Yvonne Ashley Lewis: Out of Betong, into the fire
By Jude Toyat
After being hailed as the first runner-up for Miss Cultural Harvest Festival (MCHF) in 2015, Yvonne Ashley Lewis continued her vision to inspire more of the younger generation, especially women, in the competitive arena of modelling and pageantry.
“Modeling is my passion and also my work. I also joined pageantry because the people I am surrounded with see opportunities for me here, an opportunity to help me push my career further in the industry, having little or no fame to my name.
“My goal as a model is to be a good role model to the youngsters out there and also to build up their confidence,” said the 19-year-old up-and-coming model.
“I want them to take their dreams as a career. For example, if they want to be a singer, practice singing. Don’t let people’s mouths stop them from achieving their goals in life.”
Of mixed Iban and British parentage from Betong, Yvonne who stands at 167cm tall and weighs 48kg is also a mechatronic engineering student of International College of Advanced Technology (ICATS) in Kuching.
Looking to complete her studies first before going into fulltime modelling, she hopes that she can inspire more young girls to take up engineering.
“It is challenging because women in the trade are looked down upon by men. Men think they are the only ones who can perform these kinds of jobs,” she said, adding that she does look forward to pursuing this field professionally once she’s finished her studies.
For now, the call of the modelling world awaits this Betong lass.
“I never thought that I wanted to do modelling as a side career, but when I look at myself, and look at my progression since the first time I joined a beauty pageant here in Sarawak, I realised that I had the opportunity and I had something to be shared in this modelling career.”
Yvonne’s other talents include dancing; she has been dancing since she was in kindergarten and her dance skills lean more to traditional dance.
“I was also the president for cultural club in my previous school, SMK St Augustine in Betong,” she said, adding that she would also love to attend any fashion or modelling courses just to sharpen her skills, boosting her level of confidence and increase knowledge in the field.
Yvonne is currently doing freelance modelling under Borneo Pageantry, pulling a neat balancing act between her studies and her modelling.
As photogenic as she is, Yvonne finds the hardest part of being a model is doing the photo shoots.
“Shoots are not always as glamorous as the photos portray; there’s often a lot more going on behind a photo shoot. The model may have to work on a really cold or hot day wearing completely the wrong type of clothes for the season or have to pose in really uncomfortable positions to get the shots.
She finds that the best thing about being a model is getting the chance to travel, walk and perform on stage, as well as meet new friends of various cultural backgrounds.
“Besides that, the best part is that people appreciate my talent and never stop supporting me.”
For those looking to get a start in modelling, Yvonne said that a good model must have a good personality, and not be too much of a ‘diva’.
“Besides that, you have to take care of your looks and appearance. Finally, stay humble and never get overwhelmed with anything that goes on in between,” she said.
Most people who know Yvonne will say that she is an easy-going and friendly person.
“I can be friends with everyone and accept them for who they are, and I strongly believe that they also accept me for who I am and that makes a good and strong relationship,” she said.
Yvonne watches what she eats, and avoids oily food.
“I also exercise at the gym, three times a week. Alternatively, I will just do home workouts,” she said.
When asked how would she describe her personal style, Yvonne called it ‘versatile’.
“I always change my fashion style because I don’t want to stick to one. I’m not a girly type of person,” Yvonne said, adding that she looks up to Kendall Jenner is her inspiration, from the way she dresses to her characteristics in the modelling industry.
After MCHF, Yvonne entered Miss Malaysia Earth Kuala Lumpur and won third place (Miss Fire KL 2016). Yvonne also won several subsidiary titles for the competition including Miss Idealyst, Miss Best National Costume, and Miss Social Media.
“I had a lot of great experience throughout the pageant week of Miss Malaysia Earth Kuala Lumpur. This will be one of my platforms to represent Malaysia in another upcoming pageant which will be held in Ipoh: Miss Malaysia Earth 2016,” she said.
On her goal being in the industry, Yvonne said that she hopes that she will get the chance to represent her country at an international level.
“Ten years from now, I would like to see myself as a successful model and entrepreneur,” she said, adding that the exposure she received through various pageant competitions has taught her a lot and enabled her to improve herself.
Yvonne holds on to a motto her late father told her: “Be grateful, be smart, be clean, be true, be humble and be prayerful.”
She also has some advice to aspiring models and pageant contestants out there.
“Be humble and do not stop learning. Never give up. Learn more in communication skills. Be yourself. Have faith in God. Do not chase to be a supermodel, chase to be a role model.”