Malaysia Day Feature: Homegrown Trailblazers

Celebrities, musicians, politicians, activists, models, millionaires and entrepreneurs; Malaysia has some famous people worth a second glance. They are leaders in their own fields, ranging from the arts to entertainment to sports. Inspiring old and young Malaysians to follow in their footsteps. Here are a few of our very own flag-bearers who have put Malaysia on the map.

  • Zee Avi, Singer/Songwriter

    Bornean songstress, Zee Avi, moved to Kuala Lumpur at the age of 12 and taught herself to play the guitar at 17. Avi played rhythm guitar in a couple of bands while in Kuala Lumpur before moving to London to study fashion design at the American InterContinental University. After returning from London she started writing songs. Over the years, she has received many accolades. The Associated Press named Zee Avi (her self-titled album) one of the Top 10 Albums of 2009 alongside albums by big names like Mariah Carey, Jay Z, Norah Jones and The Black Eyed Peas. Similar to Kabir Khan, the Asia Pacific Brands Foundation presented Zee Avi with The BrandLaureate Grandmaster Brand Icon Leadership Award 2012 for Zee's achievements as a singer and songwriter, and for establishing a successful career in the international music scene. Last year, her album Nightlight was named one of iTunes Best of 2014 Albums in the Children's Music category.
  • Kabir Khan, Psychic Performer

    Penang-born psychic performer and magician, Kabir Khan, boasts a list of high-profiled shows, which include performing before the Sheikh’s Royal family in Dubai and entertaining A-List celebrities in London. In 2013, he was conferred the Brand Laureate Grand Master Leadership Award. That same year, he booked his spot in the Malaysia Book of Records for being the first Malaysia to perform a record of 21 straight shows in Hollywood. Kabir also emerged as the second runner-up at the Academy of Magical Arts 2014, at a competition in Los Angeles, this led him to being recognised as ‘One of the new top magicians in the world’ by the foremost Magic and Performing Arts institutions, the McBride Mystery School in Las Vegas. His success story is featured in the revised and updated 10th anniversary version of Jack Canfield’s classic best-seller, The Success Principles, which was released earlier this year.
  • Bernard Chandran, Fashion Designer

    Malaysian fashion designer, Dato’ Bernard Chandran, used to be known as Malaysia's "Prince of Fashion", now - "King of Fashion". In 1991, he joined the 'Open European Contest for Look of the Year 2000'. Chandran won and broke the record of being the first non-European to win the coveted title. Since then, Chandran has appeared as a guest judge in Cycle 6 of Britain's Next Top Model. The top three models were given the chance to model for Chandran's fashion show during the London Fashion Week. Chandran has also started introducing Europe to his couture with a boutique at swanky Knightsbridge, London. His work has been donned by the richest from across the globe, most notably the Royal families of Malaysia and Brunei, two former Miss Universe titleholders and popstars, Estelle, Rihanna, Tori Amos and Lady Gaga, to name a few.
  • Indrani Kopal; Filmmaker

    In 2007, she produced and directed a documentary entitled “She is My Son” based on the life of a transsexual named Suganya and her mother, Samsed, which earned recognition nationwide when it won the Freedom Film Festival (FFF) award 2007, Malaysia’s one and only documentary film festival organized annually by Pusat Komas. The film publicly screened in KL, Penang and Johor. Earlier this year, she made headlines for snagging the coveted Best Student Documentary award at the American Pavilion's Emerging Filmmaker Showcase in Cannes Film Festival on May 19. Her documentary The Game Changer, is a documentary on Susan Slotnick, a woman who uses dance as a form to rehabilitate inmates at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility in New York, United States. Susan’s program for the prisoners is the only dance-based rehabilitation program for men, and is also one of the most successful.
  • Amber Chia, Supermodel

    Supermodel, Amber Chia began her modelling career at the age of 17 and gained international recognition when she won the Guess Watches Timeless Beauty Contest in 2004. This contest was a search for models from across the globe in hopes of finding a brand ambassador for Guess Watches. Amber was not only the first Malaysian to win the contest but also the first Asian to do so. Her win in the professional modelling contest jump-started her fashion career. In 2004 and 2005, she was named the Model of the Year by the Malaysian International Fashion Awards. Since then, she has also become ambassadors for brands which include L’Oreal and Sony. She also created her own modelling reality show, I Wanna Be a Model. With an illustrious career spanning over 15 years as a model, actress and brand ambassador, Amber has further highlighted her prominent mantle by evolving into a successful entrepreneur through Amber Chia Academy - her very own modelling and beauty school, which was opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2010.
  • Mike Chang, Founder

    Mark Chang Mun Kee founded MOL AccessPortal and He is the Chief Executive Officer of, a position he has retained since the company was formed. He also serves on the boards of Vitrox Technologies, Innity Corporation Berhad and 104 Corporation, Taiwan. which was founded in 1997 is now Southeast Asia's largest online employment company, according to Forbes. It currently serves about 80000 corporate customers and 11 million jobseekers. Even as early as in July 2010, the Group services over 60,000 corporate customers and over 7 million jobseekers.
  • This is article was published on September 19, 2015 in The Malay Mail.