A New Generation of Empowered Women – Bunga, Johanis and Esther

Happy International Women's Day! Today marks 111 years since the very first International Women's Day. A lot has changed, evolved and developed for women and the world continues to grow for women.

This year's title is #BreakTheBias, where we want to challenge stereotypes limiting women and girls. To #BreakTheBias, we sat down and spoke to six powerful women in various industries and learned how they are going against stereotypes and breaking limits.

Bunga (@bungaisme)
Please tell us briefly about yourself.
I go by the name Bunga - it was a name that was formed from my college days of writing poetry. I also chose this name because it is one of the symbols for women. I am a 22-year-old rapper, singer and songwriter.
Do you think there's a stereotype attached to female rappers?
Nope, coming into the rap scene in 2019, I was very welcomed by people in the community and industry. There weren't any expectations that I had to uphold because of my gender or the fact that I am a hijabi rapper. I am very grateful that I was given the opportunity to express myself through my rap without any stereotypes.
Is there anyone that inspires you in your career?
I am truly lucky to be going through my twenties in an era that empowers women. There are incredible women right, left and centre who are doing their parts to fend for women's rights. In music, I have always looked up to people like Amy Winehouse and how she knew herself and her sound, and how she would tell stories and express herself in her lyrics. In terms of stage presence, I am constantly learning from watching performances by Doja Cat and all the different styles she always uses to keep things interesting. Locally, I am always in awe of all the female rappers who bring their unique sense of style and originality.
If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
Taylor Swift, Nurul Izzah and my mom! Taylor Swift inspires me to stand up for myself and my beliefs as she has done time and time again. Nurul Izzah because if I weren't a rapper, I would probably be on my road to politics by now! (Fun fact: I'm a Public Admin first-year undergrad!) and lastly, my mom because she inspires me everyday. How can a woman who birthed and raised 11 children not be an inspiration?
What would you say to any woman who is thinking about becoming a rapper?
Stay true to yourself, find your sound through trying new things, in fact, try everything! You can only be boxed in if you let people put you in boxes that make sense to them.
Johanis Sani (
Please tell us briefly about yourself.
I’m Johanis, turning 25 this year. I’ve been a Content Creator for nine years now across platforms such as Youtube, Instagram, and TikTok. I am also the brand owner of my clothing line, Jinks!
Why did you choose to become a content creator/brand owner?

I started doing Youtube videos at the age of thirteen, mainly to entertain my family and friends back then, but eventually, it turned into a tool to help me express myself. I used to be so shy and felt that my opinions did not matter as I was the youngest in the family.

This hobby has then evolved into a career for me, where I get to use my platform as a creative outlet. I got to express my thoughts, feelings, and opinions on many topics such as lifestyle, fashion, and beauty. So I took the opportunity and ran with it!

Have you faced any barriers or stereotypes in your career due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?

I’ve definitely encountered many stereotypical comments such as “You’re wearing too much makeup” or “Your dressing is too improper”, when I clearly do it for myself to feel and look good! Not to please anyone.

Overcoming this problem is still an ongoing battle for women everywhere, not just myself. We have to come together collectively to create a shift in this patriarchal society and educate people on respecting other people’s decisions.

When were you most satisfied in your line of work?
I feel most satisfied and fulfilled when I receive heart-touching messages from my followers. Knowing that they can reach out to me in my DMs and relate to me gives me this sense of belonging because I also get to help them in a way.
Is there anyone that inspires you in your career?
It has to be my MOM! Witnessing her hard work as a single mother raising a family alone can never be compared to any other hardships that I myself have gone through or anyone else for that matter. She has definitely inspired me to be an independent woman and strive for success even more.
If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
Ariana Grande, Zendaya and Anna Akana - These women have one thing in common, and that is how they inspire a whole generation to be strong while achieving success at a young age.
Esther Choong (@pokingduck)
Please tell us briefly about yourself.
My name is Esther, I'm 23, and I'm a self-taught tattoo artist who has been tattooing for about 3+ years now. I specialise in handpoke tattooing! I actually graduated from accounting but decided to follow my passion instead.
How did you get started with your tattoo career?
I fell in love with tattooing as a culture and an art form after getting my first tattoo. I wanted to become an apprentice but was still studying at the time and felt that I couldn't sacrifice that just yet. After doing some research, I found out about handpoke and decided to try it out. Not the wisest idea, but we all have to start somewhere! Thankfully, I had a lot of support from my friends in the early days, which got me to where I am today. I still have a long way to go though!
Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?
Tattooing used to be a male-dominated career, but that's hardly the case now. I was nervous at first, but seeing more women in the industry gave me comfort. I don't think I faced any barriers per se as I worked independently for most of my career, but I do see a lot of room for improvement in the industry. I think the most important thing is to be accepting, kind, and constantly be open to learning and adapting to new experiences in this industry.
If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
It would be my grandma, Amy Winehouse and Princess Diana. Amy because her music got me through many tough times. Princess Diana’s strength and resilience are absolutely mesmerising. And my grandma because I really love her and miss her, and I think she’d try to outsing Amy Winehouse with her rendition of Teresa Teng's “Tian Mi Mi Mi”, which would be hilarious.
What would you say to any woman who is thinking about becoming a tattoo artist?
Go for it. If that is what you want, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Trust your heart and do your research; you want to avoid injuries as you will be dealing with sharp objects! This also applies to anyone wanting to be anything - just trust the process and take care of yourself! I'll be rooting for you!
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