps with dozens of women -- sometimes without their knowledge -- and posted them on his blog. Ng’s conquests included his cousin, his friend’s niece, a mother and daughter, and a beer promo auntie. The bad boy explains his behavior as a raised middle finger to his cheating exes.
Resorts World Sentosa: Theme park mania
There’s a child inside all of us, and what’s more enjoyable for a kid than a thrill ride? We must stress, however, that said ride should be exciting (hence the word "thrill"), safe (hence the word "kid") and newsworthy (remember Fantasy Island on Sentosa?), or we'll simply resume riding down our steps in a laundry basket. That’s why we’re over the moon that Resorts World at Sentosa is launching Universal Studios Singapore, with 24 rides and attractions. We finally have a reason to acknowledge Sentosa again …
Mas Selamat: Singapore's most wanted
When Mas Selamat Kastari escaped from Whitley Road Detention Centre in February 2008, it sparked the largest manhunt in Singapore’s history. Many Singaporeans grew uncomfortable with a terrorist on the loose and our phones were clogged with text messages -- both serious and otherwise -- concerning his escape. So, when it was revealed in May that he had been caught in Malaysia, there was a collective sigh of relief.
Electrico: Bandstand heros
We thought National Day songs were great when we were kids singing them in school. But since we’ve grown up (and, in some cases, out), we haven’t found any that we’d even admit to knowing. Thanks to Electrico’s effort this year, "What Do You See?" we cringe slightly less then usual.
Thambi K Seaow: Comedic group
They sing in sarongs, about topics that every Singaporean can relate to, and have had over 30,000 hits on Youtube. Thambi K Seaow's droll tunes -- sung in Tamil and Malay -- have slowly but surely gained traction among Singaporeans. They even managed to land a gig at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre in March! We’re looking forward to some new numbers, guys.
Joanne Peh: Award-sweeping actress
It was a breakout year for actress Joanne Peh. At the Star Awards, she beat favorites Jeanette Aw and Chen Liping to win Best Actress for her role in The Little Nyonya. On the same night, Peh took home the Top 10 Most Popular Female Artiste award. Both wins came the day after her birthday.
Lee Kok Leong: Loud mouth
The former chairman of the Laguna Park management committee had his fine quadrupled by the High Court in November, having being charged with mischief. Leong was initially fined $1,200 in April, but later laughed it off to reporters, remarking that he spends much more on a night of karaoke. Prosecutors appealed for a stiffer sentence, as he had mocked the justice system and, as a result his fine was increased to $4,800. As Phua Chu Kang would say, next time, Mr Lee, "use your brain!"