These days, anyone can slap ‘model’ or ‘entrepreneur’ onto their Instagram profiles, but it takes a certain level of panache and grit to actually personify the titles.
In Malaysia, that one person who could very well epitomise the brand of successful model-turned-entrepreneur is Amber Chia.
The 39-year-old fresh faced, mother of one is the founder of the Amber Chia Academy, a fashion and beauty center that coaches aspiring models and celebrities, to make it, and thrive, in an increasingly competitive industry.
It took me 20 years to be where I am today
She has, afterall, two decades of experience in modelling, hosting, acting and coaching skills under her belt. Amber is also one of the few Malaysian models who made a mark on the global level, after winning the Guess Watches Timeless Beauty International Model Search in 2004.
But as the saying goes, ‘beauty does not last forever’ - something that Amber kept it mind all along her modelling career. So, she delved into entrepreneurship by carving out a business from her personal brand to start the academy in 2010, and at the same time, fulfill her desire to pass along her knowledge, wisdom and experiences to the next generation.
“To be the next celebrity or the next top superstar is not a one day thing - it takes time. It took me 20 years to be where I am today,” says Amber. “For the younger generation who wants to step into the entertainment industry, you need to work hard.”
Amber admits the influence of social media has rapidly changed the ways models are ‘made’, where talents can be chosen online, where they can be seen and found via hashtags.
It is also no longer enough to have a stunning face or a killer body to model clothes - social media clout is equally important as modeling companies and brands to leverage on influencer marketing.
Be willing to learn, you will be able to make it if you are humble
The key, says Amber, is personal branding and authenticity. Malaysian models, she says have lots to offer.
“One of the reasons it is amazing to be Malaysian is because we are multiracial,” says Amber. “When we get there (abroad), they are less aware of where we come from. So, the chances of us to get a job is higher because we represent Truly Asia,” she adds, drawing on her experience working in New York fashion industry in the early 2000s.
The Malaysian culture and heritage, is a unique ‘selling-point’ for aspiring models, says Amber.
“We do not look like we are from China, Korea or Indonesia - we don’t look like we are from anywhere (specific). That is unique, and because we are multicultural, the languages we speak is also a strong point for us to go further because people are curious about us.”
“Asia and China is booming, so is Malaysia,” says Amber. “I think that opportunities in the world is open for everyone.”
“It it easier compared to 20 years ago to make it to the international levels because you have the internet now. All the information is right there; you just need to be aggressive and work hard, and gather all the knowledge before starting your career,” says Amber.
Apart from tenacity, perhaps one other key aspect that made Amber a well-respected and successful model she is today is her humility.
She is never shy to reveal her humble background. Growing up in a fishing village in Tawau, she used to help her father sell fish at the market. By 18, against her parents’ wishes, she flew to Kuala Lumpur with only RM300 ringgit in her pocket to try her luck at modelling.
Her gutsy pursuit had paid off, of course. She went on to represent major international brands like L’Oreal, Mitsubishi, Vidal Sassoon, Pensonic, to name few.
“Be willing to learn, you will be able to make it if you are humble,” she says.
Wearing many hats, Amber focuses on having good time management to keep ahead. Staying healthy and fit are also her top priority.
“When I am younger, maybe my career comes first, but now my family comes first, and then my business. After you prioritise, you have to organise the things you want to do.”
I always believe that this world has no ugly women, there’s only lazy women
“A lot of women give themselves excuses that ‘I am always busy, I have no time to exercise or diet, no time to do this, or that.”
“Put (taking care of yourself) as your job. For example, I had Yoga yesterday morning. I put that as my job - not something that I can choose to do, or not to do. It is compulsory,” says Amber.
“ I always believe that this world has no ugly women, there’s only lazy women,” Amber says with a smile. “I give you an example, if I don’t put on makeup, I don’t take care of my skin, I don’t take care of my hair, I don’t take care of my body – I won’t be here today.”
“That is your job, it’s not a choice, you have to do it. I hope all the mother and women out there, if you want to look good, you have to put in the hard work and it is worth it.”
“Once you got it, you will feel accomplished, like “Yeah I did it” – that will help your confidence level. That will also help you feel different in a lot of ways, not only for your health and physical wellbeing, it is for everything.”