Eunice Olsen volunteers and lobbies for causes close to her heart — women’s empowerment and special needs

(Oct 28): When Options called actress, talk show host, former beauty queen and entrepreneur Eunice Olsen for a quick interview, she was between appointments and walking back from the train station to her hotel room in Kyoto, Japan. Yet from the get-go, it was like speaking to a friend — if that friend was not only a multi-talented household name, but also an author and, most recently, an educator.

Warm, engaging and quick with a laugh, Olsen has a CV that could fill a book. She was the youngest person to be appointed Nominated Member of Parliament at the age of 27 in 2005. She then went on to bag a number of youth awards. In 2017, she was appointed strategic adviser for Space for Humanity, a US-headquartered non-profit organisation, which aims to send non-astronauts into space from as early as 2022.

Between acting gigs as well as volunteering and lobbying for causes close to her heart — women’s empowerment and special needs — Olsen has dedicated the past five years to WomenTalk TV, an online video and podcast series that she hosts and produces under her eponymous media production company, Eunice Olsen Media.

Speaking both very fast and enthusiastically, Olsen says that since Options last interviewed her (almost exactly a year ago), she has been keeping extremely busy. She has just wrapped up filming three episodes of a documentary, Incredible China, where she was invited as a media personality to experience how China has changed. The documentary, filmed in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, will air in October on Time.com and in November on Chinese online entertainment platform Mango.TV.

The former Miss Singapore Universe 2000 has also been going on book tours to read and share her book, I’m a girl. See what I can be!, in primary schools nationwide. To top it all off, she has been invited by the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Future-ready Graduates to give media and communications training to postgraduates and graduates.

Olsen laughs heartily when we ask when she gets time to breathe, eat or sleep. “I’ve just told a friend, actually, that I used to feel guilty if I took a break. [When] I go on a holiday, I would feel guilty, because I am an entrepreneur, you know, I should be working. But this year, I’ve been consciously trying to be more present in whatever I do, to not feel guilty when taking time off, whether it’s two hours during the day to see my best friend or two days in the week.”

“Because I think sometimes we forget that, you know, and we worry so much about the things that can happen or should happen that we don’t live in [the] present, and it’s so important because we want to be present for the people [whom] we are with,” she adds.

Olsen seems indefatigable, however, perhaps because of the fulfilment she has found in both doing her book tours and the communications training for students. In fact, the warmth immediately comes through over the phone as she recalls the fun she has during the book tours, speaking to the children who, as expected, ask the darndest questions.

The book is very interactive, Olsen explains, and it features 10 poems penned by her, based on the real-life stories of inspirational and courageous women. Each poem comprises illustrations from differently abled artists whose biographies can be found at the back of the book. It is through the book that ­Olsen wants to share the message of fearlessness and strength with the children.

“I do try to tell them to not be afraid to come up and ask questions, because there’s no right or wrong. To try, to speak whatever that comes to your mind,” she adds. “I talk to them of strength, courage, humility and compassion.”

As for the communications training for graduates and postgraduates, Olsen is effusive and admits that she gets a warm and fuzzy feeling from doing them. Although the training sessions are not something she does formally — she has done others over the years, on and off — she is definitely keen to do more.

Lots of graduates struggle to communicate, to express themselves clearly, she notes, and it brings her a lot of pleasure helping them break past the barriers of communication and gain more confidence in public speaking, for example.

“I really feel a huge sense of fulfilment because having been in the media industry for so long, I feel like it is something I just do. Communicating comes naturally to me, so I have never thought that this skill could actually truly help others,” she says.