Hailing from Sabah in East Malaysia, Shir Chong is one of the hottest new models to grace the covers of local and international magazines. With her sultry eyes and pouty smile, she has certainly captivated the hearts of fashion editors and runway judges both locally and abroad. Chong’s first step into the world of modelling was in Project Runway Malaysia as a model for Alexandrea Yeo under the tutelage of catwalk maestro Simone Teh. Since then, she’s appeared on the covers of Glam, CitaBella, Harper’s Bazaar and many other fashion and lifestyle publications. But it was bagging the Season 3 trophy for I Wanna be a Model that really propelled her career to new heights and earned her prestigious shows such as 2012’s New York Fashion Week and campaigns for CK One, Lane Crawford and Lancôme. In this interview, Shir Chong reveals it all on how she changed from being a demure college girl to become one of modelling world’s most promising talents.
What made you decide to become a model?
It was very interesting actually. I used to work in a shopping mall and occasionally there will be a fashion show there. I remember during my college days, there were times when I went shopping with friends and we happened to chance upon a fashion show. I began to wonder how a girl can become a model. A lot of questions popped into my head then, and I began considering presenting myself on stage and showing off my talent.
I think that was the moment which piqued my interest. I started researching what it takes to be a model but more importantly, I needed to know if I was eligible. I realised that I had the height as I always had to stand at the back of the line in school and many people have told me that I am very tall. Height aside, I also needed to find out more about becoming a professional model, such as how to apply make-up, how to pose for fashion magazines and how to perform during a fashion show.
The next essential thing for me was to learn the basic catwalk. As I was still a teenager at that time, I wasn’t even used to wearing high-heeled shoes. It was like exploring something new for me. Later when I felt ready, I thought it was about time for me to participate in the competition. I think the competition is a formal platform where I can not only show everyone who I am, but also an opportunity to learn from professional reviews, comments and criticism, and see if I am truly suitable for this industry. Because I cannot judge myself, I had to join the competition.
How have you benefited from your participation in I Wanna Be A Model (Season 3)?
In just six months, this show helped me to grow spiritually. Of course, getting criticism from the judges was also a great help. When you’re doing something for the first time, others will compare you with the best, but if we give up, we will never learn and we will not dare to try. But I think this is just a part of life – it lets me understand that I have to start with the basics if I wanted to learn anything. In any case, if you are really putting in effort, serious with what you are doing and you have the potential, then after the show, everyone will be very happy to work with you. I think that show has helped me a lot in my career.
Why do think many young girls want to be models nowadays?
I’ll admit, it is an attractive field which is why a lot of girls want to be in it. I think that it’s because a model can wear beautiful clothes every day and she can also use this interest as a way to make a living. I mean, who doesn’t want an easy life? Hong Kong is quite popular with young models. I worked there once, but our market is quite different in the way models are expected to behave. I’m glad I wasn’t affected by the Hong Kong style. Everyone has their own character and I think clients pick you because of your personality. Even so, I will always strive to improve myself if I can do better. But if you are not tall enough, not thin enough, or maybe even too thin, these are qualities that you cannot change, so you’ll just have to accept them.
Your definition of sexiness?
Sexiness is confidence … being sexy is when a woman shows her self-confidence without being narcissistic. I think it’s not easy to be a confident woman. In my opinion, a confident woman must lead a balanced life; she needs close friends – a group of sisters she can count on, she has to handle her work well, she has to keep up a good appearance, stay healthy and so on. If you can take care of these things, you are a confident woman. I think that being a confident woman is very sexy. cs