Mong Chin: “I had really low self-esteem.”

She's also CLEO's February cover girl.

“I had really low self-esteem,” says Mong Chin aka @Mongabong. Not what you’d expect from one of Singapore’s most prominent beauty influencers but…

Mong Chin Mongabong

Groovy earrings in polished yellow gold, $149; Side necklaces in polished yellow gold, $139 each; Tune necklace in polished yellow gold and black Swarovski crystals, $179; Groovy rings in polished stainless steel, polished yellow gold and polished pink gold, $119 for a set of three, all from CALVIN KLEIN watches + jewelry. Coat, $2,169, Moiselle.

Just like the rest of us, Mong Chin has her own struggles we’re not privy to on a 3×3 grid.

“Growing up, I had bad acne. And I still have eczema; it’s one of my biggest issues now. I don’t like to show my neck that much because it’s pretty bad there.”

The 25-year-old shares that she’s been dealing with eczema since birth, but it has been flaring up a lot more over the past three years. It used to only appear on her limbs, but has since spread across her whole body—including her scalp, ears, neck and lips.

“That was a very big blow to me,” she says, recounting the period when she was struggling to find out what the trigger was. To make matters worse, it all happened when she was starting to become a full-time influencer. “There’s the pressure to always look good,” she adds with a shrug.

“But I would say, in a way, eczema has helped to shape my career as well.”

In a perfect case study of turning life’s lemons into lemonade, the beauty influencer started sharing about her eczema struggles online, having conversations with followers who were going through the same thing, and carving out a niche for herself with an eczema-friendly focus on beauty.

Mong Chin Mongabong

Groovy earrings in polished yellow gold, $149; Side necklaces in polished yellow gold, $139 each; Groovy rings in polished stainless steel, polished yellow gold and polished pink gold, $119 for a set of three; all from CALVIN KLEIN watches + jewelry. Jacket, $249, Topshop. Bralette, stylist’s own.

On Instagram and YouTube, Mong Chin comes across as someone who’s self-assured. You have to be, for someone who’s literally making a living off her image, right?

“Back when I had really, really low self-esteem, I would always tell myself: if you act confident, nobody will know that you’re not.”

“I’m still not that confident,” she says matter-of-factly. It’s a bit difficult to believe—she’s sitting across from me and the adjectives I’d use to describe her are along the lines of: poised, put-together, eloquent… the perfect girl-next-door. A little baffled, I ask her how she manages to project this image of confidence. She laughs.

“Chances are, you are your biggest critic, you know? People don’t really care as much as you think they do.”

She shares that this realisation hit her when she was an accounting student at Singapore Management University. Since presentations were a big part of the curriculum, she employed the old ‘fake it till you make it’ method to brush up her presentation skills.

“Having to give those presentations in school taught me how to be confident—or at least act like I am.”

“I just told myself that if you’re confident in owning it, nobody’s going to say anything. In fact, people might even look up to you for it, in that ‘she’s different but she doesn’t care about what you think’ way.”

Mong Chin Mongabong

Side bracelet in polished stainless steel, $89; Side bracelet in polished pink gold, $119; Tune bracelet in polished yellow gold and black Swarovski crystals, $169; Even Extension lady watch with polished stainless steel pink gold case, $389; Even Extension lady watch with polished stainless steel case, $329; all from CALVIN KLEIN watches + jewelry. Sweater, $54.95, and jeans, $49.95, both H&M. Boots, $75.90, Charles & Keith.

Mong Chin Mongabong

If you’re already following her on Instagram, you’d know that Mong Chin is knee-deep in wedding planning right now. Here’s a quick run-down: she had her bridal shoot in Greece and Melbourne, the wedding’s in March, followed by the honeymoon in LA.

“I’ve been very fortunate, because a lot of people are interested in the relationship, including brands,” she says. Prior to this, I had jokingly told my colleagues that maybe I should ask her how #sponsored her wedding is going to be.

It’s almost as if she knew, because she then says this:  “A lot of brands want to do campaigns with a couples angle, knowing that it could be something that sells. But I really try to stay away from that as I don’t want other people’s opinions on how I should be with my partner.”

As much as he appears in her vlogs and on her Instagram, she’s cautious as to how much she’s sharing.

“When you put things on the Internet, people will have a lot of things to say,” Mong Chin continues. And I just want to be happy with my fiancé. We’re happy. I don’t want to make money off this relationship, I don’t want people to have the impression that it’s being commercialised.”

Mong Chin Mongabong

Groovy earrings in polished pink gold, $149; Side necklaces in polished pink gold, $139 each; Groovy rings in polished stainless steel, polished yellow gold and polished pink gold, $119 for a set of three; Side bracelet in polished pink gold with light pink Swarovski crystals, $209; Side bracelet in polished pink gold, $119; all from CALVIN KLEIN watches + jewelry. Dress, $269, Xinnatex from SocietyA. Coat, $119, Zara.

I had a whole string of adjectives to describe Mong Chin earlier, but the issue is that those words distilled her down to just a pretty face. I’ve known her for some time, and she’s always been a super friendly person—one who never fails to wave and say hello at press events. That, coupled with how she handled the interview going overtime (“It’s OK! I can be a little late for dinner.”) and how well she walks the line between sharing and oversharing, I now have another adjective to add to the list: professional.

 

Photography: Joel Lim/Calibre Pictures & Ideas
Fashion direction: Janice Pidduck
Styling: Lauren Alexa
Makeup: Keith Bryant Lee using LANEIGE
Hair: Ash Loi at Sonder salon using Keune Haircosmetics Singapore

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