Meet: Shian Li Chiam

Brunei Blogger May Cho interviews Shian Li Chiam
"I want to be very unique.
I want to push boundaries.
I want to stand out."

At just under 5 feet 4 and 16 years of age, Shian Li Chiam is all about making a statement and standing proud in the crowd. With a spotlight constantly on her and a natural gravitation towards sequins and sparkles and anything that's flashy, she's a fearless little fashionista, unafraid to be bold.


Shian Li Chiam

Sitting in her white-walled and white-wardrobed bedroom, the 12 o'clock sunlight spilling in from the window, Shian Li looks at me, a spark of excitement playing at the corners of her smile. There is an electrical piano in her room (a baby grand in her living room and a concert grand downstairs), a violin case beside it and strewn sheet music everywhere.

"I'm a musician and I play the piano and violin," she explains. Having been playing since the tender age of 3, Shian Li has made her way up the music industry here in our little country and have become something of a public figure, playing at gigs after gigs, international platforms, competitions and airplanes, even.

Living in the age of paparazzi, tabloids and the internet, we've all seen celebrities and their street styles. We watch them from afar and analyze their outfits, piece by piece, and try to find affordable alternatives to them in an attempt to copy them. I find it increasingly curious, though, why we seem intent on channeling the influence from celebrity to non-celebrity when it fact, the spotlight that we have cast upon them may have had a bigger effect on their style than we think.

Shian Li Chiam

Asked whether the focus on her has influenced the way she dresses, Shian Li responds affirmative, "I think in my ambition to climb this ladder of musical success, it also kind of makes me want to look just a bit different than everyone else," she says, nodding a little as we speak, the knowledge of harsh competition a propelling force behind those passionate eyes.

The music industry is a tough one, especially when the subject of classical music is brought into light, but Shian Li isn't just your typical classical pianist and violinist. "I also do a lot of modern fusion," she chides.

I have witnessed her first hand in numerous concerts wherein she holds her violin like a weapon for war, a stroke of her bow and the flutter of her nimble fingers against electronic and rock backing tracks and she's a star on the stage, a martyr for music. She struts the stage, owns the stage, bedazzles the stage -- and quite literally, too.

Shian Li Chiam

If you see a violinist donning a sequined midi dress, a pair of sequined (silver) wedges, a pair of leggings, a scarf of some sort wearing a sleek, coloured cat-liner and a bouffant, you'll know it's Shian Li.

"I NEED to wear sparkly stuff, to wear sequins, or else you can't see me," she explains, "And I HAVE to make a statement, because I'm ... quite petite. I'm really short, I'm under 5'4, and I'm thinking, "How am I supposed to stand out?""

While some may see the intent of standing out as something negative, Shian Li vehemently disagrees, "I think it's great. It's really fun. Because when you have the idea that you want to stand out, then you're so much more creative."

And it's true. Like trying to write a stellar essay, or trying to bake the best cookies out of the batch, one is forced to think and this consequently spins the cogs in one's mind; a little push is all it takes to get the creativity churning.

Shian Li Chiam

While she's all sparkled up on stage, one can usually find Shian Li in leggings and tank tops on a normal day.

"I love to workout," she says, looking at me intently, "In the mornings, I have to workout, so I wear leggings, I wear shorts and then I just wear a comfortable tank top or T shirt."

It is quite visible in her stature that this girl trains and sweat, and she loves it. Blessed with curves that has only accentuated over the years, one can see that, not only does she dress for comfort and style, she dresses smart, too. She rambles to me several things about clothes framing one's body, or the idea of illusion dressing here, and I struggle to keep up.

Shian Li Chiam

Another thing that may be observed from Shian Li is her natural poise, a little switch that clicks on when the camera is around. Having been the photographer for several of my posts* and having seen her works behind the camera, one may find it astonishing that she's just as good in front of the camera as she is behind it.

"I'm more comfortable with photography," she says, "But I do enjoy modelling, there's no doubt," and here, she giggles sheepishly, her smile a bright little charm.

Observing the likes of Coco Rocha and an avid watcher of the ever-popular Next Top Model series, Shian Li's knowledge of the fashion world shines through her clothing as well as her photographs. Trying multitudes of poses during this shoot, playing with her hair, arching her back, smiling, smizing, she's fearless.

Shian Li Chiam

Having just been home from a recent musical trip to Macau, I asked her what her favourite piece of clothing was and she launched into a mini haul, flinging open her cabinet to reveal sequined jacket after sequined jacket, showcasing item after item from ZARA and the likes, explaining excitedly the cuts and the fabric and the ways in which she will be able to style them in the future. All the articles of clothing had one thing in common; they were bold.

Bright red bold. Mini dress bold. Deep V bold.

What can she say? "I want to be very unique. I want to push boundaries. I want to stand out."

***

And that's Part 2 of Style Spotlight. How did you like this one? It's only my second time doing something like this so I'd appreciate all the feedback! We had such a great time with this shoot and interview, and I'd love it if you guys would stick around for the final installment of this little series next week!

You can contact Shian Li via her Instagram and Facebook. She has a website, too, so find out more about her music career at http://shianlichiam.com!

PHOTOS BY EDEN CHIAM, MAY / EDITTED BY MAY
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