On Christabel: Fur coat, Coach. Graphic tee, $39.90, Pull&Bear. On Kimberly: Two-tone fur jacket, $208.90, NA-KD from ZALORA. Knitted slogan bralette, $49.90, Topshop. Metallic denim jeans, $395, Sandro. Crystal studded star earrings, $189, Swarovski.
Neither Christabel Chua nor Kimberly Wang, both 28, can pinpoint exactly how their friendship blossomed. All they know is that their paths first crossed about four years ago because they both go to Private Room to get their nails and lashes done. Then one day (maybe after an event—they’re not too sure), they decided to get McDonald’s. Over nuggets, fries and soft serve, they had a heart-to-heart.
“From the first time we sat down and talked, we just clicked. And it’s very weird; I’m actually quite introverted but with her, the conversation kept going,” Kimberly recounts.
“We sat and talked for a few hours, then we left knowing that, ‘Hey, we can be friends,’” adds Christabel with a smile.
When we talk about the influencer scene, a Mean Girls-esque picture comes to mind. But here are two personalities who are demonstrating the power of collaboration, and how celebrating someone else’s success doesn’t take away from your own.
For proof, just look at the campaigns the power duo has fronted for the likes of LANEIGE, Dior, M.A.C—and this magazine you’re reading right now.
On their friendship
Christabel: I’ve had a lot moments where I thought: ‘Wow, I’m really thankful to have this friend in my life.’
Kimberly: That’s nice to hear! (laughs) Like, phew, thank goodness.
C: She’s so supportive of my emotional and business needs, and it’s very generous. It comes from a very genuine place, and it’s without boundaries, with no strings attached. And thankfully, she likes the things I make. (laughs) [Christabel also runs her own product line, kāi]
K: We have a chat group, and when she does her launches, she’d text us and ask for our opinions. You know how sometimes, before you put something out there, you want your friends to be the first line of defence? Like if there’s any feedback, good or bad, they’d say it first? Eh, I’m using your lanyard by the way (pulls out a kāi x Starbucks lanyard).
On being “competitors”
C: We don’t see each other as competition. Never ever.
K: Our core jobs are completely different, and I feel like we’re more complementary than competitive.
C: And also because we’re so different in what we’re good at and what we’re working as; and our personalities as well. It’s like having this friend you also work with.
K: LANEIGE was the first official campaign we worked on together. When they first approached us, they said: “We feel like you guys are really friends.” And we were like: “Yeah, we’re really friends!” The shoot was really comfortable and we had a lot of fun. We actually ate too much of the cucumbers they were using for props, till there wasn’t enough left. (laughs)
When it launched, the brand told us they were very happy with it because they feel like it’s not a video where one of us was trying to outshine the other, nor were we trying too hard to promote a product. It was basically just us in our element, kind of just doing our own thing, and they could feel that it’s genuine. When we knew we were going to work together, we were so happy.
C: We were very surprised, like, “OMG, we’re doing this job together!” It’s the same with this shoot!
K: On the surface, we were really calm and professional, but we were so happy, really.
C: Super happy. And it’s something you would look back on, and maybe show your kid next time, like, ‘Eh mommy and auntie last time like that.’
K: I have experienced friendships—well, I wouldn’t call them friendships—where the other person sees you as competition. And because of that, she would not share with you what she’s been up to, or the clients she has. But with Bel and me, it has never been like that. I remember once, and this was very early in our friendship…
C: The cheongsam, ah? (laughs)
K: Yes! I had to host this Chinese New Year event, and the client wanted me to wear a traditional cheongsam. And I was, like, “Huh? Where am I going to find that just two weeks before the event?” It would take more than that to customise a cheongsam. So I asked her for help, and it just so happened she had two cheongsams she had planned to wear for CNY. The event was on the second day of CNY, and yet she lent her cheongsam to me so readily. She let me choose some more!
I was so grateful. I know it’s a very simple gesture, but there are people out there who wouldn’t do that for you. If you boil it down to the core, yes, we are competition. But it doesn’t apply to our friendship. And I think because of that, we’ve actually gotten more clients and jobs, because they can see we’re building each other up… and I think that’s quite powerful.
C: And I think, in this industry, there’s a lot of girl-on-girl hate…
K: Or, like, subtle tensions…
C: They talk about competitiveness, and seeing each other as rivals. We’ve talked about this before and agreed that this industry is so big and that there’s enough jobs to go around.
K: Some people find this naive and idealistic. Perhaps, but it depends on how you look at it, right? If I wanted to see Bel as competition, she would be.
I wouldn’t share my contacts with her, I wouldn’t suggest her for jobs, and I wouldn’t say I want to work together with her… but ultimately, I think it’s better to work together than to tear each other down.
On experiencing social media fatigue
C: I reached a point where I was consuming so much social media. I was just mindlessly looking at everybody’s lives, and it just gets stuck at the back of your mind; it doesn’t really help with your stress levels or focus. To a lot of people, Instagram is a place where they seek relaxation. It’s their means of escaping. But for me, it’s my nine to five. So I cleared the whole list of people I followed.
K: Except for animals.
C: (laughs) Except for animals. It was around two to three weeks back when I realised I wanted to keep my headspace clear, and have enough capacity to focus on certain things and myself. Whatever you see and consume directly impacts your thoughts and how you feel. And I just want my environment to be something that encourages me, and makes me laugh.
It’s my little experiment, and so far it’s been really good. I now follow slime accounts, dog accounts, motivational accounts and accounts that help female entrepreneurs. So I only follow, like, 17 people now.
K: Yah, I saw. I think sometimes, we tend to forget that photos are actually about moments, and things you want to remember. I think all of us, as much as we try to keep it real, do fall into a certain routine sometimes just to get the photo.
C: And also because it’s our job.
K: Yeah, that too. But we forget that people started following you in the first place because of your lifestyle. Your followers want to see how you live your life and the things you really do, not the images you curate so perfectly, because that’s not real life.
C: Like recently, I went to Korea, right? And I just posted stuff on Instagram like how I would many years ago…
K: Without thinking, right?
C: Yeah, I just posted whatever made me happy…
K: Whatever you want…
C: And the truth is, our job directly correlates to the interaction we have on Instagram. So ultimately, we need to fulfill certain criteria because it’s the basis of the job. But what we both try to do is make sure there’s a balance.
K: I’m very appreciative of brands that come to you for your personality. Sometimes, it’s not about the numbers—it’s more about what you’re advocating, your lifestyle [and if it aligns with the brand]. I just hope that more people see that.
On human connection
K: I posted something reflective once, and literally hundreds of people sent me messages, telling me things I never thought I’d hear from a stranger. That’s a reminder of why I need to be very responsible on social media, and be mindful of the things I say and post.
C: I have girls who write letters to me—like five to six pages long— with uplifting quotes, because they know I’m down or struggling with something. And you just wonder, how do these strangers have so much love to give to you? It makes you think: what can I do to give back to them? And when I do meet my followers, I like to give them a warm hug and say thank you, because they’re the reason why I have a job. That’s what I always tell them.
K: It’s always very nice to know there’s someone out there listening to you.
C: And also, in our culture, it takes a lot for someone to come up to you to say hi.
K: They’re very shy.
C: But that’s what we actually love! We’d love for people to come up and say hi, to know how they feel about the content we’re doing, and to meet the real people who are supporting us. And on top of that, you feel very warm when you get to interact with them.
K: There’s nothing wrong with coming up to us, or sending us DMs! It really makes my day.
C: It’s just so nice.
Photography: Joel Lim/Calibre Pictures & Ideas
Fashion Direction: Janice Pidduck
Styling: Sifra Vania Yulius
Fashion assistant : Foong Kai Yu
Makeup: Hongling using Urban Decay
Hair: Ash Loi/Sonder Hair using Keune Haircosmetics