The Rise and Rise of our November 2019 Cover Girl: Sonia Chew

The first time I worked with Sonia on a photoshoot was in June 2018 for a beauty portrait for my third book — Editing Beauty III.  Her boyfriend (who happens to be my university housemate — small world) messaged me that it was a great shot of her; of course he would say that. But then someone commented on our Instagram that the photo looks like a Circles ad, which really made me crack up, because… my goodness… it did! I then decided to really capture the essence of Sonia in this November cover shoot; to showcase her fun and cheeky personality though her expressions… which led to this edgy cover shot. Clarence, the makeup artist who worked on this set preferred a “prettier” shot of Sonia for the cover, one where her nose wasn’t crinkled (I hear you, Clarence), but I chose to leave those safer shots for the spread below.

It’s very clear to me that Sonia is a rising star; she’s at the right age (late 20s), with the right profession (radio personality), with so much potential to excel in acting, hosting, and what all millennials are best at — influencing. No one wants to admit to being an “influencer” (this word has gotten such a bad rep in recent years that it makes people cringe), but being real, that is exactly what Sonia has been doing; influencing her followers on Instagram, radio and pretty much wherever she goes.

She may seem like a current success, but I say, this is just the start of her celebrity. This girl is going places, and I’m proud to have her as our November 2019 cover girl of the month.

Photography by Adele Chan, Photographed using the Leica M10-P + Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH lens.
Makeup by Clarence Lee using CHANEL Makeup.
Hair by Justin Javier from Shunji Matsuo using Shiseido Professional.
Nails by Rebecca from Flutterytips Nails using CHANEL colours.
Styling by Randolph Tan.
Assisted by amelia tan and natalie tan from the nylon team.
Shot on location at Leica Playground 2019.

 

Makeup (CHANEL):
Eyes: Les 4 Ombres in Lumières et Opulence 342, $98
and Stylo Yeux Waterproof in Khaki Intense 951, $38
Face: Eclat Magnetique De Chanel in Metal Peach, $103
Lips: Rouge Allure in Rouge Splendide 817 (a pink coral), $56
Nails: Le Vernis in Richness 719 (a chestnut red), $40
Jewellery (CHANEL):
Coco Crush Ring in 18K Yellow Gold (Small), $3,400

Coco Crush Ring in 18K White Gold and Diamonds (Small), $6,600
Outfit (CHANEL):
Wool blend blouson and Matching Coat

 

On this moment in life and what’s making her happy:
“I feel like this is the best time to really take on everything, like all of life’s challenges, and just really go explore outside of what I started doing, and really try new things. It’s an exhilarating moment in life.

I would say, the ability to be creative every day makes me very happy, because it’s like, y’know, people get bored doing their jobs every day, but every day presents a new challenge, or something new that I want to do. And that really makes me happy. And my passion for work makes me happy all the time. I wake up and I’m like, “Yeah!” I’m not going to drag my feet to work because I really enjoy it. Also, travel makes me happy, and adventure makes me happy.”

Her journey to where she is today:
“So I wanted to be a journalist — like a news journalist… I know, very serious, right? Very different. So I wanted to be a newscaster; it was like, my goal as a kid [laughs]. You can’t imagine that happening right? So I really started out studying media because I wanted to do journalism. But things just changed along the way, I actually took an internship at a very serious media place, and I felt like it wasn’t really my vibe. I really just wanted to be a bit more creative… break boundaries and stuff like that. So I took part in this radio contest, like a personality hunt, which, right after I won, I actually met you! And I got kicked out halfway, didn’t think that I would get back in, and then I won! So it was like a wildcard kind of situation, where I got kicked out for not knowing who the Kardashian’s were, at that time. This was like seven years back, and I don’t know… they were just emerging, I guess?

So once I had the opportunity to come back into the competition, I think I was just like, ‘Go hard or go home dude!’, and I don’t wanna go home! So yeah, I ended up winning that, and that was really how my entire career started. But I just want to make it also very clear that a lot of people come in with expectations after they join certain contests, or personality hunts, like, “Oh, I’m definitely gonna make it after I win!” But it’s also a matter of how much work you’re gonna put in, and how much you discover about your personality and your brand. Branding is so important for us as personalities, right? And if you cannot find your footing in terms of your identity, or what you like to do, or clients that you attract, that kinda stuff, then it’s very hard to build from there. So I think the key part of my journey was actually discovering, say, my humour, or like, what kind of style I embody… stuff like that. And that brings us to today!”

Makeup (CHANEL):
Eyes: Les 4 Ombres in Lumières et Opulence 342, $98
and Stylo Yeux Waterproof in Khaki Intense 951, $38
Face: Eclat Magnetique De Chanel in Metal Peach, $103
Lips: Rouge Allure in Rouge Magnifique 827 (a bright orange), $56
Nails: Le Vernis in Richness 719 (a chestnut red), $40
Jewellery (CHANEL):
Coco Crush Necklace in 18K White Gold and Diamonds, $6,850

Coco Crush Necklace in 18K Beige Gold, $3,950
Coco Crush Ring in 18K White Gold and Diamonds (small), $6,600
Coco Crush Bracelet in 18K Yellow Gold, $9,850
Coco Crush Earrings in 18K White and Yellow Gold and Diamonds, $8,800 (comes with ear cuff)
Outfit (CHANEL):
cotton Shirt and flared trousers
 


The Sonia Chew “brand”:
“You know what, I am super goofy, as usual, and you would know this because you warned me in the beginning of the shoot not to give you ugly faces, so! [Laughs] That in itself, I think you already know that I WILL probably give you goofy pictures here and there. I don’t wanna like, really have a different persona in front of the camera and off the camera, or on-air and off-air, because essentially, all this that I’m doing right now, including social media, is like an extension of myself, and it shouldn’t be something different. It really should just be the same.”

Is this the height of her career?
“Well, um, of course, I am a person that isn’t easily satisfied. I’m always looking at what’s next, and I’m quite ambitious, just in general, and in my career. So while I feel like I am close to the peak of my career, I think I can do even more! So I don’t want to think that I’m at the peak yet, ‘cause then I’ll just relax and then like, where do you go after the peak? You go down, right? So I’mma keep going up for now, hopefully!”

So where to next…
“Um… I mean, I’m starting to think like, y’know, what happens after traditional media? So we’ll see! You never can predict what’s gonna happen after television and radio and everything stops. At some point, traditional media will end… I don’t know, or taper down, right? And that’s why we’re all turning to say, how do we incorporate our radio show online? How do we expand our business online? So I hope that I can run more of my own businesses in the near future. As of now, I ventured into a little bit of a side business as well [Ed: check out Izy Fook], so I got a taste of how it’s like to run my own stuff.”

Favourite jobs and gigs to do:
“One of the biggest projects that I hold very close to my heart is my travel programme — so we’ve worked with clients like Hilton and Conrad, and brands like that. And we’ve worked together with these clients to create a travel programme that is very freestyle. So it’s non-scripted, and it took us all around the world, even till now. We still film it. I think just a couple months back, we released a few more new episodes. So that to me, was one of the biggest moments in my career, in the sense that, how do you just go in without a script? How do you go in without knowing anything? Because that’s the concept of the show, right? And yet, still have some sort of personality to the show, and yet, still make sense to your audience, and don’t give your editor a hard time, right? So there were many things to consider, and I felt like I really grew into… I really discovered my personality through that. And through doing it non-scripted.”

Personal milestones in her career:
“I would say, back to the travel programme, we actually won an award at New York Film Festival, which was like a gold award for best online programme. And it was, like, literally our first season. We went there and we just decided to wing it, y’know? We didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what to expect, nobody knew each other, we just went in there and prayed for the best [laughs]. So, I think that was a moment where people actually looked at us, even internally, in our own company, and they were like, “Well, y’know, I think there’s a potential in this programme!” or like, “What should we do next?” So obviously, in that moment, I also thought to myself, “How do I create another product that is similar with that kind of personality?” Which I am still figuring out. That hopefully will happen soon.

It’s also a real honour to be representing brands that I relate and vibe with: Tag Heuer and PUMA for example. Being their ambassador really means the world to me because I not only believe in their brand and their message — it’s become a part of my daily life.

Also, this is my seventh year in radio, I can’t believe it. It’s like, super long. It’s my first job out of school. So, I haven’t done anything else [laughs].”

Makeup (CHANEL):
Eyes: Ombre Première Powder in Grandeur 56 (a metallic old gold), $57
Ombre Première Powder in Pourpre Brun 58 (a plum brown), $57
and Stylo Yeux Waterproof in Khaki Intense 951, $38
Face: Eclat Magnetique De Chanel in Metal Peach, $103
Lips: Rouge Allure in Rouge Spectaculaire 837 (a true red), $56
Nails: Le Vernis in Deepness 715 (a gunmetal green), $40
Jewellery (CHANEL):
Coco Crush Necklace in 18K White Gold and Diamonds, $6,850

Coco Crush Necklace in 18K Beige Gold, $3,950
Coco Crush Ring in 18K Yellow Gold (small), $3,400 (on both hands)
Coco Crush Bracelet in 18K Beige Gold, $10,100
Coco Crush Earrings in 18K White and Yellow Gold and Diamonds, $8,800 (comes with ear cuff)
Outfit (CHANEL):
cotton Shirt, Cardigan dress and blouson
 

 

What she’s proud of:
“Aside from myself? [Laughs] I’m proud of myself! Actually, on that note, I think that it’s okay to say that you’re proud of yourself. I don’t think people say it enough. People around me always say, “I’m so proud of you, I’m so proud of what you’ve achieved,” but you always feel like, “No, I can do more.” But once in a while, I think it’s okay to stop and feel proud of yourself, because I really do put in a lot of time, hours, y’know, sacrifices and stuff like that, as with everybody. But you know, I feel that at the end of the day, to see my close family and friends beaming with pride, just what I’ve achieved so far, and also I feel like it’s very important to surround yourself with people who really just ground you, and make sure that you’re still the same person that you started out as, and that you don’t change just because the people around you are changing.”

Has she changed?
“Y’know, I think we’ve all changed a little, at least. But at the core of things, some things that are still really important to me like family, like supporting them; like friends, being there for their biggest moments and stuff like that. I was just at my friend’s wedding before this shoot — so sorry I’m late — but yeah. I think they know. They know that I haven’t changed in the essential areas.”

On Sonia’s fashion sense:
“My fashion style has changed a lot over the years. I’ve grown up quite a bit. I started off wearing a lot of funky stuff. Like when I first met you seven years ago, I was wearing a lot of Mash-Up (Singaporean fashion label)… Literally, I wore all of Mash-Up’s stuff — I still have them. And I think, as we go along, I’ve simplified my style a little bit. It’s still edgy, it’s still bold, and I still wanna experiment with lots of different accessories — I used to have a crazy shoe collection! But I think as you grow up and you grow older, you just, sort of like, cut the access stuff and then you truly find yourself.”

Sonia’s beauty style:
“Same! Simple as well. And really, like, a bold lip, all the time. A lip colour is just really all you need. And I’m an advocate of getting ready in the shortest possible time, so things like perming my lashes, making sure my brows are trimmed, yeah, those are important. And good skin! Yeah, you need to have good skin.

Sometimes I don’t wear makeup, because we wear makeup a lot, for work and occasions. So I always have shades with me — like, always. Like, tinted glasses, or shades; it helps to block the dark eye circles. And lipstick. And that’s it. Oh, and I always bring concealer with me. Wherever I go.”

Love or hate social media?
“Can it be love and hate? I love AND hate! Because it started off as a platform that you share, like, what you do, for example, “Oh, today I’m gonna go for brunch with my girls”, but now it’s obviously incorporated a lot of commercials, advertorials, and stuff like that. But I’m glad that I still have fun creating digital ads and content, and still try to maintain some of my personality in there, y’know?

I own my own Instagram. They’re [Mediacorp] actually very cool with me doing what I want to do. Everything that I post is stuff that I take, and I’ve never been told to take something down, so phew! Thank goodness!”

Makeup (CHANEL):
Eyes: Ombre Première Powder in Grandeur 56 (a metallic old gold), $57
Ombre Première Powder in Pourpre Brun 58 (a plum brown), $57
and Stylo Yeux Waterproof in Khaki Intense 951, $38
Face: Eclat Magnetique De Chanel in Metal Peach, $103
Lips: Rouge Allure in Rouge Majestueux 847 (an intense muted raspberry), $56
Nails: Le Vernis in Deepness 715 (a gunmetal green), $40
Jewellery (CHANEL):
Coco Crush Necklace in 18K White Gold and Diamonds, $6,850

Coco Crush Ring in 18K Yellow Gold and Diamonds (small), $6,250
Coco Crush Ring in 18K Beige Gold (small), $3,500
Coco Crush Earrings in 18K White and Yellow Gold and Diamonds, $8,800 (comes with ear cuff)
Outfit (CHANEL):
wool blend Sweater

 

Tell us an interesting fan story.
“Where do I begin?! Interesting fan stories… there was this guy that was very convinced that he was my boyfriend. But we have never met! So it started off as something quite normal — he sent a bouquet of flowers at an event that I was hosting. So I was like, okay, I mean sometimes you get like, gifts and all that… But he left his number there, in the card. And I was like, “Oh! Okay!” So my friend, out of curiosity, just added his phone number on WhatsApp so that you can see the profile picture right [laughs], so we managed to identify him from the profile picture. But I never saw him in person! He’d always ask someone to pass me the stuff and all that. And then, things got a little bit more strange — when I realised that he was almost at every other event that I was at, but lurking around in the corner. So he would just be like, behind a pillar, like at a gig, kinda thing. Then one of the events that I was hosting, my client comes up to me, and she’s like, ‘Hey, um, Son, your boyfriend brought you coffee.’ And I was like… at that point seeing someone else, and said, ‘No, he wouldn’t bring me coffee during my gig or anything!’ So I looked, and it was him! Like, standing there with a bag of coffee! And I turned to my client and said, ‘That’s not my boyfriend, really, I actually don’t know who he is!’ And immediately, they all panicked. They were all like, ‘Uhhh, oh my god, okay, okay, like what do we do now?’

So, fast-forward right, I happen to go through my Instagram DMs, and y’know you have an outbox where like, people that you don’t follow, you can see their messages. And I saw this suspicious-looking username there, so I clicked on it, and it turns out there was this guy, and he’s been having a one-sided conversation with himself for like, a year. Like a full year, before he approached me with the gifts and stuff like that. And he was very convinced that every song that I played on the radio was to him. So, if I played like a love song, he’d be like, ‘Oh, I get the point, I’ll stay here,’ that kinda thing [laughs]. Then if it’s like a breakup song, he’d be like, ‘Why didn’t you tell me first?!’ Yeah. So, anyway, I sort of told my manager about it. And my radio partner, Joakim, actually confronted him once, and gave him like, a warning [laughs], like a brotherly warning, ‘Eh bro, I think you need to stop doing this,’ and yeah… He has since slid off the radar. But I really hope he’s okay, because I don’t want anything bad to happen to any of my fans either.”

 

Follow Sonia Chew on Instagram here.