Y21 Woman #8 / Ong Bee Yan

Y21 Woman #8 / Ong Bee Yan

Y21: Why did you decide to start out as a model at 63?

Yan: I became a model when a local fashion designer asked my husband and I to showcase her t-shirt collection. She liked my silver hair. That was when I was 63 years old. I immediately said “yes” without hesitation because it was an opportunity for me to face my fears of being in front of the camera. I wanted to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone because my son chided me once when we had a family gathering and I refused to take a photo. He said “What’s the big deal!!? It’s only a photo!” This remark was imprinted in my mind for a very long time. I also felt if the designer could trust me to wear her clothes why then should I doubt myself? 

Y21: What does your typical day look like?

Yan: My typical day is waking up at 6.45 am to my alarm clock – my white cat “Susu” who would start her meowing and stomping on me from 6.15 am. Due to my back problem I do some back and neck stretches for about 10 mins before I attend to my 3 cats. While they are enjoying their breakfast I would do some light exercises before brushing my teeth followed by a refreshing cold shower. I would spend a few minutes reading Our Daily Bread and the Bible before I head out for a cup of Kopi O Kosong at my neighbourhood kopitiam. The rest of the day would be spent on IG post, taking OOTD, video editing, answering Q & A and client’s email etc.   

Y21: What challenges do you face in your day-to-day life?

Yan: Thinking of ways and means to outsmart one of my cats in giving his medicine 😊 But seriously, the challenges I face are keeping up with technology that is changing so constantly. I am still struggling with my IG posts eg tagging, hashtagging and captions. Also thinking how I can deliver my message of empowerment to the silver generation and changing their mindset about self-care as we age.  I am constantly looking for ideas and avenues to help the silver generation to stay active and relevant in society so that they feel useful and not invisible.

Y21: Where do you look for creative inspiration?

Yan: I don’t actively look for creative inspiration. I believe that everything I do is God-led and he will direct me.

Y21: What's your personal style?

Yan: My personal style is basic with a little bit of detailing, edginess or fun. My wardrobe consists of mainly white, black, grey and some beige tones.  

Y21: What makes you happy?

Yan: What makes me happy is knowing that my family is healthy, safe, loving and caring for each other and others in need.  

Y21: What does freedom mean to you?

Yan: Freedom means the right to make decision without being judged by society. To live life to the fullest at whatever age.

Y21: Any tips on maintaining a healthy work life balance?

Yan: I don’t think I have the expertise to advise on healthy work life balance.  Personally for me, I try to eat in moderation and try to stay away from fried and oily food. Since I am not working full-time, I am able to plan my work and family/personal time better.

Y21: You are both an entrepreneur and a model. How do you balance your time between your work and family?

Yan: Prior to our new partner coming on board to run the daily operation of 1degreeC, I would only take modelling jobs on days that I was not working in the kitchen. Weekends are allocated to family, church and friends.

Y21: What advice would you give to women around you?

Yan: My advice to women and everyone is to set goals and work hard for it. There is no shortcut to success. Don’t be afraid to take on any challenges. Don’t say you cannot do it if you have not tried. And don’t be disappointed with failure. Because in every failure there’s a lesson to learn and that is already success to me. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask if you don’t know. I remember I was chided “Why so stupid?” by a supplier. I told him it’s ok to call me stupid but teach me so I can learn. Nowadays information is so accessible online that there’s no excuse not to know. Lastly always stay humble and charitable.

Y21: Why did you decide to start your instagram account @grey_evolution?

Yan: I started my own ig called @grey_evolution with the mission to encourage and empower seniors to be at our best so people will be drawn to our positive energy. We should get out of our comfort zones. Embrace our age but don’t let age define or restrict us. God didn’t create humans to lead fulfilling lives until age 50 only. He wants us to lead enriching and meaningful lives for as long as we are alive.

We should continue to be physically and mentally fit even as we grow old. My mum had dementia and my sister too had dementia when she was 60 years old.  

I had the privilege of looking after mum for 6 months before she passed away 9 years ago. It was heartbreaking and painful to see her mental state of mind deteriorating to the point where she couldn’t remember who I was. I told myself that I wouldn’t want my children or spouse to go through the same pain as I went through. I would do my best to keep fit and healthy.

That’s why I want to encourage other seniors to practice self-care while we are still alive.  

Y21: Can you share more on the inspiration on the Y21 x grey_evolution collection

Yan: The inspiration behind the Y21 x grey_evolution collection came from some of my favourite clothes in my wardrobe – basic, simple but with some quirky, fun, edgy details. I like big baggy clothes and big bold prints. The clothes must be versatile, multi-purposed and pocket-friendly. The designs must be suitable for women of any age and any size.

Y21: How do you feel before, during and after this collaboration collection?

Yan: Before the collaboration I was wondering how I could fulfil this goal to create contemporary and stylish clothes for the silver generation that is still pocket-friendly. When I broached the subject to Jaren from Yacht21 and when she invited me to collaborate on a capsule collection I was truly ecstatic and grateful that she believes in my mission. The process from design to sampling took longer than expected due to the Covid situation but I believe everything happens for good reason.  

Y21: What is your favourite part of the collaboration?

Yan: My favourite part of the collaboration is knowing that FINALLY there’s a go-to shop for senior women to buy stylish yet age-appropriate clothes designed specifically with them in mind.

Y21: Which is your favourite design from the collaboration and why?

Yan: My favourite design is the Crew Neck Sweat Top. It’s everything I want in a sleeveless top. I love the round crew neck that sits nicely above the collar-bone with the sweatshirt inspired v-shape design below. The armhole is not cut too deep in as most sleeveless tops are which will be flattering so ladies who are afraid to wear sleeveless will not be conscious about their arms. The hemline is angular which gives it an edginess and will make anyone who wears it feel empowered 😊  And the length makes it versatile to tuck in or out.


About Ong Bee Yan

A granfluencer on Instagram, Yan is admired by women young and old with her passion for fashion and positive take on life. She landed her first modelling job at 63 and started @grey_evolution to journal her activities and empower seniors to overcome their fears, get out of their comfort zones and embrace their age without letting it define who they are.

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