While the majority of Malaysians finally have something celebratory to shout about this Merdeka Day, what with the recent turn of events during the 14th General Election that took place back in May, we have reasons to be proud of some of the individuals who have taken their respective leaps of faith overseas, and thrive in their varying careers in different parts of the world.

This week, our three-parter focuses on nine talented personalities – from fashion to theatre to music, and from entertainment onscreen and behind, who have given us reasons to be proud to share the same nationality as them.

 


ATIKAH KARIM
Fashion Model
New York


Photo credit: Jakub Koziel

 

What would you say was your greatest achievement by far that you are personally proud of?
I have worked with few fashion brands these past few years, such as Polo by Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, kate spade new york, and Jigsaw, but I would have to say that walking for the Kenzo Spring/Summer 2018 collection show in Paris was the highlight for me – it was my first show in Paris, ever! Besides that, I was also one of the models featured in Diplo’s music video with Desiigner, ‘Suicidal’. That was something quite memorable for me as well in my career overseas.

It was the dawn of a new era for Malaysia during the General Elections back in May.
As a Malaysian residing overseas, how do you think this “New Malaysia” affects you as a Malaysian, and in your career?
I feel that it’s still too soon to tell. The fashion industry is very small in Malaysia, in comparison to the other bigger ones in the country, and at this point, I’m not sure if there will be any changes for the fashion industry for the time being. Where I am right now in New York, modelling is a legit breadwinner, and you can build a career with it, whereas in Malaysia, the majority still thinks it’s not a good long term plan as a career.

What are your personal hopes and dreams for this “New Malaysia” in the coming days, months, or even years?
For the time being, there are no plans to head home any time soon for me. However, with the “New Malaysia” already in the works, one can only hope that it will somehow affect the fashion industry in the long run. Hopefully, it will become a better platform for the local talents to shine, as well as throw some limelight on the industry so that the public can appreciate this industry more, and thus, creating more and bigger opportunities for the talents that’s on par with the ones over here. It’s a long shot, of course, but I can only hope it will happen someday, and I can finally come home while still pertaining what I love to do most.

What do you miss most about Malaysia while overseas?
The food, obviously! Also, I do miss the comfortable and tropical lifestyle back home, especially in my hometown, Kota Kinabalu. Malaysians are probably going to hate me for saying this, but I do miss driving a car around! Over here, we don’t get to do that. We’d depend more on public transportation to get places most of the time.

Read also: Locals Gone Global: Rendra Zawawi, Shanon Shah, Yuna

 


PEARLY WONG
Fashion Designer
Berlin


Photo credit: Andrew Loh

 

What are the projects currently taking up your time?
I am currently working on my new collection, which will debut on the runways of the fashion weeks in Los Angeles and China. The new collection under my eponymous label will feature a series of womenswear of military chic and utilitarian themes.

What would you say are your greatest achievements by far that you are personally proud of?
I would have to say that being one of the handful of designers from Malaysia showcasing during fashion weeks around the world – that is something that I am proud of. It’s a way for us to put Malaysia on the international map of the fashion industry, however small it may seem, proving to the world that there are a lot of creative talents in and from Malaysia after all. I have represented Malaysia in the China Fashion Week and New Zealand Fashion Week, whereas I am a regular at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Berlin. I have also won an award at the Harbin Fashion Week in China earlier this year, being the first and only Malaysian to do so.

It was the dawn of a new era for Malaysia during the General Elections back in May.
As a Malaysian residing overseas, how do you think this “New Malaysia” affects you as a Malaysian abroad?
My heartiest congratulations go out to the new government, and I do hope that they will provide more funding and assistance for the local arts, creative and cultural industries in Malaysia in years to come. It is something that we have lacked of for a very long time. Whilst this “New Malaysia” doesn’t change a lot for my fashion business, as I am based majorly overseas, but nonetheless, I am excited to see what they have planned in the future for the abovementioned industries.

What do you miss most about Malaysia while overseas?
Nothing beats Malaysian cuisine that is full of flavours, variety and culture – most of all, cheap! Besides my fashion label, I am also involved with Sze Women of Hope, a non-profit initiative to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) livelihood projects in Malaysia, which features apparel and accessories made ethically by refugee women in the country. Not to mention, being the Friend of the Brand in Southeast Asia for Corum, I do come back to Malaysia regularly to get my fill on my favourite Malaysian food!

Read also: Locals Gone Global: Hero Tai, Jon Chew, Shiva Kalaiselvan

 


SHEENA LIAM
Fashion Model/Embroidery Artist
New York/Paris


Photo credit: Della Bass ; Makeup: Zoe Simone

 

What are your currently busy with?
After getting my fill at the States, being on runways for Opening Ceremony, Diane Von Furstenberg and Simone Rocha, as well as gracing the various covers of Harper’s Bazaar, and being on Killer Mike’s music video for ‘Kill Jill’, I’m planning to be in Paris for the rest of the year, as I’ve just switched agencies. I’m set for my first solo exhibition at Item Gallery in Paris as well, a project of mine which has been in the making.

On a more personal level, I’m getting married this year! It’ll be a tiny world tour for me and Ernest [Zacharevic, the graffiti artist whose claim to fame came about when he did a series of mural paintings around Georgetown, Penang in 2012], as we’re heading to both our hometowns in Lithuania and Malaysia. This brings me to another one of my pet projects: I am embroidering my wedding dress by hand.

Which highlight in your career that have come to past would you say you are personally proud of, and which even the people back in Malaysia can be proud of?
Winning Asia’s Next Top Model during the second cycle in 2014 definitely changed my life and opened a lot of doors for me. The representations of different countries made the whole environment rather nationalistic; it almost felt like the Olympics. That being said, moving to London by myself to further my modelling career marked a whole level of personal growth for me, someone who’s never been out of Malaysia till then. I’d never have dreamed of having the opportunities I had been given thus far.

It was the dawn of a new era for Malaysia during the General Elections back in May.
What are your personal hopes and dreams for “New Malaysia” in the coming days, months, or even years?
Hopefully, this means growth in all sectors, starting with the proper elimination of corruption. I hope quality education is made more accessible to everyone, and that Malaysians as a population learn to practise more compassion, especially towards those who are different from us. Last but not least, I hope Malaysia starts to recognise refugees not as immigrants, but as humans with a right to live. Borders are a human construct, and we shouldn’t deny anyone their humanity.

What do you miss most about Malaysia while overseas?
I do miss the familiarity of it all from a place called home. I’ve been nomadic for four years now because of my career; literally, I haven’t been in a place for more than three months at a time. Sometimes, it’s nice to not feel lost, to have a heartwarming and familiar place to be in.

written by.

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