Bonny Hicks



Bonny Hicks (b. 5 January 1968, Malaysia–19 December 1997, Indonesia) was a model and writer. She published two books, Excuse Me, Are You a Model? (1990) and Discuss Disgust (1992). Hicks died along with 103 other passengers on board SilkAir Flight MI 185 when it crashed in Sumatra, Indonesia.1

Early life
Hicks’ parents were Betty Soh and a man whom her mother calls “Ron Hicks”. Her father was a British warrant officer in the Royal Air Force. He returned to the United Kingdom before Hicks was born, promising to return for Soh and the baby, but never did so. As a young adult, Hicks attempted to contact her father through the British High Commission. The Commission located her father but was told that he did not want any contact with Hicks or her mother, despite Hicks’ assurances that he did not have any obligations to them.2

When Hicks was a year old, the family moved to Singapore. Her formative years were spent in a multiracial and multilingual environment that included friends from a variety of backgrounds. While Hicks was identified officially as Eurasian, she was brought up in a Chinese family and considered herself Chinese.3

At the age of 12, Hicks moved to Sentosa when her mother took a job as a caretaker there.4 After completing her ‘A’ Levels, Hicks was spotted by a fashion designer’s assistant while shopping with her friends and was soon featured in a photoshoot for the designer’s new line of clothing.5 She later joined a modelling agency and became one of Singapore’s most prominent models, appearing on the covers of fashion magazines.6

Literary career
Hicks’ fame grew when her book, Excuse Me, Are You A Model?, was published in 1990 when she was 22 years old.7 As a child, Hicks had dreamt of writing a book and took the opportunity to do so when Alex Chacko of the publisher Flame of the Forest was looking for a model to write a book about her experiences.8 The book sold out its first print run of 12,000 copies within three days of its launch, and subsequently sold another 45,000 copies.9

The book’s frank style, with details of Hicks’ love affairs and feelings for another woman, attracted criticism from social conservatives.10 In Hicks’ opinion, reactions to the book were divided into two camps: first, teenagers and young adults who were drawn to her honesty and related to her, and second, of older women who saw her as immoral and a bad influence on impressionable young readers. She also felt that her detractors were critical of her and her moral values rather than the book.11 Despite the controversy, however, the popularity and debate generated by the book made it a milestone in Singapore’s literary scene.12

Subsequently, Hicks wrote to The Straits Times in reply to an article about the controversy, and was offered a column to express her views. She accepted and discussed personal, social, political and philosophical issues in the column. In 1992, the column was discontinued due to pressure from conservatives and journalists who felt that she was not qualified to write a column because she lacked a tertiary education, according to Hicks. She continued to contribute the occasional article to The Straits Times, however, showing a growing maturity in her writing over time.13

In 1992, Hicks published her second book, Discuss Disgust. The book was written from the perspective of a troubled child neglected by her mother who was a prostitute. Like her first book, it caused controversy, and gave rise to speculation that it contained semi-autobiographical elements.14 Hicks was upset by the reaction from local activists, conservatives and the intelligentsia.15 In the same year, she left Singapore to work in the advertising industry in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she also met her fiancé, American architect Richard Dalrymple.16

In 1997, she returned to public life in Singapore with an article on racism published in The Straits Times.17 Around this time, she applied to universities in the United Kingdom and United States to study philosophy.18

Death
Two weeks after Hicks received her first acceptance letter from a university,19 she boarded SilkAir Flight MI185 from Jakarta to Singapore on 19 December 1997. Not long after taking off, the plane lost altitude from 35,000 ft and crashed into the Musi river in Sumatra, killing all 104 passengers on board, including Hicks and Dalrymple. Hicks was 29 years old at the time.20

On the first anniversary of her death, Hicks’ friend Tal Ben-Shahar published Heaven Can Wait: Conversations with Bonny Hicks, a collection of their correspondence during the year before her death.21 Poet Grace Chia also wrote about Hicks’ life in her poem, “Mermaid Princess”.22

In April 2000, the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations opened the Bonny Hicks Education and Training Centre in her honour.23

Publications
1990: Excuse Me, Are You A Model?
1992: Discuss Disgust



Authors

Alvin Chua & Joanna HS Tan



References
1. Lee, L. (2004, January 5). Mother soldiers on, with a shrine to Bonny. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singh, K. (1998). Introduction. In K. Singh, Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature vol. 1: Fiction. Singapore: Ethos Books, p. xiii. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
2. Leong, C. (1990, July 21). A sour-sweet slice of life. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Hicks, B. (1990). Excuse Me, Are You a Model? Singapore: Flame of the Forest, pp. 8, 10, 98–99. (Call no.: RSING 659.152092 HIC)
3. Hicks, B. (1997, June 15). The day I became colour-blind, I saw clearly. The Straits Times, p. 7; Leong, C. (1990, July 21). A sour-sweet slice of life. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Leong, C. (1990, July 21). A sour-sweet slice of life. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Hicks, B. (1990). Excuse me, are you a model? Singapore: Flame of the Forest, pp. 17–18. (Call no.: RSING 659.152092 HIC)
6. Ben-Shahar, T. (1998). Heaven can wait: Conversations with Bonny Hicks. Singapore: Times Books International. (Call no.: RSING 826 BEN); Excuse me, here’s Bonny’s inside story: Mum. (1990, September 6). The New Paper, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Chia, H. (1990, July 13). Too much, too soon. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Hicks, B. (1990). Excuse me, are you a model? Singapore: Flame of the Forest. (Call no.: RSING 659.152092 HIC)
8. Schools ‘no’ to talks by Hicks. (1990, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Hicks, B. (1990). Excuse me, are you a model? Singapore: Flame of the Forest, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 659.152092 HIC)
9. Ong, S. (2002, November 16). Bonny’s back. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. George, C. (1999, December 23). Excuse me, was I a shock? The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Hicks, B. (1997, June 29). Three generations and their different responses to change. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Singh, K. (1998). Introduction. In K. Singh, Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature vol. 1: Fiction. Singapore: Ethos Books, p. xiii. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
13. Lim, R. (1997, December 28). Cover girl from first to last. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Flame of The Forest Publishing Pte Ltd. (n.d.). Fiction books. Retrieved 2016, June 24 from  http://www.flameoftheforest.com/Books/Fiction/
15. Ben-Shahar, T. (1998). Heaven can wait: Conversations with Bonny Hicks. Singapore: Times Books International. (Call no.: RSING 826 BEN)
16. Crash of flight MI185 – Ex-model Bonny on way to US to spend Christmas. (1997, December 21). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Hicks, B. (1997, June 15). The day I became colour-blind, I saw clearly. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Ben-Shahar, T. (1998). Heaven can wait: Conversations with Bonny Hicks. Singapore: Times Books International. (Call no.: RSING 826 BEN)
19. Lim, R. (1997, December 28). Cover girl from first to last. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Lee, L. (2004, January 5). Mother soldiers on, with a shrine to Bonny. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Transportation Safety Committee. (2000). Investigation of aircraft accident SilkAir flight MI 185 Boeing B737-300, 9V-TRF, Musi River, Palembang, Indonesia, 19 December 1997: Final report. Indonesia: Department of Communications, p. 1. (Call no.: RSING 363.12465 INV)
21. Ong, S. F. (1998, December 19). My beautiful enemy. The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Cheong, F. (1998, November 7). Pop poetry: from the Bible to fairy tales. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Kaur, K. (2000, April 27). Centre to be named after Bonny Hicks. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Language and literature>>Literatures>>East and Southeast Asian literature>>Singapore literature
Writers
Authors, Singaporean--Biography
Models (Persons)--Singapore--Biography
Hicks, Bonny, 1968-1997
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors