ELLE Power Player: Ong Ker-Shing

Family is first on this award-winning architect’s list of priorities


Harvard graduate, architect, author, business owner, wife, mother — we have barely enough fingers on one hand to count Ong Ker-Shing’s many accomplishments with. While most of the 40-year-old’s time is spent in her “day job” at Lekker Architects (that she co-founded with her husband Joshua Comaroff), Ong also has a stake in the design shop Strangelets, authored an architecture book and started the food business, Two Rabbits Smoky Chilli with her brother, a small set-up distributing their family-recipe hot sauce.

Talk about diversity. On top of all these, Ong is the mother of two kids, aged five and six. Daily life is challenging, to say the least. “I used to think that being strong meant building a kick-ass career despite having kids, keeping that personal side hidden from my professional life. Now, I make an effort not to cover up that very important part of my life,” she says.

“Many women are forced to choose
 between career and family. I was raised expecting to have both. Also, I never felt 
that as an architect, I couldn’t open a shop
or sweat over a wok to make chilli to sell. 
By all means, do what interests you. No one 
ever said people should do only one thing!”

Ong’s next goal is unexpectedly simple — to get on top of things enough to start exercising regularly. She draws strength from her family: “What makes me feel powerful is when I’ve had a tough day at work, and when I go home and see my kids, I can make them feel like they are the only people in the world that matter.”

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