From The Straits Times    |

Stylistas Jeannie Mai and Sazzy Falak say Singapore women wear simple outfits.jpg

Image: The New Paper, Diva

They are the hosts of new fashion makeover reality show How Do I Look? Asia, but stylistas Jeannie Mai and Sazzy Falak are definitely not bitchy.

While chatting with The New Paper last Friday at The St Regis Singapore, the duo came across as warm, positive and friendly.

They also praised Singaporeans for having an “effortless” style because they put together simple outfits that work.

“You look like you don’t try too hard, which is the best kind of look,” said Mai, 36.

The Vietnamese-American host also observed that both men and women here do not mind forking out big bucks for branded keychains on their bags and mobile phones.

“People here will pay more for the accessories on their cell phones than their own clothes,” she said.

Mai only unsheathed a hint of her claws when she mused: “Singapore is like anywhere else for fashion. You have your good, your bad and your fugly.”

It is the latter two categories that Mai and Malaysian actress and host Falak are hoping to fix in How Do I Look? Asia, the Asian spin-off of Style Network’s hit US makeover series How Do I Look?.

How Do I Look? Asia will premiere on DIVA (Singtel TV Ch 303/StarHub TV Ch 513) on Aug 31 at 8pm.

In the series, the pair guide eight fashion victims from all over Asia to style enlightenment, with the help of the participants’ friends and family and a professional team of stylists.

Mai, who hosted the original US version, said she was in the show to assist Falak, who takes on most of the hosting duties.

“Sazzy was mostly behind the wheel. My role was to sit in the backseat, watching over her and taking selfies,” she said jokingly. “I just show up occasionally to tell my homegirl she’s doing a good job.”

Falak, 34, said it was a tall order filling Mai’s shoes, as Mai successfully hosted the Emmy-nominated How Do I Look? from 2009 to 2012.

“But the Asian incarnation of the show is different, because Asia has such a different energy than the US. Koreans, for instance, have such a unique style,” said Falak.

“We also had to be more tactful with the participants. We Asians are culturally more sensitive than Americans.

Self-esteem issues

“If you say something (about their looks) to an American, they might not really care. But Asians can take things very personally sometimes and go, ‘Oh my God, people hate me’.

“We had to be careful because some women had self-esteem issues that ran really deep.”

Falak said she did not make any participants cry. Instead, she was the one who was moved to tears.

“The Filipino girl Apple, who wore a big blue onesie and looked like Doraemon, was so raw and honest. I just loved her and felt so much for her that I even cried on the show.”

Falak remembers Singapore contestant Siti Maisarah, who had struggled to feel beautiful after being told how to dress and act by previous boyfriends.

“She went through something a lot of young girls face, having a guy telling her what to do and losing herself.

“When viewers watch her transformation, I think they will feel inspired.”

And when it comes to ugly clothes, Mai is adamant that they should be recycled – or burned.

“On How Do I Look?, the bad outfits sucked up by the Eww Tube (a vacuum cleaner-like machine) were mostly donated. The truly horrendous ones were burned so that their owners would never wear them again.

“But you know, really gross T-shirts can make good dishrags. And some fuzzy clothes can be made into a carpet.”

More confident and ‘livelier’ after makeover

Miss Siti Maisarah Muhamad Ashiri, the Singapore participant on How Do I Look? Asia, used to let the men in her life dictate her fashion choices.

“My style used to change with each partner,” said the 30-year-old senior facilities executive.

“It was easier figuring out what clothes my partner wanted me in, rather than what I felt best in.

“After I decided to be ‘single and unavailable’, I went for low-key, covered-up clothes. It was like creating a wall, using comfort as an excuse.”

Miss Maisarah said her sister nominated her for How Do I Look? Asia. Her episode airs on Sept 28.

“She loves me a lot, but she absolutely hates the wardrobe collection I owned before the show.”

After a Skype interview, Miss Maisarah made it on to the show and called it an eye-opener and a “truly exhilarating experience”.

“I felt really awkward and out of place at first, but Sazzy and the team at DIVA were awesome and helped chase the jitters away. I did not get to see Jeannie during filming, but she is a style icon to me.”

Miss Maisarah thinks the criticism of her “before” look was fair, though it was hard to accept initially.

“I was a little sensitive at the time, so some comments were difficult to register.

“Yet, it was valuable advice, which I feel was crucial to my self-acceptance and change. Sazzy inspired me a lot. I carry her motivational words with me until today.”

These days, Miss Maisarah feels confident and happier, thanks to a new wardrobe – and a new boyfriend.

“My clothes are more put together and I have started shopping again. I feel livelier, too.

“This wonderful man I am dating has seen me at my worst and also my newly revamped style and says he appreciates me both ways.”

This story was first published on August 24, 2015 on The New Paper. For similar stories, go to

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