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Tuesday March 8, 2011

100 memorable Malaysian Women - Part 3

DATIN PADUKA MARINA MAHATHIR

Age: 54

Eldest child of former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Marina is best known for her work as president of the Malaysian AIDS Council, an umbrella body of 40 NGOs working in HIV/AIDS in Malaysia – a role she held for 12 years from 1993 to 2005.

She was instrumental for putting treatment for HIV/AIDS patients on the table and getting the Government to provide anti-viral treatment for Malaysians living with HIV for free.

She is currently a member of the Board of Sisters in Islam (SIS), an advocacy group which fights for justice and equality for Muslim women.

An avid blogger and twitterer, she also writes a long-running fortnightly column, Musings, in The Star; produces TV programmes for young women, writes and speaks regularly on women’s issues, particularly where they relate to Islam, gender and HIV/AIDS.

She and Zainah Anwar are the only two Malaysians in “Women Deliver 100” , a list of the 100 most inspiring people who have improved the lives of girls and women worldwide by Women Deliver, a New York-based advocacy group.

JACLYN VICTOR

Age: 32

She shot to fame when she beat 10,000 contestants to become the first Malaysian Idol in 2004. Jaclyn’s post-Idol career has seen her release three albums and perform in sold-out concerts both locally and abroad. She subsequently also participated in and won Ikon Malaysia, another reality singing competition.

She has been given numerous awards for her unique voice, including five Anugerah Industri Muzik (AIM) awards and the XIII Shanghai Asian Music Festival Golden Prize in 2005. She was also featured on the highly-anticipated Special Edition of Disney’s High School Musical 2 soundtrack.

In 2009, Jaclyn debuted as an actress in Talentime, for which she received a Most Promising Actress award at the Malaysian Film Festival.

The songstress even tried her hand at musical theatre in 2010’s Cuci the Musical Season 2. She was most recently seen onscreen in local Tamil film, Appalam.

JO KUKATHAS

Age: 48

As the founder and director of the Instant Cafe Theatre Company (started in the late 1980s), Kukathas is an accomplished veteran of the local theatre scene who dabbles in almost all aspects of the craft as actress, director, comedian, writer.

She and the company are known for their humorous yet bold critiques of contemporary society and politics. As as actress, she has received many awards for her work both here and abroad, particularly for her solo performances in plays such as Atomic Jaya and Election Day. She is especially well-known for her involvement in cross-cultural productions such as Breaking Ji Poh Ka Si Pe Cah and Air Con.

DATUK ILANI ISAHAK

AGE: 58 (DIED MARCH 2, 2011)

The lawyer-turned-politician took up the challenging role of Inter-faith Relations Working Committee chairperson when she accepted the appointment by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in April last year.

Her appointment was widely lauded because she was “the epitome of moderation and inclusiveness” for her stand on the need for mutual respect among the different religions to face challenges and settle disputes.

She took up politics when she joined Umno in 1980 and then Semangat 46 in 1988 and won the parliamentary seat of Kota Baru. She defended the seat in the following general election and rejoined Umno when the “new” party was formed in 1996.

Her work on inter-faith matters begun when she was appointed in 2004 to head the National Unity Advisory Panel, the precursor to the Inter-faith Committee, by Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

As Inter-faith Committee chairperson, she sought to bring Muslim and non-Muslim leaders together with continuous dialogue to bring about understanding.

Her promising start was sadly cut short when she succumbed to breast cancer early this month.

LAI MENG

Age: 84

Lai Meng, who is known in the industry as Meng Yee (Aunty Meng), started out singing before venturing into acting.

Her first TV series, Empat Sekawan, is remembered to this day. Her acting touches a chord, whether she is playing a busybody aunty, a beastly mother-in-law or a loving grandmother.

In 2008, she was nominated for best supporting actress at the 45th Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan, for her role in Money No Enough 2 when she was 81.

Today, this woman who is considered by many to be a national treasure, continues to act.

LEE SINJE

AGE: 35

Lee Sinje got her start when she was discovered by famed Hong Kong actressdirector Sylvia Chang at a Kuala Lumpur film audition in 1995.

Moving to Taiwan with her mentor, she started singing but later switched to acting.

She is best known for her role in The Eye, a horror film by the Pang Brothers, for which she won the coveted Golden Horse Award for Best Actress at the Hong Kong Film Festival and a Hong Kong Golden Bauhinia Award.

She was also awarded the Best Newcomer Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 2004 for her role in Betelnut Beauty.

She has carved out a niche as a serious actress who many believe is the next Michelle Yeoh.

Last year, she starred in her first Malaysian production, the critically acclaimed and box office hit, Ice kacang Puppy Love, with fellow Malaysian stars Ah Niu and Fish Leong. She is married to director Oxide Pang.

Lee is also known for her voluntary work as an ambassador for World Vision.

LEE LEE LAN

AGE: 63

Having first founded the Federal Academy of Ballet in 1967, Lee’s academy is now the country’s most established dance school, with five branches and over 1,500 students.

Lee, who first took up dance at the age of 14, started teaching ballet part-time to put herself through university, but it soon became a full-time profession.

Her academy has now ventured into different dance genres, including jazz, tap and cultural dances.

She further formed the Kuala Lumpur Dance Theatre in 1984, to create a performing arm for her academy.

Having led her team to perform in hundreds of concerts around the world, Lee holds several awards including the Saitama Choreographic Prize and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing International Award.

She was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to the Malaysian performing arts at the 2009 BOH Cameronian Arts Awards.

RAFIDAH ABDULLAH

AGE: 35

The Universiti Malaya law graduate became a familiar face when she joined 3R, the long-running TV series that focuses on women’s issues in 2000, as one of the original trio of hosts.

She left at the end of the 5th season to pursue a Master’s in Scriptwriting degree from Goldsmiths College, London, on a British Council scholarship. Upon her return, she has conducted scriptwriting workshops, written commercials, TV dramas, presentation videos, educational videos and a feature-length movie.

She returned to 3R as the lead writer for its 10th and 11th season. Her first feature film, Gol & Gincu, which premiered in 2005 was turned into a popular TV series.

Rafidah has been an active volunteer for NGOs like Food not Bombs that provides food to the homeless in Kuala Lumpur and participates in activities organised by Sisters In Islam. She was Unicef’s Malaysia Goodwill Ambassador from 2005 to 2008. She returned to the screen by co-hosting Astro’s children’s science programme, Clever.

LATIFAH OMAR

AGE: 73

Known for her coy looks and the mole beside her lower lip, this black-and-white screen icon was at her peak from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Many of her films are still held as classics today, such as Gurindam Jiwa and Hang Jebat, but she is most associated with the 1959 classic Bawang Putih, Bawang Merah.

DATUK FARAH KHAN

AGE: 50s

Singapore-born Farah opened her first store, The Link, along Orchard Road in Singapore, straight out of school. She gave up her stake in the store when she got married and moved to Malaysia.

The fabulously chic Farah was responsible for bringing luxury brands into the Malaysian market since the late 1980s.

In 1989, she founded The Melium Group with its first franchise for Aigner, a well known German leather brand, followed by Hugo Boss, a premier menswear brand.

Today, The Melium Group comprises over 50 premium luxury and lifestyle brands from Ermenegildo Zegna, Stuart Weitzman, Furla, Tod’s, Emilio Pucci, Cole Haan, Juicy Couture to Yves Saint Laurent.

Her efforts in promoting trade between Malaysia and Italy was recognised in 2007 when she was awarded the Italian Star of Solidarity Order by the Italian Government.

She launched The Melium Galleria, a promenade-style galleria in Suria KLCC – offering an assortment of international brands, including the homegrown multi-brand store, Aseana.

In 2003, she created her own label, Farah Khan, which became the first Malaysian designer brand to be sold in 31 cities around the world.

To complete the lifestyle element in her business, she introduced Australia’s international café chain, Dome Café, and Britain’s leading sushi restaurant, Yo! Sushi, in 1995 and 2007 respectively.

TERESA KOK

AGE: 56

She holds the record for the largest majority in any constituency when she retained her parliamentary seat of Seputeh in Kuala Lumpur with 36,492 votes in the March 8, 2008 general election.

She is Assembly woman for Kinrara and is the senior Selangor executive councillor in charge of investment, trade and industry.

This feisty and hardworking politician is no stranger to controversy. In 2008, she was arrested under the Internal Security Act after a newspaper alleged that she “advised” a mosque in Puchong not to use loudspeakers for the azan call to prayer, an allegation which was later proved to be false.

She was detained for seven days but was released following widespread public outcry.

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