Monday, March 16, 2020

Amber Chia

the beauty of grace 
By Bissme S

AMBER CHIA has graced over 200 magazine covers, walked on runways in six continents, starred in seven films, authored two books and has been the ambassador for over 30 brands.
She also runs a modelling agency that bears her name, the Amber Chia Academy, and even manages to balance her busy career and motherhood, raising her nine-year-old son Ashton together with her husband and business partner Adrian Wong.
Chia’s claim to fame came in 2005, when she became the first Asian model to be featured in the international campaign for Guess Watches.
Her star soared in 2009 when British singer and renowned fashion designer Victoria Beckham personally selected her to present the Victoria Beckham Autumn/Winter 2009 Ready to Wear Collection at that year’s New York Fashion Week.
The road to stardom was not a rosy one. Chia’s childhood in Tawau, Sabah was filled with poverty and hardship. At age eight, she was given away to foster parents, only returning to her birth parents four years later.
At 15, she dropped out of school to help her parents run their fish stall in the market. She even took up two other jobs. At 17, she left for Kuala Lumpur to become a model, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In this exclusive interview with theSun at her office in Petaling Jaya, Chia recalled the challenges she has faced, and the future that lies ahead.

*You started Amber Chia Academy in 2010. How has your academy grown over the last decade?

“When we first started the academy, we only offered modelling and makeup courses. Over the years I have added more courses to the academy, for example photography and grooming, and we even have child and teenage modelling courses [now].
“The child modelling courses are for [ages] eight to 12 years old, and the teenage modeling courses are for [ages] 13 to 16.
“I want to guide the new generation of models with the experiences I have gained. These courses [will help them] build a certain level of confidence.
“In the past, parents would not allow their children to be models. They always associate modelling with drugs, alcohol, late night clubbing and prostitution.
“Now they are saying to their children: ‘You can be like Amber Chia.’ I am glad to see the change in perceptions.”

*What kind of mother are you?

“My career kept me busy, and I felt very guilty for not spending time with my son. So, I spoilt him.
“I bought him things to make him happy. But slowly, I realised I was buying him things to make myself feel good because I was not spending time with him. That should not be the case. I should be spending quality time with him. I should be educating him to be grateful for the life he has.
“I remember when he was very young, I took him to visit an orphanage. He saw children who had less than what he had, and he appreciated his life more. I should be doing more of these activities with him.”

*Next year you will be turning 40. Are you afraid of getting older?

“I have so many friends who passed away at a young age. I am grateful to be alive every day, and [that] I am still healthy and can chase my dreams and spend time with my loved ones.
“I believe in growing old gracefully. I have seen some grandmothers in their 70s and 80s who still look beautiful. Some people look stunning with white hair, and I do not mind having [that].
“If I was in my 90s and someone wants me to [walk the runway], I will take my walking stick and walk. I will feel proud to be the oldest model on the catwalk.
“You can look good at any age. Looking good takes effort and energy. I believe there are no ugly women, only lazy ones.”

*Have you any regrets about your childhood?

“Not at all. My difficult childhood gave me a stronger soul to face failures and rejection.
“For example, I was rejected more than 50 times before I became a successful model. Each time I was rejected, I learned to stand up and brush aside the [disapppointment] and started hunting for other modelling assignments.
“Once, I got a gig at a fashion show. But none of the clothes fit me. I was told to go [straight home], in front of so many other models. I felt humiliated. I cried my eyes out the whole night.
“The next morning, I learned to put the [emotions] behind me and went on a diet.
“Today, I find some youngsters are easily dejected when they get [turned down] after just three auditions. They want to quit modelling immediately.
“You have [to persevere] if you want to have a career in the industry. You need to accept [that failure] is going to be a part of your journey. You should not be afraid of failure. In fact, failure is supposed to make a better version of you.”

*Some claim eating disorders are a common thing in the modelling world. What is your view of this issue?

“An eating disorder is never healthy. It destroys your body. When you are not healthy, you will never look beautiful.
“Good health is an important key to looking beautiful. You need good health to shine from the inside. I believe you should adopt a healthy lifestyle.
“You have to be choosy over what you want to eat. For example, in the past I [hated] eating salads. Slowly, I added salads to my diet, and now I love eating salads.”

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