The Top Model next door
EVER since she was a five-year-old growing up in Kajang, Selangor, Sheena Liam's mother had always believed she would be a model.
And, last Wednesday, Liam, 22, proved a mother's always right by bagging the top prize in the season finale of reality modelling competition Asia's Next Top Model.
Now, she's all geared up to claim her main prize - a three-month modelling stint in London under Storm Model Management - along with a S$50,000 cash prize (which she gave to her parents), a brand-new car (which also went to her parents), and a fashion spread in Harper's Bazaar Singapore and Malaysia.
But it was a tough journey to the top for Liam, more so when everything she did was broadcast to the entire world.
Throughout the nearly three-month weekly broadcast, the world bore witness to countless cat fights between the contestants, lots of tears, and all their successes and failures in the various modelling challenges.
"The fighting is real, the emotions are real," said Liam during an interview the day after the finale. "There's no one coming in saying: 'Oh, today you have to fight with her'."
With so much at stake, the emotional stress became a common theme throughout the competition. Sure, it made good TV but, as Liam can attest to it, it really wasn't easy to deal with.
"I (had to) psych myself up all the time," she said. "When I watch the show on TV, I realise how seriously I took everything and how much pressure I put on myself. If I could do it all over again, I would actually chill out and have some fun."
The stakes were so high, they even got to the judges. According to Liam, two of the judges (she wouldn't name them) were at each other's throats during the finale, where they had to choose between Liam and the other two contestants who made it to the finale - Filipinas Jodilly Pendre and Katarina Rodriguez.
"You could see how seriously the judges took it. It wasn't (as simple as): 'Yeah, we like her, so we're gonna pick her'," Liam explained. "They were fighting among themselves over the judging."
Eventually, of course, Liam was famously (or infamously) announced as the winner.
The big announcement was slightly bittersweet for Liam, though, as social media was soon flooded with hate messages, ranging from the typical keyboard warrior-type "You're so ugly you look like a horse" comments, to the more extreme - death threats and claims she won only because producers felt sorry about the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
"I would post a picture of me, like: 'Check out my new socks!', and I'd get, like, 5,000 comments on how ugly I am," she said.
Luckily, it wasn't something Liam was not prepared for.
"I was (expecting a backlash) the moment I realised I was in the finale with two Filipinas," she confessed.
"Filipinos are so passionate and supportive of their own people. I've seen it because I follow pageants and sports, so I know how supportive they are."
Despite her new-found popularity, it was nice to see during the interview that she's still the same girl next door, going to town on her mee goreng ayam with us at the mamak shop. The only difference now is she's the Top Model next door.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK