Beauty Queen: Carol Lee’s Spanning Career (Part 1 Of 2)

“All that glitters is not gold.” That usually is the stereotype with supermodels, TV hosts, newscasters and beauty queens. They are aesthetically beautiful on the outside but how are they on the inside? Are they articulate? Are they kind? Do they have the same problems like we normal people do? Being young and desiring to enter the glamour world, a move that should be weighed in with a lot of thought. The glamour industry is not for the faint hearted. In this feature, we will uncover key issues that may help a lot of today’s youth wanting to be a future public persona and how to cope with the limelight.

Carol Lee in a beauty magazine
Carol Lee modelling for a Hong Kong beauty magazine in 1995.
Source: Image by Carol Lee

Stepping Into The Beauty Industry

Recently I was able to interview the former model turned Mrs Universe 2013 Carol Lee, via video call. The former beauty queen represented Malaysia and beat 32 other contestants from around the world to clinch the title in the Caribbean Island of Aruba. Despite the lockdown in Malaysia due to the COVID-19 virus, Carol opened up about her life story not on the surface but on a personal and deeper level.

Before winning the Mrs Universe title in 2013, she has donned many hats. Her first working experience was in the hospitality industry at the Parkroyal Hotel in 1993. With her tall lanky figure she was quickly scouted to be a model. The following year she even tried teaching at the “Q-Dees” kindergarten briefly. In 1996, the modelling career connected her with acting in Hong Kong where she played the lead role in a thriller movie called “The Killer Has No Return.” She also started emceeing in 1999 for various events such as Miss Malaysia Pageant. Naturally she became a newscaster initially with RTM in 2004 then TV3 in 2011. Carol was also a programme host for TV2 from 2005 for five years.

Carol as the TV3 newscaster for Nightline
Carol Lee as the TV3 newscaster for Nightline news in 2011.
Source: Image by Carol Lee

The Early Years And Grim Truth Of The Beauty Industry

Growing up, Carol was raised in a family who taught her to work hard and achieve your own success. Things didn’t come easy her way but it has made her resilient. Now she believes that she can overcome anything after going through life’s hurdles and learning from them.

She embarked on the modelling career in her mid 20’s back in the middle of 1990s. Some of the challenges that she had to go through was to constantly maintain a slim figure. Her booking agent would always observe her physical appearance warning her to shed off anything deemed as fat. Due to that pressure, she took slimming pills and occasionally practised crash diets. The modelling world is very superficial and you have to adhere to their rules, “which is to not get fat” so that you can fit into the clothes which are usually size 0 or small.

I do not advise young girls to stay too long in the modelling industry. Especially if they are forced to starve and take slimming products because it is not safe healthwise.”

Carol Lee, Mrs Universe 2013
Carol Lee with a male model for beauty magazine
During her modelling days in 1997, Carol seems to be enjoying a light moment with a male model during a photography session for a magazine in Malaysia.
Source: Image by Carol Lee

Living Healthy Is The New Beauty

So how does she stay healthy now that she is a mother of one. Carol achieves this by eating healthy, does not follow any diet plans and she does not count calories. Every morning Carol looks forward to eating breakfast which consists of toasted wholemeal bread with ham. In terms of vegetables, she prefers eating fresh salad with carrots and cherry tomatoes topped with a light dressing. Her favourite food is Japanese, she loves the sashimi, agedeshi tofu, edamame and natto bean. She is not a fan of sugary desserts but once in a while she would indulge in dark chocolate. Even dark chocolate is healthy!

In terms of fitness, Carol does not fall under the category of women who do yoga and pilates. Carol is a big fan of tennis and when asked what other sports she loves, it’s paintball! Now that’s rare, a former beauty queen who’s a fan of paintball.

Today’s Standard Of Beauty From The Social Media

I asked Carol what she thinks about the young generation who are influenced by celebrities. The teenage girls in South East Asia who are heavily influenced by K-Pop stars that they will augment their looks. Especially the Chinese into having bigger eyes, smaller nose and luscious pouty lips. This emulation is further driven by celebrities via social media. Young ladies and even transvestites in South East Asia are doing major and multiple plastic surgeries on their face and body. They all want to emulate Kim Kardashian’s hourglass figure with busty bosom, small waist and a well-rounded derriere.

With a deep sigh, Carol explains, “First of all, before resorting to any major surgery, if the person is overweight, it is important for them to consider exercising and eating healthy first. They need to try to shed off the excess fat naturally. They also need to consider consulting a certified doctor who can advise them on the consequences of post surgery and the side effects. I understand that certain surgery can boost their confidence and make them happy and that is fine. But do bear in mind that their health comes first, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to undergo surgery for instant results. That is why you hear plenty of awful stories of surgeries gone wrong. Sometimes it will be too late or dangerous to reverse the actions.”

Today's beauty that youths try to emulate
The exotic beauty found in today’s fashion spread that most girls aspire to achieve.
Source: Image by Naeim Jafari from Unsplash

“Most importantly, each individual needs to learn to be kinder to themselves and embrace their flaws. You can still maintain your natural beauty but work on your confidence. Society and media will always try to shape and idealise what the mainstream beauty should be. But I know everybody around the world deals with insecurities differently,” Carol added.

Mental Wellness Over Beauty

When asked her opinion on the young generation battling depression and suicidal thoughts, Carol laments, “It is definitely devastating to hear this kind of news. I am also a mother to my 12-year-old girl and I am very observant to her emotional needs. Every child while growing up may encounter different levels and types of depression depending on several factors. They may include growing up in a broken or dysfunctional family, getting bullied in school, being a victim of abuse and being pressured to achieve straight A’s in school. Even the pressure to stay slim and wanting to be beautiful by emulating the celebrities.”

“What is important for every child is that the parents or guardian play an important part in communicating with the child. You must always observe how the child reacts emotionally. Any off-putting sign is a warning that the child is going through some issues. If nothing is being done during the primary education years (6-12 years old), it will drag on into the secondary education years (13-17 years old). Parents usually shrug off this behaviour but the parents play an important role in rescuing them. You can’t expect teachers in school to solve this problem,” Carol emphasised.

Carol Lee during a beauty fashion show
Still rocking the runway wearing an Alvin Tay dress for the Ms Malaysia Charity Event in 2015.
Source: Image by Carol Lee

Carol loves to interact with children that she founded Starz Studio, a child enrichment and daycare centre in 2007. The centre aims to empower children by boosting their confidence by learning how to overcome stage fright, public speaking, social etiquette and many more. The children also engage in holiday programme activities such as art and crafts, basic cooking, science experiments and character building.

Her Past Which Reflects The Future

Carol even shared her experience with battling depression and suicidal thoughts. When she was in her late 20’s, she was in a relationship which ended up in heartbreak. “Looking back I was naïve because I was really affected by the break-up. I would cry for days wondering why and how we broke up. At that time, I thought that he was the love of my life. Now, if I could write a letter to my old self, I would tell myself to prioritise myself first and move on, as certain things are beyond my control. It is important to heal and love yourself first.”

“I understand we all have feelings and we do break down and cry. But if I could give an advice to all young girls and even ladies my age, after every passing storm, then appears a rainbow. You will be sad in the beginning but with time and hard work, you will heal. There are plenty of ways to heal. Either you do it alone but with discipline, or talk to someone who can give you positive feedback. Read and listen to self-help books online. Pick up a new hobby to distract your mind. Reconnect with nature, the options are endless, you just need willpower to move on.”

Every Woman Is A Queen In Her Own Right

Carol confessed that throughout her career as a public figure, she could have gone further to expand her glamorous portfolio. There were two opportunities for her to go abroad and pursue her career as an actress but she turned it down. She chose love and she chose family life instead. When I asked whether she had any regrets, she confidently says none at all. “Although a lot of people said I could have flourished my career as an actress, I followed my instincts. A woman has to follow her heart and instincts regarding what she wants in her life. I chose to have a family over anything. I love being a wife and I enjoy being a mother and that alone made me feel like a winner.”

Carol Lee the former beauty queen of Mrs Universe 2013
Carol Lee is the first Asian and Malaysian to be crowned Mrs Universe 2013 in Aruba.
Source: Image by Carol Lee

After much pondering, I have to admit that Carol Lee does have a glittering heart of gold. Initially I aimed to talk for only one hour but we ended up talking for three hours! The conversation was very interesting especially when you are dealing with the articulate Carol Lee, even through the phone, she was exuding positive energy and that was much needed during these tough times. But that’s not all Carol has to offer. Stay tuned for the next part, where we go into her contribution to the society. We will explore how she entered the realm of humanitarian work, going through obstacles in life and her future plans.

Parents As An Active Listener

If you are a parent and you have growing children who love attention, let them express their talent. Children who are naturally confident will display this trait during their early years. It could be acting, modelling or even musically inclined, it is best to be an active listener. Find out how Active Listening can bond a better relationship with your growing children for a healthier communication.

Alternatively, Carol Lee’s Starz Studio is a suitable place for parents to send their preschool children to expand their minds, and learn about character building and modelling too. Do visit their Facebook page for more information.

The interview does not stop here, there are more features about Carol Lee engaging in humanitarian and community work in the next part of the story.

Hazwani CHE DIN

About Hazwani CHE DIN

Spent her childhood spread across several countries, Wani truly understands global cultures. Advocates fine art, and organises artisanal bazaar to promote them. What's next? Well, she plans to continue exploring uncharted areas; and continue immersing in and learning foreign cultures.

One Reply to “Beauty Queen: Carol Lee’s Spanning Career (Part 1 Of 2)”

  1. Pingback: Carol Lee: Under Lockdown But Work Comes First (Part 2 Of 2) - Espoletta

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