Asia’s Next Top Model Season 2 winner Sheena Liam. Image: StarWorld
She’s tall, thin and currently blonde — meet Malaysian Chinese model Sheena Liam, the 22-year-old who has just bagged the grand prize of Asia’s Next Top Model.
Liam upset fans when she was crowned the winner of the reality television series’ modelling competition, instead of season two favourite Jodilly Pendre from the Philippines.
Asia’s Next Top Model Season 2 winner Sheena Liam triumphed over fan favourite Jodilly Pendre (seen above) in the season finale. Image: StarWorld
The Malaysian model is just as surprised by her win; she was almost ready to give up and “go home” halfway through the season. Thankfully, her turning point came in episode nine, while in the middle of the Borneo jungle.
Speaking to us on the phone from her hometown Kajang, Malaysia, the model shared more about that defining moment during the modelling competition, when she finally opened up to the show judges Adam Williams and Mike Rosenthal.
“The [jungle-themed] photo shoot was where I really told the judges, ‘you know what, I really don’t want to go home’,” said Liam. “I’m doing all I can, but I’m not getting there and I don’t understand why. It was the first time that I actually talked to Adam and Mike, to get dig out from them what they wanted out of me.”
Asia’s Next Top Model Season 2 winner Sheena Liam in the jungle-themed photo shoot on Episode nine. Image: StarWorld
Even on a season fraught with catfights, the Malaysian model revealed that the contestants did in fact, grow closer together.
“We’re still in touch, so it’s cool that wherever I go in Asia now, or even half of the world, I’ll always have a friend [thanks to these girls],” said Liam.
At the time of our phone interview on the afternoon of April 9, 2014, Liam was still busy keeping mum about her win; her family members too, were kept in the dark.
“I haven’t told a soul,” said the model. “I haven’t celebrated at all actually, I’ve been too busy keeping the secret from everyone!”
Here, we share some of the surprising tidbits that Liam reveals about herself and her fellow contestants; including the reason why this leggy Malaysian is currently still single and more than happy to be so.
Frenemies on screen, best friends now?
The second season of Asia’s Next Top Model saw many fiery arguments break out between the girls. But after all that has been said and done, these 16 girls are still friends, according to Liam.
“We have a Whatsapp group, a private Facebook group where we share funny stuff, boyfriend pictures, of food,” shared Liam.
Still, she concedes that there were indeed, much tension that arose from the girls’ competitiveness and the pressures of living together, all under one roof.
“The emotions are definitely real,” said Liam. “[The fights are] not scripted, it’s definitely real, it’s what they’re feeling because of the tension [on the show].”
She’s keen to add that models often billed as drama queens — Indonesian model Janice J. Hermijanto and Singapore model Nicole Lee — are far more likeable than they may seem on-screen.
Left to right: Asia's Next Top Model Season 2 contestants Janice J. Hermijanto (Indonesia), Nicole Lee (Singapore) were pictured as drama queens in the series. Josephine Tan (far right) was considered by Sheena Liam as her best confidante. Images: StarWorld
“Janice is one of the coolest people I’ve met. [After the competition] I actually went to Indonesia and I stayed with her and I slept in her bed, with her!” shared Liam, while chuckling at the memory of it.
Liam is equally quick to stand up for Nicole Lee, whom she describes as “one of the sweetest people in the competition.”
“Despite all the things she says or has done, she’s the most helpful, she cleans up after everyone, cooks for everyone,” explained Liam.
“And when my feet got cut in the jungle [during episode seven], Nicole actually gave me her shoes and walked barefoot herself. That just shows the kind of person she is.”
Why she was the ‘quieter one’
“In the show, I never complained because I had Josephine to talk to,” shared the model. “A lot of my negative emotions, I told her in private. And so, I didn’t find a need to pick fights or explode at anyone, we just talked everything out in private.”
In fact, Liam would consider her fellow countrywoman Josephine Tan to be like her stand-in mum. The model was very affected when Tan was ousted from the show in episode 10.
“Losing her was like losing my mum,” shared the model, when she recalled her emotional lows on the show. “She really took care of me, she made sure that I was eating well and things like that because I can’t cook very well.”
She’s the biggest Coco Lee fan
Liam couldn’t help exclaiming Coco Lee’s name in glee, when quizzed about the most unexpected celebrity guest appearance on Asia’s Next Top Model. The Asian American pop star appeared on episode seven of the show, surprising fans like Liam.
“Me and my friends in high school would watch her music videos and try to dance like her,” explained the model. “So Coco Lee was like, the biggest surprise [on the show].”
“When I saw her, there were a couple of us — me and Natalie and Josephine — that could really recognise her [but the younger models like] Marie wouldn’t remember or wouldn’t know who she was,” shared Liam.
Asia’s Next Top Model Season 2 winner Sheena Liam on Episode seven, which pop diva Coco Lee and guest-starred on. Image: StarWorld
That particular photoshoot also produced what Liam considers as her favourite photo of the entire show. She remembered how “[Coco Lee] was cheering me on and that was also the first time that the girls could see us shoot, they were [also] cheering me on.”
“It’s a very good feeling, you know? You feel very supported in that moment, and that was how I produced that really nice image,” explained Liam.
The Malaysian model adds that she would have loved to meet supermodel Tyra Banks, who was in Singapore briefly for the finale episode of season one.
While Liam was a bit disappointed at Banks’ non-appearance in season two, she considers the supermodel as her dream collaborator on a photo shoot.
“I definitely would love to work with Tyra Banks!” said Liam animatedly. “I mean, she started the [Next Top Model] franchise, she’s the one that gave so many girls the opportunity to go out there and reach for your dreams. And we didn’t get to meet her during the show, we were a bit upset.”
The men in her life
Liam divulges that her celebrity crushes — and possibly her ideal man — should all have a funny bone in them. For instance, she’ll so much rather model next to Scrubs actor Zac Braff, more so than your typical matinee idol.
“[He’s] a male celebrity I really like; he’s not handsome but he’s so funny that I like him,” laughed Liam. “The male celebrities that I have a crush on are always the funny ones, never the handsome ones.”
She’s a bit more glib about her love life, which she calls “non-existent”. While Liam admitted that she has “a lot of very close guy friends”, she confirmed the news that she is unattached, as of this moment.
“They [her male friends] are like my older brothers and the reason why I’ve been single for so long,” explained Liam.
The model however, is in no hurry to get into a relationship; not when she’s got practically an entourage of “surrogate boyfriends”, vis-a-vis her male buddies. “Every event I have a different boy to go with!” laughs the model.
What’s up next for Sheena Liam
The Asia’s Next Top Model winner will soon jet off to London, as part of her three-month contract with Storm Model Management; the same modelling agency that represents top models the likes of Lily Cole, Cara Delevingne, as well as supermodel and fashion icon Kate Moss.
Asia’s Next Top Model Season 2 winner Sheena Liam in her winning shot for season finale episode 13. Image: StarWorld
“I hope to continue working in Europe because I never got to study overseas,” said Liam. “This is a dream come true, that I get to work and live overseas, to see more of the world.”
Liam seemed humble but hopeful, as she pondered the upcoming trip: “I don’t know how I’ll hold up against the giant European girls, I’m kind of small for a model. [Ed’s note: She’s 1.74m tall]”
Her top dream, as of this moment? She hopes to model for Marc Jacobs, the eponymous fashion brand of the American fashion designer.
“He’s like my favourite designer, I love everything he stands for, I love his designs, he’s been around for so long,” gushed the star.
Should her modelling gig not work out, Liam plans on branching out into writing for the magazines.
“[Writing] was always my side income besides modelling,” said Liam. “If I wasn’t modelling, I would always be a writer. I’ve been writing for fashion magazines because I have so much passion for fashion.”
She wouldn’t rule out working as a stylist either, if she were given the chance.
“I love fashion so much so it’s pretty cool that I manage to be involved in it in every way possible,” said Liam. “I’m backstage wearing the clothes, I’m meeting designers and talking to them. I get to be on front row, writing about it. I love it, anything to do with fashion, I’ll just hang on [to it].”
Catch the encore telecasts of Asia’s Next Top Model Season 2 finale episode on ch 301 (SingTel mio TV) and ch 501 (StarHub TV) at the following dates and times: April 10 at 10.45pm, April 11 at 9.50pm, April 13 at 10.35pm and April 16 at 8.45pm.