WHY DID SAMANTHA KATIE JAMES, Miss Universe Malaysia 2017, leave her hometown of Klang (which she still calls home) to travel the world, modelling?
“Curiosity! I’m not afraid to do anything. I’m the kind of person who does, then thinks about it after, and that’s how I’ve experienced a lot at this age.”
Does her do-first-think-later attitude have repercussions?
“The more you’re afraid, the more you set barriers and boundaries. And when you set too many rules for yourself, you don’t enjoy or experience life fully.
“I did what I wanted to do, and it worked. I still don’t know a lot of things in life, there’s so much more to discover, but I’m very satisfied with the choices that I’ve made.”
But growing up wasn’t exactly a bed of roses for her. James, 22, has never met her father, and her mother left her in (a strict and disciplined) foster care from the age of two to 17.
She thinks her life experiences may initially have primed her the wrong way. The first time the Chinese-Brazilian model joined the Miss Universe Malaysia competition, she was 18. Looking back, she realises she wasn’t ready to win.
“I was so shy. I could never be myself in front of the camera. I was always afraid of people judging me as I was very insecure,” she recalls.
“As a child, I was bullied in school. I was deemed ‘the loser’. I was the one who never went out with friends—no movies, nothing. That made me insecure.”
This affected her self-esteem when she first started modelling in Bangkok (at the age of 17) too. She remembers thinking at model castings: “I’m not going to get the job. Look at all the models; they’re so pretty”.
BUT AS HER CAREER STARTED TO TAKE OFF, SHE ASKED HERSELF: “WHAT’S MAKING ME INSECURE? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?” SHE DECIDED TO MAKE A CHANGE.
“Whatever came my way—advice, reading, yoga classes, meditation—I took it all in. I learned affirmations and listened to motivational podcasts. I put sticky notes on my mirror that I read to my-self every morning, saying, ‘I am beautiful, I am fit.’ Eventually, that changed me.”
James can be goofy, silly even, and is fun to be around, but don’t take her for granted—she’s not naïve.
“One of the hardest things for me [especially in this industry] is dealing with all the different emotions and personalities. People say you can’t please everyone, but I want to. I want to be the girl who makes everyone feel comfortable, whom people can relate to and are happy to be around,” she says.
“I WANT TO SPREAD THAT POSITIVITY I’VE LEARNED TO INSTIL IN MYSELF,” she says. “What people always expect from a pretty girl is poise and elegance, a controlled attitude. But me, I’m always trying to make people laugh, by being funny, by being a clown. That’s how I feel good—by making people happy.”
James firmly believes that people should start being nicer to each other.
“Treat others how you want to be treated. You’re never going to have a taste of life or real happiness if you block yourself off and think you’re better than anyone else. You’re not better than anyone else and no one is better than you.”
Pow, she drops three Instagram-worthy quotes, and then drops another.
“Always be open to listening to other people, because the best way you can learn is from one another.”
These days, she’s in the swim of preparations for the Miss Universe 2017 competition that takes place in Las Vegas in November. Is she nervous?
“No, I’m super excited!”