“I started working since I was 1 years old. My first job was with Nespray in the baby milk advertisement. My mom used to look at me as an ‘income generating asset’ and had high expectations of me.
I was the ‘pelajar cemerlang’ at 12, completed my Grade 8 piano and violin at 15, and was the youngest conductor of the orchestra at 16. I dare say I had a deprived childhood and was angry at her for a long time.
My mom was the runner up for Miss Universe Malaysia in 1977. She’s half German, but when it comes to money, she’s very Asian. She saw a talent in me and set a high benchmark. Since I responded well, she thought I enjoyed it and was even more gungho towards me.
I grew up around the entertainment industry. There was this audition for babies where the first one who crosses the Finishing Line would get the main role, as simple as that.
For two weeks my mom would train me 2 hours daily. On the audition day, there were 50 babies. When all babies were crying and zigzagging, I crawled straight to victory.
So that's how I scored my first job, and it paid me a couple of thousand dollars.
At the age of 4, my mom would just leave me to hang out with the TV producers and cameraman, while she did her own stuff. That trained me to be really independent.
After a while, I wasn’t sure if being in entertainment was satisfying my needs or satisfying her needs - because she used to boast to her friends when I appeared on news and TV commercials.
The reality only started to hit when I was a teenager. I felt like I didn’t have the freedom, and music especially felt like a chore. It was all about serious stuff and I lost the enjoyment. At 14, I became rebellious.
It became darker after I finished high school. I felt like all of this is finally done, and its time for me to really have my own life. At that time, when my parents told me to do anything or challenged me, I would just walk out from the house and won’t come back for a week.
Of course, now that I’ve grown up, I realized all parents just want the best for their kids.
The turning point for me was when I went to a leadership course, and they asked a question, ‘‘In the event that you leave this world earlier than your parents, what would you want your parents to say to you at your funeral?’
That question triggered me. I realized that I will miss my parents, especially my mom, a lot.
In my 20s, when I was working hard, I used to shut down my mom’s call. I was easily agitated by her. Moms are just being moms, they want to just make conversation.
My moms a storyteller, so she just loved telling stories. She would make every call sound so urgent, at that time there's no Whatsapp, so everytime she would call me, even at the office.
So when I read that question, if my parents were gone from my life, I would actually miss all these calls and random stories that she used to share.
Even though I never got to express how I love them through words, most of it was through my actions.
When I look back at the past, from primary school, to high school, I always took the road less traveled.
My parents have always given me an unspoken kind of support. They don’t put pressure on me to give them allowance on a monthly basis, which I still feel very horrible for.
When I was bootstrapping on my own, I didn’t even pay myself a salary for 14 months.
Deep down inside, I know that whatever they put me through has really moulded me into who I am today. And I cannot thank them enough for that.
To be honest, I don’t think my parents know what I do. I’m the founder of WeStyleAsia, which is a platform that connects grooming professionals to users.
Users can book a hairstylist, masseuse or manicurist, anytime, anywhere. We are always looking to create value for our customers, by offering off-peak deals and points collection for item redemptions.
Convenience is what we look for, but at the end of the day, Asians are Asians, we always look for what's valuable for money. If we go online, we expect to find cheaper and better deals from existing salons.
And I had no idea about grooming, I only knew how to groom myself, but not others.
I wasn't connected to anyone in the industry except for my co-founder (who was founder of A Cut Above).
I was mostly interested in the tech side.The first 6 months we had no clue how to build a prototype, a website, and my other cofounder used to think MVP (minimum viable product) stands for most valuable player.
What really struck me was this makeup artist who I came to know about. She was from Teluk Intan, and she was being abused by the employer, physically and financially.
For her makeup, she would only make RM15 from charging RM120. She said she wanted a profile but she didn't know how to go about it.
We listed her in WeStyleAsia, she grew her business, participated in our events, and now she’s a personal makeup artist to the likes of Fazura and Ning Baizura.
I'm really happy to see where she is now. This is the change we are making to ordinary Joes and Janes on the street.
In my entrepreneurship journey, Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre has helped me understand how to run a business on technology, from validation all the way to human psychology. The pinnacle of my startup education was when I went to Silicon Valley under MaGIC’s programme.
Being in San Francisco and meeting all the top guns, that was simply brilliant. MaGIC was the true backbone of where WeStyleAsia is today.
The trick is not to be a unicorn - it's to be a uniroach. A cockroach that can survive anything that later on becomes a unicorn.
When I’m in my down period and having self doubt, I always remember why I first started.
It was simply to empower people to look great and stay confident. I came from the entertainment industry where people are superficial - there's a lot of beautiful people out there, but because they can’t exude the confidence out to people, they are disregarded.
And with fashion, people judge you the way you dress, the way you talk. So I wanted Westyleasia to be a portal, that when you go to the portal, you become a much more confident person. To educate people to look good, to take care of yourself.
And constantly reminding yourself that looking good isn't about vanity - it's about respecting people".
Story published on Humans of Kuala Lumpur
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