These Remarkable Malaysian Women Tell Us What It's Like To Walk The Runway

L'Oréal Paris celebrated diversity and inclusivity by selecting women from all walks of life for their runway show, rather than conventional supermodels.

Cover image via Saufi Nadzri (Provided to SAYS)

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L'Oréal Paris brought its globally acclaimed campaign, #WalkYourWorth, to the forefront in Malaysia during Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week (KLFW) 2023

The event celebrated the power of self-worth and the strength of diversity, featuring inspiring Malaysian women who embody the essence of the movement.

We caught up with two remarkable individuals who walked the KLFW runway to share their thoughts on self-worth and the impact of the #WalkYourWorth campaign.

Kim May Chee is the founder of COCOdry and a self-confidence advocate

Image via Kim May Chee

Kim, a former advertising agency professional turned entrepreneur, founded COCOdry, to help individuals feel their best and radiate confidence.

Sonya Danita Charles is the founder of the Vitiligo Association Malaysia and a professional model

Sonya describes herself as a marketer and model. She also founded the Vitiligo Association Malaysia, and is dedicated to promoting self-worth and embracing individuality.

1. What does the #WalkYourWorth movement mean to you?

Kim walks the runway during the L'Oréal Paris x KLFW show.

Image via Saufi Nadzri (Provided to SAYS)

Kim: "It means a lot to me because it's like a childhood dream come true. When I was young, I had many aspirations (I still do, lol), and modelling was one of them. Back then, modelling was seen as something only for tall women with perfect bodies, and I never thought I had a shot.

"But me walking the runway, representing the girl bosses out there, and strutting my stuff with L'Oréal Paris and KLFW was an even better dream come true! It was a walk with a strong purpose and a meaningful story behind it."

Sonya during the L'Oréal Paris x KLFW show.

Image via Saufi Nadzri (Provided to SAYS)

Sonya: "To me, the #WalkYourWorth movement means standing firm and being proud of everything that makes you who you are. It is a celebration of people who come from all walks of life, and showcases the true meaning of beauty and individuality.

"It is interesting how women are always expected to be, look, or act a certain way that fits into societal norms (especially where the beauty and modelling industry is concerned). Now, while some are completely comfortable with being fit into such boxes (and that is their own freedom of choice), it does not necessarily mean that everyone else is the same way.

"In fact, I am constantly amazed by the women who are trailblazing their way through barriers that have been set to keep us confined and silenced. Having a movement like this will truly make a change because not only does it show how strong and beautiful women truly are, but it also defies all norms of what beauty is expected to be."

2. Can you tell us about a time when you felt unsure of yourself or had low self-esteem? How did you overcome that?

Kim: "It was the time when I first started COCOdry. I was unsure about myself, and my self-esteem hit rock bottom when I received a lot of rejection and people telling me that my idea was going to fail. I was really upset that I did not even want to celebrate my birthday. Call me dramatic but it was a difficult time for me. But you know what they say, 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going.' 

"It was during this period of uncertainty and self-doubt that I discovered the resilience and strength within me. So I tried a different approach. I surrounded myself with people who believed in me, celebrated little wins, practised gratitude, turned to self-improvement resources like books and podcasts, and looked for mentors. 

"Ultimately, I came to understand that feeling unsure of oneself or experiencing low self-esteem is a natural part of life. Hence, I'm a strong believer of radiating positivity because you'll never know what others are going through. It's okay to have moments of doubt, but what truly matters is how you respond to them. By seeking support, setting realistic goals, and continuously working on personal growth, I was able to overcome that challenging period and emerge stronger than ever. 

"It taught me that resilience and self-belief can lead to remarkable personal growth, even in the face of adversity. If I hadn't pushed myself to do it, I wouldn't be answering these questions today."

The Women of Worth were handpicked to walk the L'Oréal Paris x KLFW show.

Image via Saufi Nadzri (Provided to SAYS)

Sonya: "Frankly, I spent a majority of my childhood and teen life having really low self-esteem. This was mainly due to the fact that I looked very different in comparison to everyone else around me. It didn't help that I barely saw anyone else who looked like me, nor was there any representation of people like me.

"It took years of learning and unlearning ways to overcome my adversities and investing a lot of self love into my growth as an individual. I often have people come up to me and ask me how am I so confident, and honestly, I always make it a point to remind them that confidence is not something that is born overnight. It requires a lot of effort and kindness towards oneself. This means learning to speak to yourself more kindly, knowing your worth, understanding that everyone is made differently for a reason, etc.

"Most importantly, it is crucial to understand that it is completely acceptable to feel insecure every now and then because even the most confident person has their gloomy days. However, what matters most is understanding your emotions and everything you are feeling, acknowledging it, giving it time to sit with you, and then slowly letting it go. This is also something I personally practise, which has helped me through some of my toughest times."

SAYS Video Lead, Nandini Balakrishnan, gets interviewed after the show.

Image via Saufi Nadzri (Provided to SAYS)

3. What empowers you to recognise your worth?

Kim: "It's the thought of making my younger self proud and setting a benchmark for the girls of the future. When I take a moment to look back on my journey and think about all the challenges I've gone through, it's a reminder of just how strong and far I have come. I mean, think about it – I had these dreams and aspirations when I was younger, and now I'm here, living those dreams.

"Also, I realise that my actions and achievements can be an example for others, especially young women and girls who have big dreams but are unsure about themselves. Many have inspired me, and I hope to inspire more. By embracing my self-worth and going after my goals with everything I've got, I hope to light a fire under those who come after me. It's about showing them that they, too, can break through barriers, challenge stereotypes, and chase their dreams.

"So, recognising my worth isn't just a personal thing; it's a commitment to being a positive influence on the world around me and paving the way for a future where all women know their worth."

Sonya: "It is the people around me who continuously empower and inspire me to stay true to myself and remind me of the importance of recognising my worth. I find that surrounding yourself with people who love and support you truly makes a world of difference.

"I also find it important to constantly reassure myself and remind myself that I am placed in this world for a purpose, and I will do everything within my means to help as many people as I possibly can while I am still here."

4. What was your favourite part of the #WalkYourWorth show?

Kim: "The anticipation and excitement of the show were really thrilling. I also loved the rush of adrenaline while walking down the runway, feeling my heart beat extra fast, the connection with the audience, and hearing the cheers from people who supported me. The best part is, I was encouraged to be myself!

"My favourite part is definitely the diversity of the models and having L'Oréal provide a platform for women from all walks of life and backgrounds to be a part of the #WalkYourWorth campaign!

"From girl bosses to athletes, body positivity advocates to environmentalists, and musicians to activists – it was truly an empowering experience for me. Everyone was really nice; we had lots of fun, singing and dancing backstage, took reels, and helped each other get ready. Especially when I got to surround myself with so many amazing women I have so much respect for, women who have made a significant difference in the community."

Sonya: "To be very honest, despite having done runways and modelling numerous times before, each show is still very nerve-wracking for me. Not many people know this about me, but I have stage fright (I know, it's shocking!) So while everyone often assumes that it is very easy for me given the nature of my job, it is actually quite the opposite.

"However, one thing that was definitely different about this show in particular is the fact that everyone was so supportive of each other. I loved how we were all cheering each other on, helping and guiding each other, and overall just being very loving and kind towards each other. I definitely think that it made a huge difference to be surrounded by so many amazing women who had the most amazing and inspiring stories to share because it made the whole experience even more magical.

"And of course, walking the runway and hearing the crowd cheering was definitely an unexplainably liberating and empowering feeling. It truly is something I will never forget!"

5. What are your hopes for the beauty industry in Malaysia?

Kim: "My hopes for the beauty industry in Malaysia revolve around support, sustainability, inclusivity, and accessibility. I aspire to see an industry that uplifts one another, prioritises sustainable practices, and celebrates the diversity that makes us all unique. Moreover, I envision a future where beauty is not just skin deep but also about empowerment, education, and embracing individuality.

"I'd like to see upcoming #WalkYourWorth campaigns being more accessible to the public, fostering a sense of belonging and involvement for all."

Some of the women who graced the catwalk during the L'Oréal Paris x KLFW show.

Image via Saufi Nadzri (Provided to SAYS)

Sonya: "I honestly believe that in order for the fashion and beauty industry to be considered inclusive, there is a lot of change and work that is required. We should be truly embracing the meaning of being inclusive by including people from all walks of life regardless of their age, genders, sexual orientations, colour, etc. It represents self-love, kindness, courage, boldness, and all the amazing people that this world has to offer.

"There's so much more that has to be done. It doesn't stop at just creating conversations online or even promoting it for a short period of time. It is not a trend, nor should it be looked as such. It is a long-term effort that includes being kind and compassionate towards every individual that we meet. I've always believed that spreading love, kindness, and compassion can cause a positive ripple effect when it is done genuinely. The more we share this with people, the more it starts to grow."

Nalisa Alia Amin gets her makeup touched up before the show.

Image via Saufi Nadzri (Provided to SAYS)

6. For women and girls who may struggle recognising their worth, what words of encouragement would you give them to feel confident?

Kim: "To all the women and girls out there who may be struggling with self-worth, I'd say this: Trust the process of self-discovery and personal growth, even when it feels challenging. Believe in yourself, your unique abilities, and your worth. Remember that you are a work in progress, and it's okay to have moments of doubt. What matters most is that you keep moving forward, day by day, towards a stronger, more confident you. You've got this!"

Women of Worth: Belle Sisoski (left), producer and singer-songwriter, takes a selfie with Farah Ann, former Olympic gymnast.

Image via Saufi Nadzri (Provided to SAYS)

Sonya: "My advice would be to always remember that your worth is not defined by how other people see you, but rather how you choose to see yourself. Slowly learn to love yourself better, and with time, you will see that truly all that matters is love and kindness (both internally and externally). More often than not, we are caged by the opinions of others, which limits us and also contributes to our lack of self-esteem.

"However, when you learn to truly reach deep into your core to understand yourself and your purpose better, you will also see that everything else is just noise and a distraction. There is no right or wrong with this. Everyone processes information differently. Use this to your advantage to improve yourself and grow as an individual.

"You only get one shot at this life you're given — so try your best to do everything you can to live a happy and purposeful life — not because someone else told you to, but because you want to!

"At the end of the day, the only person who has full control over your mind and feelings is yourself. You can either let others define you, or you can take control and define yourself. Continue to do good, and life will fall into place in its own time. It all starts and ends with you! Once you learn and understand your worth, you become unstoppable! And remember: this too shall pass!"

Cheers to all the women of worth, and thank you L'Oréal Paris for sharing your space with all of us!

Read more about L'Oréal Paris' #WalkYourWorth campaign here:

Read all about Kim May Chee's blowdry bar, COCOdry:

Find out more about Sonya Danita Charles:

What is inclusive beauty? Be part of the conversation here:

Image via SAYS

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