Independent, smart, and funny – those are the 3 characteristics that best describes Rubini Sambanthan.
She’s the only Malaysian contestant competing in the upcoming “Asia’s Next Top Model” cycle 6. Rubini is no stranger in the fashion industry though. Having won Miss International Malaysia in 2014, this beautiful model has appeared on magazine covers and walked on various fashion runways.
Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down and have a little chat with her about her experience on “Asia’s Next Top Model”. During our candid session, Rubini opened up about the highs and lows of joining a reality competition, her interaction with the judges as well as the contestants, advice from fellow alums, and how she came out as a stronger person.
“I come from a middle class family. Financial constraint was always an issue. I started working at the age of 15 (e.g.: selling ice cream). I want to show that a girl from that kind of background can actually become a somebody. I don’t think there’s a bigger platform where I’ll be able to share these stories other than ‘Asia’s Next Top Model’,” the 27-year-old shared.
Read on to find out 13 things about Rubini’s experience with “Asia’s Next Top Model”:
1. Rubini could had been on cycle 3
R: I did send my application during cycle 3 and I was shortlisted then, but unfortunately I was representing Miss International Malaysia so both events clashed. I couldn’t leave Miss International Malaysia cause I was already in Tokyo, so I couldn’t do it.
I was very young at the time and I believe that was the right platform for young models to get that opportunity and carry forward. When that didn’t happen, I kind of shut it away. I never bothered about it anymore. I was also doing my degree at the time, so I couldn’t take leave.
2. How she ended up on cycle 6
R: I got lucky when the organiser team changed. The (new) team scouted me on Instagram. I got the email requesting if I was interested to join a reality show. They never revealed at first but I kind of knew. So I was happy that I was scouted but it wasn’t an easy decision at all because I lost my brother when I was called for that competition. So it was like a yes-or-no thing for me.
To be honest, I wanted to say no because I didn’t felt strong enough. I feared embarrassing myself and the country. So it took me some time to say yes. After talking to my family and my boyfriend, it felt like it was time for me to come out of the hole that I was in and free my mind a bit. And this is the last age I can join this competition for modelling.
3. Her motivation for joining this season’s “Asia’s Next Top Model”
R: Quite a number of people asked me, ‘Rubi what’s the point of joining a competition when you’re already made it?’. I would say it’s definitely self-satisfaction. Over the years, I feel that I’ve accomplished great things but there are still different stuffs that I haven’t done. Making it internationally for example, that’s something I haven’t done. So “Asia’s Next Top Model” can be a great platform for me to showcase myself outside of Malaysia.
4. Being an Indian model in the competition
R: We’ve had coloured models before. Shareeta Selvaraj (who represented Malaysia back in cycle 3) was in it. The fact that I was scouted showed that they wanted a coloured model to be on the show. All I can do is really stand for girls who are like me. At the same time, I am standing for girls who have curves too.
I’ve been insulted so much. I was even rejected one day before a show because the pants fits me perfectly but they wanted it slightly loose. So I was rejected.
I used to feel really negative about the fashion industry, thinking it was rich people’s business and I can never penetrate in. At the beginning of my career, I had always been shut down and I didn’t know how to navigate. The beauty industry can eat you up and make you feel depress.
So Instagram was already taking off at the time, so I started posting pictures on it. My first fashion spread was under Glam and it was because the fashion editor found me on Instagram. So girls just need to find an alternative (if it doesn’t work out). It’s not the end, you just need to find a way.
5. Word of advice from fellow Malaysian “Top Model” alums – Alicia Amin and Tuti
R: We’ve all worked together cause this is a very small industry. So you basically see everyone. Most of them are “hi, bye” but with Tuti and Alicia, we really hang out and talk. I did speak to them before I go – asking them on their intake. Their general advice was basically be yourself, if you don’t feel comfortable reacting in a certain way then don’t do it, and then, be careful about the things you say because it’s a reality show and you don’t want to send a wrong message to people.
For me, being on the show itself I just wanted to inspire people by telling my story about how hard my struggles were and where I am right now.
6. The makeover on “Asia’s Next Top Model”
R: My hair was short enough so I didn’t know what else they could do. I went into the competition with a short bob. So what were they going to do? Shave me bald? My hair was short so I had some idea on how it was going to turn out.
7. The most stressful aspect of the competition
R: When you join a competition, I think you should mentally prepare yourself for everything. For me, I’ve always generate this strong personality and had to carry myself up no matter what. So when I faced those situations, I’m the kind of person that tries to figure out what to do on the spot. I never really give up easily.
Sometimes it comes down to luck during photoshoots. It may be your forte or it may be something out of your comfort zone, and you’ll go ‘Oh shit! I’m going to be doom today!’
When it comes to modelling in a competition versus the real industry, the poses that you do are completely different. In real jobs, clients don’t ask you to do crazy stuffs – just stand still and show the outfit. Mostly when you do lookbooks and campaigns, clients say don’t crumple the clothes, don’t do much.
For a competition, you’re selling you. So one might get confused because on normal days, the focus is solely on the outfits. That was my culture shock.
8. As the oldest member on cycle 6
R: Being the oldest among these young girls, I felt like an aunty sometimes. So I had to adjust and try to be as young as possible in order to relate to them. I’m 27 and I can’t expect them to be 27, but I’ve been 23 before so I try to adjust accordingly. It’s never easy to be with 14 different girls.
9. The dramatic girls and who she didn’t like
R: When it comes to reality show, basically you’re free to do whatever you want and be whoever you want to be. If you want to scold someone, just scold. I think the reason why they pick girls with different personalities is because they know this girl can do this and this girl can do that. So you’ll be surprise to see which girls are the dramatic ones… You’re going to be so surprised!
What role were you?
R: Well, I can’t actually tell you right (laughs)? Knowing me, I think you can tell that I’m a matured person. I’m like the big sister and I definitely want to inspire people. So obviously I’m behaving in a certain way.
I also don’t like girls who cry during shoots. It’s a turn off for me because if you do that in real life, clients will just ask you to leave and they won’t pay you. So wait for it… That’s all I can say (laughs).
10. Yu Tsai, Yu Tsai, Yu Tsai
R: Meeting Yu Tsai was amazing because he works with all the great models internationally. So it was like, ‘Woah, he’s going to photograph me’. You’ll see how scared I was because it’s a lot of pressure. It’s super intimidating to see him and work with him. I was shivering but I had to deliver.
11. Meeting Cindy Bishop
R: Cindy has always been a role model. Models who always convey positive messages are the ones I look up to. Other than modelling, her social work is amazing. And I like how she represents her culture. So it was really great to have a one-on-one moment with her cause I want to inspire too. You know how people use the term diva on models? I didn’t see a diva at all.
12. How the producers prep the contestants once filming ended
R: They had a talk with all of us on how to deal with negative comments. They basically said, ‘Just ignore it guys’. Whatever negativity there is, the more you try to defend yourself, the more it’s just going to spice up and it will never end. I’m just going to focus on posting good stuffs. Being in the industry, I think I’m quite used to all the negative comments.
13. Summarising her “Asia’s Next Top Model” experience in hashtags
R: #BeyondLimits – I came out of my comfort zone and I did something that I’ve never done in my life. I discovered another side of me, so #SelfDiscovery. It’s definitely something that every girl from this competition experiences. And of course, lots of drama.
To all Malaysian viewers, go beyond limits when “Asia’s Next Top Model Season 6” premieres on FOX Life beginning 22nd August, every Wednesday at 9pm on Astro CH 711 and 722 HD; and unifi TV CH 455.