STAR­RING Sheena Lian

CLEO (Malaysia) - - FRONT PAGE -

It’s funny how peo­ple

harp on the hate. Sure, I got 30,000 hate mes­sages, but no one chooses to see the 100,000 fan mails and mes­sages of sup­port I got as well.

Only 24 years old, Sheena Liam has achieved much more than most women her age, all thanks to a driv­ing pas­sion for her craft and the in­abil­ity to stag­nate at any one stage of her life and ca­reer. This 5’9” leggy beauty is quickly be­com­ing a house­hold name not only in Asia but around the world. Grac­ing mag­a­zine cov­ers, walk­ing the run­way of Lon­don Fash­ion Week in 2014 for de­sign­ers like Si­mone Rocha and Mar­i­ana Jung­mann, as well as be­ing signed to Storm Model Man­age­ment, Sheena is just at the be­gin­ning of what is look­ing to be a long and il­lus­tri­ous mod­el­ling ca­reer.

How has life been af­ter Asia’s Next Top Model (AsNTM)?

Life has been great! It’s been lifechang­ing, re­ally. Just the num­ber of op­por­tu­ni­ties that have opened up for me alone is amaz­ing. Be­ing able to travel all over the world, work­ing with names I’d never dreamed of ... I feel ex­tremely lucky.

You got so much hate when you won. What are some of the worst things you’ve read or heard?

It’s funny how peo­ple harp on the hate. Sure, I got 30,000 hate mes­sages, but no one chooses to see the 100,000 fan mails and mes­sages of sup­port I got as well. It’s how the me­dia runs, I guess. No one re­ports that seven bil­lion peo­ple con­tinue to live or are born, but it’s all over the news when there’s a tragedy.

How do you deal with that? Is it scary for you to read th­ese things be­ing said by peo­ple who don’t even know you?

It wasn’t com­pletely un­ex­pected – you can’t please ev­ery­one. Peo­ple are al­lowed to have opin­ions and rage about them as much as I am en­ti­tled to ig­nore them and fo­cus on my­self.

Has that died down or are there still peo­ple hat­ing on you on so­cial me­dia?

It’s mostly quiet on the hate front now. The fans, how­ever, are go­ing strong. My #Sheena­tors mean ev­ery­thing to me.

What made you de­cide to go blonde?

It’s just some­thing I al­ways wanted to try. Af­ter I grad­u­ated from uni­ver­sity, I was in be­tween jobs so I de­cided to just try it out. Three years later, and I am still blonde.

Does it take a lot to main­tain your hair colour?

I just bleach it once ev­ery month. I don’t re­ally do much to my hair – the less you care the bet­ter, hon­estly. I work in sit­u­a­tions where I don’t get a say on what hap­pens to my hair. It gets fried, back­combed, torn out and pulled around. It’s an oc­cu­pa­tional haz­ard but it’s okay, be­cause it’s just hair. It’s pretty re­silient though; peo­ple al­ways ex­pect it to be in bad con­di­tion.

Girls with darker

skin, girls from

other re­gions of

Asia, SouthEast

Asians, In­di­ans and

the likes are very


or un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated

as beau­ti­ful.

The blonde makes you stand out – it gives you an edge. What do you think would hap­pen if you went back to your nat­u­ral colour? Are you plan­ning to?

Life would go on, re­ally. I would love a switch in hair colour but that’s up to my mother agency. I think I’ve built up a re­ally strong port­fo­lio with the blonde hair. I’ve been branded and mar­keted with blonde hair, but I can still choose. I’m em­pow­ered to make my own de­ci­sions.

Most mod­els choose to move to places like New York, Paris, Lon­don or Mi­lan. What made you de­cide on Sin­ga­pore?

I was in Lon­don for a while but it was get­ting way too cold, and I would fall sick ev­ery few weeks. Sin­ga­pore is near enough to home and it has a strong fash­ion scene. I’ll def­i­nitely go back to Europe when it’s a bit warmer, though.

How does work­ing in Sin­ga­pore dif­fer from work­ing in Malaysia? Is there a huge dif­fer­ence?

Storm sent me to a re­ally good agency in Sin­ga­pore. I like work­ing with it; it has high pro­file clients, and the book­ers push me hard so I work a lot. Malaysia is dif­fer­ent be­cause my job is to at­tend events and stuff like that. Those are fun, but I want real work. I like how go­ing to a dif­fer­ent city gives me a whole new chance to prove my­self.

What do you think is the big­gest mis­con­cep­tion about Asian mod­els?

It’s more of a pref­er­ence than a mis­con­cep­tion. They ei­ther want a Cau­casian girl with Ori­en­tal colour­ing or an Eastern Asian. Girls with darker skin, girls from other re­gions of Asia, Southeast Asians, In­di­ans and the likes are very un­der-rep­re­sented or un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated as beau­ti­ful. But, you know, it’s fash­ion. It’s al­ways based on trends or pref­er­ence; it isn’t meant to please ev­ery­one.

Do you think you have to work that much harder to be no­ticed just be­cause you’re Asian?

I think I get no­ticed solely be­cause I am of­ten the only Asian. Even in Sin­ga­pore dur­ing the quiet sea­son, there are very few Asians in cast­ings. It’s okay to be dif­fer­ent. Clients ei­ther want me or they don’t. You don’t take it too se­ri­ously and you move on to the next cast­ing.

Do you think your suc­cess in AsNTM has made an im­pact on the lo­cal mod­el­ling in­dus­try?

I guess in a way I see a lot more girls be­ing ex­per­i­men­tal with their per­sonal styles. I wouldn’t at­tribute it to just me but, in gen­eral, more girls are find­ing it okay not to con­form to tra­di­tional beauty stan­dards, and more im­por­tantly, more de­sign­ers find it okay to hire un­con­ven­tional mod­els.

What would you like to change about mod­el­ling in Malaysia and how do you think you can help change it?

I’d like to see de­sign­ers use more lo­cal mod­els. The job pool is al­ready tiny as it is, and our tal­ents aren’t be­ing ap­pre­ci­ated enough. I don’t know how I can help change it though ... I’ll have to think this one through.

How would you know you’ve hit it big time? What is suc­cess to you?

My mea­sure of suc­cess is al­ways chang­ing. When I was young I wanted to work for a mag­a­zine, then I wanted to be in a print ad, then I wanted to be on a cover; and then I wanted to

win Asia’s Next Top Model, to walk Lon­don Fash­ion Week, and to have a big world­wide cam­paign. I dare to dream big­ger each time and I al­ways strive to achieve the next step. I hope there will never be a mo­ment when I dare think of my­self as a “su­per­model ” who’s done it all.

What is your dream?

Ice cream! I’m kid­ding ... I don’t know, it changes lot. In my mind, I al­ways have a next city that I want to live in, and a new am­bi­tion or a new goal. Right now I’m work­ing on get­ting mag­a­zine cov­ers. [Laughs]

What’s the most ex­cit­ing thing you’ve done so far?

The TV show was pretty ex­cit­ing, I guess. I ate bugs, walked on wa­ter and on the edge of KL Tower. Just be­ing re­moved from the real world in gen­eral for the shoot­ing pe­riod was oddly ex­cit­ing. Mod­el­ling is noth­ing like that – it’s pretty repet­i­tive and mun­dane.

Who do you look to for in­spi­ra­tion?

I’m in­spired by a lot of things, re­ally – movies, a line from a song, an im­age, but rarely ever a per­son. There are just too many façades to a per­son to solely pick one to draw in­spi­ra­tion from.

What is the most im­por­tant qual­ity to have as a model?

To not take the whole thing so se­ri­ously! Trends change, and peo­ple have their own tastes. Some days you will work so much you wish you could just run away, and some days you will starve. Some clients will love you, while oth­ers will find you re­pul­sive to look at. How you look is not im­por­tant; how peo­ple want you to look is. If you un­der­stand that and love what you do, you’ll ac­cept it all.

Who’s your favourite male model?

Aaron Chan Chow Hee.

What’s the first thing you do when you’re done with a shoot?

I re­move the make-up! Just soak ev­ery­thing off. I don’t par­tic­u­larly en­joy make-up. I al­ways can’t wait to get in the bath and un­wind and re­lax, and wash off the day.

How do you spend your days off?

I’ve been tak­ing drum classes. I like em­broi­dery, too. I love stay­ing in bed till 4pm watch­ing movies.

What ad­vice would you give girls who want to fol­low in your foot­steps?

Wear com­fort­able shoes. [Laughs]

Apart from mod­el­ling, what do you see your­self do­ing in five years?

Five years? I don’t even know what I’m do­ing to­mor­row! Ask me again in five years.

What’s left for you to do in Malaysia?

It’ll al­ways be my home, and if you look hard enough, there’s al­ways some­thing to do in Malaysia. There are so many new branches of work and ca­reers open­ing up in the coun­try so the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. It all de­pends on what I end up want­ing to do at the end of the day.

There are just too many façades to a per­son to solely pick one to draw in­spi­ra­tion from.

Asia’s Most Talked­About Model UN­ZIPPED!

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