How Singapore Airlines stewardess

Published: 15th July 2010
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FORMER Singapore Airlines (SIA) stewardess Kasmah Abdul Hamid, 55, was back home for a two-week visit when she saw a picture of her 20-year-old self in the newspaper.

Last week, The Sunday Times featured SIA's first advertisement, released 35 years ago, along with a feature story asking whether it was time to retire the Singapore Girl icon.

The ad showed the profile of a young Asian woman with her lips parted slightly. 'This girl's in love with you,' the slogan gushed.

Ms Kasmah was that girl.

She quit SIA in 1979 when she married a German businessman.

Now she owns an interior decor shop in Germany and has two daughters, aged 25 and 21.

But all these years, Ms Kasmah had never known that particular ad was actually SIA's first.

She found out only when The Sunday Times told her in an interview last week.

'Other girls had their pictures taken for ads, too. We never thought very much about appearing in ads. It was just another part of the job,' she said.
As with many things in her life, she attributed her appearance in the historic ad to luck.
Born into a big family, Ms Kasmah - the fourth of nine children - was given an English education solely because the Malay school near her home had no vacancies.
Her father registered her at the next nearest school, which taught in English.
The rest of her siblings were educated in Malay schools.
After completing her O levels, she worked briefly as a bus warden, but the 19-year-old Kasmah wanted a proper job.
'Coincidentally, SIA was looking for stewardesses at that time. Since I could speak English, I just applied,' she said.
By chance, she wore a brown and white sarong kebaya and put on a wig for her job interview. Despite dropping her personal documents during the interview, she landed the job.
Just six months later, she was selected to be photographed for SIA's first ad. The photo shoot, which was conducted at the East Coast beach, took about three days.
'I was told to walk on the beach and look like I was in love,' she said.
'I was only 19 and came from a conservative Malay family. I had no idea about love or looking in love. So I just walked like a mule,' she said.
Many other photo shoots followed, and she lost track of how many of pictures of her became SIA ads.
The only ad poster she has today is one of her with a Siamese cat.

In the 1970s, when other kampung girls had little prospect of leaving the country, she got to see the world.
'In those days, the turnaround periods could stretch up to a week,' she said.
'I had time to take a train up to Oxford when SIA flew to London. When we flew to Osaka, I took a train to Kobe.'
Things changed after she met her future husband through a mutual friend in Dubai. Her erratic flying schedule and costly long-distance telephone calls prompted the couple to get married quickly.
She quit her job after the wedding and moved to Saudi Arabia, where her husband was working. The couple settled down in Germany in 1994.
Said Ms Kasmah: 'I cannot imagine how my life would have turned out if that Malay school my father first approached had a vacancy. I would not have been able to see the world.'

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