My name is Sheena and I was born and raised in Malaysia all the way through my University years. I had a pretty standard childhood growing up, I have an older brother and a brother who is 13 years younger than I am- he was an afterthought. I was scouted at a mall to join a covergirl search when I was 15 and ended up modelling most of my life. It’s still the main career for me. I won one of the Top Model franchises a while ago and it got me a huge contract in Europe and that kicked off my nomadic lifestyle. My husband who is also an artist and travels a lot so we alternate cities to be with each other.
I haven’t really properly lived anywhere in the past few years. I shift cities every few months according to either my job or my husband job. I´ve been alternating a lot these few years between New York and Paris. New York is amazing, it’s crazy, everything is always happening all at once. It can be very overwhelming. There´s always a new exhibition opening, product launch, art fairs, concerts, fashion shows. FOMO is a real thing here. I get drained by the city sometimes. Otherwise, living out of my suitcase has its ups and downs. I enjoy going with the flow. Sometimes I’ve just unpacked and I’ll be asked to hop on a plane for a job. I don’t have a lot of things because I need to be prepared for any occasion on 23kg of luggage. My studio also has to fit into this luggage limit neatly.
Living out of my suitcase has its ups and downs. I enjoy going with the flow. Sometimes I’ve just unpacked and I’ll be asked to hop on a plane for a job.
Best- seeing the world, not many people have this opportunity.
Worst- living a disposable life, changing phone numbers every month, having to leave things behind everywhere.
Challenging, rewarding, eye-opening.
I was modeling in London and I used to sneak into a university because they had life drawing classes that were free for students. I would pretend to not speak English if I got confronted. Haha. But I enjoyed drawing models a lot and I never thought to look at subjects as a reference, I never went to art school so I was oblivious to how artists work. It was mildly thrilling to realize I was actually good at it. After working on an art project with my then-boyfriend-now-husband where I was cross stitching an edition of 12 artworks based on a painting he did in Norway. I was left pretty angry and frustrated at the repetitive nature of cross stitch on top of it being someone else´s designs, not mine. That was when I started embroidering my own drawings.
I was left pretty angry and frustrated at the repetitive nature of cross stitch on top of it being someone else’s designs, not mine. That was when I started embroidering my own drawings.
I don´t think my parents or family understand what exactly I´m doing with my life, but I´ve always done things unconventionally and was successful at it so they´re going to have to trust me. But honestly, in terms of everyone else, it´s been a very supportive environment. I got offered an exhibition pretty early on, I was probably on my fifth piece ever; I turned it down because I thought it was ridiculous- my hobby in a gallery? But it took a whole bunch of friends convincing me to realize this wasn´t an opportunity offered to just anybody. My solo exhibition opened October last year with 27 of my pieces I worked two years on.
I want to work bigger. I´m at a point in my life where I feel like I need to slow down- get a studio space. I´ve always worked out of my suitcase. I travelled with all my pieces over the years. I need space when I can step back and think. I need a sewing machine to work on bigger concepts. These things require a specific space but I don´t feel ready to settle either not while modelling is still paying most of my bills.
I truly believe you need to surround yourself with successful ambitious people to get far. I try to find the company of interesting women with a passion for life and other people. I’ve always sought out the company of female friendship, I feel women connect in a way that is so fulfilling especially in conservative cultures where there isn’t an open conversation going about our bodies and challenges pertinent to womanhood.
I truly believe you need to surround yourself with successful ambitious people to get far. I try to find the company of interesting women with a passion for life and other people.
I think it is important to focus on good work beyond anything else. Art is a skill mastered with time and practice.
Photos 1-5 courtesy of: Sheena Liam
May 13, 2019