Article from the Sun daily by S. Indra Sathiabalan (posted on 6 September 2018)
ONCE a victim of bullying, 21 year-old Joanna Joseph is now a beauty queen and model, as well as an anti-bullying activist.
As an only child, Joanna was indulged by her doting parents who gave her whatever she wanted. This included lots of food.
In primary school she weighed 60kg and this made her the target of nasty schoolmates, and even teachers.
By the time she attended secondary school, she weighed 104kg, and was filled with insecurities.
On her first day, she fell during assembly. Instead of helping her, the students and teachers laughed at her. The only friend she had in school was another overweight girl.
The bullying got so bad, that it affected her school attendance.
In an effort to get over her insecurity, Joanna decided to do something about it.
When did you decide to lose weight?
"There came a time when I got fed up with everything and decided to try to lose weight. I was 15."
How did you go about?
"I had an uncle who used to work in the fitness industry. He used to come by my house a lot and tell me ' You know you should lose weight. You will look better, you will feel better.'
"But losing weight is hard. After going to the gym I would still go [eat] nasi goreng. Then I realized [success] was 70% diet and 30% exercise. At one point I said I should be serious about this.
"I told my mom about it and she laughed. I went in the Internet and did a lot of research. I wrote down what to eat, what not to eat."
How long did it take you to lose weight?
About three months. I used to be able to eat nasi goreng for five people in one seating. When I completely cut off rice, it must have been a shock to the system and I started loosing weight drastically. But I was eating healthy, I was not skipping meals.
"It worked. I would work out two hours everyday. I would spend one hour jogging and one hour working out to YouTube videos. It really helped me a lot."
Do you still do that now?
I don't have that much time now but I still watch my food.
How did you become model?
When I lost weight, a lot of photographers approached me and said I should give modelling a try. I was [just 17 and] pretty lost because [I knew] no one in the industry and my parents felt studies were more important.
"But I wanted to try something different. I managed to win a few competitions and things took off from there."
What are you doing now?
"I currently study at MSU in Shah Alam. I am thinking of pursuing psychology or criminology. Something more exciting."
What do you do now as a spokesperson for the anti bullying movement?
"A lot of school call me especially for their International Understanding Day [event]. A school.
"A school recently called me to talk about body shaming. Another school called me to talk about confidence.
"Whenever there is a campaign, school and institutions would call me to talk.
"I am hoping to be able to share my story with more people because I believe there are a lot of people going through it but don't know what to do."
Have you ever met any of your school bullies?
I did meet a few of them. They ignored me and so I ignored them. I don't think they have the courage to come up to me anyway."
What would you say about your younger self?
"When I was younger, I did not love myself. I fell into depression and I would hurt myself a lot. I still get depressed now and then but I cope with it better.
Malaysian model making a name for herself in New York
Article from the Sun daily by Yee Hannef Esq (posted on 25 July 2017)
GAINING success after winning Ford Models Supermodel of the World Malaysia, Atikah Karim left a very strong first impression in the local fashion scene with her exotic look and rich dark complexion.
After several years of conquering local fashion runways and magazines, she decided to move her career to New York City where she is now based. Similar buzz ensues when she booked several big runway shows like Ralph Lauren, Costume National, Libertine and Banana Republic, just to name a few.
Despite her sizeable amount of success stateside, the Bajau-Bruneian beauty does not consider herself as "huge" yet. She is working hard to further establish her career with hopes of booking campaigns with well-known international brands.
"It is not that easy. Even if I get booked for a big job, there is no guarantee. The booking agent might cancel on me the day before or even on the day when the job is supposed to take place.
"That's just how it works. So far, I have never experienced that. Some big brands have shown interest in quite a number of occasions but unfortunately, they passed. I can't let that affect me so I just move on to the next one."
The 23-year-old remains positive and is taking it one step at a time with great support from her family and boyfriend, Danny Lim, who is also a model. Travelling back to Kuala Lumpur occasionally for jobs, Tiks as she is fondly known among her friends, remains true to herself while taking in all the new experiences she gained abroad.
You started modelling at a very young age. Is it something that you always wanted to do?
I've been modelling since I was 16 and began travelling outside of Malaysia for jobs when I was 21. My first trip was actually London. I've always wanted to become a model when I was a kid. I remember looking at photos of models in fashion magazines and getting all inspired back then when I was still in primary school. I wanted so badly to be just like them. I waited patiently for my time to come and I am truly blessed that it is finally here.
Was it difficult in the beginning?
It was tough definitely. Back in Malaysia, I've been through a lot but luckily for me, I found a little bit of a shortcut because I won the modelling contest that has really opened a lot of doors for me. As I began travelling, I learned more about the industry and it opened up my eyes that winning the competition does not mean anything. I have no choice but to start over as I am still very new in the international fashion scene with a lot more to learn.
What inspired the move to New York?
It is always a dream for all inspiring models to make it huge in New York City. It is also where the money is. Work-wise, it is totally different from back home. I love it here, but I get homesick all the time. Whenever I'm home, I'll try to spend as much time as I can with my family and friends.
Having been to both sides, do you think Malaysian fashion industry is catching up with what is going on globally?
I have to be honest ... our fashion industry is way behind. Although we are trying to do similar things like creating great designs and images, it just happens that there is no soul in it. We are lacking in originality, but surprisingly good at Photoshop.
What does it take for a model to be successful?
I think in order to be a successful model you have to be yourself, remain confident yet humble and also you need to have a lot of patience.
Starlet in the making
Article from the Sun daily by Yee Jie Min (posted on 14 March 2016)
SWARNA Naidu is truly a jane of all trades. The Astro SuperSport host, who is also the third runner-up in last year’s Miss Universe Malaysia pageant, holds a diploma in hotel management and has been modelling since she was 12 years old.
“I have always been into sports, and being on Astro SuperSport has upped my game because I have to know my stuff, which is great. Everyone here is so passionate about what they do that it is not just another job; it is very motivating. There is a lot of room to put your personality into, which I love,” quipped the 18-year-old.
The multitalented lass describes herself as an arty person, and it shows with her background in (classical Indian dance) Bharatanatyam and ballet. She even had a segment to showcase her vocal prowess on hurr. tv, a Malaysian online lifestyle channel and video-streaming platform.
“I personally don’t think you can be good at anything you don’t want to do. I never asked for any of this. “And I am spiritual so I do think the universe works itself out for you. You just need to have conviction in what you want, and it will work out as it has for me,” said the Penangite.
What is it like to be a female sports host?
I have big shoes to fill because they expect you to be something. It is tough, but it pushes me to do well. At the same time, you get a lot of respect being a female in the industry.
Name a challenge of the job, and your approach to overcome it.
There are a lot of impromptu interviews with important people. They keep me on my toes, but I like that I’m always learning. It’s like sitting for an exam – it doesn’t work if you study only the night before. You have to keep revising. Knowing a little about the person makes me feel more comfortable so I know where to go and what to ask.
Who is your sports icon?
Sachin Tendulkar, an Indian cricketer. He used to live really far from the training grounds, but every morning he made it there because he’s so passionate about the sport. I think he is the best cricket player in Indian history. Cricket is one of my first loves, and he really shaped my character.
Tell us about your beauty pageant days.
I liked it, but I wouldn’t do it again. It was very stressful, and there was a lot of criticism the whole time over things that I cannot change. Getting fourth place was good, and honestly, I’m glad I didn’t win first place. But I am glad I did it and I am lucky to get a lot of opportunities from it. It really was a launching pad, and I am happy doing what I am doing now.
What are the key lessons that you picked up from your experiences?
It is important to stay grounded, especially when you are young and getting into the industry. A lot of people tend to lose track of where they are going. Know your values, and never sell yourself short.
When you are young, you want to try everything to get yourself out there but it is not all that simple. You have to be careful in this industry. If you know you have what it takes then you shouldn’t stop trying.
Lastly, care to share your ultimate dream?
I plan to make it huge in Hollywood; to be the next Priyanka Chopra. I want to act and sing. I just need to make the right decisions and take the right steps to get there. Hopefully, I can do it with a little polishing.
It is my dream to be an accomplished actress. Believe it or not, I have not tried acting, but I want to be an actress ever since I can remember. I like to throw myself into my art and acting is perfect as you get to be different persons.
Meaning of Swarna: Gold in Sanskrit.
Favourite make-up products: Laura Mercier’s Translucent Loose Setting Powder and Kat Von D’s Tattoo Liner.
Favourite phrase: Tat Tvam Asi (Sanskrit) meaning thou art that or you are that.
Protagonist of her own story
Article from the Sun daily by Denissa Goh (posted on 10 November 2016)
RIGHT after completing high school, Olivia Tan May Shyan– or fondly known as Olivia Shyan in the entertainment industry – was persuaded by her parents to get a job before enrolling into college.
Although timid by nature, Tan knew she was born to stand out and her itch to defy mediocrity led to her first exposure in the entertainment industry: as an extra in a Johnnie Walker commercial.
Despite the minor role, the young lady of Chinese, American, Spanish and Thai descent believes in doing her best in every endeavour, big or small. Her professionalism snagged her a role in the second season of Bola Cinta, a Malay television series that gained local and international recognition.
That gig boosted her confidence and subsequently landed her more roles in local dramas, and then to the international entertainment scene with Netflix's Marco Polo in 2014.
Today, the passion for showbiz remains embedded within the 24 year-old. Apart from her involvement in Astro First's upcoming drama Gantung, Tan also hosts events and stars in television commercials.
Can you recall the moment you got the role with Netflix?
At first I thought it seemed dodgy because I was approached via Facebook Messenger to audition for the role. I ignored the message, but the person was very persistent and asked if he could call me. So I thought, what do I have to lose? After talking to him over the phone, I went for the audition still thinking it was a hoax until I saw the guy who answered the door – it was Dan Minahan, the director of Game of Thrones. Then I knew it was real.
How did you juggle between Marco Polo and studying for your Bachelor of Arts?
I was flying back and forth to Johor – where they shot it – for a month in between my studies. So I would be filming during the weekends and coming back to study on weekdays. It involved a lot of organising and time management – I'd whip out my laptop and do my assignments in between takes!
Being in the entertainment industry is not all that glamorous, they say. What would be its least glamorous part for you?
Working with people who are unprofessional and sleazy in any way.But I think there is an unglamorous part in every industry; you just have to be thick-skinned and get over it.
What keeps you going then?
Passion, perseverance and knowing exactly what you want and where you are heading.
What are the important qualities do you think an actor needs to have in order to survive the industry?
Strong personality, perseverance and determination because you need to decide if you want to stay in the industry or not. And if you do, you need to plan what you want to do and achieve; be realistic.
How about the most important lesson you've learnt so far being in this industry?
It's clichéd but I think the most important thing is to just be yourself. The moment you try to be someone else, you become a discounted version of that person you were trying to emulate. It's okay to look up to someone but trying to be someone else is such a waste because there's no one else like you. Always aim to be the best version of yourself, not a cheap version of someone else.
A simple girl
Article from the Sun daily by Yeo Chia Hui (posted on 4 June 2015)
DESPITE having just finished an outdoor photoshoot for this interview, Chai Xinle was able to cheerfully answer all the questions posed to her as if she hasn’t just spent the last 30 minutes or so under the scorching sunlight. This model, host, and actress’ genial disposition continued throughout the interview and her jovial mood was infectious to those around.
Better known as Xinle, she first came into the public’s attention when she won the iFeel Girl Search 2011. Her beautiful features, optimistic nature and willing to learn attitude have gone a long way in making her who she is today – a beauty who can professionally pose for a picture, entertain a huge crowd, and can act convincingly in front of a camera.
A Jane of all trades, she disclosed that Japanese model, Lena Fujii, was the one who inspired her to make a bold move by joining the modelling industry. “She’s one of the top models for ViVi magazine and it was because of her that I always bought the magazine. I like her so much because she’s so photogenic,” Xinle gushed about her idol before admitting that her parents weren’t so fond of her decision at first.
“In the beginning they were strongly against my decision as I come from a small town and my family is very conservative. But I was very persistent in my decision and I showed them some magazines to let them see what modelling is about and slowly they came around.”
Between modelling, acting, and hosting, which one would you say is the most difficult?
It has to be hosting. To be honest, I’ve never thought that I’d ever venture into hosting. I was a volunteer in a charity group back in my hometown and during one of the events, my uncle asked me to be the host at the last minute. Without preparation and any script, I was forced to entertain the VVIPs and the crowd, and I told this to my manager who then persuaded me to try hosting. Why hosting is challenging is because it forces you think on your feet. Everything is happening so fast, therefore, you too have to go with the flow. At least in acting, you have the script and time to prepare but you’ve just got to be ready when it comes to hosting.
Do you think women who have long hair are more feminine compared to those with short hair?
Last time I was really against having short hair because I thought I was more feminine with long hair. I used to let my manager know about this dislike so I won’t have to have my hair cut short, but after I’ve gotten my current haircut I actually like it and I find myself more confident. Or maybe I’m just someone who can easily adapt to a new environment or change, but either way I like my current short hairstyle.
You said that you used to dislike short hair, so what made you change your mind and had it cut short in the first place?
I think that life is just too short and I don’t want to have any regrets, so I want to try and explore as many things as I can. To me, I also find this career very risky as you may not know what tomorrow will bring, hence, I want to discover new things as long as I’m still alive.
If you can be anyone in this world, who would you want to be?
This question is quite difficult for me to answer because I can’t think of anyone else that I would really want to be.
But if you’re given the chance, wouldn’t you want to be Lena Fujii?
I’ve always believed that everyone has their own destiny and their own goals in life. Do I want to be Lena Fujii? Even if I choose to be her, I believe I would still have to face the same challenges in life. If that’s the case why don’t I just be comfortable with myself?
More than a race
Article from the Sun daily (posted on 25 June 2015)
I REMEMBER fondly of the time when I enjoyed cycling. But as school got in the way, the cycling hobby found a place with Aaron Chan How Hee.
He was in his early teens when his uncle took him on early morning bicycle rides. Sometimes they were cross country cycling and sometimes they were just around the neighbourhood, setting off a new kind of passion in Chan.
Then at 17, Chan participated in his first ever downhill race and ended up with the third fastest time. A cycling coach and veteran, now his current team manager, saw the potential in Chan and took him under his wings. After just a month of training, he was already doing better than his coach. It was also at 17 that Chan got his first sponsor to go professional.
Now at 24, Chan, who is also a part time model and a regular face at The Grumpy Cyclist cafe, has five years of professional downhill mountain bike racing experience in his portfolio. For him, biking is the closest thing to flying.
How easy is it?
To anybody, downhill mountain biking may sound easy but throw in 20-foot jumps, rocks, routes, trees… and you're coming down about 10km/h and you have to think about where you need to pedal, where you need to brake, what suspension setups and tyres to use… There are a lot of things to think about, a lot of preparation, and practice that go into a win.
Tell us about a memorable race.
My first ever international race in Indonesia. It was an eye-opener to see how riding is in a different country. That was also when I broke my wrist. I was tired in my last run and I came into one of the corners and I just washed out. My bike slid and I went straight into a tree. I dislocated my knuckle and had a compression fracture on my wrist so I couldn't finish that race.
How do you prepare?
I try and spend at least three days a week on the bicycle. If I can't, I'll gym. Fitness-wise, a lot of people think that cycling just needs leg muscles but you need your whole posterior chain like your lower back all the way to your knees because that is how you maintain balance. With mountain biking, it's a lot about upper body as well because you need to manoeuvre the bike.
How do you choose the right bicycle?
As a professional, you would already have sponsors like how I am sponsored by Fakawi Bikes. But as a normal rider, you need to think about what kind of cycling you want to do first, then the bike as every one has different characteristics. For example, my bike got a longer wheelbase and lower centre of gravity so it's more stable on the corners. Frame-wise, my bike is a production model but I tuned up the suspension differently and it isn't just about how hard or soft; it's about how fast the rebound is and how much impact it absorbs. Mine is set up to absorb up to eight inches of shock.
What's the best thing about cycling?
The cycling part is fun but what got me into it is what goes on outside of cycling. You get to travel to all these places to ride and meet people who share the same passion. Racing overseas really taught me a lot about life.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I'm actually building my portfolio as a director doing some freelance videography when I have time. Hopefully, by then, I'd be working consistently as a director furthering my experiment with fashion film. In terms of cycling, the plan is to try to race in the world championships before I turn 28.
Raring to go
Article from the Sun daily (posted on 30 April 2015)
IT is her curiosity and dare-to-try spirit that landed Shir Chong where she is today. One can argue by saying that being the champion of a reality TV modelling competition launched her career, but if it wasn't for those aforementioned traits she wouldn't have been on the show to begin with.
When asked about how she ventured into modelling, this 1.73m beauty said that she has always been interested in the industry and when by chance she saw top model Tengku Azura doing a catwalk, Chong became interested.
Eventually she met one of her mentors who taught her some catwalk basics before she took modelling classes.
"I saw the reality show on 8TV and I thought it was a great platform for me to explore if I'm right for this field. I also told myself that if I'm not suitable then I don't want to blindly pursue it so I took part in the first season but maybe because I wasn't ready then, I got rejected during the audition.
"After my brother encouraged me to try again, I joined season three and surprisingly I won," said the winner of I Wanna Be A Model.
After having made some notable waves in the fashion industry, she again decided to challenge herself by trying her hand at acting. So far, this 27 year-old budding actress has worked with Leon Lai in his directorial debut Wine War, acted in award-winning French director Fabien Duflis' short film, and was the actress in a local short film by well known director James Lee.
Do you get to keep the clothes that you model for?
To be honest, not all the time. There are instances where clients would be more than happy to let you keep the clothes, but we mostly shoot with sample pieces that are flown all over the world for advertising and promotion usage.
In Malaysia, would you say that the fashion industry is tougher on female models or male models?
Not just in Malaysia but in general female models do have more work than their male colleagues because there is a bigger market for women in terms of beauty products, hair products, nail products, clothes and more.
Although we are more in demand, male models have a longer lifespan. It's easy to see mature male models in advertisements but not female ones unless you're so famous that clients want you to be their ambassador.
As an actress, you've worked with Leon Lai, Fabien Duflis, and James Lee. What is one thing that you have learned from these directors?
I find that they're all very observant, driven and passionate about what they're doing. All three of them are also very patient and they're so willing to guide you. While filming for James Lee, he amazed me because on top of directing he was also acting in the film.
He proved that he's not just a director who only knows how to direct but he can also act.
If you're not a model or an actress, what other profession do you see yourself doing?
Maybe a musician or a teacher, I play piano and I really love music and singing too. And seeing how I do enjoy street performances by musicians, so I guess maybe a musician.
What are your upcoming plans?
Definitely more acting I'd say. I also hope to be able to explore more things in order to find out how versatile I can be and just develop myself better.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I think I'd be running a small scale business, and maybe I'll also be an activist. Hopefully, I'll be starting a family as well.
Best feature: Eyes
Beauty advice: You are what you eat
Cannot stand: Carrot
Five most important things: Music, food, handphone, love, and bolster
Her go-to therapy: Cooking
Under the Spotlight
Article from the Sun daily by Yeo Chia Hui (posted on 16 April 2015)
WOULD it have occurred to anyone that a child's mischievousness would pave the way for his future career path? The child in question certainly did not envision himself plying his trade in the entertainment industry when he began to hone his acting skills.
Actor Fabian Loo initially picked up acting because he wanted to skip classes. His cheekiness coupled with how he and his brother used to play-act their favourite superheroes from RoboCop and Batman laid the foundation for his career.
"I was studying in a Chinese school and the teachers were rather strict. Whenever anyone asked for permission to go to the toilet, they would eye us suspiciously to ascertain if we really needed the bathroom or we were just giving excuses to skip classes. Therefore, I started thinking that if my acting is really good then I can fool them ," the 25-year-old psychology graduate recalled fondly.
The 2011 Spotlite Teen Idol Search champion has only been in the industry for a year, but he has acted in several local dramas such as Teen Age, Love Compulsory 4, and the upcoming drama Persona. Besides acting and modelling, he was also featured in BRAND's® 2015 Chinese New Year (CNY) commercial and Media Prima's CNY album Very Goat.
Would you say that acting is difficult?
Acting is definitely more than just reading a script. To me, I see it as an art. Compared to commercials where you just have to express certain emotions such as happy or sad, acting is different because you have a role to play. As an actor, I have to respect the scriptwriter because he or she has something to convey when they wrote it so I try my best to deliver what is needed of me. Thus, prep work is the most challenging because your onscreen character may be so different from yourself in terms of attitude and thoughts.
What is the average production time for a television drama?
Normally it will take about three months to complete. Meanwhile, day-to-day shooting can easily be up to 12 hours a day or sometimes it can even exceed 14 hours. My longest one would be 20 hours non-stop. Towards the end, I was zoning out due to sheer exhaustion. Not only is an actor's working hours long, it is physically and mentally demanding. Physical because besides having to move around a lot, you may have to run under the hot sun and such. So, it's like sports but at the same time you also need to play your part perfectly.
You have a blog with the name 'Finger thoughts'. Where did the name come from?
At first I wanted it to be 'My life in arts' but I thought it was kind of cliché, so I came up with this. Since everything on the blog is typed out, it's like you think with your fingers hence the name.
So, you're a person who likes to write?
I enjoy writing because writing calms me down a lot and it helps me to go into zen mode. To be honest, before I started blogging I was writing a diary. It was about me being in character so it was something like writing a diary for the character that I was portraying.
If you can work with any Hollywood director, who would it be?
It'll definitely be Christopher Nolan. I'm a fan of his and I have watched all of his films. The realism that he managed to evoke in his works is just amazing. When you're watching his films, it feels as if you're standing right beside the characters and experiencing what they are experiencing. In other films you know that it is fictional but Nolan's films just draw you in.