With her go-getting attitude and passion for supporting charitable causes – which sees her and a team of brave women embark on annual trekking expeditions to precarious corners of the globe to raise money for non-profit organisations – Christine Amour-Levar has made us sit up and take notice. We spoke with the author, entrepreneur, philanthropist and mother of four about her life experiences.
As chance would have it, just after I got in touch with Christine for our December cover feature, we bumped into each other at the launch of a mutual friend’s first fashion label at Scotts Square, and immediately got chatting. Something of a social butterfly – and definitely a seasoned expat (she’s been living here with her family for 10 years) – Christine and I shared stories about life in Singapore. I was immediately drawn to her confident, bubbly personality. After more discussions over some, well, rather moreish gin-infused cocktails, it became clear that she’s had a colourful life shaped by many experiences, all of which she’s taken in her stride.
What first brought you to Singapore? How do you feel the city has changed over the last few years?
The very first time I came here, I was just 15 years old, and it was to play competitive football. I’ll never forget the effect Singapore had on me during that short visit, and my desire to return. I remember walking down the pristine, modern streets and thinking to myself, “I would love to live in this amazing place one day.”
Luckily, my wish came true 10 years ago, when I had the opportunity to move here to work for Nike, running their Singapore marketing team. Two of my four children were also born here, and this special place has been the happiest of homes for us ever since. Over the years, it has changed tremendously; in fact, I feel it has simply become more cosmopolitan, beautiful and exciting.
Tell us about your venture into fashion retail and your book, The Smart Girl’s Handbook to Being Mummylicious; what inspired you to embark on these two projects?
After a few years at Nike, I decided to combine my love of fashion with my passion for the country that gave us football (my favourite sport!) and the world’s sexiest swimwear, Brazil. I opened Singapore’s first Brazilian multi-brand fashion boutique, Beijaflor, on Orchard Road and during that time I gave birth to my two younger children, who are just 22 months apart. So, I went from wearing maternity wear to having to sell itsy-bitsy tiny bikinis in a very short space of time. No wonder I had lots of material for the book I wrote soon after that!
Having a fashion business was fun; the shows, the events and trips to Brazil for fashion weeks in Rio and Sao Paolo were exciting and glamorous. Eventually, though, travel took a toll on our young family. Consequently, after about three-and-a-half years of running my retail business, I realised it was time explore new horizons. In 2011, I managed to sell my boutique for a modest profit and decided to focus my attention on developing my writing.
It’s funny; I got into writing by accident, when one of my editor girlfriends asked me to contribute a story. I enjoyed the experience very much, and found it to be a very creative outlet. A year later, in May 2012, I published my first book, The Smart Girl’s Handbook to Being Mummylicous, which was born out of my desire to inspire more mums to prioritise their health and fitness post-baby, and also to push themselves to never give up on their dreams when they become mothers.
How did you get into work with non-profit organisation Women On A Mission?
In October 2012, after a chance encounter with a passionate Everest summiter called Valerie Boffy, I trekked to Everest Base Camp with her and seven other adventurous women, raising awareness and funds for women survivors of war. Women On A Mission (WOAM) evolved naturally into something bigger and more meaningful, soon after our team’s return from Everest.
Tell us more about its work over the years.
Over the past three years, WOAM has become an organisation that combines challenging expeditions to majestic locations around the world, with inspirational events and workshops in Singapore and Nepal, as a means to raise awareness and funds for women survivors of war and abuse. As of today, we are proud to say that we’ve managed to raise over half a million Singapore dollars for the causes we support. In addition to survivors of war, who we champion via an organisation called Women for Women International, we also support and raise funds for AWARE, a well-known gender equality advocacy group, the Singapore Committee for UN Women, and Aidha, a Singapore NGO tbat empowers domestic workers.
Recently, at one of our fundraisers for the UN, we hosted Dr Anousheh Ansari, the first self-funded woman astronaut to fly into space, and this November, as part of our fourth expedition, we trekked in Siberia with the nomadic Nenets reindeer herders of that region. This was the first time in history that an all-female team has accompanied the Nenets on one of their yearly 60-kilometre journeys across the frozen Gulf of Ob, which is a bay of the Arctic Ocean located at the mouth of the Ob River, deep in the Arctic Circle in northern Russia.
Ultimately, our objective is to inspire women to want to leave their comfort zone, their families and homes for a certain period of time, while pushing their limits in an effort to rally support for a worthy cause. Our team seeks to travel, to explore the world, and as a result to make new discoveries and flourish as individuals; but most importantly, give something back to society.
Who and what inspires you the most?
I’m inspired by people who are brave and generous. I admire those who aren’t afraid to dream big, but who also make it a point to help others become happier and more successful. People who are genuinely kind, thoughtful and compassionate towards others inspire me deeply. I also admire a strong work ethic, creativity, passion and integrity. These are some of the values I aspire to reflect in my own life, and qualities I hope my children will incorporate into their lives as they grow up.
Tell us about Christine behind the scenes: what are your favourite ways to spend your free time?
To be honest, I love just lounging around the house on a rainy day with a good book; I’m a real homebody and a voracious reader at that! But I also prioritise my health and nutrition, so I try to exercise regularly and plan our home meals very carefully. That said, my husband and I do enjoy eating out and catching up with friends at least two or three times a week, and we also love hosting relaxed dinner parties at home.
Read the rest of Christine’s interview in the December issue of LIV, available with Expat Living Singapore.