If we’re to judge from the Next Top Model factory line, the aspiring models portrayed seem to crave more fame than fashion runway jobs emphasising drama over designer cred. But a look at Shir Chong, undoubtedly one of Malaysia’s next big names to watch, who herself is a product of a reality TV modeling show, proves the truth about generalising book covers. This here is the real deal, having been recently profiled on Models.com as a dark horse to watch for the upcoming season. We talked to her about common myths about her job and explored her personal style.

Shir Chong, Model

What’s your background story?
I grew up on the beautiful side of East Malaysia, which is known as the land below the wind, with my mum and younger brother. When I was 14, I moved to Kuala Lumpur to major in Broadcast Communication at TARC.

What was your first job?
I modelled for Alexandrea Yeo‘s Project Runway Malaysia grand finale. My mentor, Simone Teh, sent me to the casting with the rest of the senior models who were in the same batch for catwalk training. I was pretty nervous at the time, but it was fun. All the new girls decided to car pool, and I wore the first pair of boots I bought in my entire life!

Did you always want to work in fashion?
No, not really. I never had any ideas bout fashion until I entered college.

What was your journey to becoming a model?
I did my catwalk training with Simone during the early days. Then, I decided to take part in season three of 8TV’s I Wanna Be A Model after college. It served as a bigger platform for me, where I was able to meet and obtain the opportunity to work with different people from the local fashion industry. My career has only surged to greater heights since winning the title, and I’m still very grateful to the people who saw potential in me back then.

Describe a typical day at work for you.
First, I pick a comfortable outfit that’s appropriate to the location of the shoot – with a quick breakfast in between – then make sure my iPod, shades, portfolio book, comp cards and map book (if I’m overseas) is in my tote bag. Once I’m on location, the creative team starts making me up as I take note of their references to understand the editorial concept. Then, hopefully all’s smooth sailing once the shoot starts before the WRAP!

Things are a little different for runway, as we are required to do rehearsals and fittings before the actual gig. We need to work with more people such as choreographers, bookers, dressers, make-up artists, hairstylists, clients, and of course, a lot more models. The more people that are involved, the longer time it takes to coordinate. It’s all about patience and teamwork!

Ad campaign for Risis 2012 & Selberan Spring/Summer 2011

What are your favourite and least favourite things about your job?
I love that I get to travel and work at the same time. Placements are generally at a minimum of two months at a time, so I have time to really explore and understand the country – It’s very different from a short touristy holiday, because you see how things actually work differently in different places. I also love meeting people from foreign places – I love the idea of exchanging cultures and stories, and I’ve had a lot of good memories through them. And then there’s the idea of constantly transforming myself – I’m often surprised by how one can be so versatile as I take on different personalities, carrying different looks.

CittaBella Magazine, April 2012

Debunk a common myth about your job.
Models are not stupid.

What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to be a model?
Find the right platform to kick-start your career. Modelling agencies, model searches, castings and mentorships are a great method, but do your research before signing anything. Or bring a guardian along to ensure that it’s not a scam. It’s so important for you take care of yourself in this industry. Last but not least, don’t get air-headed.

CK One Spring/Summer 2011 Asia Press Release in Hong Kong

What was your favourite modelling gig?
Without a doubt, the Asian press release for CK One Spring/Summer 2011. They held two rounds of castings; the last was a cast fit directed by Kevin Carrigan himself, where I found out that I was the only Asian female model other than Liu Dan! The press release was held at The Space in Hong Kong. They set up the scene just like its commercial ad (CCTV concept), so all we had to do was have fun!

What was your worst modelling gig?
I had a minor heatstroke when I had to model Autumn/Winter wear for a good nine hours during summertine in Hong Kong last year. The location was at a reservoir, where I had to climb on rocks with boots and heels. The hairstylist was also having a hard time fixing my hair due to the strong wind. 40°C accompanied by menstrual pain is not cool at all!

96st Magazine

My style icon is:
Fei Fei Sun.

I would never be caught dead in …
Actually, I never say never!

I splurge on …

My personal style in three words is:
Unisex, timeless and comfortable.

My most treasured possession is …
My cooking skills.

The one thing I’d never throw from my wardrobe is:

I’m at my happiest when …
I’m with my beloved friends and family.

My beauty mantra is:
You are what you eat.

My favourite is:
A scent by Issey Miyake.

Glam, August 2010

Yay or Nay? Tyra Banks

I hate it when a man …
Disrespects a woman.

I love it when a man …
Is gentleman.

Citta Bella, March 2012

Currently playing on my iPod:
Lykke Li, Coldplay, The Naked and Famous.

My idea of the perfect holiday is …
Good sky, food and bed.

In my bag:
My shades, wallet, phone and a pouch that holds all of my essentials.

Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, September 2011

If much like us, you can’t get enough of Shir, stay tuned as she makes her way to our contributors list to chronicle her life in Model Behaviour this month. Otherwise, follow her on Twitter @ShirChong, Facebook as well as her blog.