100 memorable Malaysian women - Part 8

  • Lifestyle
  • Tuesday, 08 Mar 2011


AGE: 48

PENANGITE Ooi, who resides in Bonn, Germany, holds the distinction of being the first Malaysian woman conductor. She was appointed to the post of resident conductor of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) in 1997, which she continued to lead until 2005 when she returned to Germany.

Currently, a guest conductor with German orchestras, Ooi was also appointed an ambassador of Tourism Malaysia in 2009. A trained concert pianist who also plays the violin, harpsichord and percussion, she won the first prize in the International Conductors Competition in the German cities of Halle and Hamm in 1991, and held the position of First Conductor of the Classic Philharmonic Orchestra, Bonn, from 1991 to 1994. Most notably, she was a guest conductor with the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz, Austria, arguably the capital of classical music, in 2005. Ooi was conferred the Federal Cross of Merit, a German national honour, in 2003.


AGE: 35

With Ning, the words “strong, sexy, sultry” come to mind. With 10 albums to her name, she has established herself as one of the country’s most accomplished pop and R&B singers. She started recording radio and television jingles when she was just six. When she was nine, she began formal singing lessons when she was nine under the renowned Indonesian opera linguist and soprano Siti Chairani. Ning was also part of the National Choir and was offered a full scholarship in music at the prestigious Vienna Conservatoire. Ning also acts and has been in musicals and films.


AGE: 72

The First Lady of Malaysian theatre has been active in the performing arts for over 50 years and her name has become synonymous with The Actors Studio, which she co-founded with husband Joe Hasham in 1989.

Today, it is a thriving platform for local playwrights and actors. For her tireless work in performing arts, she was awarded the BOH Cameronian Lifetime Achievement Award for 2004.

In July 2005, Faridah was conferred the Darjah Dato’ Paduka Tuanku Ja’afar by the Yang Di-Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan on the occasion of His Highness’ 83rd Birthday. In August 2006, she received an Honorary Master of Letters at University Sains Malaysia’s 35th Convocation. She strives to convince the next generation that there is a place in the arts for all, but it’s demanding and requires total discipline.


AGE: 48 (DIED APRIL 25,1983)

Saloma was P. Ramlee’s third wife. Born Salmah binti Ismail in Singapore, her stage name was either given by Run Run Shaw of Shaw Bros when the film Salome hit the box office or by her husband. She started singing at weddings at 13, and gained fame when she joined the Panca Sitara Group, a band of musicians led by P. Ramlee.

She started acting as well, often playing P. Ramlee’s love interest. Her beauty captivated the audience, cutting an iconic silhouette with her coiffed hairdo and kebaya-clad hourglass figure.

Her unparalled singing voice was legendary and set a very high standard for Malaysian female vocalists. Her contributions to the Malaysian art scene earned her the Biduanita Negara (1979) award. She died a decade after her beloved husband P. Ramlee. The official cause of death was liver failure, but it was widely said that she died of a broken heart.


AGE: 33 (DIED APRIL 6, 1979)

In death, she was immortalised. Gerard Benedict, producer of the documentary, Jean Perera: the Beauty Queen Murder, for Astro’s Crime & Investigation Network that aired in December 2009, described her murder as “very Shakespearean” with “passion, love, hate, jealousy, betrayal and a love triangle”. It is certainly one of Malaysia’s most sensational criminal cases.

Jean, a former Miss Negri Sembilan, and a mother of three, was found murdered in a car near Subang Airport in 1979.

This was the second tragedy for her family as her husband, chemist S. Sinappa, died in a road accident four months earlier on New Year’s Eve in 1978.

Jean was found in the front passenger seat of her car, with multiple stab wounds. Her brother-in-law, S. Karthigesu, was found unconscious behind the car.

He was charged with her murder. The case went to trial in june 1980. The prosecution made out that Karthigesu flew into a jealous rage after finding out that the young widow – whom he was in love with – had been having an affair with a Sri Lankan doctor, Dr Narada Warnasurya.

During the 38-day trial, the court heard lurid details of her affairs with her love letters being read out. Karthigesu was found guilty and sentenced to death. But Karthigesu was freed two years later after an appeal.


AGE: 58

Her beauty has been likened to that of Elizabeth Taylor and she has been given the name “Permata Negara” by Information, Communications and Culture Minister, Datuk Seri Rais Yatim. In her career, she has produced 93 albums, including seven in English. She has made a name for herself in Asia and the Middle East.

She was also the first Malaysian and Asian singer who had the honour of performing at the Victoria Concert Hall in Singapore in 2000, which is usually dominated by Western artistes.

In 2003, she started Pods and Petal Giftlab, a successful florist and gift company. In the same year, she was awarded the Pingat Panglima Jasa Negara by the Yang Di Pertuan- Agong for her contributions to the entertainment industry.


AGE: 40s

The larger-than-life Yeoh is hailed as the PR Queen of Malaysia for her mastery in organising glamorous events for prestigious, highend clients with an assured guest list from society’s creme de la creme. Yeoh joined RAPR Mileage Communications in 1993 as general manager after heading the PR division of a multinational company.

Together with her team, Yeoh formed the Initial Public Offering (IPO) arm of RAPR and marketed to clients seeking investments the need for PR. She also introduced “lifestyle branding” with the company’s consumer division, targeted at luxury-goods companies. Rising to managing director in 1996, Yeoh gathered an impressive portfolio of clients and made huge strides in the industry. She is also the president and CEO of STYLO, a key social and fashion event during Malaysia’s Formula One.


AGE: 44

Though an established singer and actress, it wasn’t until Puteri Gunung Ledang in 2004, in which she starred, that Tiara Jacquelina made her mark. The film won 11 awards at the Malaysian PPFM Oscars 2004 including Best Film, Best Producer, Cinematography, Best Actress, Costume Design, Art Direction and Best Sound. She then translated it onto the stage with the runaway success Puteri Gunung Ledang: The Musical under her company, Enfiniti Productions, a Malaysian company in the arts and entertainment and television production fields.

In 2005, she won Choice Actress at the Fourth Oskar Awards, organised by the Film Workers Association of Malaysia. She also produced P. Ramlee the Musical which won six awards at the 2007 BOH Cameronian Arts Awards. She is married to Datuk Seri Mohd Effendi Norwawi, who formerly served as a senator and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

Tiara is a vocal arts activist who is passionate about the betterment of the arts sector in the country.


AGE: 66

The wife of the late Tun Dr Omar Ong Yoke Lin (a founding member of the MCA and a key figure in the country’s road to independence) received her medical degree from the Royal Free Hospital, University of London, in 1969.

After marrying Dr Omar, she gave up her career as a doctor and became involved in charity work and fund-raising.

She is a patron, board member, founding member or trustee of a long list of organisations, including the Foundation of the National Heart Institute, Bakti, Tun Abdul Razak Foundation, International Medical University, National Council of Women’s Organisations, Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation, The Women’s Aid Organisation, Mental Health Association of Malaysia,Wanita Perkim, as well as The Malaysian Association for the Blind.

She also served as Pro-Chancellor of Universiti Malaya from 2003 to 2008 and chairman of Universiti Hospital from 1987 to 1996.


AGE: 50s

As one of the few female film directors in Malaysia, Shuhaimi has made her mark with her unique storylines and bold approach. Well-known for films like Selubung and Layar Lara, she is also credited with reviving the pontianak folklore onscreen with the Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam films in the 2000s.

Her films have picked up five awards at the Malaysian Film Festival, including Best Director Awards for Layar Lara in 1997 and Waris Jari Hantu in 2007. Layar Lara was also awarded the Special Jury Award at the 1998 Pyongyang International Film Festival, and Shuhaimi received a Best Director for Foreign Film award at the Brussels International Independent Film Festival in 1997.

Besides being the managing director of Pesona Pictures, she is also the vice-president of the Malaysian Film Producers Association (MFPA).


AGE: 38

With a face and voice of angel, this classically trained singer is one of the country’s top female vocalists.

Her choice of genre is R&B, but she also sings arias. She was the soprano solo in the Carl Offs Carmina Burana with 100 choir members and the National Symphony Orchestra of Malaysia, conducted by reputed Australian conductor Roland Peelman, and was the Gold Medal winner in the R&B/Pop/ Rock/Contemporary category at the World Championships of Performing Arts in Los Angeles in 1999.

Syafinaz was nominated twice for the Anugerah Industri Muzik (AIM) Best Female Vocal award and was the judge on the singing competition One in a Million. She’s currently a lecturer at the UiTM, the National Arts Academy, and adviser and vocal master of the National Choir of Malaysia.

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