She Believed She Could...
Female Malaysia|October 2019
Vasenta Selvanayagam


Content creator and social media influencer

Contrary to popular belief of a millennial’s character (short attention span, loves to job hop and not into hard work), Jane is living proof that she doesn’t fit the stereotype.

In fact, she thrives on getting her feet wet in different areas. “It isn’t because I’m bored but I don’t want to be stuck in one place. I want to master different skills while I’m still young,” says the beauty who’s popularly known as Jane Chuck.

Jane began to blog when she was 14 years old as an outlet for her to rave and rant about school-related matters. Over time, she started to post makeup tutorials and OOTDs on her blog. “At 17, Nuffnang (a leading influencer and content marketing company in Asia) took me under its wing and introduced me to various brands. That’s when I started to get paid as a content creator and influencer,” she recalls.

Fast forward to today, Jane stands tall as a reputable influencer with 527,000 Instagram followers and counting! When she was 21, Jane learnt the techniques and skills of deejaying, and two years later, opened a cafe called Random Food Store in Petaling Jaya. Not one to rest on her laurels, Jane came up with her own lifestyle brand, Chuck’s, early this year.

“The main aim of Chuck’s is to remind people that they are enough and everyone is special in their own way. For now, you can find items like skincare masks that come with special messages on the packaging such as ‘Self-Love’ and ‘Glow On’. There needs to be a healthy balance between self-love and empathy towards others so that together, we can curb social issues,” says Jane. “After all, a SuperFEMALE in my eyes is someone who’s comfortable with herself and doesn’t need validation from anyone else.”


Singer-songwriter and actress

In a nutshell, we’d say that Daiyan is a perfectionist as she admits that one of the biggest challenges of being unassigned to any recording label and having to manage herself is that she needs to be in control of everything. Being very particular even in her art direction is a trait that she can’t seem to let go of because she finds it hard to trust anyone to be as detailed as she is.

“Being in control of timelines, releases and every aspect of my music is tough but I think I’m doing ok, because I recently released a music video and it looks like everyone is loving it!” says Daiyan, who has just released her new music video entitled I Wanna See Ya which was sponsored by Kiehl’s and Kate Spade New York. This month, she’ll be launching her first accessory collection in collaboration with Wanderlust + Co and her debut album in the next one month. In time to come, she also hopes to release an English album and tap into the international market.

Born and raised in Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor, Daiyan comes from a working-class family. Having been in the science stream, Daiyan reveals that she was a very active student and used to participate in a lot of extracurricular activities such as debates, storytelling, chess and also joined a lot of singing and cheerleading competitions.

“My diploma in Accounting was at UITM, Melaka, and later, I completed my degree in Business Administration and majored in Marketing. I graduated two years ago and used all my hard-earned money to release my music,” she shares.

As there’s no one person but rather a group of different people made up of her mum, BFFs and Taylor Swift as role models in her life, Daiyan acknowledges that it’s possible for any everyday woman to be a SuperFEMALE. “Despite the challenges that she faces and going through exhaustion from her full-day work, she still powers through, wakes up the next morning with a new spirit, hustles through and goes all out to achieve her goals. That’s what makes one woman stand out from another,” she concludes.


Model and actress

Growing up, the one thing that annoyed Alicia the most was when adults gave her vague answers. For instance, every time she asked why something was done a certain way, they would reply, “That’s just the way it is” or “Sorry, but you just have to memorise that.”

Alicia says that she was always curious as a child and wanted to know more about a lot of things. This is probably the reason why she was a straight-A student in school and even dreamt of becoming either a doctor, lawyer or vet. However, when she turned 16 and was scouted for a modelling contest, Alicia started working on smaller gigs and hoped to become independent. She went to Melbourne, Australia, to do a double degree in Psychology and Social Work at RMIT University, but when her parents told her to return to Malaysia because they couldn’t afford to pay for her education, modelling came to the aid again and helped her sustain her lifestyle upon returning.

Alicia acknowledges the fact that models have a very short lifespan, but she’s all set to battle it out and make the best out of her career while she can. “Five months ago, I decided to stay away from social media for a while. This was more of a detox for myself. I’m a sensitive person and comments on social media can be a little too negative for me to deal with,” she explains.

Having faced a lot of issues as a teenager, Alicia remembers feeling emotionally turbulent even as she was growing up. But if she thought that things were amiss here in Malaysia, the way she felt didn’t change even after she went to pursue her studies in Australia.

“That’s when I decided to consult a psychologist and got my first diagnosis for depression,” she shares. “It took me four psychologists before I found the one that suited me and that’s why I miss Australia a lot. They don’t simply push medications to you and expect you to recover. They are transparent with their methods and will encourage you to find another doctor if you feel that their style of therapy isn’t working for you in contrast to Malaysia where society was telling me to simply snap out of self-pity. In my experience, the psychiatrist focuses on medicating with drugs and not so much on behavorial therapy.”

Career-wise, Alicia is determined to act even when she’s over 30, so don’t be surprised to see her in Singaporean horror flick, Ibu, planned for release this month.


Model and actress

Seeing Rubini strut the runway with her haughty look, our first impression of her was that if there was a local adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada, she’d make the perfect lead. But as it turns out, she’s the complete opposite of Miranda Priestly’s demanding character in the movie cos Rubini is one of the most humble and kindhearted models that we know.

This year, she has added another feather to her cap as she finally managed to get into the local acting scene. “I’ll be starring in a TV drama alongside Faizal Hussein. I can’t reveal much about it yet, though,” she says. Rubini adds that she has always wanted to become an actress, but the opportunity to join beauty pageants came along first. After being crowned Miss International Malaysia in 2014, she went on to compete in Miss International 2014 in Tokyo, Japan.

Although she’s blessed with smouldering good looks, Rubini shares that it wasn’t easy for her to break into the modelling world at first. “My setback was that I’m an Indian with a curvy body. I used to always wonder why agencies made the effort to ask me to attend castings after seeing my comp card just to tell me, ‘You don’t have the right body shape’ or request for me to attend an audition just to find out later that a fairer Indian girl was chosen. Ironically, all these happened while the industry is trying to promote diversity and body positivity,” she explains.

Rubini hopes that her story would inspire young women to have the courage, confidence and determination to succeed and do the best they can in whatever field they’re in. She says, “If a curvy, Indian girl like me can model, act and host, anyone can! You just have to work hard, stay focused and believe in yourself.”


Founder of Orkid Cosmetics

Raeesa believes that it doesn’t take an extraordinary person to be an entrepreneur in today’s world. All it requires is a solid audience on social media and you’re good to go! Her interest in business developed when she was very young. At 10, she wanted to make extra money to buy a telescope and knew that she had to earn it the hard way, so she sold snacks to her classmates and got enough money to buy the optical instrument she had wanted.

“I was an active kid in school. I took part in various sports and games and through these activities, which involved not only physical and mental strength but teamwork too, so I learnt to never give up and that practice makes perfect,” explains Raeesa. Over the past decade, she had set up several businesses and with the fall of every start-up, she gained a new skill that brought her to the next level.

Today, Raessa isn’t only the founder of Orkid Cosmetics, a halal beauty brand, but she also owns a digital branding and marketing agency called Revolt which has been around since 2013 and aims to provide creative solutions for start-ups. “There’s a huge demand for halal products around the world and I want to tap into that market. I want my customers to have the privilege of trying on safe and nontoxic beauty products, which is why I started Orkid Cosmetics. At the moment, the number of products we sell are very limited but in time to come, we’ll increase the variety based on demand. At the same time, I love digital marketing (hence the formation of Revolt) and want to do my best to make this business boom too,” she says.

As for Raeesa’s definition of a SuperFEMALE? She’s a person who soldiers on no matter what’s in her way. “A SuperFEMALE is also a woman who gives no excuses and is responsible for her own happiness first. Believe that you can do more than what society expects you to and you’re already a winner!” she exclaims.

SARAH LIAN, 36 Actress, TV personality and co-founder of Supparetreat

“10 years ago, I was this rowdy girl that was trying to prove myself to the world just like most 20-year-olds, but today I’ve given up on that and accepted the fact that if something is meant for you, it will happen. If not, it won’t,” shares Sarah.

Growing up, this multitalented star spent her years moving around from the US to Hong Kong and finally Canada when she was eight years old. During her second year of university, she decided to return to Malaysia to learn about her roots and get an internship to better understand the job market.

“I first worked as an intern at a local TV station in Malaysia and upon graduating in the UK, I realised that I was quite attracted to the entertainment industry,” she says. “That’s when I came back to Malaysia and decided to try to piece things together.”

Thanks to her good looks, the entertainment and modelling world took notice of Sarah and it wasn’t long before she starred in commercials and graced the glossies including being on the cover of FHM Malaysia and named The Most Wanted Woman by the magazine in 2008. “While thinking of longevity in this career, I recognised a gap in the market when it came to talent management and thought it would be great to help others. That’s when we founded Suppagood, a talent management agency,” explains Sarah. Suppagood, which is eight years old today, manages about nine women in total.

“The Supparetreat was an idea that we developed after organising an internal retreat. We attended workshops and together we agreed that if women were given a safe space to share ideas and support one another, the power of sisterhood would be unimaginable. So, it made sense to create this experience for others as well,” shares Sarah.


Singer/songwriter and founder of True Complexion

Rozella was born with a birthmark that spread across her body unevenly which left a scar on her emotional well-being ever since she was five. She recalls going through “major downtimes” initially, after being called names and learning that she was different, but the feelings of sadness and disappointment gradually faded as time passed.

“The marks affected my self-esteem a lot when I started to hit puberty and I felt pressured to look a certain way. After much convincing from my mum, I decided to try whitening injections in addition to giving supplements a go. Unfortunately, they didn’t do anything to make my skin look better,” she shares.

Rozella reveals that she even tried to drown her sorrows by drinking a little too much. “Thankfully, I managed to climb out of the pit of self-pity in 2010. I took a sabbatical to stay with my sister in KL and started self-therapy,” she says. “I changed my eating habits, learnt how to meditate and even woke up at 5am to do qigong. This helped a lot with my self-confidence and I even found the courage to put myself out there and start a singing career.”

In 2013, she performed for the first time in front of a live audience in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. “I was excited and nervous at the same time but I kept telling myself to ignore the negative voices in my head and the first try (at singing in public) was all that I needed to get the ball rolling,” she says. In 2015, she produced True Complexion, a documentary about women who are different and might not be considered normal or beautiful in our society.

“I told myself that there are others out there who are going through problems far worse than what I’m facing and that they should be celebrated for their courage, determination and strength,” explains Rozella, who adds that True Complexion is her everyday persona while singing is like her alter ego. “In the next one year, be prepared to see me combine the two sides of my personality and turn it into something special!”


Celebrity chef, TV host and content creator

Growing up in a multiracial family, Ili says that she developed her tastebuds eating different cuisines and got her ‘masterchef ’ skills from the women in her family. “My grandmother, mother and aunts were the ones who passed their culinary skills down to me. The training started at the age of five and is still ongoing,” shares Ili.

As her parents worked in the airline industry, she’s blessed to have gotten the chance to travel quite a fair bit as well. “Every year, they’d take me somewhere new and what I mostly remember about the destination was always linked to the food I ate. Food was always a constant joy in my life – from cooking with my family to learning about food on my travels and also using and cooking food to connect with people,” explains Ili, who studied business at the Queen Mary University of London.

Upon graduating, she decided to stay on and work there, where she worked at a law firm before returning to the service industry, joining Mosimann’s Private Dining Club as an event coordinator.

After winning Asia’s biggest food talent search, Food Hero search in 2015, Ili set up her website – to share her passion for cooking. The website isn’t only well-known in Malaysia but all over the world, which makes the bubbly lass a celebrity chef to be reckoned with.

“This year, my aim is to encourage people to cook more so that they can control what they eat. I want people to have that ‘Oh! That’s easy, I can cook that’ attitude when they see my dishes,” she says. “Other than building my momentum by creating digital content, I’ve also been busy being the spokesperson and brand ambassador for KHH Double Lion, a fruit juice manufacturing company.”

Ili says that one of her biggest challenges is dealing with personal growth. “I just have to play multiple roles in life to piece things together. At the end of the day, someone who’s in their locus of control that inspires change – big or small, is who I’d consider to be a SuperFEMALE.”


Scientist and lecturer

Magaret has experienced two instances where she was undermined and judged for being a woman and looking a certain way, but she never gave in to her detractors. Instead, she stood her ground and proved them wrong. “As a girl, I was bullied by my peers for being dark-skinned. It was very hurtful but I didn’t let the mean comments get to me. I worked hard and achieved my dreams of becoming a scientist,” she says.

Then, as a scientist she was slammed for wearing makeup! “I wrote about it on Twitter and Facebook and received many responses supporting my statement that women, regardless of their profession, should have the liberty to dress up and put on makeup the way they want without being judged.” Magaret came up with the hashtag #scientistscanwearmakeup in 2017 and many other women have since come forward to share their stories. “Together, we want to break these stereotypes which are shallow and primitive,” she says.

Well-respected for her work, Magaret was selected and honoured as one of 118 chemists from around the world to be a part of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry’s (IUPAC) Periodic Table of Younger Chemists’ in February. Prior to that, her research on the use of ionic liquids to remove harmful dye substances from industrial wastewater in the batik industry successfully gained recognition from Yale University, USA and Shell Malaysia.

“I wouldn’t have managed to come this far as a scientist (now I’m a lecturer) if it wasn’t for the help and support from my family, friends and fellow women scientists. It’s easy for women to talk about each other but when women work together, magic happens. Together, we are all SuperFEMALES!”

LISA SURIHANI, 33 Actress, model and TV host

Her foray into the world of entertainment began when she was just 11 years old, and while she relished the perks and pay, Lisa has never forgotten her parents advice: to get a university degree to secure a better future.

In 2009, she studied law at the University of Aberystwyth in the UK but her ambition to serve at her late father’s law firm was crushed when he passed away. Instead, she took up a role in advocacy.

“But the offer from the entertainment industry was extremely lucrative and at that time, I wanted to help my family as well. I thought to myself why not leverage on acting and modelling so that I can help everyone at home too,” she says. Needless to say, blessed with both beauty and talent, Lisa’s acting career quickly flourished, earning her leading roles in TV dramas and movies as well as bagging the Best Actress awards at the Malaysian Film Festivals in 2010 and 2014.

Two years ago, however, her seemingly perfect life hit a snag, which she describes as one of the biggest challenges she’s ever experienced, when she was pregnant with her second child. “It wasn’t just the hormones that were acting up but I was going through some financial problems as well and I felt that I couldn’t uplift myself anymore,” she shares. I’m thankful to have family members who kept passing messages like ‘you already hit rock bottom, how much lower can you go?’”

It was during this tough period that she came to realise the importance of having a sound mental and physical health, and how gratitude can change your life as it breathes positivity into everything that you do. “All you have to do is share with your partner or anyone around you before you go to bed and and write down the one thing you’re thankful for that happened throughout the day. This act of gratitude helped me to see things from a bright side and recover quickly” says Lisa.

Among her latest projects is on child advocacy with fellow celebrity, Daphne Iking. She reveals,“Daphne and I just returned from the Netherlands. Currently, we’re working on resolving the issue of statelessness among children in Malaysia.”


TV host, model, actress and animal advocate

With her outgoing and confident personality, you’d never be able to tell that Thanuja was a victim of bullying at school. Ironically, it was because of the bullying that she’s able to stand tall and carry herself well without any fear as the intimidation she had experienced made her stand up for her sister.

“Anuja (my twin sister) and I were bullied in school because we were tall, had big poofy hair and were coloured. People called us names like Twin Towers, crane and bangau (Malay for crane). We felt a little sad at first but then I stood up as the elder sister and defended both of us,” laughs Thanuja.

Looking back, she says she’s proud that she grew up with a supportive family because that’s how she’s managed to remain confident. “To me, success means being fulfilled and happy. It has been an amazing year for me because of my spiritual, mental and physical growth. Also, because I got the chance to play the lead role of an artificial intelligence officer in a Singaporean TV series called Mixed Signals produced by Mediacorp which will be out this month,” explains Thanuja.

At the same time, she doesn’t deny the fact that it has been an equally challenging year because she has been working in Singapore since early this year. “Being away from your support system – family, friends and dogs – has been really tough. But on the bright side, I learnt how to breakdance and had to pick up Russian and German to play the role in the TV series,” she shares.

As Thanuja loves to constantly challenge herself, she hopes that with the existing platform she has built for herself, she’d be able to pay it forward by helping stray dogs in Malaysia. “My hope is for us to be a stray-free country like Holland one day. I hope we’ll be able to do away with pet stores because when the buying stops, the breeding will stop too. Remember, #adoptdontshop and together, we can make a difference,” she concludes.


TV host, singer-songwriter, actress and social media influencer

One thing about Hannah that many may not know is that in her teens, she quit school, ran away from home and took up odd jobs to sustain her life. “You’d be surprised; I used to sell food at stalls, worked as a part-time tutor and even did babysitting just to make the money,” shares Hannah.

After a year of being on her own, she realised that education was indeed important and decided to sit for the SPM examination as a private candidate. She passed with flying colours and was granted a full scholarship to pursue part-time studies in computer science. “I had to fork out the remaining money to cover my living expenses and decided to work full-time, have a few part-time jobs and attend daily night classes in college,” she remembers.

At 19, Hannah graduated with an honours degree in Computer Science and Information System, and with the impressive results, she thought that she could lead a comfortable life from then on. But things turned out differently when she made some bad investment choices, which led her to fall into depression.

“That’s when music came to the rescue and I was overjoyed to write songs,” she recalls. But Hannah’s interest in music was marred by chronic pharyngitis (sore throat) that almost caused her to lose her voice. Miraculously, she emerged as the first Malaysian to sign a multi-million dollar recording deal in Japan, but her excitement didn’t last long as she received news from her doctor saying that she had a tumour on a nerve in her brain. Shortly after that, another upsetting discovery was made by her doctor – the recurrence of a few cysts in her reproductive organs. “Although the doctor told me to rest for five days after my operation, it took me only two days to be able to walk again, after which I continued to make my debut in Japan, touring 40 locations in the country,” she says.

Despite all the odds that had befallen her, nothing’s able to erase the smile on this joyful woman’s face. She feels that if you see a woman who’s a little happier than the rest, you know that she’s been through a lot in life. As much as she enjoys sharing her story, Hannah also hopes to be able to share stories of different women who have risen through challenges personally and on her website so that together, women do not have to suffer alone.


Actress, entrepreneur, race car driver and vlogger

Not many of us are blessed with a career that also happens to be our hobby, but for Diana, this rare combination is the driving force that keeps her going. The pan-Asian beauty who has won several awards including Best Supporting Actress at the 29th Malaysia Film Festival 2017 and 21st Skrin Awards 2017 made her acting debut at the age of nine in TV drama, Idola, after which her popularity rose.

When she was 12, Diana didn’t have a choice but to continue working as an actress when her single mother was diagnosed with cancer and she had to take on the responsibility of paying her mother’s hospital bills.

Diana, whose last movie was Gol & Gincu 2 that was showcased last year, has decided to put her acting career on hold to focus on her beauty business. “I started my own eco skincare company, Organika Beauty. It’s my first attempt at running a business and I have my mum who’s an experienced accountant to assist me,” she shares.

Diana also has a passion for fast cars, which explains why she signed up for season three of the Vios Challenge Race by Toyota. But that wasn’t the only reason why she joined the race. “At season one of the challenge, I was the first female to make it to the podium and at the beginning of season two, I observed that only the guys were winning. So I challenged myself to work hard to get to that level. Imagine the surprise on my face when they announced my name as season two’s champion!” she exclaims.

The star who manages her vlog called Diana Danielle TV will be heading to Gold Coast, Australia, in December to create a new show called Surviving Australia with D! “There, I’ll also be pursuing my studies in film-making. I want to be a producer so that I can create content that I feel is important. I want to inspire people through stories, which I feel has the power to influence others,” she shares.


National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) youth ambassador

Cancer is no longer a topic that’s only relevant to those above the age of 60. In fact, the then Perak state health committee chairman, Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon was quoted in The Star in 2015 as saying that “more people in their 20s and 30s are starting to suffer from cancer.” This was one of the reasons why cancer survivor, Mei Sze formed the Young Cancer Survivors Group in 2016.

“My journey to recovery was lonely. I only revealed what I suffered from to close family members and close friends who were supportive. It was an embarrassing issue for me so I sought solace from those I met online and overseas. I was surprised that the support groups overseas were really encouraging and we could share, joke and talk about what we went through,” she says. Through the Young Cancer Survivors Group, Mei Sze (who holds a PhD in Psychology) gives talks and shares her knowledge about the disease.

Having first discovered that she had rectal cancer when she was 27 years old, she says, “I had diarrhoea for three weeks. The GPs said it was nothing, but my dad insisted that I get an endoscopy done. One thing led to another and eventually, finding out that I suffered from this broke me at first.” Mei Sze had to undergo two major surgeries – the first to remove the cancer and the second to join back the rectum and everything that was left in her rectum and intestines.

If that wasn’t hard enough on Mei Sze and her family, the last thing she expected to find out when she tried to claim for insurance for the costly surgeries was that her agent (who’s also her friend) had used the money she’d been paying him all this while for himself ! Mei Sze managed to get in touch with his manager who made an appeal to the insurance company.

“I got half of the money back after nine months and only the second half of the treatment was covered,” she shares. “When I asked him why he did it, all he had to say was that he needed the money to open a restaurant. I forgave him and we’re still in touch.” For someone who defines success as being healthy and happy, Mei Sze says that she’s elated for being able to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients, particularly the youths in the Young Cancer Survivors Group.


Child and family development specialist and women’s leadership speaker at Supparetreat

Racheal admits that she’s not perfect and says that it’s okay to be imperfect. “You’d be surprised by how far you can go in your relationship, career and life after you’ve dealt with your insecurities,” she explains.

Being the youngest and only daughter, Racheal spent her days growing up as a happy child but admits that there were expectations from her parents and herself that she had to fulfil along the way. “I’m a perfectionist but I’m also reserved cos I was afraid that I might offend people for being upfront. I used to find it hard to say ‘no’ to people but today, I’ve found my voice and learnt to say ‘no’ from my gut,” she explains.

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