Which Surya is the Real Singapore Girl?

An airline press announcement which I missed in March has me saying: “Hmm. I need new glasses.”


Top-tier carrier Singapore Airlines is well-known for an excellent passenger experience. This excellence stems from superb cabin product in all cabin classes and the superior service of the airline.

If you’ve flown with SIA before, you’ll know that it its one of those rare airlines which ruin your entire travelling life by spoiling you until almost any other airline then feels second-rate.

The embodiment of all that comfort and service is the iconic Singapore Girl flight attendant. While the airline’s professional cabin crew includes Singapore Guys, the Singapore Girl has, over the years, become a symbol of the airline recognised around the world.

Now, a marvel of tourist attractions has placed the Singapore Girl on the same stage as royalty, celebrities, superheroes, mythic figures and an amusing-though-wise green alien.

Starting this March, Madame Tussauds added a wax figure of the Singapore Girl to its Singapore Museum. Yes. Seriously. The model for the Singapore Girl wax figure is Ms Nur Surya Binte Mohamed Ambiah, who worked as flight crew for the airline from 2007 to 2011, took a brief period off to have a family, and, incredibly, was able to return in 2012 under the airline’s Returning Crew Scheme still able to fit into that uniform.

Which Surya is which? Really. I can’t tell.

“We are truly delighted to have created a wax figure of the Singapore Girl; she is a global icon and the epitome of grace and hospitality. Representing a leading Asian brand, the iconic Singapore Girl is well-known all over the world and therefore we wanted to feature her in our attraction which aims to showcase the best of Singapore!” says Ms Sharon Wong, Marketing Manager, Madame Tussauds Singapore.

As it turns out—and this is another thing I missed when it happened—this is the second time a Singapore Girl is immortalized in wax. The first was Ms Lim Suet Kwee in 1993. Ms Lim Suet Kwee has since become Assistant Manager of Crew performance and, as the airline reports, played “a crucial role in the selection process for the new Singapore Girl wax figure.”

Surya was selected for the honour based on factors determined by the airline which included poise, presenting herself with confidence and “possessing the Asian grace characteristic of the Singapore Girl icon”. Which is nice.

Chosen among her colleagues for this honour, Surya sat through eight hours of 500 precise body and facial measurements, photos, costume donations (not really sure what that entailed as the airline provided the sarong kebaya for the statue), a hand cast, hair samples, a signature and checks for eye colour matches. Mis Lim was there to help Surya through the process.

Madame Tussauds experts in London then got busy creating a wax representation of Surya which took three months to complete.

“The Singapore Girl, with her distinctive sarong kebaya, is a global icon and one of the most instantly recognisable figures worldwide. She is perennial and appeals to both young and old. Our customers have a strong emotional connection with our brand as a result of her iconic image. Her contribution to SIA’s brand is invaluable and we are excited for her to be featured in Madame Tussauds Singapore,” says Mr Marvin Tan, Singapore Airlines Senior Vice President Cabin Crew.

Next time you’re in Singapore, you can stop by and see Surya for yourself. I cannot tell, from the picture furnished by the airline, which is the original Surya who you might meet onboard or the Surya you could meet at the museum. The airline does not say in its announcement. The two are not entirely identical, but they could certainly be sisters, don’t you agree?

Which Surya is which? Really. I can’t tell.

Yes. Madame Tussauds is that good. We all know that. That’s why it’s so popular with millions of tourists around the world. I’ve never been, but I hear it’s very popular and I’ve seen queues going all the way around the block to see what’s inside. Which is why I’ve never been.

Perhaps your keen eye will be able to figure out which Surya is which.

Here’s the picture again and a poll where you can vote–we’ll let the world decide:


One thought on “Which Surya is the Real Singapore Girl?

  1. Reblogged this on Flight Chic and commented:

    SIA REVEALS: The Real Surya is the Singapore Girl on the…

    During my recent visit to Singapore Airlines headquarters to view the new Premium Economy cabin, I attended a pleasant press luncheon where I was finally able to ask the most probing question of all: Which Surya is the REAL Singapore Girl.

    Airline representatives have confirmed that the figure on the left, is indeed the real Surya, though the one on the right is quite life-like.

    For the record, 77% of Flight Chic readers had guessed correctly when first reading this post.

    Singapore Airlines tells me that Surya had to keep the Madame Tussauds project secret–even from her family–right up to the last moment when her wax likeness was unveiled. When she had to go on modeling sessions, her colleagues were told she was in a special project, but no one could know what that project was.

    Her family was present for the reveal, along with her extended Singapore Airlines family, but no one had any idea what was about to be revealed.

    It was a proud moment for Surya and her family–both at home and at work.

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