SINGAPORE – Remember South Korean actress Park Eun-bin’s turn as an autistic lawyer in Extraordinary Attorney Woo? Or home-grown actress Hong Huifang as a K-drama-obsessed Singaporean widow in Ajoomma? Or Uncle Raymond and his dance moves at public locations? Here are the most influential lifestyle players of 2022.
Park Eun-bin: Extraordinary career topped by autistic lawyer role
The breakout K-drama star of the year is undeniably Park Eun-bin, the leading lady of legal drama Extraordinary Attorney Woo who shot to whale-size fame portraying the titular autistic lawyer Woo Young-woo.
The 30-year-old has had a long career – she became a child star at the age of five – with a slate of dramas such as sports drama Hot Stove League (2019 to 2020), classical music romance Do You Like Brahms? (2020) and period piece The King’s Affection (2021).
But it was not until the record-breaking Extraordinary Attorney Woo that the actress – who snagged the Best Actress prize at the 4th Asia Contents Awards in Busan in October – became a household name.
Taylor Swift: Record breaker, again and again, with Midnights
Another day, another record broken by Taylor Swift.
The American pop star hits a new high almost every time she drops a new album.
Still, no one saw the seismic wave coming with her latest and 10th album. Released in October, Midnights broke several records almost immediately after it started streaming on online platforms.
Kane Lim: From reality TV star to face of beauty brand Fenty
When American reality television series Bling Empire premiered on Netflix in early 2021, it was all that some Singaporeans could talk about for a while.
As viewers followed the lives of Los Angeles’ real-life crazy rich Asians, one young man, in particular, piqued their curiosity – Kane Lim, the only Singaporean in the cast.
The scion of a family who made its fortunes off shipping and real estate, Lim emerged as one of the show’s breakout stars. On Instagram, where the 33-year-old shopaholic often models designer togs, his following grew to more than 900,000.
Uncle Raymond: Senior TikTok sensation
Who says TikTok is only for Gen Zers? Older folk like baby boomers have hopped on board, with some becoming social media stars.
Like Uncle Raymond (@raymondl88) in Singapore, who shot to fame this year after he started posting content on TikTok. He now has more than 90,000 followers.
The 60-year-old, whose real name is Raymond Lin, is known for dancing energetically at MRT stations and other public locations such as Orchard Road and the Merlion Park – in his signature red striped shirt and trousers.
Hong Huifang: Auntie flies high after decades of television acting
Home-grown stars shone bright on the international stage in 2022, with several winning critical acclaim and breaking milestones.
Veteran Mediacorp actress Hong Huifang took home the Best Actress award at the 8th Asian World Film Festival for her role in the Singapore-South Korea production Ajoomma. She plays a K-drama-obsessed Singaporean widow who travels to South Korea and finds herself making unexpected connections in an unfamiliar land.
The 61-year-old also became the first Singaporean to receive a Best Leading Actress nomination at the Golden Horse Awards in November – Chinese cinema’s equivalent of the Oscars.
Karen Tan and Prashant Somosundram: Indie cinema’s comeback kids
This year, cinemas resumed operations under pre-pandemic conditions after two years of restrictions.
The opening up came too late for Filmgarde Cineplexes. In January 2022, it announced it would shut down two of its three cinemas, citing tough business conditions worsened by the pandemic.
In June, media company mm2 Asia, which owns the Cathay Cineplexes chain, said it was vacating its space at The Cathay building in Handy Road. Since 1939, there has always been a Cathay-branded cinema on that street, so the news came as a shock.
Then came another surprise – The Projector, a tiny operation, would take over the site as a pop-up.
Goh Choon Phong: Steering SIA into clear skies
Travel is back in a big way, and so is Singapore’s national carrier.
This year, Singapore Airlines (SIA) posted record profits two quarters in a row. Investors rejoice that share prices are up and dividend payments are back after close to three years. Customers cheer the return of old routes, more flights and new cabin products.
The airline has bounced back from the dark days of travel, when international border closures and the dearth of leisure travel cast a deep gloom over its future.
At its nadir, passenger carriage plunged from 3.4 million in January 2020 to 11,000 in April that year. SIA’s capacity fell to about 3 per cent, with the company burning through $300 million to $400 million in cash every month.
Gaggan Anand: Maverick chef moves into Singapore F&B scene
With the big guns of the local food and beverage industry like Unlisted Collection’s Loh Lik Peng and Lo & Behold’s Wee Teng Wen holding back ambitious expansion plans, it took a non-resident to make the biggest splash in the scene this year.
India-born chef and restaurateur Gaggan Anand, who is based in Bangkok, came here in November 2021 to do a pop-up of his restaurant that was closed because of Thailand’s Covid-19 regulations. But what was supposed to be a two-month residency at the Mandala Club in Bukit Pasoh Road was extended – again and again – until it finally ended in June 2022.
Foodies here apparently could not get enough of his quirky menu that is inspired by Indian food, but presented in crazy guises such as mini brains or sauces that diners had to lick off the plate. And they were happy to fork out $288 for lunch and $388 for dinner to enjoy his version of “fun-dining”.
Declan Ee: Saving furniture business with digital pivot
Home-grown furniture brand Castlery was born as an online outfit in 2013. When business grew, it expanded with a physical showroom two years later.
Then the pandemic advanced in 2020 and the company found itself having to revert to its online roots for survival.
When the two-month circuit breaker, which started in April 2020, was announced, co-founder Declan Ee realised that the shutdown of retail shops would cripple his highly tactile business.
Yeh Tsung: Transforming SCO into a world-class orchestra
A Western-trained musician who had never led a Chinese orchestra appointed as music director of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) – this was a most controversial appointment 20 years ago.
With it, Shanghai-born Yeh Tsung became the world’s first music director to lead a symphony orchestra and a Chinese orchestra across two continents concurrently.
Two decades later, the now 72-year-old has won over critics with his stewardship of SCO, and his pivotal role in transforming it into a major orchestra of international acclaim.