IT will be a short break for 2002 Miss Malaysia runner-up Christina Chelliah who is now in Malaysia to visit her parents, catch up with old friends and take a breather from the hectic pace of New York where she is based.
The lawyer, lecturer and commercial talent said being in the Big Apple has been a steep learning curve after moving there in 2013.
“When I first announced my plans to move there, people were sceptical.
“They told me I would be back in Malaysia within two weeks. But I have been working there for a year and a half now, and still going,” said the former model who served as Malaysian ambassador to the University of London.
She has proved doubters wrong by landing modelling jobs for big clothing and cosmetic brands. Also a brand ambassador for Facebook and famed coffee-shop Central Perk, named after the popular cafe in the hit television series Friends, Chelliah is also slowly making a name in the showbiz world.
The 32-year-old beauty has
appeared in popular television shows like Blue Bloods, Law and Order: Special Victims’ Unit and The Following. She recently filmed a commercial for Hypnotique with reality show darling Khloe Kardashian.
Winner of Miss Malaysia Tourism in 2002 and Miss International Kebaya (2013/2014), Chelliah said her experience had been nothing short of amazing.
So what does she have to share about her experience in New York?
“When you are completely alone and have to do everything yourself, you appreciate your parents.
“It is not easy going out on your own and starting afresh in a new country where you don’t know anyone.
“It was easy to make the move to New York because I had always wanted to move there. My brother, Steven, is a Berklee College of Music graduate with a dual degree in jazz composition and contemporary writing. He is working there and was happy when I told him that I was going to join him there.”
Chelliah, who is dating Steven’s fellow Berklee College alumnus Chris Murphy , who also worked with her brother on his Supremacy X album, said making the life-changing decision was not easy.
“I had to leave behind a legal career in a leading law firm and lecturing job at Brickfields College (part-time),” she said.
Chelliah said she found herself pondering if she would ever have a happy life in the long run.
“Career-wise, I want to explore all the opportunities open to me.
“Eventually I want to get married, have children and settle down. Completing the bar is an option that I am keeping in mind, but not for now.”
Question: Since you’ve been in New York, what has been keeping you busy?
Answer: The first one and a half years in New York, I went into it, full swing, to land modelling jobs.
Within the third week, I booked my first job as a hostess at business magnate George Soros’ wedding.
The guest list was crazy — I met celebrities Martha Stewart, Kofi Anan and Bono, among others.
I also left my CV with production houses that cast background actors for TV shows.
I landed my first television gig as an extra on the cop series Blue Bloods and shared screen time with Tom Selleck.
I have also been cast on Law & Order four times, a show that I have been watching since I was a teenager.
Question: Besides modelling jobs and acting, what have you been up to in the Big Apple?
Answer: With my legal background and qualifications, I managed to get into the International Centre for Legal Studies, the only registered centre for University of London in America and Canada, where I teach law to online law faculty students three to four times a week.
For the last six months, I worked full-time for a 5th Avenue travel agency as a project manager.
I am now embarking on a new venture with a high-end and white glove service destinations boutique that plans luxury events overseas at any location a client wishes to have.
Question: What is your impression of New York?
Answer: The last time I was here was in 2010, on holiday. However, whenever I am in New York, I feel overwhelmed. You’ve seen it on television and movies, and suddenly, you are right in the thick of things. It’s a busy city that’s abuzz with non-stop activity.
Question: What do you like about the city?
Answer: You can jump on a train anywhere and anytime, and do what you want in the city.
You can hear all kinds of languages from the crowds of people around you. Restaurants, pharmacies and grocery shops are open 24 hours and a couple of malls close at 2am.
Question: What is your one gripe about it?
Answer: New York is a very expensive city. You can’t make a habit of dining out frequently. I try to cook at home most of the time. I do eat out sometimes, but not more than twice a week.
It is also extremely competitive with so many people just as, or even more talented, attractive and skilled than you. In New York, the word for it is “you’ve got to hustle”.
If you missed a call from a casting or modelling agent on your mobile, you can say goodbye to the gig. When you call back even a few minutes later, they would already have booked someone else for it.