Big girls don’t cry. They fall, get up, keep their head up and rise above. Gone are the days when it’s a male dominated world. The females are getting the recognition they deserve. This month, JUICE celebrates these successful women and paired them up with another to prove that it’s not all catfight drama. No more weaker link BS and as we’re all equal now. Take a bow, ladies.
MICHELLE PONG + IRENE SEE (above)
There’s a whole new generation of fashion chicas doing Malaysia proud. Two of them go by the name of Michelle Pong and Irene See. Michelle is one half of Projectmuffstit (PMS) with Sheryl Oon and they handle everything from PR and production of their own clothes. They teamed up with Femmething for a show at Barsonic and have teamed up with Nike for several projects. PMS started with doing photoshoots, then worked with young designers to come up with clothing to implement. Currently working on a guerilla fashion show in KL and we can’t wait! For Irene, she’s the face behind the exciting and hip Chic Yamada. The trend-setting brand speaks through the evolution of fashion. She oversees the whole business entity of the brand and has been playing big names like Heineken Green Room. In March-April this year, you will see a hot Chic Yamada’s Summer 2010 collection and they will be working with United Nation to carry out the End of Poverty 2015 activation. Nice stuff! Let’s hear what they have to ask each other.
[Irene interviews Michelle]
What is your inspiration?
Bubble tea store in Melbourne Australia. It’s like a meeting hub for us to get inspiration.
Who is your all time hero and why?
My mom. She is a super single mom and raising three of us was havoc, but she survived it. She pushed me to do what I want. If it weren’t for her I would be here.
Who is the last person you want to be stuck in the lift with?
I’d say myself cos I don’t want to be stuck with myself who panics too much when I’m stressed and that leads to panic. Imagine two of me in the lift.
Describe your personal style…
I like lazy looks. I like to be comfortable.
What do you remember from 10 years ago?
10 years ago was when my dad actually passed away when I was 12. It was a life changing moment.
Do you prefer the 80’s or 90’s and why?
80’s cause they are all out there, even though they are known for their bad fashion sense too.
Visit Michelle at www.projectmuffstit.com to check out the hottest tips.
[Michelle interviews Irene]
If u had a choice to live in another era which would it be?
I think the 80’s Cause I like the self-expression. It’s an era where it changes the whole modern to classic personality from loud to big hair.
How would you describe yourself?
In Malaysian term, I’m so ‘itchy-backside’. I like to do a lot of things cause it’s very Malaysian and it’s very me. I like trying new things and if it doesn’t work skip on to the next. It could be food or art. Just try on the new things.
If you were going to die, what is the one thing u would want?
It’s all about living your life to the fullest. Dying is a normal process and I would like to do anything such as get involve with AIDS foundation and so on.
What is your personal style?
I think fashion changes all the time. I don’t really have one but fundamentally I think it’s one of those things I would like cool black and i like things happening real direct it’s more like my personal style rather than just fashion.
Visit Irene at www.chicyamada.com to check her work out.
YANIZ MERICAN + NINI RAMLAN
One’s a reknown hip hop artist manager and one’s a respected content development manager in Malaysia. Yaniz Merican and Nini Ramlan are both high school friends for about 20 year old already. They parted ways at one moment in time, but reconnected through house parties and they’re closer than ever. Let’s break it down. Yaniz manages the biggest names in the music industry from Joe Flizzow to Project EAR and is also the Director of Operations for Bum Squad Djz Worldwide in South East Asia. She’s responsible for the Too Phat collabo with Warren G, Pop Shuvit with Inspectah Deck of Wu-Tang Clan and so many more. 2010 is looking bright and she even hooked Pop Shuvit for a slot at SXSW Festival in Texas this year! Nini on the other hand is the content development manager for Primeworks. She recently was involved with Anugerah Juara Lagu 24 and it was massive! This year, you will see her producing a lot more international programs like Who Wants to be a Millionaire and reality shows like Gangstarz, in which both she was involved with. Expect to see her getting involved with travel shows and developing programs for 4 TV channels. Also coming up, a new all-female project by both Yaniz and Nini. Get ready!
[Yaniz interviews Nini]
What was your worst job?
Prior to going into television I had really bad one. I was in school and wanted to earn extra cash so there’s this job where they dressed me up in rugby outfit and sold raffle tickets. I felt like a piece of meat. But I sold a lot! I got paid 20 quid an hour. Parading around in rugby shorts in the middle of winter, it’s not that great.
Can you describe your personal style now?
Boho, bohemian and a little bit of bling. I have to have a little bit of gold and I need to have a lot of stilettos.
Why did you go into television and how did you sustain your career this long?
I grew up with RTM and stuff so I felt I could do a little bit more to increase the production quality. Not just the lightings, but using the steady cam and some particular shots using crane shots to increase the local flavour a little bit. I love TV and I live with persistence, perseverance and patience. That’s how I’ve been in this industry for 12 years.
What do you would you like to do?
I want to be invited to be one of the writers for the “Bold and the Beautiful”. That would be really cool because the show has been going on for like 20 odd years. Isn’t it like amazing? I just want to write with the writers to ask them what the hell do you do now since the characters are dead and how do you bring them back to the life and how people buy this nonsense of “Ooo I got a brain transplant when I was dead”.
Watch out for Nini Ramlan making quality TV shows through www.primeworks.com.my.
[Nini interviews Yaniz]
You were in California for such a long time, what was your first job?
I think my first real job was going to the clubs for like four hours distributing flyers. You go to the promoter’s house to pick up these big-ass boxes and then go to the to give it out. I did that for a whole year to get into the clubs. We didn’t get paid at all but the perk was that we get to go backstage for the next show. While you’re backstage, you learn how to network and get to know these people.
If you had a ton of money what would you do?
Yaniz: I would like world tour with all my artists right now and then all the collaborations they want. Whatever dream collaboration any of my artists wants, come out with a collaboration album with each one of my artists and do the videos. That would enter us with living in the States for like a year. And then of course eventually all the artists gets charted on Billboard. Then win a Grammy and we will tour forever.
Whats your favourite year for music?
’94 because that’s when underground hip hop was at its peak. It was the best year for hip hop. I wish every day was like ’94. We get to see Big L and it was like wow. I mean creativity now has evaporated with hip hop and now we are moving to things like electro and things like that. Me and my boys call 94′ the purest year.
What would be like the worst job for you being a women in a male oriented industry?
I think now recently you see a lot of women in both TV and music but when I first started out it was very hard to find role models. Being in the music industry where the line business and personal is very thin. And it was a struggle to climb to where you wanna be. You really needed to grind and work hard. You really need to toughen up. You?
Check out YZ International at www.yzinternational.com.
NADHIRA NISHAA + LYNDA CHEAN
What’s in a tattoo? For Lynda it’s everything and more. A design freak since she was a kid, Lynda owns Pink Tattoos which sits strategically above skate shop Wheel Love. JUICE could’ve easily paired the opinionated skin inker with another from her field but the Gods bestowed upon us another female individual of equal indie-cred – Nadhira aka Irie Ira who is silently brewing a storm in the local music scene. An ex-metal singer and overpowering vocalist who brings more to the table than just a fierce attitude. Born in the same year and under the same signs, JUICE kicks back and lets them take over.
[Nadhira interviews Lynda]
So what got you into tattooing?
I’ve always been fascinated with tattoos. Even when I was still underage, I’ve always liked art. I used to curi-curi go online to look at tattoos. After I got my first one, the passion never died. I went to art college and graduated in graphic design and advertising but I did copywriting when I came out.
Sounds familiar… All these phases…
Really? I just did it but it wasn’t fulfilling. I was like, “I need to change. I need something else.”
So when did you start?
I only started tattooing about 2 and half years ago. I took a fulltime apprenticeship and quit advertising.
Define what art means to you in 3 words?
Passion, life and vision. My life has always revolved around art. If I didn’t have the passion I wouldn’t be doing it today. I started at about age 3 or 4, when I probably could pick up a pen or marker. Go look at my parents’ books and passports, they have doodles in them.
So are your parents supportive?
Yes. Actually at first when I did the switch I was like err… My mum is easier to talk to. She was shocked but she was ok. But my dad was a bit… I was a bit scared to tell him but I eventually told him. And surprisingly he said I don’t agree with everything but I support you.
So why don’t you get into piercing as well?
When I was working in my old shop I used to assist a lot in piercing. But it’s just something that doesn’t interest me. I just feel like there is no finesse in piercing, it’s just flesh and impaling. Some people get the kick out of it. I have nothing against piercing. My ex-boss told me to learn and pick it up cause it’s an easy way to earn money – a piercing normally cost RM150 and it’s very fast. But it’s just something I’m not into.
I love piercing. I used to be fully pierced. But I took it all off. I guess I just grew out of it. Is the tattoo business here more male dominated? And how do people perceive female tattoo artists?
I think generally the industry is and has been male dominated. To some, it may be kind of a novelty to be tattooed by a female artist. With tattooing though, your skill is something tangible immediately through your artwork and portfolio. There are many well respected female artists around the globe.
Do you get more female clients because they feel closer to you or want a more feminine touch?
I would say I get a pretty equal amount of male and female clients. Most female clients definitely feel more comfortable with a female artist especially when working on more private areas of the skin. But I am, as clients have told me, more approachable and I suppose you can say that I add a feminine touch to tattoo designs when needed.
More on Pink Tattoos at www.tattoomepink.com
[Lynda interviews Nadhira]
I think being able to sing is an amazing gift. Well, noise can come out of my vocal cords but it’s not a beautiful noise.
It’s funny because I used to have a metal band before this. My friends were like, “What the hell are you doing? Why are you singing hardcore music?” It was an Indon band, something like Cannibal Corpse. There’s a technique on how to growl and not screw up your voice.
So how many bands were you in before you went solo?
I use to be called a band whore because I had so many bands. At one point, I had 4 bands. And this was all in Indon. I live in Indonesia for about 3 to 4 years. When I came back I was in 3 bands. I join bands for different things. Like, I play the bass and guitar and all that. My most sacred instrument since I was a kid was the piano.
Why did you leave all your bands?
When something holds you back, you end up doing nothing. Everyone just went their separate ways eventually.
So how long have you been solo?
I’ve always been singing on my own regardless of what band I was in. But I’ve become more public lately with what I’m doing. I use to hide it a lot.
Why did you hide it?
Maybe because I didn’t feel that it was time for me to show it off. It was always something on the side.
So you have a new album coming up?
Yeah, I’m working on it.
Pop music nowadays seems to project female singers as sex icons. What do you think about this and how can we reverse the trend?
The only way to reverse the trend is for new influential female pop singers to present themselves in a way that does not symbolise sex. You can always be a singer and sell your image through good music and just by being yourself instead of using sex as your selling point. Your USP should be your personality, not your boobs and a$$. Not that I’m saying that because I have no a$$!
Do you think it’s wrong to be revealing? And how far is too far?
There are many levels and ways of being revealing. You can be revealing in a slutty, cute or classy way, and it all really depends on how people carry themselves. So I can’t really answer this question because what a person wears depends on where they are at that time and what the culture of that place is. How far is too far? I guess when you wear hot pants that show your butt cheek, tucked around you’re a$$ so tight until pubes and camel toe can be seen is too much. Or when someone’s top is 1cm close to showing their nipple. Or even when guys wear jeans so tight that you can see the shape of their crotch. Hey, I did answer your question?
Good enough! You’ve sung in many bands from different scenes. In your opinion which is the most female-phobic?
Hmm…..does female-phobic mean males being vulgar to you when you are onstage? If so, I would say the crusty punk scene in Jakarta. I still remember going up on stage and have bunch of boys shouting ‘Bugil! Bugil! Bugil! Bugil!’ It’s like they have never seen a girl before or they tease you just to irritate you because they don’t like seeing you up there. I’m sure most girls have experienced standing in a performing crowd with guys taking the opportunity to grab or even touch their boobs and a$$ just for a second to satisfy their… god knows what.
Would you ever sign up to a major label?
Not unless I have the freedom to express my own being. Or at least write my own lyrics!
SHIEKO + DILL MALIK
Artists are a strange bunch and these two kooky girls are no less short of a Warhol. As one of the only female graffiti writers in the city, Shieko’s audacity as an artist is well-known. From her Tebabo series to her public pieces (she did a piece on the wall outside Wheel Love recently), Shieko’s street pop art is as in-your-face as a Rage Against The Machine song. Dill, on the other hand, is shy and diminutive as any girl her age would be. Her outsider art which includes self-published zines, pseudo-abstract expressionist paintings and illustrations draws inspiration from life’s randomness and her lack of ability to give straight-forward answers. JUICE lets the colourful pair hang out to dry while taking notes.
[Dill interviews Shieko]
How does it feel to be the one of the only female artists in the graffiti scene?
I don’t really care. Graffiti is something I do for myself, not for any particular group of people. But I do wish that there were more females graff artists here.
What’s the most boring piece of art you’ve seen?
Shieko: All the government sculptures in town.
Dill: Yes! The Pavillion one…
Shieko: … yeah the Baba Nyonya bowl design is so disgusting. And the one in Merdeka Square that looks like a bunch of aliens climbing up trees is quite scary.
Which female artists do you like?
There’s a female graffiti artist in Cape Town, South Africa that I like. Her name is Fatih47. I think she’s the only female graff artist in Cape Town. She goes around painting homeless shelters and squatters. For photographers I like Angela Boatwright, she took all the heavy metal guys.
If you were PM what would you do?
I’d legalise government buildings for graffiti to make them more exciting.
If you were PM would you still do graffiti?
Yes, of course.
What if you didn’t have the time?
I’d hire a maid.
Where’s the most dangerous spot you’ve tagged?
There’s no such thing as a dangerous spot because I’ve always believed that you own the space out there.
Because we pay taxes?
Yes. Everything is taxed by the government. Big corporations that put up ads and billboard can do it because they have the money. But they didn’t ask the permission of the people staying around the area.
But I think if the government suddenly provides a space and says “Okay kids! You can spray here” it would be kind of fake. Where’s the fun in that?
Not really. It’s a space for the kids to try it out. Of course you can do it outside. Public space belongs to the people. But this art form is kind of new in Malaysia. So kids need to practice somewhere.
Do you think the art scene is divided?
Over here it is divided by class and culture. Like everything else, it’s because of our government’s economic policy. It’s not really divided by gender.
Checkout Shieko works at shiekochan.blogspot.com
[Shieko interviews Dill]
If you were a maid, what would be your favourite chore?
Cleaning the toilet because I’m obsessive compulsive. I like to see clean shinny things.
What influences your art?
I think it comes at random and from excessive thinking. And the dumb conversations I have with my gang.
Describe a random day for you.
I wake up, I pee, brush my teeth, wash my face and then I go down and decide if I want to have a glass of water or eat first. And then I decided if I want to reply to the previous night’s smses (which are all jokes from Mun Kao).
If you were PM, what’s the first thing you’d say to the people?
I guess, “I just want you all to be happy?” Okay, that’s a lie. Who cares about the rakyat when trees and tigers are crying?
What made you decide to create your zine?
I don’t think I’m an unfriendly person but I just don’t like talking to people. It started when I had people talking to me even though my face said “I’m not interested” or “I don’t care”. So I suppose there’s something wrong with my face.
So is that what your zine is about? Your extreme hatred towards small talk?
Who’s your favourite artist?
I like Hundert Wasser. He’s Austrian painter and architect. He’s an environmentalist and he makes his own clothes and his ideas for road tunnels are amazing.
What about female ones?
I like these 2 female photographers Helena KvarnstrÃ¶m and Hasisi Park, although as of recent I’ve grown to hate photography.
It’s over-rated and boring. Or maybe I’m just too poor to use film. And digital is too boring.
I heard you cry on your birthdays. Why?
Because I don’t like attention and I hate the feeling of being ambushed.
Why do you like rectangles?
They’re perfect! They’re symmetrical yet dynamic at the same time. Like there’s energy to them. Squares are really static in comparison.
Do you think things would have been different if you were born as a guy?
Yeah, my name would be Adil instead of Adila. But my glamour name would still be Dil.
Although she hates photography that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a Flickr account. Checkout Dill’s photos at flickr.com/photos/fuguefufen
Text Kevin Yeoh + Ben Liew
Images Miranda Yeoh