Moo-vers and shakers: 10 famous people born in the Year of the Ox

(Clockwise from left) Andy Lau, Gal Gadot, Song Joong-ki, and Michael Phelps are among celebrities born in the Year of the Ox.
(Clockwise from left) Andy Lau, Gal Gadot, Song Joong-ki, and Michael Phelps are among celebrities born in the Year of the Ox. PHOTOS: UNUSUAL ENTERTAINMENT, REUTERS, REALKIAILE/INSTAGRAM, AFP

SINGAPORE - Legend has it that the conscientious Ox came in second in the zodiac race only because it let the Rat hitch a ride, just to be overtaken at the last minute.

People born in the Year of the Ox are said to be resilient, honest, strong and dependable. They are believed to make excellent leaders, but may sometimes come across as stubborn, overcautious or unsociable.

Here are some well-known people born in the Year of the Ox.

1. Mahathir Mohamad (1925)


Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 96, who became Malaysia's Prime Minister for the second time at the age of 92 in 2018, is nothing if not tenacious.

He first led Malaysia from 1981 to 2003. While his second stint was a short one - he stepped down last year - he is still reportedly eyeing a role in politics.

In a political career of more than 70 years, he has come up against various criticisms, including that of being bull-headed. But he has taken these in his stride. In a 1998 interview with CNN, he said: "If you want to be honest with yourself you have to take criticism, even if you attract adverse comments from others."

2.Khatijun Nissa Siraj (1925)


The 1950s was hardly an era when women had a distinct voice in social and legislative issues, but Mrs Siraj, 60, took the bull by the horns and steered Women's Rights activism in Singapore to fruition. She co-founded the Young Women's Muslim Association in 1952 and, in 1964, founded the Muslim Women's Welfare Council.

Despite bumps in the road, she continued to fight for women's empowerment and to improve women's welfare. She was inducted into the Singapore Women's Hall of Fame in 2014. Her enduring drive exemplifies the strength and resilience of the ox.

3. Andy Lau (1961)


The Hong Kong superstar is known for his diligence and perseverance, having appeared in more than 100 films while maintaining a successful singing career.

Lau acted as Yang Guo in the TVB drama serial The Return Of The Condor Heroes (1983) before going on to act in movies such as The Truth (1988) and A Moment Of Romance (1990) and the critically acclaimed Infernal Affairs trilogy (2002-2003).

Lau, 60, who is married with an eight-year-old daughter, has continued to be active in show business and recently made the news when he gained 45 million fans on Douyin, China's equivalent of Tik Tok, just days after joining the platform.

4. Heng Swee Keat (1961)


Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, 60, has come up with various budgets to help Singaporeans tide through this raging Covid-19 pandemic.

At the General Election last year, the ruling People's Action Party sent out Mr Heng to lead a team against the Workers' Party in the group representation constituency of East Coast. His team won the hotly contested battle.

He has won praise from the late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who called him the "best principal private secretary" he had ever had.

Other politicians born in the year of the Ox include former United States president Barack Obama and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, both 60 this year.

5. Pierre Png (1973)


Local actor Pierre Png played a supporting role early in his acting career on Channel 5 sitcom Phua Chu Kang (1997 to 2007) and hit the big time after years of ploughing the ground.

He landed a prominent role in Hollywood hit movie, Crazy Rich Asians (2018), and was named Best Actor at Mediacorp's Star Awards in 2014 for his role in The Journey: A Voyage. Png, 48, is in the running for the same award at the 26th Star Awards Ceremony this year for his role in Channel 8 drama series A Jungle Survivor.

He is known to be devoted to his wife, former actress Andrea De Cruz, 47, donating half his liver to her in 2002 following her liver failure. They celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary last year.

6. Gal Gadot (1985)


Israeli actress Gal Gadot, 36, best known for playing Wonder Woman, came from humble beginnings. She worked as a fryer in Burger King before winning a beauty pageant, serving in the military, modelling for designer brands like Gucci and Jaguar, studying law and international relations and finally settling into acting.

She started out in films like Fast & Furious (2009) and Date Night (2010) before being cast in Wonder Woman (2017) and Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) as the comic book heroine.

The actress epitomised the strength of the ox when she trained in multiple martial arts, from sword fighting to Brazilian jiu-jitsu for Wonder Woman.

7. Song Joong-ki (1985)


The boyish-looking actor won a wide following in Asia after starring as a military officer in K-hit drama Descendants Of The Sun (2016). Before that, he was known for playing the titular character in the movie A Werewolf Boy (2012), a box-office hit in South Korea. He also acted in K-dramas including The Innocent Man (2012).

His marriage in 2017 to Descendants co-star Song Hye-kyo was seen as a fairy tale romance, but it ended in divorce barely two years later in 2019.

Song, 36, has remained resilient like the ox despite the disappointment in his personal life and can be seen in the recently released Netflix movie, Space Sweepers (2020, above).

8. Olivia Ong (1985)


A self-professed introvert, the Singapore singer and actress has carved out a career in music through ox-like diligence. When she was 15, she was part of J-pop girl group, Mirai, with two other Singaporean girls.

Ong, 36, has gone on to record songs in not only Mandarin and English, but also Cantonese and Japanese. She is best known for singing the opening theme song of the popular Channel 8 drama, The Little Nyonya (2008), and the official theme song of the National Day Parade 2012.

9. Michael Phelps (1985)


He is the most successful Olympian of all time. How "ox-some" is that?

Retired American swimmer Michael Phelps, 36, has smashed record after record in the pool. To crown it all, he holds the record for winning the most Olympic medals.

He has won a total of 28 Olympic medals, of which there are 23 golds, three silvers and two bronzes.

When asked what makes a champion, he was quick to say that "it's hard work, dedication, not giving up".

After retiring at 31 after his final stint at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Phelps has worked as a mental health advocate. Last year (2020), he released a documentary titled The Weight Of Gold to address the depression faced by athletes after the Olympics.

10. Blackpink's Rose and Lisa (1997)


As a member of the popular K-pop girl group Blackpink, Rose, 24, sings, dances, acts and has hidden skills (she can rotate her palm 360 degrees).

She is known for her diligence, spending more than four years in training before making her debut with Blackpink.

She has more than 35 million followers on Instagram and a highly anticipated solo album on the way.

Blackpink's Lisa, 24, does a lot of the heavy lifting as the main dancer and lead rapper. Born in Thailand, she is also the resident dance mentor on Chinese girl group reality talent series Youth With You Season 2 (2020).