10 Creative Malaysians & Why The World Loves Them
Malaysian talent is a force to be reckoned with in the global arena: From film stars to fashion designers, from athletes to activists, there’s no stopping these remarkable individuals and their passions. The creative industry is one such area young Malaysians are making an impression in, whether it is introducing sambal, creating quirky art or designing gowns for Hollywood stars. Meet these extraordinary Malaysians who made a name for themselves - and for the country.
Ling Tan, Malaysian Supermodel
Dubbed the first Asian supermodel, Ling Tan came onto the scene in the early 90s, after an American spotted her in a Tiger Beer commercial. She went on to clinch the runner-up spot in the 1994 Asian Model Search competition. Ling's career launched in New York, where she has walked and starred in fashion campaigns for labels like Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Fendi, Chanel and Valentino. The catwalk darling graced the pages of famous glossies but its her phenomenal success that heralded the arrival of Asian models — now that’s an accomplishment to be proud of.
Auria Abraham, Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen
Auria Abraham’s sambal empire in New York was borne out of homesickness for Malaysian food. Her craving for spices led her to start Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen. Sambal condiments and kaya spreads, her best-loved products, have received the seal of approval at supper clubs, pop-up markets and food fairs. Her hard work paid off last year when she picked up 2 sofi (specialty foods association) awards. Judging by the Americans’ growing taste for sambal, Auria’s mission of popularising Malaysian flavours is a huge success.
Atira Ariffyn, Architect
Architect, photographer, artist, sneaker-head: the versatile Atira Ariffyn is a darling among numerous communities, which explains her social media followers pushing 45.9k. After undertaking 5 years of study under London’s Architectural Association, Atira joined esteemed Dutch architecture specialist, UNStudio, where she’s been roped in to design futuristic urban projects. Her flair for creativity was showcased when she spoke at a TEDx Talk and through exhibitions of her artwork over the years. Her Instagram is filled with wanderlust and inspiration, by the countries she’s travelled to and photographed, alongside her impeccable street style shots.
See also: How A-List Interior Designer Raymond Lee Pushed The Envelope With Modern Luxe
Anisah Farid, Runway Show Designer
With a catchy Instagram handle like @pinkdurian, Anisah Farid wears her Asian roots proudly, intertwined with her role as RTW Runway Design Assistant at Marc Jacobs. That’s right: Anisah is a familiar face behind the scenes at the brand’s New York HQ. Her cheerful personality and quirky style shines through in the designs she’s helped put together, both in the atelier and for the New York Fashion Week stage. To the eyes of her followers, she is living the dream, but Anisah isn't afraid to depict the hard work and vision involved to get you to where you want to go.
Nadirah Zakariya, Photographer
Photographer Nadirah Zakariya is an adept storyteller, especially when told through the lens. Born in Malaysia and having lived in the U.S. and Japan, her global background leaves a significant impression on her talent for photography. Her photos have been exhibited in New York, London, Paris, and Kuala Lumpur, and published in Vogue Italia, Vice, and The New York Times. Nadirah’s subjects range from self-portraits to flowers, and even famous people. She was also commissioned by Bloomberg to photograph a series of portraits of Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir Mohamad.
Han Chong, Designer Of Self-Portrait
If there’s one word to describe London-based fashion label Self-Portrait and its Malaysian designer Han Chong, it can only be described as meteoric. In just 5 years after launching his brand of contemporary womenswear, Han’s creations had captured the attention of both fashionistas and celebrities alike. Self-Portrait’s unique selling points, such as sensible price points and flattering feminine designs, have become a red-carpet favourite of Beyoncé, Kate Middleton and Michelle Obama, to name a few. Han also plays mentor through a scholarship programme with his alma mater, Central Saint Martins.
See also: Han Chong, On The 7 Things That Matter To Him
Sheena Liam, Model & Embroidery Artist
In the fashion world, Sheena Liam is better known for winning Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 2, but in the arts circle, she is the embroidery artist of Times New Romance. Using thread and hoop, Sheena produces ‘self-portraits’ featuring loose and secure threads evoking her flowing hair, as a creative outlet in her spare time and on her travels. The beauty and vulnerability of Sheena’s life-like pieces went viral online, which then led to her first solo exhibition in October 2018 at Item gallery in Paris.
Lim Heng Swee, Founder Of I Love Doodle
With a mantra of ‘Doodling A Smile’, Lim Heng Swee has brought cheer to scores of people around the world with illustrations painting puns, quirky messages and cute characters. The Kuala Lumpur-based doodler, whose works have emblazoned statement T-shirts, greeting cards and gift wraps, was awarded Designer of the Year by Threadless, a leading American T-shirt design community, in 2009 and 2011. Heng Swee’s sunny artwork has a staggering Instagram following of over 154,000, and she collaborated with international brands such as Nike, Gap and Dell.
Jynwaye, Cartoon Illustrator
New York-based artist Jynwaye’s cartoon illustrations are so true to detail that you wouldn’t believe that her profession is not actually in drawing. Widely recognised for her hand-painted works of Sailor Moon, The Simpsons, and Dragon Ball Z, among others, her cool factor is amplified by her choice of canvas - the all white Nike Air Force 1’s. But her coolest trait is the fact that the self-taught artist is actually an environmental science graduate.
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Adele Lim, Hollywood Screenwriter
If you’re a huge fan of Crazy Rich Asians, chances are you’re familiar with one of its screenwriters Adele Lim and how she quit the sequel over pay disparity. Her bold and outspoken action, which was backed by director Jon M. Chu and actress Gemma Chan, has spurred her forward to greater projects. The Los Angeles-based Adele has inked a contract to co-write for animation feature Raya and the Last Dragon, which is steeped in Southeast Asian mythology. We couldn’t think of a better fit than Adele when it comes to putting Malaysian culture on the world map.