“I don’t think you can ever define love. It’s such a universal, yet complex thing to describe,” Lee Yen Wijaya tells Ajeng G. Anindita.
Wijaya is a force to be reckoned with. Her presence is strong when she enters the studio where Prestige will shoot her jewellery spread. While she is having her makeup and hair done, she asks several times what kind of dresses and jewellery she will wear, as she is familiar with all the bling brands. Lee Yen, it is clear, is a woman who knows what she wants – and is not afraid to say no.
She is a familiar figure at Jakarta’s important high-society events and she is known for her graceful personality as well as a charming smile. You would not realise that she is a mother of four, with soon-to-be three grandchildren. So how does she keep everything so good and easy?
“I try to do different things every day. From doing errands, social work, meeting and catching up with my friends, to doing photo shoots like this,” Lee Yen answers with a laugh. “But I do like to stay home more these days. As you get older, the more you want to just have a relaxed life. But I also do exercises like Pilates and swimming, to keep my health in check.”
The wife of businessman Herry Wijaya and mother of William, twins Winston and Wesley, and Mariella is not as hands-on in with The Hermitage as she was before. The luxury boutique hotel in Menteng is her and her husband’s brainchild. They decided to turn a Dutch colonial building into something way more lavish and luxurious. The 1920s Art Deco interior style mixed beautifully with rich Indonesian culture thanks to the work of the renowned American architect Thomas Elliott and interior designer Jasin Tedjasukmana.
Speaking about the hotel, Lee Yen admits that “I still help sometimes a little bit here and there, more on the operational side. But, the hotel is mostly managed by my husband and now my youngest child, Mariella. She helps him and goes to the hotel every day.”
The stylish socialite, who in her spare time spends much time playing with and taking care of her pet birds and dogs, tells us that her love for her husband, children and grandchildren is unconditional. “I was so happy and excited when I found out I would be a grandmother,” she smiles. “I shall love them until the end of time. Although, I would always worry about them all the time. I try my best to be a good grandmother to them. They come to visit me once or twice every week. I know I love them, and I know they love me too.”
Lee Yen admits with a laugh: “I can’t help but give them whatever they want. I pamper them, I spoil them. They’re just a blessing to me.” Meanwhile, her middle son, Wesley, is going to marry next month (March) in Jakarta.
What does love mean to Lee Yen? “I don’t think you can ever define love,” she replies. “It’s such a universal, yet complex thing to describe. I think you feel it and you do it as an action. You love your parents, your children, your husband, your lovers, your dogs, your cats, your friends. You can not only define love solely with one meaning. There’s a huge, wide aspect about it.
“I think we need love in our life every day. Can you imagine if you don’t have a bit of love in your life? And I don’t mean it only romantically. Even in things that we do, because love is also an action, right? You need to put love in everything that you do.”
How would she describe the differences between love for your husband on the one hand, and your children and grandchildren on the other? “I think it is so different. With my husband, I can honestly say, it’s not like we’re not in love anymore. But the longer you have a relationship with someone, the feelings might change, but the love, the care and the commitment are still there. I’ve been with my husband for so long, I love him unconditionally. You don’t get to choose anymore, so you work with what you have to maintain a healthy, loving family.
“I think people who have been married for a long time will understand that it’s now all about commitment. Their love may not be like we had 20 years ago, but we are still keeping on going with our family, and that’s what’s the most important. You learn to live as a life partner. You don’t fight over small things anymore and you just have to work it out together. We do still celebrate Valentine’s Day, though. My husband and I still have dinner together on that day every year.”
As the day is coming to an end, Lee Yen gracefully expresses her hopes and dreams for the New Year. “My aspiration is always to be a better person, and I try to be closer to God. I really have a feeling that I have to be closer to Him and move towards Him more. I also learn to tolerate whatever comes now, to be more relaxed and mellow.
” Photographed by Denny Tjan / Styled by Peter Zewet / Dress by Alexander McQueen / Jewellery by Club Solitaire.
She goes on: “I wish to be healthier, wealthier and wiser, of course. My dream is to have a peaceful and nice life. What makes me strong is that I pray every day. I think that’s what keeps me going, my love for God.”
Photographed by Denny Tjan / Styled by Peter Zewet / Dress by Roland Mouret from Jade boutique / Jewellery by Passion Privé.
Photographed by Denny Tjan / Styled by Peter Zewet / Dress by Hian Tjen / Jewellery by Mondial.