TNP New Face 2016: Ashley Soo

Ashley Soo.

Ashley Soo, 16

Student at CHIJ Katong Convent Secondary

Ashley is a fan of rock music, but she is all about K-pop these days - more specifically, she has been listening to South Korean boy band Seventeen.

She said: "I was thrown into the world of K-pop by two of my best friends after constantly listening to them blast Korean songs and talk non-stop about it.

"I soon caught on and found myself listening frequently to the groups and I eventually became a fan of the genre."

What other kinds of music do you like?

The last concert I attended was Ed Sheeran's at The Star Theatre last year.

It was such a surreal experience because I was seated just three rows from the stage.

I never thought I would see Ed live and hear him play all his hit songs. It felt insane to witness true talent since he was performing the entire concert with just his guitar and loop pedals.

What is the most exciting thing to happen to you so far?

When I walked the runway at the annual Fashion Steps Out show at Orchard Road in March this year. It was an amazing opportunity.

What do you do to de-stress?

My ways to de-stress include reading a book, watching a movie and exercising.

Where is your favourite place to go to in Singapore and why?

You can find me at any bookstore because I love browsing through the plethora of books available.

Who do you admire most?

Without a doubt, my mother.

She has never once given up on me and she always pushes me to do my best.

Her kind demeanour and positive attitude also never fail to inspire me to be a little more like her every day.

See more at

Photo of Lee Chong Wei lookalike goes viral

SEEING DOUBLE? Ms Ika Syazwani (right) and Malaysian badminton player Lee Chong Wei.
Premium content not available

Couple bite 
police officers at M'sian roadblock

BLOODY: The bite mark on the lance corporal's arm.
Premium content not available

S'porean family pleads not guilty

Mother and two teenage children to claim trial over fracas at JB customs complex

FACING TRIAL: Freelance worker Quek Chin Fern and daughter Cheryl Isabella Lim coming out of a special court at the Pekan Nenas Immigration Depot in Pontian.
Premium content not available

From accountant to female pilot

PIONEER: Captain Debbie Aw is one of nine female pilots with SilkAir.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) welcomed the first two women pilots in August last year.

But SIA's regional arm, SilkAir, has been hiring women pilots since 2001.

Captain Debbie Aw first applied to be a cadet pilot in 1998, and faced multiple rejections before being recruited in 2003.

Now, she is among nine women pilots with SilkAir.

SilkAir has a total of 225 pilots.

"I believe that we have to be twice as good to be seen as half as good," says the 40-year-old, who worked as an accountant previously.

"But in recent years, I can feel that the industry is shifting its attitude towards female pilots. We are getting more recognition for our good work and efforts."

Captain Aw developed her love for flying when she was in junior college and after she joined the Youth Flying Club.

She then started as a cadet pilot in SilkAir in 2003, and became a Captain in 2012.

As Captain of a Boeing 737, she has to maintain safety and efficiency of the flight, and to keep up the team spirit of the flight crew.

Women make up just 1 per cent of the aviation industry, while the worldwide estimate stands at 5 per cent.

"Our licence is suspended during pregnancy and we have to undergo retraining after delivery before we can resume flying duties," says Capt Aw.

The irregular working hours mean she is sometimes unable to spend as much time as she wants with her two children.


But her husband, who is a captain with SIA, and her family, have always been supportive of her career.

"My parents are of great help to me and take care of the children," she said.

Capt Aw said when more women learn about what the job entails, they may be encouraged to take to the skies too.

Are women pilots held back career wise?

No, said Capt Aw.

"It comes down to individual attitude and aptitude. There was a quote from a female pilot that struck me: 'When you jump into the cockpit, the plane doesn't care if you are a man or a woman'."

Roses among the thorns

Two women are now pilots with Singapore Airlines. CHERYL YING and VERNETTE CHIA ( profile three other women who carved careers in male dominated industries

POSITIVE: Ms Grace Huang turned a bad relationship into an opportunity to pick up martial arts.

It's not a common sight in the martial arts fraternity.

In fact, only about one in 10 instructors here are women, says the Singapore Martial Arts Instructors Association.

Ms Grace Huang is a rare rose among the 1,000 instructors here.

The 33-year-old teaches Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) at Trifecta Martial Arts. BJJ focuses on ground fighting, where both combatants are on the floor instead of standing.

A person uses grappling methods like chokeholds and joint-locks to defeat his opponent.

Ms Huang said she got into martial arts after an abusive relationship where her former partner threw a bedside table at her.

"I needed to do something for myself and I wanted to feel empowered," she said.

When she first started learning BJJ in December 2011, there was only one other woman in the class of 30 students.

Now, Ms Huang is one of the few female entrepreneurs in the martial arts scene.

About three years ago, she started Trifecta Martial Arts with Ms Arlene Lim, whom she met when she started learning BJJ.

"Both Arlene and I started Trifecta at very bad times in our lives. We wanted to share this message that anyone could come to us at any moment in their lives," she said.

Not everyone, however, was keen about being taught by a female.

Ms Huang said: "What troubles most male students have is mainly their ego, because they don't want to lose to a woman or they cannot believe that a smaller, lighter woman can beat them."

Ms Huang said some of the women in her school were only recently allowed to pick up martial arts.

"There was a misconception in the past that learning martial arts means you're a gangster. But that social convention doesn't exist now," said Ms Huang.

She said women are more keen to take up BJJ when they realise two women run the school.

"More women are joining us at Trifecta, because they see that two women are running the school and are less intimidated," said Ms Huang.

"Besides, Arlene competes and she is someone to look up to. Most women look at her and go, 'If she can do that, so can I'."

She said when she told her mother that she was opening a martial arts school, her mother's reaction was, 'What took you so long?'

"My mum is very supportive and I really appreciate that. This is something I attribute Trifecta to," added Ms Huang.

"Her support gives me the confidence to take chances."

Tattoo artist helps breast surgery patients

INK ARTIST: Miss Sumithra Debi, granddaughter of the late tattoo artist Johnny Two Thumbs, is the owner of Exotic Tattoos and Piercings.

For the past 10 years, Miss Sumithra Debi has been helping women who have gone through a mastectomy - the surgical removal of one or both breasts, partially or completely.

"Some women are in remission and they have healed from their surgeries, but they cannot get over what happened," says the 35-year-old.

As a tattoo artist, she uses her skill to create three-dimensional nipples for them after reconstructive surgery.

The owner of Exotic Tattoos and Piercings in Far East Plaza estimates there are only about 15 women tattoo artists here.

To create the nipples, Miss Debi first customises colour pigments to suit her customer's skin colour.

Then, she injects them into the skin just like a tattoo, creating a realistic 3D nipple.

"This little change that they have, it will take them closer to what they had before," she said.

"Males might not understand their pain because this is a problem for women."

Miss Debi has been certified by Biotouch, one of the leading manufactures of semi-permanent and permanent makeup, to specialise in paramedical tattooing - injecting ink into a person's skin in order to camouflage discolouration.

But even before she ventured into the field, she had already made a name for herself as the youngest women tattoo artist in Singapore.

Ms Debi is also the granddaughter of Johnny Two Thumbs, one of the pioneer tattoo artists here.

At the age of 16, Miss Debi officially started working for Exotic Tattoos and Piercings.

It was started by her uncle about 20 years ago, and Miss Debi took over five years ago.

She remembers how she used to get snide remarks from men who walked in.


"When they see me, they don't bother asking me any questions because they would think, 'What does she know, she's a girl'."

Miss Debi says lack of family support and an irregular income mean women don't often venture into the industry.

"When we have children, we'll have to take long breaks," she said.

About 80 per cent of Miss Debi's clientele are women.

"There's nothing to worry about because there's no one to impress," she says.

"They know they'll get a woman's advice. A guy won't tell you if your handbag will block your tattoo, or what clothes to wear when you're getting a tattoo on your hip."

Belgian expat gets 5 years for killing son

JAILED: Philippe Marcel Guy Graffart turning up at court (above) and in an old photograph with his son Keryan.
JAILED: Philippe Marcel Guy Graffart turning up at court and in an old photograph with his son Keryan (above).

Philippe Marcel Guy Graffart, who killed his son last October, was jailed for five years yesterday.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

The Belgian, 42, was expressionless when Judicial Commissioner (JC) Hoo Sheau Ping read out the sentence in the High Court.

JC Hoo said that the penalty was consistent with similar cases and the accused's action could not be condoned.

"This is a tragic case in which the life of a five-year-old child has been ended by his father in the midst of a custody fight, causing immeasurable pain and suffering to all those left behind," she added

On Oct 6 last year, the police found the body of Graffart's son, Keryan Gabriel Cedric Graffart, in the master bedroom of Graffart's 32nd-storey apartment at D'Leedon Condominium in Leedon Heights.

Graffart had earlier told a police officer at the Bukit Timah Neighbourhood Police Centre that he had "done something bad" to his son.

The court previously heard that Graffart had smothered the sleeping Keryan with a cushion between 9pm and 10.17pm on Oct 5.


Graffart then tried to kill himself by ramming his car into a tunnel wall along Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE). He survived with minor injuries and was taken to Singapore General Hospital.

His son was pronounced dead by paramedics at 6.17am the following day.

A toxicology report found Zolpidem - a hypnotic medicine used to treat insomnia that is not recommended for children - in Keryan's blood.

Describing that night's events, Graffart wrote in a letter as part of his mitigation: "There (are) no words to say how sorry and broken I am by this tragedy. I lost my precious boy, Keryan, he was my life and my love, I was so proud of him. I never imagined this could happen."

Graffart was found to have been depressed over an ongoing custody battle with his French wife, Mrs Gwendoline Graffart, 40.

His lawyer, Mr Ramesh Tiwary, said the couple's relationship had deteriorated to such a level that Graffart began to feel he would not be able to provide Keryan with love and care.

His client had never touched or threatened Keryan before the night of the incident, he added.

"He had never warned or threatened that he would harm Keryan in any way," he said.

However, Mrs Graffart had applied for a personal protection order, and was granted an interim expedited order against Graffart on Aug 11 last year.

It restrained him from committing family violence against her and their son.

Mr Tiwary said Graffart had consulted four doctors but none of them had detected that he was emotionally and mentally unwell.

Mr Tiwary said: "The accused's (Graffart's) state of mind was such that he was clearly not thinking clearly and was very disturbed."

After the killing, an Institute of Mental Health doctor found Graffart to be suffering from a major depressive disorder.

Nevertheless, Deputy Public Prosecutor Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz said Graffart's psychiatric condition "neither justifies nor absolves him" from committing the offence.

"No doubt, the accused's major depressive disorder contributed to his decision to smother Keryan... There is nothing to indicate that he lacked the capacity to comprehend his actions or to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct," she said.

A report dated Nov 23 last year by a doctor who had examined Graffart stated that he "was cognizant of the nature and quality of his actions".

Citing the jail terms of similar offenders in previous cases, the prosecution recommended a sentence of between five and six years' jail for Graffart, who had been assessed to pose a low risk of danger to society.

Read: Mum of boy killed by dad: My son 'was a tool for revenge'