Epileptic artist Janet Lee, 32, and her mother Joyce Moi, 65, both emerged as winners in the fourth Women Glamour Awards 2021 (WGA 2021).
Lee, who is the only differently-abled participant and winner, won in the Young Inspiring Women category while Moi, in the Homemaker category.
"My daughter Janet may be differently-abled, but she is ambitious and driven. She has a lot of dreams that she can’t achieve on her own, so as her mum, I try as best I can to help her move towards achieving those dreams,” says Moi in her speech during the awards ceremony, which was held in Georgetown, Penang.
“I hope that as I receive this award, I’ll be able to inspire other parents. If you have a differently-abled child, realise that even though they may impact your life in many ways, we have to always try and look at things on the bright side and not focus on the negative. If we start to appreciate their strengths and allow them to grow, they can be talented in their own way,” she adds.
The WGA 2021 commends women for their dedication towards family and society, as well as their management of life, and showcases their tenacity, courage and sacrifice, to encourage other women to not give up easily but to have the courage to face any challenges they encounter in life.
There are five categories for the awards: Homemaker, Community Contribution, Young Inspiring Women, Entrepreneur and Business Women, with three winners (who are on equal standing) in each category.
Moi reveals that when both she and her daughter had been shortlisted at finalists earlier, as a mother, especially one of a special needs child, she already felt proud of her daughter at having made it thus far. But daughter Lee openly told her that she wanted to win the trophy.
“Being differently-abled, it’s already a great achievement for Janet to receive the finalists’ certificate,” says Moi. “But not only did she get into the finals, she also won.“
“I’m really happy that she got the award because this means that the public see her as an influencer in her own way and she isn’t just stereotyped as a special needs individual,” she says.
“Furthermore, this isn’t a special needs event. She is the only differently-abled participant and also winner. So, firstly, to be accepted as a participant, and secondly, to win the award by competing against those who aren’t differently-abled – that’s quite an achievement.
“It’s a new era for others who are like Janet, physically she looks normal but is considered different because of their learning disability,” she adds.
According to Moi, her daughter was “head over heels” and estatic about winning the award.
“She’s been sharing about her win with everyone and she even said to me, ‘You thought I couldn’t win? Who says I can’t? I can and I did win!’ “ recounts Moi proudly.
How it all started
Moi reveals that it all started when a friend, Wesley Ong, nominated her for the WGA 2021.
“I felt that I didn’t deserve the award but Wesley told me that he nominated me because my life journey with Janet had inspired him and he felt that what I had done should be shared to help open up more opportunities for others like myself.
“There are many who had to leave their corporate jobs, some because they have a special needs child, whom they’ve had to devote their time and attention to,” she says.
“He WhatsApp’ed me, informing me that he had nominated me and told me to get in touch with the organiser for more details,” she recalls.
“They told me that I would be competing in the Homemaker category and initially, I declined because I couldn’t see the purpose,” admitted Moi who left her corporate job in 2008 to look after her daughter.
“At that time, I was the Asia Pacific vice president for a company and was required to travel a lot for work and I was only able to do so because I had a very good and caring mother-in-law who looked after Janet for me,” she reveals.
But when her mother-in-law passed away from cancer, Moi decided to leave the corporate world to look after her daughter.
Even though she initially declined participating in WGA 2021, Moi finally agreed when the organiser told her that they hoped she would be able to encourage more homemakers to step up and share their stories.
“The organiser told me that ‘homemakers do a lot but many feel they aren’t doing anything great and this is a mindset that must be changed’,” says Moi.
“It made me think of all the mothers who gave up their own dreams and careers to look after their special needs child. I realised that they should really be commended for their sacrifice and commitment, and their time spent with the family should be recognised. On this account, I agreed to join,” she says.
But not only did Moi join, she asked the organiser if she could in turn nominate her daughter.
“I was keen to have Janet join as it would be a good exposure for her, and she would also be able to bring hope to other young women because if she, as a special needs individual, could make it and be successful, then how much more they, as able-bodied and able-minded persons, shouldn’t give up on themselves so easily,” she says.
Once the contestants got into the finals, all of them had to go through an interview with the organiser. The interviews were done on Steamyard (a live streaming studio on browser).
Moi admits she was concerned because her daughter was too nervous to speak properly in front of the organiser and has difficulties in normal social interactions.
“It was my first time on Streamyard and the features are different from Zoom and other platforms so if it was difficult for me, I can imagine how much more difficult it would be for Janet,” she says.
Lee, who was born epileptic, had her first epileptic episode at eight months old and was subsequently diagnosed as intellectually and developmentally delayed. She faces communication difficulties and experiences unpredictable seizures. Her epilepsy is intractable, which means it can’t be controlled by medication and her seizures can occur suddenly without any pre-warning.
But that doesn’t deter her indomitable spirit. Despite being intellectually-challenged, Lee has found a way to express herself through her paintings because of her mother ‘s support and encouragement.
Read more: Intellectually-challenged Malaysian artist Janet Lee's indomitable spirit
Giving hope to others
Moi hopes that more homemakers will take part in the WGA in the future.
“Being a homemaker is a full-time job with low compensation, low benefits and no time off. And it’s even more challenging when there is a differently-abled child or an elderly person in the family demanding their attention. Don’t think lowly of yourself. Your job is irreplaceable," she says.
She urges homemakers to stand tall and share about the contribution and sacrifices they have made for their family, and by doing so, inspire and help others along, in their journey too.
In her own simple way, Lee shares that she is excited to win the award and what she has learnt: “We must work hard to get what we want, and when people see that we’re hardworking, they’ll help us.”
Moi says that Lee has dreams and will repeatedly share what her dreams are.
“When you derive a plan for her and let her know what activity or task is needed to help her achieve those dreams, she’ll get it done no matter how challenging it is. And once she has reached her dream, she'll strive to reach the next level,” she says.
“For those who are in their ‘down’ moment, I hope that her story inspires you to pick yourself up and restart. For parents of differently-abled children, let’s try to find the hidden diamond in our special child. The journey may not be an easy nor fast one but with determination and perseverance, we can and we will reach the goal and the destination,” she concludes.