Meet: Phoebe Chok

Bruneian Model Phoebe Chok interviewed by Brunei Blogger May Cho on The Mayden

A passion-driven part-time model, a Game of Thrones addict and an ambition lit in uproarious flames, Phoebe Chok is not your regular 21-year old.

I walk into the dainty little cafe by a new block of buildings up Eastern Bandar and out of the rain, the aftershocks of the typhoon that had crushed in to the Philippines. I see Phoebe already seated at a table having placed her order for a vegetable panini -- "Perfect," she later bellows of the dish.

Blond hair bunned up on top of her head wearing a crop top, mochromatic culottes and a cardigan, she declares loudly, "It's so hot today! Don't you find it hot?"

I laugh. She lets her black cardigan hang loose around her elbows, stood up and gave me a hug. On her feet were a pair of white five-inch platform heels, bringing her height to six feet and no less.

Bruneian Model Phoebe Chok interviewed by Brunei Blogger May Cho on The MaydenBruneian Model Phoebe Chok interviewed by Brunei Blogger May Cho on The Mayden

The eatery in which we sit in is a result of an hour long decision making process, headed my Phoebe. Being one who claims proudly to be an enthusiast of discovering the best coffee places in town, she once rambled to me a long list of cafes, three-quarters of which I have never heard of.

"Get everything" she tells me as I ask her for food recommendations, "Everything."

The happy and bubbly 21-year-old sitting in front of me is a face I've known on social media for a while now, though I don't know her as one who smiles and laugh.

"Everyone tells me that," the phoenix-eyed beauty laughs in glee, the exact same reaction she has later on in our conversation when I bring up the matter of her current science education, exclaiming in addition, "Everyone thinks I'm an art student!"

Bruneian Model Phoebe Chok interviewed by Brunei Blogger May Cho on The Mayden
Bruneian Model Phoebe Chok interviewed by Brunei Blogger May Cho on The Mayden

Phoebe turns into a different person -- "An alter ego!" she speculates excitedly over a glass of water and dish which has arrived -- when it comes to photo shoots, churning out photos after photos of experimental and bold poses, intense facial expressions and, most of all, a confidence that exudes the very essence of Phoebe; exuberant passion, adventurous audacity and a threshold for pressure unlike any other.

In fact, she tells me, leaving the half-eaten bite of panini on her plate, fork skewed to one side and knife still in her left hand, that she loves being under pressure. "It just makes me work better and harder. I bring my psychotic side to modelling."

Asked what this means, she tells me, "I would do anything to get a good shot, and I mean anything." She stresses on the final word. I have just flicked through her instagram feed  -- back bent and lying on protruding pebbles in one, back hunched and slumped over a storey-building railing in another -- I don't doubt her in the least.

Bruneian Model Phoebe Chok interviewed by Brunei Blogger May Cho on The Mayden
Bruneian Model Phoebe Chok interviewed by Brunei Blogger May Cho on The Mayden

But where does this passion come from? I wondered. From a girl who did competitive swimming from the age of 7, played the part of concert master in her high school orchestra and studies Chemistry in university, it rings odd that this 21-year-old helms the intense ardour for being in front of the camera.

"I used to be so fat and ugly," she says, cutting up her panini and popping a piece of fallen tomato into her mouth, lips stained a cross between orange and red, "Even when I was swimming and training every day, I would get home every day and eat more than I swam so I was fat."

Growing up into a hectic childhood -- competition in swimming, in exams, in music, a subject to brutal comparison as an only child to relatives and distant cousins she doesn't even know the names of -- stress eating seemed like the natural progression. And then the bullying started.

"I was bullied in my uppers years in Year 10 and 11," she tells me, the strain in her voice that eventually reveals itself to be pain as she recounts the story to me is audible, "it's always because of how I look like and how big I am and it basically made me loathe myself so bad."

Bruneian Model Phoebe Chok interviewed by Brunei Blogger May Cho on The MaydenBruneian Model Phoebe Chok interviewed by Brunei Blogger May Cho on The Mayden

After having lost a staggering of 20kg from her initial 80kg frame in less than a year, Phoebe is now a model story to many young girls in Brunei, receiving messages regarding her weigh loss story as a personal inspiration, though the real reason behind the drastic weight lost is one that many might not have guessed. It wasn't a determination to please others  more so the depression that soon settled into her life.

"Those were the craziest years of my life," she says, "But I'm also very thankful for it. When I look back at it, without [those years], I wouldn't have gotten to where I am now."

Having lost that amount of weight and starting to become happier with the way she looks, she soon delved into the modelling world, having modeled part time for local brands around the country like House of Parachute and, currently, Naforrer for which she is one of the brand ambassadors, for a little more than a year as of today. The story doesn't end there, however.

"I still have insecurities even to this day," she says, shrugging, "I have very broad shoulders from swimming and I'm very insecure about it."

"I used to be jealous of a good friend of mine, like, even though she was, y'know, bigger than me, I would just look at her and be jealous of her. It took me a while but I realized after a while that the reason why she can look so beautiful when wearing crop tops and everything and why I felt so jealous is because she is body-confident," she says, "It's something I'm still looking for to this day."

So Phoebe balls up what self-esteem and self-confidence she has from her past and piles them one by one to build a new wall around her when she steps in front of the camera. A glare at the lens, a bend of her back, a rush of fearless adrenaline through her blood and she is a lion heart -- the young lady so determined to find comfort in her own body through the surging memories of a broken little girl.

This is where the passion comes from. This is how this radiant personality transforms into a strong-headed and driven model. This is Phoebe Chok.

Find Phoebe on Instagram.

***

This is the fourth time I'm writing a post in such a format and I really do hope you guys enjoyed reading the little interview I had with Phoebe as well as getting to know her.

I'm working on changes and formats that will be integrated onto The Mayden in the New Year and this is one of the planned features, so I'd love to know your honest feedback!


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