It is no longer enough just to be a model. Nowadays, one has to know how to brand oneself, on the runway and in the all-important social media.

Take for instance, the case of Malaysia’s top model Amber Chia.

“Besides modelling, I do acting, hosting and give motivational talks. You have to be multi-talented to succeed in this industry,” says Chia.

With close to two decades of experience, Chia certainly knows what she’s talking about. In 2004, she became a household name in Malaysia after winning Guess Watches Timeless Beauty International Model Search.

“Back then, we didn’t have social media. The world is rapidly changing, and a lot of things have become more digital. So, a new supermodel has to be able to kick up a storm on social networks,” muses the 35-year-old beauty.

Besides numerous fashion shoots and advertising campaigns, Chia has starred in The 3rd Generation (2005), Possessed (2006) and Tears Of The Mom (2012). She has also authored two books: Supermodel’s Secrets To Success (2008) and Amber Chia’s Guide To A Successful Modelling Career (2013).

When Chia organised the Ford Supermodel of the World Model Search in 2009, her vision was to create a platform for the next generation of models to learn and gain exposure, locally and internationally.

In 2010, she started Amber Chia Academy, which has graduated over 1,000 students.

The following year, she envisioned a new kind of model search in collaboration with the Korea Model Association. Called the “Asia New Face Model Search”, it sought models that not only have potential to be the next fashion icon, but the next celebrity.

Today, this model search is simply known as the “Face Of Malaysia”.

Chia’s model searches have produced some of the brightest talents in the industry, including Sheena Liam (who won Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 2), Wafa De Korte, Soo Xu Ze and Josh Yen.

Registration for Face of Malaysia 2017 ends on April 19. Live auditions will be held at Amber Chia Academy in Jaya One, Petaling Jaya on April 22.

Judges for the auditions include Chia, Raulen Lee (international director of the Korea Model Association) and CK Wai (founder of Studio V4 Photography).

Sixteen finalists (10 females and six males) will be shortlisted for the grand finale at Mega Star Arena in Kuala Lumpur on May 13.

This year, the male and female winners and their respective runners-up will travel to Seoul, Korea to represent Malaysia at the Face of Asia Model Search in June. It is touted as the largest model search in Asia.

The winners will be personally mentored by Chia, as well as by top modelling and talent schools in Seoul during a one-week bootcamp. They will be given the opportunity to work with clients and professionals in the fashion and beauty industry, locally and internationally.

Chia is optimistic about the Malaysians’ chances at the international finals.

“I have organised this model search for the past six years, and seen how close our models came to winning. This year, I hope to be able to produce a model that is worthy of an international title.”

Asked about the challenges in finding “the next Amber Chia”, she responds: “With a lot of young models, they don’t have the patience as they want fast results. But it’s not overnight success. After all, it took me 19 years to become who I am today.”

Chia adds that it’s not just about physical attributes.

“He or she has to be professional, and willing to put in the hard work. Most importantly, a top model has to have passion for the industry. And through the highs and lows, that passion must not fizzle out.”

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