Taking the wheel: Our #BuroSocial dinner at Volkswagen Centre Singapore

Women in control

Text: Amelia Chia

The latest edition of #BuroSocial had a unique group of women sharing stories of how they took control of their own lives

The theme for the night was 'Taking the Wheel'. Held in the spacious showroom at Volkswagen Centre Singapore, our first female-focused #BuroSocial brought together confident women from all walks of life. Women who have started businesses, broken out of traditional moulds, and left their comfort zones for the unknown. It was this exploration of taking control —and sharing moments where they've taken control of situations in their life — that had our intimate group interacting like old friends.

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As with all our #BuroSocial dinners, we handpicked four hosts that would bring four of their friends for dinner — individuals that had tales to tell and were game to be seated amongst strangers. The concept of it is to encourage conversation, spark off ideas, and perhaps eventually collaborate in the future. Our exceptional hosts at our sixth #BuroSocial were Hanli Hoefer (TV presenter and radio DJ), Mae Tan (marketing creative at Surrender), Vanessa Fernandez (singer and radio DJ), and Beatrice Tan (founder of Klarra). They brought to the table words of encouragement, wisdom beyond their years, and that feel-good factor.

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Keen to be part of the action? Watch the video below for a glimpse into our evening — which included the unveiling of the new Golf TSI, a sleek, zippy ride ideal for female drivers. Laura Chew, PR & communications manager at Volkswagen Singapore, presented the brand's latest babies, which were encased in colourful containers outside the showroom. Needless to say, the ladies were all snapping away.

You might also be familiar with the fact that our #BuroSocial dinners aren't your run-of-the-mill parties. It's all about location, location, location. Dining inside a pool at Tanjong Beach Club? Done. Inside interior design studio The Mill? Done. An expansive car showroom? Here we go. With a colourful balloon installation floating above the dinner table, the space was fun, whimsical, and distinctive all at once.

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As the sun set outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, our dinner party began, with delicious cocktails from 28 HongKong Street. The brilliant team behind one of Singapore's best bars created two special drinks for us; R.E.S.P.E.C.T, a rum and tea concoction inspired by Aretha Franklin's 1967 power anthem, and Gin Gin Mule, a modern classic using Rutte Dry Gin, distilled by female master distiller Myriam Hendrickx.

Our guests were then treated to a stunning spread of shared dishes from gourmet caterer Preparazzi. Led by the charismatic Jeremy Nguee, the flavours presented were bold, creative, and full of surprises. Starters featured the likes of watermelon topped with crab and pressed beancurd with corn sambal crispy tempeh, while the mains took meat and seafood to a whole new level. Think seabass with kicap glaze grilled fine beans, angus beef short rib with caramelised coconut sauce, and spring chicken drizzled with tomato curry sauce, oyster mushroom tempura, and lotus root chips.

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Paired with a delightful rosé selection from Bottles XO (in conjunction with their Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign), fresh flowers from the masterful team at Floral Magic, and an inspiring postcard reminder from The Paper Bunny, our #BuroSocial had all the makings of an unforgettable night.

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And was it a beautiful night indeed. Our guests stayed and indulged us till the very end, and when it was all done, there were hugs all around. Point taken: When there's a room full of women, there's always hugs, more hugs, and lots of pictures. So, can women really have it all? What were some moments where we took control of our lives? Our four gorgeous hosts tell us more.


Hanli hoefer, buro social

Can you share with us a moment where you remember taking control of your life?
I remember wanting to take full control of my life when I joined MTV. I realised that presenting is something that I really wanted to do — interviewing people and connecting with people was something I was passionate about. When I realised this, it drove me to want to do my best, be in charge of who I wanted to be, and the way I'd like people to feel when I talk to them or have them on my show. That was a very pivotal moment for me because in realising who I wanted to be and how I wanted to make people feel, it touched base with who I wanted to be in the future. It gave me a goal to work towards, and I'm forever working towards it.

What brings you greatest joy in what you do?
It's definitely the human connection. Even though I'm working in front of a camera most days, my role is to become the middle man and convey a message. When I interview people, I love really getting to know them, finding out what makes them laugh, and letting them express themselves. It's me getting to know you so everyone can know you.

Do you think women in this day and age face any kind of challenges or stigma?
We have a lot going for us in this day and age, especially in comparison to the previous generations. We have a lot more opportunities; a lot more platforms to voice things that matter to us. That being said, there are still always going to be challenges for women — like all sorts of expectations and pressures. Hopefully, if we keep up the momentum that we are working with now, that will all be overcome. 

Can women have it all?
Yes. Women can have it all, but we need to first be honest with what we want, and not set an unrealistic expectation on ourselves. When society tells us what we want, we need to take a minute to think of ourselves first as an individual and work towards those goals. When we reach those goals, that's us having it all. 


buro social, Mae tan

Do you remember a moment where you took control of your life?
Yes, when I decided that I would quit school to join the expansion of the company [Surrender]. I asked myself, "What was something I really wanted to do? What was something that would make me feel motivated and inspired?" As much as I learnt so much from school and I loved the environment, I felt that this was the time for me to step out of my comfort zone, grow up and accept that I have to learn how to deal with obstacles that come my way. I had to learn that sometimes you need to put other things that you love behind and take on whatever is in front of you. 

Did you face any opposition or challenges when you decided to leave school?
Thankfully, my parents were very supportive. They gave me the best advice any parent could give when they said: "Mae, you just do what makes you happy and trust your 'gut feeling'. If this is what you want to do, and if it's going to make you happy, then go for it. At the end of the day, it's happiness that counts." 

Who inspires you?
There's no one person that inspires me or whom I look up to, but I think different traits from the different people around me influence who I am. My dad influences me when it comes to being positive. He always says, "Mae, if something bad happens, the next thing that happens will be good. If you keep dwelling on unhappiness, you will never go anywhere." My mum taught me to be compassionate and showed me how to care for people with out-of-this-world kindness. She taught me how to be a real woman.

Do you think women can have it all?
Of course women can have it all. I think the fact that people think women can't have it all is a little bit 'square' and small-minded. It's time for them to look around and see how powerful we can be and how smart we can be. Yes, we might be sensitive but it's all for the greater good.


vanessa fernandez, buro social

Was there a moment in your life where you remember taking full control?
If I'm very honest, because I am a very emotional person, the area that I think of when it comes to taking control of my life was when I was 19, and I had gone through a really bad breakup. At that time, I was also performing and doing theatre and musicals. I had alienated myself from a lot of my friends to be in this relationship with someone who wanted to control me. After that relationship, I realised that you can't control other people, you can't stop someone from being good or bad, but you can control how you approach that situation, and the decision to move your life in the direction that's right for you.

That was the first time. More recently, I'd also like to say that I was an executive producer in my last release Mindkiller. As an executive producer of your own project, you have to figure out the concept, the people who are going to be involved in it, and coordinate, make those decisions and make sure things kind of move along. That's the most recent example of taking control of my life.

Coincidentally, you briefly mentioned working on a new single titled 'Control'. What can you tell us about that? 
I've been doing a bunch of songwriting recently and funnily enough, I just finished writing a song called 'Control'. It's about feeling like you don't have control of your life, or feeling like a lot of people are trying to tell you what you should do. For me, music is a means through which I exercise a lot of these personal conflicts, or questions about what's happening. I sit down and write some lyrics, come up with a melody, and in creating a song, I feel like I have control. That's literally what I did yesterday!

How do you think what you do has an influence on others?
It's a big cliché to say that music is a universal language, but that's totally true. I think it's because we experience it on such a personal level, but are also able to experience it on such a mass level. You can go to a festival and experience the same awesome band that you came to watch with 10,000 other people, or you can be in your room and listening to the lyrics of that same person and feel like they have lived through the exact same thing that you have lived through. That's what makes music the most powerful of all the art forms, because in my opinon, it is the most accessible.

Do you think it's possible for women to have it all?
I think if you choose to be happy, and that starts from heart first and head thereafter, you can have it all. The reason why we don't feel like we have it all is because we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves, or we get so caught up with an idea of what 'all' is or success that isn't really about fulfilling us as human beings. So I think if you really start to address the question of "What truly makes me happy?" and wanting to be happy, then you can have it all. You'll probably start to even find moments when you are not happy as part of having it all.


beatrice tan, buro social

Do you remember a moment where you took full control of your life?
The moment where I took full control of my life was when I started running my own business. It was a dream of mine, and about three and a half years ago, I decided to pursue it because I wanted to take control of something and create value. 

Were there any challenges or adversities in starting your own business?
Definitely. I was pretty inexperienced back then, and it was my first business. Fashion was very new to me, and I've made both mistakes and good decisions along the way — thankfully, I've now managed to overcome them. Back then, I was working in a bank and realised there was a lack of good quality stylish workwear. That was the moment when I felt like I could create products that would create value for the customers we're serving.  

Do you think women in this day and age face any stigma, especially in your line of work?
I feel like men and women are pretty equal. Both sexes should come together and be respected equally, because while we might not have as much physical strength, women have their own gifts, like being more sensitive to other people's feelings and an emotional instinct. That's something we can empower ourselves with, and use it to our advantage. 

Do you think women can have it all?
Yes, with good time management. We have a lot of roles to play, such as being a good wife, friend, daughter, and mother. It's all about how you manage your time and making sure that you are in control of yourself, as well as being physically and emotionally in check. 

Get an inside look at all our other #BuroSocial dinners.


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