A Woman We Love: Sa­man­tha James

Sa­man­tha Katie James: proof that age, beauty and wis­dom aren’t mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive.

Esquire (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - WORDS by Sarah Chong pho­to­graph by MAR­CUS Wong

Do not be afraid, says Miss Uni­verse Malaysia 2017.

Why did Sa­man­tha Katie James, Miss Uni­verse Malaysia 2017, leave her home­town of Klang (which she still calls home) to travel the world, mod­el­ling?

“Cu­rios­ity! I’m not afraid to do any­thing. I’m the kind of per­son who does, then thinks about it af­ter, and that’s how I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced a lot at this age.”

Does her do-first-think-later at­ti­tude have reper­cus­sions?

“The more you’re afraid, the more you set bar­ri­ers and bound­aries. And when you set too many rules for your­self, you don’t en­joy or ex­pe­ri­ence life fully.

“I did what I wanted to do, and it worked. I still don’t know a lot of things in life, there’s so much more to dis­cover, but I’m very sat­is­fied with the choices that I’ve made.”

But grow­ing up wasn’t ex­actly a bed of roses for her. James, 22, has never met her fa­ther, and her mother left her in (a strict and dis­ci­plined) foster care from the age of two to 17.

She thinks her life ex­pe­ri­ences may ini­tially have primed her the wrong way. The first time the Chi­nese-brazil­ian model joined the Miss Uni­verse Malaysia com­pe­ti­tion, she was 18. Look­ing back, she re­alises she wasn’t ready to win.

“I was so shy. I could never be my­self in front of the cam­era. I was al­ways afraid of peo­ple judg­ing me as I was very in­se­cure,” she re­calls.

“As a child, I was bul­lied in school. I was deemed ‘the loser’. I was the one who never went out with friends—no movies, noth­ing. That made me in­se­cure.”

This af­fected her self-es­teem when she first started mod­el­ling in Bangkok (at the age of 17) too. She re­mem­bers think­ing at model cast­ings: “I’m not go­ing to get the job. Look at all the mod­els; they’re so pretty”.

But as her ca­reer started to take off, she asked her­self: “What’s mak­ing me in­se­cure? What’s wrong with me?” She de­cided to make a change.

“What­ever came my way—ad­vice, read­ing, yoga classes, med­i­ta­tion—i took it all in. I learned af­fir­ma­tions and lis­tened to mo­ti­va­tional pod­casts. I put sticky notes on my mir­ror that I read to my­self ev­ery morn­ing, say­ing, ‘I am beau­ti­ful, I am fit.’ Even­tu­ally, that changed me.”

James can be goofy, silly even, and is fun to be around, but don’t take her for granted—she’s not naïve.

“One of the hard­est things for me [es­pe­cially in this in­dus­try] is deal­ing with all the dif­fer­ent emo­tions and per­son­al­i­ties. Peo­ple say you can’t please ev­ery­one, but I want to. I want to be the girl who makes ev­ery­one feel com­fort­able, whom peo­ple can re­late to and are happy to be around,” she says.

“I want to spread that pos­i­tiv­ity I’ve learned to in­stil in my­self,” she says. “What peo­ple al­ways expect from a pretty girl is poise and el­e­gance, a con­trolled at­ti­tude. But me, I’m al­ways try­ing to make peo­ple laugh, by be­ing funny, by be­ing a clown. That’s how I feel good—by mak­ing peo­ple happy.”

James firmly be­lieves that peo­ple should start be­ing nicer to each other.

“Treat oth­ers how you want to be treated. You’re never go­ing to have a taste of life or real hap­pi­ness if you block your­self off and think you’re bet­ter than any­one else. You’re not bet­ter than any­one else and no one is bet­ter than you.”

Pow, she drops three In­sta­gram-wor­thy quotes, and then drops an­other.

“Al­ways be open to lis­ten­ing to other peo­ple, be­cause the best way you can learn is from one an­other.”

These days, she’s in the swim of prepa­ra­tions for the Miss Uni­verse 2017 com­pe­ti­tion that takes place in Las Ve­gas in Novem­ber. Is she ner­vous?

“No, I’m su­per ex­cited!”

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