How a Singapore Girl flies (Vault)

You can’t take the girl out of the world’s most awarded airline. VAULT takes an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of what it takes to be a Singapore Girl

Writer: Niña Terol-Zialcita | Photographer: Pat Mateo

VAULT – How a Singapore Girl flies (June 2012) | Feature by Nina Terol-Zialcita * Photo by Pat Mateo
VAULT – How a Singapore Girl flies (June 2012) | Feature by Nina Terol-Zialcita * Photo by Pat Mateo

 

Being a Singapore Girl is a dream come true for many women. The name given to the flight attendants of Singapore Airlines was coined by French designer Pierre Balmain in 1972, when he was commissioned to update the airline’s Malay Sarong Kebaya uniform. Since then, the name has come to stand for Asian charm and hospitality and, in 1993, the Singapore Girl became the first “commercial” representation to be unveiled at Madame Tussauds wax museum in London.

The blue uniform is now recognized the world over, and everything about the Singapore Girl–from the way her hair is arranged in a classic French twist to the way her Sarong Kebaya hugs her well-kept figure–evokes sophistication.

Patricia Mah, who has been flying with Singapore Airlines for eight years now, has become a recognizable face in the airline’s ad campaigns. “It’s a glamorous lifestyle,” she admits. “You get to see different countries, experience different cultures, try different kinds of food, do a lot of shopping.”

Now in her early 30s, Mah looks every bit as fresh and as toned as her younger counterparts. She credits her training with Singapore Airlines for helping her acquire the discipline needed to maintain her health and lifestyle. “The training was very challenging–it was a lot more extensive and a lot more detailed than in other airlines,” she recounts. “You have to learn to pace yourself and adapt to all kinds of situations. Each flight will be a different experience.”

VAULT - From Girl-Next-Door to Singapore Girl (June-July 2012) | Photos by Pat Mateo, layout by Karl Castro
VAULT – From Girl-Next-Door to Singapore Girl (June-July 2012) | Photos by Pat Mateo, layout by Karl Castro

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This is an excerpt only. The full article is featured in the Travel Issue of Vault Magazine, (June-July 2012). Vault Magazine is available in the Philippines at all Fully Booked, Powerbooks, and National Bookstore branches. For more details, visit Vault‘s Facebook page HERE.

From femme fatale to security frontliner (Vault)

Vault takes a closer  look at the evolution of the women who once dominated the skies

VAULT - From femme fatale to security frontliner (June-July 2012)
VAULT – From femme fatale to security frontliner (June-July 2012)

The so-called Golden age of flying coincided with the packaging of female flight attendants as sex symbols. Then called stewardesses, they were meant to coax and predominantly male passengers at that time into flying the airline they represented.

This was evident as early as 1955, when United Airlines stewardess Barbara Cameron posed as Playboy magazine’s Miss December. She re-appeared in 1958 as “The Girl Next Door” and was named one of the magazine’s most popular “playmates.”

A 1965 article in the Des Moines Register said that male passengers expected stewardesses “to look like a Las Vegas showgirl, and are angry when she doesn’t.”

And in 1967, the bestseller Coffee, Tea or Me? The Uninhibited Memoirs of Two Flight Stewardesses revealed the in-flight exploits of stewardesses and their “bad boy” passengers, and listed the celebrities with whom the girls allegedly had had romantic dalliances. The veracity of the accounts has since been challenged and the book is now listed as “adult fiction.”

The in-flight innuendo reached its peak in the 1970s, when National Airlines put out an ad showing a pixie-faced flight attendant with the copy, “I’m Cheryl. Fly me.” Other Mad Men-type gimmicks included Braniff’s “Air Strip,” where “air hostesses” peeled off layers of clothing during the flight; paper dresses for TWA stewardesses (soon junked when male passengers made a habit of burning cigarette holes in them for “fun”—yes, smoking on board was allowed back then); and Eastern Airlines’ little black book giveaway, which was meant to encourage male passengers to get the phone numbers of flight attendants.

VAULT Magazine, June 2012 issue, p. 59: Samples of some risque airline advertising materials (Courtesy of VAULT Magazine)
VAULT Magazine, June 2012 issue, p. 59: Samples of some risque airline advertising materials (Courtesy of VAULT Magazine)

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This is an excerpt only. The full article is featured in the Travel Issue of Vault Magazine, (June-July 2012). Vault Magazine is available in the Philippines at all Fully Booked, Powerbooks, and National Bookstore branches. For more details, visit Vault‘s Facebook page HERE.