Nicole Wong and Janice Low Speaks on Women Empowerment and Happiness

These strong-minded women reveal their take on women empowerment, the power of happiness, and the perks of voicing out.

women empowerment

Janice Low and Nicole Wong are dressed in Ferragamo’s Spring/Summer ’23 collection.

For a short-lived stint, the blasting trope of women’s empowerment was a taboo subject that was not highlighted enough. The hamster wheel eventually sputtered and ran out of fuel when a dearth of female role models started rejecting the centuries-old narrative that has pitted women vying for opportunities against each other. In truth and real life, perfection is sometimes unattainable, though that has never stopped Malaysian models Nicole Wong and Janice Low from going through unimaginable ordeals to excel in all corners of their life, remoulding the meaning of empowerment.

Despite the word ‘empowering’ being used so indiscriminately that it was in danger of losing its meaning, there are no other words to describe these tenacious women. When asked what empowerment means to them, they voiced out that it meant having control over their own lives and having the freedom of power to do whatever they want. Brimming with whirring energy, these women have democratically anointed themselves as self-made warriors, endlessly ricocheting strength and pushing the boundaries of success. 

women empowerment

No strangers to change, Wong and Low have always taken the initiative to face their fears and dream a little dream. Even when extreme youth had its drawbacks, these women were never deterred from achieving their wishes and desires. It was never a picture-perfect moment for them, but they were still so lucky during those merciless years. “Growing up, I was a timid kid without any goals or dreams in life. But, after graduating from college, I knew I couldn’t be like that anymore. I wasn’t happy with myself, and I wanted a change,” said Low. Not one to shy away from opportunities, the millennial never once stopped trying.  “Even though rejections made me crash into my bed and cry almost every day, I still boosted myself up with confidence and just kept going,” she said. All she did was focus even more on learning and doing her best to achieve an arc in her growth. 

women empowerment

Despite the 10-year age gap, Wong too ran into obstacles when it came to finding her purpose in her life. “There was so much more than just memorising notes, sitting for exams, and chasing good grades. There were so many different aspects in life that I wanted to explore.” Undeterred by fault finders, Wong decided to put herself first and quit school to pursue her aspirations. “There were plenty of ideas and dreams that I’d love to achieve with god’s blessings,” she explained. 

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Over the years, Wong and Low have manoeuvred from dwelling on non-constructive criticism to fully believing in themselves. Always being the driving force behind their careers and life, these ladies were the reason for their success. Showing resilience that offers strength to all women, this duo channelled all their energy not by just climbing up the ladder, but also by empowering others, inspiring them to accept and love themselves, and have faith in whatever they do. There’s plenty that has yet to be achieved including further reckonings with what justice should look like for women, however, this never stopped them from breaking down the barriers that hold them and women back.

women empowerment

Sharing their pearls of wisdom with us, these fashion darlings have been standing up and speaking out for themselves and other women, and doing it again, and doing it louder. “Over the years, I’ve learnt that instead of victimising myself and blaming life on unfortunate circumstances, I’ve learnt to view these so-called “obstacles and challenges” as a stepping stone for me to grow,” said Wong. “Just having the thought to strive will go far. You won’t do great when people tell you what to do, so embrace who you are,” Low added.

Trailblazing achievements that are astounding and inspiring, these models are the definition of role models. “For us to break down the barriers we have to find the root of our fears and eventually turn them into power,” said Wong. Taking it step by step, these ladies are always mentally ready to face the challenges that spring on them. “Always step out of your comfort zone. Embrace imperfection – we can always do better,” said Low. To them, there isn’t any growth if you don’t take a deep breath and keep going. Rewriting the status quo of women’s empowerment, these models are always leading by example by not being afraid. 

“When I first started working overseas that anxiety hit me hard. Rejection is one of the immense feelings that I had to deal with. Over time, I’ve learnt that there’s always rejection, no matter where we go or do,” said Low.  “We can’t fit everyone’s expectations. I’ve learnt to be calm and stay positive by knowing things will be alright regardless of how challenging the situation is. This has given me more courage and confidence to face the things that scared me,” she added.

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Even when there were a lot of judgements, uncertainties, and unfiltered thoughts, the models still ventured into the modelling industry and ode their success to those who gave them a chance. “Growing up, my family always gave me the support and freedom to choose my path in life. Hence, I always know that there are always rooms for me to experience. They made me an adventurer,” said Low.

Inspired by the people in their lives, the ladies have had a great support system that has faith and encourages them on a daily basis. “From my friends to family and the kindest souls in the modelling industry, these are the people who taught me to believe in myself – they are the ones who made me who I am today,” said Low. “For me, I wouldn’t be where I am today without my mother,” said Wong. “The wisdom and love she showered me every day made me always grateful for the person I turned out to be today.”

There’s no such thing as self-doubting thoughts when they have people cheering them on. “I’ve met different kinds of women that impacted me in various ways,” said Low. She adds: “Seeing them living happily, confidently, loving themselves, and sometimes suffering, but still being brave to stay in their position, bearing the responsibilities and even chasing dreams is amazing. They have been showing me how much a woman can achieve in life and indirectly teaching me that I shouldn’t limit myself.” However, there are still internal struggles for them to overcome in the midst of flashing lights.

While it’s natural and normal to feel stressed, some people have long been subject to the whims of yo-yo-ing mental health. But, it is crucial to recognise when this silent scourge may be taking a toll on your physical and mental health. Finding comfort in disconnecting is how Wong and Low take on to destigmatise the dialogue around stress and mental health. “I’d go for a sound healing session, yoga or meditation to clear out negative thoughts and energy,” said Wong. Remembering to always put themselves first, these strong-willed women distress unwarranted emotional strain by loving themselves. “I’d stay alone to spend time with myself and just myself – practising the art of doing nothing is what keeps me going,” said Low. “But, rollerblading has also been one of my favourites! As I always work in different countries, I get to roll in the various cities and enjoy the views with my favourite music playlist. It’s the best feeling ever,” beamed Low.

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The last few years have taught us hard lessons about what is important to us. On the plus side though, we also learned to surround ourselves with things that made us smile – things that can boost the happy hormones. “Being able to do whatever my heart desires and be passionate about doing things I love without fear and restrictions makes me happy,” said Wong. As anybody who has experienced the euphoria that comes after a restorative nap or doing something they’re passionate about can attest that happiness can make for obvious mental pick-me-ups. “With a cup of hand-brewed coffee, tucked in my bed and enjoying a lovely movie or music, it’s the best way to charge my social battery,” said Low. These models have made it their mission to keep a healthy and happy mantra in their life even when there are obstructions. 

Moving away from uneasiness and keeping their happiness in check, these women are always on the move towards creating the life they want. When asked what’s new for them in 2023, Wong beamed, “I want to research and try different ways to guide people to heal our mind, body, and soul by incorporating sound therapy, yoga, and meditation in their life.” Low hopes to just live life by going with the flow and reconnecting with the world. “One of my goals is to explore more countries and meet more exciting people along the journey,” she said. 

With the default setting of consistently having good cheer, gameness, and rigorous professionalism, these women are leading their life with their hearts on their sleeves. Regardless of the unexpected barriers and the unforeseen vulnerabilities during unusual life situations, these women never put up a brick to guard themselves against attaining their hopes and dreams.

“Staying open-minded, and always being a good listener is how we can achieve great things in life,” said Low.

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This article originally appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR Malaysia March 2023 issue.

Photographed by Edmund Lee

Creative Direction & Styling by Ai Lim

Text by Syameen Salehaldin

Make-up by Khir Khalid

Hair by Ckay Liow

Associate Art Director: Khairani Ramli

Assistant: Tan Zhi Ying 

Photographer’s Assistant: Christine Chang

A lover of steamy romance books and all things green, Syameen Salehaldin is the Senior Content Producer for Harper's BAZAAR Malaysia. She spends most of her time immersed in books, and food and doing anything that makes her happy. Expect to see her diving into lifestyle, fashion and beauty trends on this platform.