Cover girl and Miss Uni­verse Sin­ga­pore first run­ner-up Tiong Jia En gives her best no mat­ter the time of the day.

Shape (Singapore) - - November 2018 -

Meet Tiong Jia En, first run­ner-up of Miss Uni­verse Sin­ga­pore 2018, newly-minted rhythm cy­cling in­struc­tor and the owner of a swimwear la­bel. We learn how she took her stamina, en­durance and bound­less en­ergy to the world of fit­ness, plus the se­cret to her porce­lain-like com­plex­ion: raw silken tofu. (Yes, we wit­nessed her de­vour­ing it for lunch.)

AAn en­er­gizer bunny – that was my first im­pres­sion of Jia En. I was in zom­bie mode, wait­ing for my 7.15am rhythm cy­cling class to start when the stu­dio’s doors swung open and a svelte fig­ure in a sports bra, leg­gings and a head­set whizzed past with a high pony­tail bounc­ing along be­hind her. Af­ter click­ing and clack­ing back and forth in her spin shoes, she popped by the wait­ing area again a split sec­ond later, an­i­mat­edly look­ing for a miss­ing first-time stu­dent who needed ex­tra time to learn the ba­sics.

On the podium, Jia En is a nat­u­ral, pedalling at su­per speed to snappy beats un­der the spot­light while still flash­ing a megawatt smile. On In­sta­gram, she por­trays a sim­i­lar vi­va­cious im­age to her 68.6K fol­low­ers and has been a #fit­spi­ra­tion to many. Less than a week af­ter her in­au­gu­ra­tion as an in­struc­tor at Ab­so­lute Cy­cle, the 23-year-old was crowned first run­ner-up at the fi­nals of Miss Uni­verse Sin­ga­pore. “I feel like I’m liv­ing the dream right now,” she says. Next on her to-do list: be­com­ing a barre in­struc­tor. Her ul­ti­mate goal though, is to walk the run­way at Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret Fash­ion Show. But her jour­ney thus far hasn’t been al­ways a smooth ride.

With a hum­ble fam­ily back­ground, Jia En had to be fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent from a young age. This meant jug­gling up to four part-time jobs to pay for school fees while pur­su­ing her de­gree in Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and New Me­dia at Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore. Be­sides tu­tor­ing in the day, she did wait­ress­ing jobs through the night till 5am. She was si­mul­ta­ne­ously build­ing her own swimwear la­bel, So­rakini, which launched in 2017.

De­spite hav­ing zero back­ground in busi­ness, she was adamant in pow­er­ing through the un­cer­tain en­trepreneurial jour­ney in a bid to fill the gap of pre­mium yet af­ford­able biki­nis for fel­low beach-lovers. Yet, fa­tigue never got the bet­ter of her. What gave her the en­ergy boost she needed daily were morn­ing runs and reg­u­lar home work­outs. “I rode on the adren­a­line and it made me feel good,” she says.

Shortly af­ter grad­u­a­tion, Jia En en­dured long and late nights work­ing at an ad­ver­tis­ing agency for eight months be­fore tak­ing a leap of faith and switch­ing to a ca­reer as a fit­ness in­struc­tor. With mostly 7am classes in her work sched­ule, giv­ing up a part of a so­cial life was es­sen­tial as she’s in bed by 10pm and up by 5am. “I’m work­ing when my friends aren’t, and vice versa. No re­grets though!”

By the end of our nine-hour long shoot, Jia En still looked as fresh and spir­ited as she did in the morn­ing – truly the en­er­gizer bunny that she is. SHAPE: How happy are you with com­ing in as first run­ner-up in Miss Uni­verse Sin­ga­pore? Jia En: Al­though win­ning the ti­tle and rep­re­sent­ing Sin­ga­pore on the in­ter­na­tional level would have been in­cred­i­ble, I went in with a very open mind. Let’s just say I still look at my sash once in a while and ask my­self, “Did that re­ally hap­pen?”. S: What do you hope to achieve with this new ti­tle and in­flu­ence? JE: It’s easy for peo­ple to be nasty be­hind a screen on so­cial me­dia. I want to build a com­mu­nity of sup­port­ive women who are kind to one an­other and are con­stantly build­ing each other up. S: Why did you de­cide to be­come a spin in­struc­tor? JE: Rhythm cy­cling is a sport I re­ally en­joy, so I thought, why not make it a ca­reer? The best feel­ing in this world is to work at a job that doesn’t feel like one. I wake up ev­ery morn­ing re­ally ea­ger to start my day. S: Have you al­ways been a morn­ing work­out per­son? JE: Yes. When I was work­ing in a cor­po­rate job be­fore, 7am was the best time for me, just in case I needed to work late. I like to start my day strong! S: What’s your se­cret to get­ting your en­ergy lev­els up in the morn­ing? JE: My be­lief is that how you do one thing, is how you do ev­ery­thing. I am hu­man too, and I don’t wake up at 5am ev­ery morn­ing feel­ing like I’m ready to rock the stu­dio. But I am pro­fes­sional in what I do – if peo­ple are will­ing to wake up early to take my class, I will only give them my best. S: Favourite artistes on your spin class playlist? JE: Ari­ana Grande, Ri­hanna, Beyonce … all the queens! Lind­sey Stir­ling’s cello beats are also per­fect to start and end the class with. S: What’s your per­sonal fit­ness rou­tine like? JE: I do a mix of yoga, pi­lates, swim, barre, marathons and HIIT, scat­tered through­out the week. I’m a fit­ness fa­natic and I work out for at least three hours a day. The con­stant adren­a­line makes me re­ally happy. S: When did you start be­ing this ac­tive? JE: My sec­ondary school (Cedar Girls’ School) has a pow­er­ful track and field team and I al­ways ad­mired how fast and strong the ladies were. It mo­ti­vated me to join the cross coun­try team in Vic­to­ria Ju­nior Col­lege and I never looked back since. S: What's your favourite fit­ness mo­ti­va­tional quote? JE: Suck it up now so you don’t have to suck it in later! S: Do you fol­low a spe­cific diet? JE: No, but I gen­er­ally watch what I eat. I avoid fried food and soft drinks, but I do have an oc­ca­sional milo kosong. Ul­ti­mately it is ev­ery­thing in mod­er­a­tion. For con­ve­nience, I usu­ally have ba­nanas for break­fast and I take a lot of plain silken tofu through­out the day. S: Any beauty or skin­care tips for girls who work out? JE: Try not to put on foun­da­tion when you work out so your pores can breathe. Also, drink a lot of wa­ter be­cause the last thing you want is dull, de­hy­drated skin. S: Any fit­ness goals for 2019? JE: Now that I am in the fit­ness in­dus­try, I’ll love to widen my skill set, get cer­ti­fied and start teach­ing barre and HIIT classes in 2019. S: What does be­ing in shape mean to you? JE: It means be­ing a source of mo­ti­va­tion for oth­ers to learn to take care and love their own body. You only have one!

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