In this five-part series, we've picked out five local faces who all have one thing in common: They're reflective of changes in one of the most change-resistant industries - modelling. It's a business that, until recently, stuck to its own and championed only one kind. Now the playing field is more inclusive, and the "standard issue" model is no longer the standard. What is: Being unique and having a daring attitude - qualities the five ingenues here have. Oh, another thing: They'd rather be super role models than supermodels.
This fifth and final part features Talia Nicole Tan, 19:
Photo: Elvina Farkas / Anue Management
"I want to spread the awareness of the importance of education."
If she looks vaguely familiar, it could be because Tan is the daughter of Angelia Sam, one of Singapore’s Eurasian supermodels in the ’90s. But if you think Tan is following in her mum’s footsteps as a lot of daughters of ex-supermodels do, then you don’t know her very well.
Despite her lineage (Chinese + Indian + Dutch), which has given her exotic features, Tan isn’t interested in modelling in the traditional sense, though she has received requests to do so. Her real interest is in the power of education.
Photo: Instagram / @talianicolel
In 2016, she travelled to Myanmar as part of her International Baccalaureate programme. There, for 10 days, she taught English to orphans who lived in a monastery. The stint opened her eyes to the importance and impact of education. “One of our teachers, who was originally from Yangon, told us that most Myanmar people don’t go to university. In their culture, it’s very hard to move on from the primary or secondary school level,” she says. “The head monk at the monastery tried to make a change by giving free education to the children, and his efforts paid off – the percentage of children from that village who went on to university increased.”
Thanks to that experience, and learning more about young advocates for education like American actress Yara Shahidi, Tan dreams of making a change in the world by helping children gain access to – or at least understand the importance of – education.
Photo: Instagram / @talianicolel
“In some way, even children with resources are not aware of the power of having an education. I told the daughters of a family friend how important it is to learn what they want to learn, to thrive and develop into beautiful people who can change lives. Their mother contacted me later to say that they looked up to me as a role model, and that they started studying harder and became more motivated and driven in school. I have never felt more honoured that I helped someone in such a small way. From then on, I wanted to make a greater impact. I want to help children anywhere, in any conditions.”
Tan plans to further her studies in social sciences or media studies so she will be more equipped to spread awareness about her cause. “The media is one of the larger platforms for spreading awareness, and it allowed me to learn about Yara Shahidi, my idol. I want to work for a magazine or take on an advocacy job in future to spread my message.”
This story first appeared in the August 2018 issue of Her World.
Photography: Elvina Farkas/Anue Management
Styling: Bryan Goh
Hair: Jimmy Yap/Kenaris Salon, assisted by Amanda Sim
Makeup: Melissa Yeo, using Chanel, assisted by Nikki Koh
Outfit: Cotton-blend hoodie, $3,100, Coach. Jeans and sneakers, Tan's own.