Body art on baby bump

When you put a heav­ily preg­nant woman and a mu­ral artist to­gether, the re­sult is a unique form of art.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By ONG CHIN HUAT star2@ thes­tar. com. my

WHAT do you get when you put a heav­ily preg­nant woman and a mu­ral artist to­gether?

Body art on a baby bump, of course! Throw in some di­a­monds and gold leaf and it’s a recipe for a glit­ter­ing event, all within the walls of a ram­bling bun­ga­low on the edge of a pris­tine golf course.

Add to that mix, a gath­er­ing of like- minded women known as the Life Rib­bon Com­mu­nity – founded by Es­tee Leong, the mum with a bun in the oven – for the sole pur­pose of em­pow­er­ing women. There were other es­teemed guests that day, among them Datuk Jimmy Choo, Datuk Michael Tio, Datin Win­nie Loo and Datuk Calvin Khiu.

Walk­ing into the home of Leong and her hus­band Peter Chuah – lo­cated in the swanky Trop­i­cana Golf Re­sort, Pe­tal­ing Jaya – I was im­me­di­ately greeted by the mis­tress of the house with open arms.

The mother- to- be for the third time is warm and wel­com­ing; her pro­trud­ing stom­ach in­di­cates that she’s in the fi­nal throes of her preg­nancy.

Leong, 35, who is in the skin­care busi­ness – her com­pany is called Mask Slim – is garbed in a white tank top and a flouncy sheer tiered skirt. I ad­mire the de­sign on her tank top and she looks at me quizzi­cally.

“That’s my bare stom­ach. It’s a paint­ing on my body!” she says, her ex­pres­sion re­veal­ing a mix­ture of pride and fas­ci­na­tion. On closer in­spec­tion, I re­alise I’ve just been de­ceived by an op­ti­cal il­lu­sion; the painted white back­ground of her midriff blends in seam­lessly to the bot­tom of Leong’s rolled- up white tank top, giv­ing the im­pres­sion it’s part of her out­fit.

A huge Pha­laenop­sis Or­chid is deftly painted on one side of Leong’s baby bump while a five stanza quote from the clas­si­cal Chi­nese text of Tao Te Ching is cal­ligraphed on the other. It says: “Giv­ing birth and nour­ish­ing, hav­ing with­out pos­sess­ing, act­ing with no ex­pec­ta­tions, lend­ing and not try­ing to con­trol, this is the supreme virtue.”

While the words were very apt con­sid­er­ing Leong’s ex­pec­tant state of be­ing, its pro­found mean­ing might have been lost in all the ex­cite­ment this unique form of art has gen­er­ated on this swel­ter­ing af­ter­noon. Sym­bol­is­ing pu­rity and fer­til­ity, the paint­ing on this un­ortho­dox can­vas has cer­tainly out­shone the tra­di­tional art­works hang­ing on the wall.

All the guests soon gather around a high­backed sofa where Leong takes cen­tre stage. The host­ess is now look­ing more re­laxed and seated com­fort­ably, her back propped up by sev­eral over­sized cush­ions.

A side ta­ble holds an as­sort­ment of colour pal­ettes and paints which are all non- toxic. And as Leong’s stom­ach has al­ready been painted, it’s now time for an­other type of dec­o­ra­tion – the ap­pli­ca­tion of eight per­fectly pro­por­tioned square An­gel Di­a­monds weigh­ing over five carats and some 22 karat gold leaves from the Tranz range, cour­tesy of lo­cal jew­eller Poh Kong.

Leong’s rounded tummy is now glit­ter­ing from the ap­pli­ca­tion of di­a­monds and gold. The at­ten­dant guests are trans­fixed by this demon­stra­tion and they whip out their smart­phones, click­ing fu­ri­ously away. Af­ter the ear­lier hul­la­baloo, both Leong and I are en­sconced on a vel­vet set­tee in a quiet cor­ner of her liv­ing room. I ask her about the whole pur­pose of this event and Life Rib­bon.

“We only started Life Rib­bon about two weeks ago,” says Leong. With such a good turnout and the sup­port it has gar­nered, I gather she’s a fast worker.

“Jeff Kong is my co- founder and he’s a phar­ma­cist and in the health food busi­ness. We wanted to spread the word that ev­ery­one needs to take care of them­selves and adopt a healthy life­style. We were in­spired by the pink rib­bon which is the in­ter­na­tional sym­bol for breast can­cer aware­ness.”

Ac­cord­ing to Leong, her mo­ti­va­tion for start­ing Life Rib­bon was born from her own ex­pe­ri­ences. She says she was over­weight at one time – 89kg about six years ago. But with the en­cour­age­ment of her hus­band who has a vested in­ter­est in Leong look­ing her best, she shed her ex­cess weight and now wants other women to look and feel their best too.

“I love to share,” en­thuses Leong. “Ev­ery day I share what I am do­ing on Face­book and lots of women ask me: ‘ Es­tee how do you look so good ev­ery day and what’s your se­cret?’”

So she thought about form­ing a women’s com­mu­nity as the best way to ad­vise them. “I en­cour­age women to chase their dreams even though they are mar­ried and have be­come moth­ers and wives,” she says. “The mes­sage I want to tell them is not to just stay at home and wait for your hus­band day and night. You can do what­ever you love to do.”

She then spells out the de­tails on how to join this com­mu­nity. “All the Life Rib­bon mem­bers will be by in­vi­ta­tion and we will have a se­cret group in Face­book. We hope to have an off­line gath­er­ing ev­ery month while we can share and in­spire each other daily on­line.” She says her 2,000 friends on Face­book fol­low her dili­gently. “As a child I was grossly over­weight,” re­calls Leong. “When I was 12, I was al­ready 60kg. Ev­ery­one told me I couldn’t lose any weight, that it was in my genes. Then I bal­looned up to 89kg when I had my first child,” adds the Eco­nom­ics and Education grad­u­ate and for­mer teacher.

“My skin was bad and I looked a mess! My hus­band said to me: ‘ Oh my gosh! What has hap­pened to you?’ He en­cour­aged me to take bet­ter care of my­self and take pride in my ap­pear­ance, cit­ing that if I didn’t, peo­ple might think he doesn’t love me. So I de­cided to ex­er­cise reg­u­larly, eat health­ier and lose all that weight.”

This spousal in­cen­tive cer­tainly worked be­cause she whit­tled down her weight to 48kg within one year and her skin cleared up. “I strongly be­lieve pos­i­tive think­ing and ra­di­at­ing pos­i­tive en­ergy can change our­selves and change oth­ers too.”

Leong gave birth to a baby boy, Json ( yes, it’s spelt that way) Chuah on Feb 12. She cur­rently weighs 57kg.

Mum- to- be Es­tee Leong’s stom­ach is painted by renowned mu­ral artist An­nie new­man. — yAP chEE honG/ The Star

Mu­ral art by new­man in Jimmy Choo Cou­ture bou­tique in Lon­don.

new­man has col­lab­o­rated with many celebri­ties in­clud­ing Vic­to­ria Beck­ham and Datuk Jimmy Choo.

Mu­ral artist An­nie new­man ( right) work­ing her magic on the stom­ach of mumto- be Leong. — yAP chEE honG/ The Star

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