Let Nothing Hold You Back

Let Nothing Hold You Back

May 8, 2022   Return


Blessed with exotic looks a result of her mixed parentage of a British father and Nepali mother, along with a cosmopolitan upbringing (her childhood was spent alternating between Malaysia and the UK), Tania Hodges always has had the best of both worlds. With the support of her parents, especially her mother who is a former model, she began modelling for a children’s clothing lines at a very young age. The road to a successful modelling career seemed set for Tania, but her journey was not without hurdles.

Early trauma

When she was 12, about a year after the onset of puberty, Tania began experiencing abnormalities with her body. Firstly, she began noticing a regular presence of foul-smelling vaginal discharge. This was followed by recurrent episodes of urinary tract infections (UTI) a year later.

Although her condition was eventually treated with medication, the procedures left Tania emotionally scarred. “I was subjected to a pap smear test and a rectal examination before the age of 14. I was very young, uninformed, and of course, sexually inactive so Ididn’t know anything about being sex. Because I was so young and uninformed, I thought the experience was very uncomfortable and I felt traumatized,” she recalled.  

In her late teens, her menstrual cycles became irregular so much so that she had to be put on hormone contraceptives which helped regulate her period to prevent severe blood loss. “From the time I was 16,  my period would either last for two to three months, or I would have none for a long time,” said Tania. Fortunately, her health issues subsided by the time she reached adulthood. She began actively competing in beauty pageants and modelling professionally at 18, even dabbling in acting for a while.

Modelling hiatus

Tania’s health troubles returned in her early 20s when one day, he experienced a sudden excruciating pain in the lower right of her pelvic region, which persisted and even became worse as time went by. “I couldn’t take the steps or wear stiletto heels like how I used to anymore. Then, I started feeling nauseous,” she said.        

Reluctantly, Tania went to a doctor who recommended that she saw a gynaecologist. Given her fear of past experiences repeating, she stood her ground this time. “I insisted that my general practitioner put it down in writing that I did not want any more invasive examination procedures,” said Tania. Her wishes were respected, and from a transabdominal ultrasound, she was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). With the diagnosis, Tania was put on hormone contraceptives once again, after having been off the pills for a few years.

Around the same time, she began gaining weight rapidly, going from 45kg to 73kg for her 164.5cm frame. On top of that, other symptoms from the hormonal changes began to appear. “I became very pudgy, had severe acne and I was getting noticeably hairier. A casting director, with whom I have worked as a bridal model since I was 18, took me aside and pointed out that I was getting too big to be booked for jobs. Soon, I had to quit modelling because it took too much makeup to cover up my skin flaws,” Tania remembered.     

With her modelling career suspended, Tania tried every means available to get her weight under control. “I tried exercising, protein diets, starvation, weight loss pills and formulas, even taking diuretics – all of which only made matters worse. I also developed digestive issues so I couldn’t keep food down. I was throwing up and having diarrhoea frequently, but still gaining weight. I was close to weighing 95 kg,” she said.      


Regaining control through self-education

After exhausting all her options, and consulting several doctors whose advice did not produce the results she was hoping for, Tania was at her wits’ end. Knowing that she needed a better understanding of what her body was going through, Tania started diligently educating herself on her condition. “I started reading a lot, reaching out to others online and joining health groups on social media to stay informed. Through my own research, I realise I was actually having severe hormonal imbalance, and it was reflected through my metabolism,” she said.

Tania’s online activities led her to come into contact with a charitable doctor from Germany who sympathized with her plight, and offered her free consultation. “I told him about my problems, starting from the beginning including my fear of intrusive pelvic examinations. He patiently educated me on the various treatment options I had that were not considered before, and making sure I was aware of the pros and cons. He then informed me about tests and medications that I should request the next time I go for a check up, while also assuring me that intrusive procedures will be kept as the final resort. For once, I felt in control of my body,” she recalled. “When I consulted him regarding the result of my blood work and hormone levels, I found out my pelvic pains were due to endiometriosis,” Tania added.

The doctor also advised Tania on proper dieting and exercise regimes, which she followed meticulously. Three months later, she went for a transabdominal scan and found out that her ovaries and lymph nodes were clear of cysts and abnormalities. Furthermore, she lost approximately 20 kg and noticed significant improvements in her energy levels. It did not take long for Tania to be back in stilettos and booked her first modelling assignment, after five years of absence. 


Making a comeback

Tania no longer requires the services of the doctor who helped turn her life around, but she continues to follow the diet plan he gave her, which led to her losing more weight. “PCOS and endiometriosis can lead to diabetes. So, I maintain a balanced diet of protein and complex carbohydrates, while trying to cut out simple carbs, trans and saturated fats as much as possible. I do have cheat days, but I try to minimize that. I also go on 30-minute brisk walks, at least three times a day and am mindful of choosing beauty products that are appropriate for my sensitive skin,” Tania described her personal care regime.

After two years of keeping her health and weight in check, Tania decided to further her modelling career by enrolling at the Amber Chia Academy in 2015. “I was the biggest person in my batch, and the pain would come back occasionally because of my retroverted (tipped backwards) uterus, which could be hereditary or a result of having PCOS. Nevertheless, the training I received at the modelling school has boosted my confidence and revived my career,” said Tania..

Tania made her comeback in the beauty pageant scene, with her latest achievement being crowned Miss EuroAsia International 2016/17. “The pageant is relatively new, and unlike some beauty pageants it looks beyond, age, ethnicity and stature, with the purpose of celebrating womanhood in all its diverse forms,” she explained.

With her future looking optimistic, Tania hopes to become an English language teacher, in addition to modelling. She found a love for teaching when she tutored students in between modelling jobs. “I want girls to know that whatever health condition you may have battled in the past, do not let it hold you back from pursuing your dreams, because it does not make you any less of a woman. For example, my dietary requirements don’t allow me the freedom to feast, but I don’t have to live in misery. Get out there and do it, and if you can, inspire others to follow suit,” Tania concluded.  

Tania is an advocate for women’s health, positive body image and anti-sexual harassment. For more information, visit her LinkedIn PCOS support group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3183311

If you like this article, do subscribe here. 

A Petite Powerhouse

A Petite Powerhouse

May 8, 2022   Return


Effervescent, bubbly, vivacious – these are some of the words that instantly come to mind when you meet Azura Zainal. She may stand at a mere 163 cm but don’t let her petite frame fool you; this lady is a real powerhouse!

We say this not just because of her ability to talk a mile a minute (told you she was bubbly!) but also because of her zeal for life which is evident by the ever-growing number of feathers in her cap. And what remarkable feathers her proverbial cap boasts! Over the years, this Malaysian sweetheart has established herself as not only a successful television host and radio announcer but also an actress, entrepreneur and a published author.

Written in the stars

Seeing Azura now in all her zestfulness, it is only natural for one to assume that she always has been like this but the 35-year-old begs to differ. “I was a very shy kid. I never imagined that I would end up on TV one day!” she says candidly.

How did she make her foray into the entertainment business then? “I did dabble in TV for bit, doing commercials here and there. But it never crossed my mind that I’d make a career out of it. Growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer. Even my late mother always said that I would make a great lawyer,” she divulges.

But it seemed that fate had other plans in store for her. She recalls, “While I was waiting for my SPM results, I got a call from my mother asking me to attend a casting. I initially thought it was for yet another commercial but it was actually for an audition for a hosting position for Disney Buzz, which at that point was a new flagship show for Disney Channel Asia!” And as they say, the rest is history. “There were thousands of people who wanted the job. But I just went ahead and gave my best. Within a day of my audition, I was informed that I had gotten the job! I guess I was destined to do what I do now.”


The multi-talented Azura

Of her hosting days at Disney Buzz, Azura only has lovely things to say. “It was there that I developed my skills in TV hosting and emceeing. It was also there that I met lots of great people. If I could go back in time, I’d tell my younger self to keep in touch with all the friends I made throughout my years of working at Disney Channel Asia. I still do keep in contact with some of them but I wish I had stayed in touch with the rest.”

Since leaving Disney Channel Asia (or as she calls it, ‘The Mouse’), Azura has moved on to various kinds of entertainment work. “I’m currently hosting my travel show, X-plorasi which airs every Saturday at 2pm and every Monday at 11pm at TV1. It’s my longest running travel show; I’ve been hosting it for more than 10 years!” she says proudly. TV work aside, you would have heard her chirpy voice on the radio – RED FM to be exact. “I had the opportunity to be a radio announcer for 3 years at RED FM,” she recounts.

When she isn’t busy with hosting and radio work, you might find her emceeing at product launches and corporate events or performing on Broadway (yes, you read that right – Broadway. Cool, huh?). Elaborating on her acting career, she says, “I was one of the main actors for Broadway: Dreamgirls the Musical at Istana Budaya. Also, I’ll be premiering my first Malay feature film ever so do look out for it!”

Diversity is key

With so much on her plate, you would think Azura does not have time for any more professional ventures. You could not be more wrong. “In the entertainment industry, people tend to have a shelf-life. You can’t expect to always be on the air. I need to be ready for that when it happens. I’m still very involved in the entertainment world but it’s important to diversify,” she says. Wise words, indeed.

An example of this ‘diversity’ comes in the form of Gcabxi (M) Sdn Bhd, a collaboration with her older sister. “This company focuses on the general motor insurance system and helps Malaysians make passive income just by renewing their car insurance with us annually. You can find out more at www.gcabxi.com.”

Another business in which she is involved is Caboco Fit Studio, which she owns with her Brazilian husband. “My husband is a martial arts and fitness instructor so he teaches Capoeira, Brazilian Jujitsu and his own creation which goes by the name ‘Fit Combat’. For those who aren’t interested in martial arts, we also offer dance classes like Zumba.”


In a good place

For someone with a career spanning decades, we wonder what Azura’s most notable achievements are. She says, “I’m proud of many things I’ve done but there are several which stand out. I wrote a book called Azura Zainal’s Guide to TV and Radio Hosting which was published by MPH. I was also nominated for Best Light Entertainment Presenter/ Performer at the Asian Television Awards. So, that was cool.”

Allowing us a glimpse into her personal life, she adds, “My family and I usually organize barbeques at one of our homes; some will offer to cook dinner. We will play Pictionary or scrabble after the meal. We are also fans of outdoor activities but it depends on everyone’s availability. My family may be very big but we’re tight-knit. We always have a blast.”

It’s not hard to see that Azura is in a good place right now. She seems to have it all – an impressive resume, a successful career, great family and friends – and she is no doubt thankful for all of that. But don’t expect her to rest on her laurels anytime soon. Like she says, “I’m the kind of person who just can’t sit still. I’ll always find something to do to keep myself busy.” Told you she was zestful!



BFM. Available at www.bfm.my

Business Circle. Available at www.businesscircle.com.my

The Star Online. Available at www.thestar.com.my

If you like this article, do subscribe here. 

Go Hard or Go Home

Go Hard or Go Home

May 8, 2022   Return


Speaking to Low Wee Wern, it does not take long for me to realize just how much her maturity belies her age. Only 26 this year, this Malaysian lass is wise beyond her years. Perhaps, it is this very maturity that helped her rebound both physically and mentally from a sports injury which left her with a torn meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) early last year.

Recalling the fateful day, Wee Wern says, “I was injured on a Thursday so I went to see the orthopaedic surgeon a day after that to get a MRI done. By evening, the results were out and it turned out that I had fully ruptured my meniscus and ACL. Looking back, I actually drove my manual car all the way to the hospital with a torn ACL! I was scheduled for surgery the following Monday. After the surgery, I was in a wheelchair for days followed by crutches for weeks before I could finally walk again. Imagine how long it took me to get back on the court!”

But for all her injuries and the challenges which she had to face as a result, Wee Wern chooses to focus on the silver lining. “My injury was nothing short of a challenge. However, I am thankful for a number of things. I have a good support team that’s with me every step of the way. For instance, my physiotherapist worked with me daily for almost a full year and I still see her twice a week now. Then, there’s my coach who has been there right from the start, even on the day when I did my first MRI which revealed the tear, my checkups and tests every now and then. So, I focused on getting well because I didn’t want to do it just for myself but also for the people around me.”

Others may have given up if they found themselves in her position but Wee Wern pressed on, adamant to get herself back on the court. Her perseverance paid off and now she is on her way back into the world’s top 10.

‘Not in my wildest dreams!’

When asked if she had always harboured dreams of playing squash professionally, Wee Wern says, “Never in my wildest dreams! I took up squash as a hobby when I was about eight. At the time, my parents got divorced so my mum thought it would be good to sign me up for a sport to keep me occupied. She asked me to choose between tennis and squash. What’s funny is that I picked squash without having any clue what squash was about! All I knew back then was that tennis is subject to the weather as it’s an outdoor sport whereas squash isn’t. It was this mere fact that got me started in squash!”

But what began as a weekend activity gradually developed into something much more. “I really enjoyed squash so much that I started playing tournaments at the age of 10. I won my first tournament at 11 and became the top junior player in the country at 15 – a title which I carried for four consecutive years.”

So, her decision to make a career out of squash happened along the way? Wee Wern explains, “I guess you can say that but it wasn’t an easy decision for me. After graduating from secondary school, I was offered scholarships from universities such as Princeton and Harvard so I was torn between pursuing my education and continuing with squash. I only decided to take the plunge at 18 after I had won three Asian junior titles and the British Junior Open Under 19 – something no other Malaysian has achieved other than Nicol David.”

Were her family and friends supportive of her choice? “I actually made a deal with my mum that if I couldn’t break into the world’s top 50 within a year, I’d give up squash and attend university. Thankfully, I made it,” she shares candidly. She also credits her coach for encouraging her to pursue her dreams. “Before I came along, my coach hadn’t coached a professional athlete before but he gave me his word that he would be by my side every step of the way. He assured that together, we could do this. So yes, I do have people who are supportive of me!”


When the tough gets going

Nothing great is ever achieved without sacrifice – and Wee Wern is a testament to that. “Since childhood, I had to live a disciplined life. I’d train every afternoon for six days a week. As I had to travel quite frequently for tournaments, I had to miss school sometimes. I also missed out on friends’ birthday parties, movies and sleepovers; basically, I didn’t have much of a social life.” Has things changed now that she is older? She laughingly tells us, “No, not one bit. I now train twice a day, six days a week! Even if I were to hang out with my friends, I’ve to head home latest by 10.45 pm so I’ll have adequate rest to train again the next morning.”

Allowing us a glimpse into her training regime, she says, “Although I have two training sessions on weekdays and one session on Saturdays, I’m thankful that I’m not required to train at 6 am like athletes in other sports. I usually wake up at 8 am, train from 9.45-11.45 am, and have lunch afterwards. I then recommence my training at 4pm. The break in-between gives me time to rest, run errands, etc. Training ends at around 7 pm and that’s when I call it a day,” she says.

“But come match days, I only have one training session which lasts about 30 minutes in the morning, followed by stretching. For meals, I’ll start my morning with a nutritional shake. I’ll then have carbs (either rice or pasta), protein and greens four hours prior to the match. Later on when it’s two hours till the match, I’ll have coffee and a snack. I also have a protein shake in between and after the match. I’m a huge fan of coconut water so I keep myself hydrated with it throughout the day.”

A role model to many

Needless to say, Wee Wern is an inspiration to many, especially to those in the sports world. Offering advice to those planning to follow in her footsteps, she emphasizes, “Surround yourself with a good team. A good team doesn’t necessarily mean a well-known coach with a track record but a group of people who are willing to spend countless hours with you and make sacrifices to help you achieve your goals. Another important thing to remember is to never forget your team once you’ve made it; they have earned it just as much. And lastly, nothing comes easy. Hard work really pays off as cliché as it sounds.”

What the future holds…

Discussing her short-term goals, Wee Wern’s reply is almost instantaneous. “I’d like to get back into the world’s top 10. I’ve been out for so long due to my injury but I’m on my way back. It’s been such a challenge but I’m ready to fight again, not just for myself but for those who were with me throughout my career. I owe it to them to get back on my feet and achieve my goals!” And for this, we wish her all the best.



Good Reads. Available at www.goodreads.com

Malay Mail Online. Available at www.themalaymailonline.com

Squash Mad. Available at www.squashmad.com

If you like this article, do subscribe here. 

The Artistry of Doctors: Doctor by Profession, Artist by Passion

The Artistry of Doctors: Doctor by Profession, Artist by Passion

May 8, 2022   Return


“Immersing myself in art is like losing the edges of life and finding myself again at the end of it.”

-Dr Desmond Gan-

“Late Night Life”

E_Late Night Life

When I first meet Dr Desmond Gan, it is clear that he is a private man, almost reticent about divulging his personal details. At the same time, his eyes light up when I ask him about his art. Here is one man who pours his heart and soul into every stroke onto the canvas, and despite his private nature, he loves to talk about his art.

Dr Desmond and his w...

Dr Gan is an artist, but he does not use old-school canvas and paints. His easel and canvas is his tablet, and the modern-day stylus is both his pencil and paintbrush. And yet, looking at his works, they can be hard to distinguish from those done the traditional way.

During my interview with him, my first question to him is: “Why do you draw? And colour?”

The moment the question leaves my mouth, I cringe inside, because I had forgotten what author Rick Riordan once wrote: “You might as well ask an artist to explain his art, or ask a poet to explain his poem. It defeats the purpose.” 

And like other artists, Dr Gan paints because it comes naturally to him. It is a passion, a compulsion, an integral part of his being.

“Steve Jobs” (traditional drawing)

E_Steve Jobs

Dreaming the painting

“When I was young, my parents would take me to watch Disney movies at the cinemas,” he tells me. He developed a fascination for the movie posters displayed in the cinema. “I loved to scrutinize the artwork.”

Like many Malaysian children, he did not have many opportunities to explore his interest back then. He concentrated on his studies, pursued medicine, and eventually became a general practitioner. It was only when he established his own private practice that he found the time to focus on his artistic inclination.

His initial foray was in oil painting, which he enjoyed due to the strong, vibrant hues one could create with oil pigments. However, Dr Gan soon became concerned about the effects of turpentine and other chemicals found in oil pigments on him and his family. He also found himself spending a considerable amount of time cleaning up his palette and brushes after each painting session.

It was time for a change, and he found it in digital art.

Painting the dreaming

“I find digital art to be a very forgiving platform, it is 100% chemical inhalant free and I can have all kinds of brushes using just a tablet and stylus to paint on,” he says.

Dr Gan lacked formal training, but that did not stop him. “I am a self-taught artist, thanks to the number of tutorials one can find these days on YouTube.”

He also found an online community that welcomed and embraced a fellow artist.

“I belong to a group of artists in Deviantart called ECE which stands for Emotive, Conceptual, Expressive Art,” he shares. “Every piece of art that we create has some emotion attached to it. I treasure my works because of these emotive elements. Without them, my art, at least to me, has no value.”

Initially he used photo elements, manipulating them to create his artworks, but he soon transitioned to painting on a blank digital canvas. “Photomanipulation techniques, I feel, served only as a crutch or stepping stone before going fully into painting from scratch which is of course more challenging,” he explains. “I still do photopainting every now and then but my emphasis these days is more on painting. Having said that, I sometimes rely on phototextures to add realism and speed up my work.”

Know your digital art jargon

  • Photomanipulation. The art of modifying existing photos using various techniques. It can range from simply removing some wrinkles on the person’s face to more complex photopainting.
  • Photopainting. This describes the art of using existing photos and touching them up to create your own paintings. For example, you can transform a photo of your sweetheart into a superhero by changing the clothes and even adding a weapon into the hand!
  • Digital painting. Dr Gan’s current preferred method of expression of his creativity, this involves using a computer graphics software to create an art from scratch. The software may allow for techniques and styles that are not commonly or easily done in traditional painting, so the result can sometimes be different from those created the ‘old-fashioned’ way.

A typical artwork could take one to two days to complete once the inspiration strikes him. Dr Gan spends his lunch breaks and any other free time he has to sketch, draw and paint his dreams and inspirations into his electronic canvas.

“To make my art more expressive, I like to paint movement,” he tells me. “Movement or dynamism can be created in many ways: from the character pose, flowing fabrics, hair blowing in the wind, sparks from a fire.  Even a slight tilt in the image may do the trick.”

He believes that he has some distance to go, though, before he can consider himself an accomplished artist. “It is said that an aspiring artist needs to practise for 10,000 hours to be an expert,” he tells me. “I’m very, very far from reaching that goal!”

I suggest to him that perhaps he is selling himself short, and he only smiles at me in response.

“Sweet Melodies”

E_Sweet Melodies

And falling… Fly

Dr Gan’s choice of artistic genre is fantasy. “Today, I’m more interested in painting in the genre of fantasy character or environment,” he says. “Although it is great to paint portraits, fantasy lives in my veins. It challenges and excites me; I’ve built a huge visual library of images over the years that I find useful and have categorized them accordingly.”

He elaborates by adding, “For example, under landscapes, I have winter scenes, volcanic environment, mystical forest, trees, seascapes, castles, etc. I’m still not comfortable painting vehicles, robotics or sci-fi environment, but I’m learning to paint those as well!”

His muse and inspiration is his beloved wife, who is also an artist – she creates origami hand works and beadworks, some of which are proudly displayed in Dr Gan’s clinic.

Profession and passion

At the surface, medicine and digital fantasy art seem to exist in two different worlds. I ask Dr Gan how he reconciles his passion with his profession.

“I love medicine, as it is a noble profession and I also get to meet people from all walks of life,” he says. “Art is a way for me to add colour to my life and soften its edges – it is a way for me to communicate my emotions and find balance in my life. After completing a painting, I feel energized and reinvigorated to go back to the real world and help my patients!”

If you like this article, do subscribe here. 

Dancing to Her Own Beat

Rising from the Ashes

May 8, 2022   Return

It is an understatement to say that losing a child she is carrying is every mother’s worst nightmare. For English singer Lily Allen, that nightmare became a reality in her journey towards motherhood – not just one but twice. The Hard Out Here hit-maker first suffered a miscarriage in 2008, when she was with her former partner, Ed Simons of the band Chemical Brothers. The depression that followed her loss led to her spending three weeks in a psychiatric clinic.  

In 2010, Allen was expecting her first child with husband, Sam Cooper. All seemed well for the couple, until six months into the pregnancy, when Allen contracted septicemia, a life-threatening bacterial blood infection. The condition came close to killing her, and claimed the life of her baby boy. Allen then became pregnant again with daughter Ethel who was born in 2011, but her trials weren’t over yet.

Ethel suffered several complications when she was born, and thus had to undergo surgery in her first two months of life. Following the surgery, she had to be tube-fed until she was seven months old. Allen would have reached a mental burnout, had it not been for her husband who stood by her throughout the pain and grief. She greatly credited him for keeping her together and bringing them closer together as a couple. To pull herself through the trying time, Allen directed her attention towards her art. Songwriting, she described, was a way for her to reclaim her life and reconnect with herself.     

Five years after her devastating losses, Allen decided to speak publicly about her ordeal in the hopes of offering comfort to those who shared her fate. In late 2015, she wrote a song Something’s Not Right for the movie Pan, in memory of the son she lost. When the song was released, she also reached out to her 5 million followers on Twitter, urging them to donate to the Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Charity (SANDS).       

Allen and Cooper welcomed their second daughter, Marnie in 2013. But their deceased baby boy is never far from their minds. The couple commemorated him with a stone engraved with his name in the garden of their home. Although she continues to put on a brave face in public, Allen admits that she has not completely move on from the traumatic loss. In fact, she describes stillbirth as a tragedy so horrendous that one can never really get over it, one can only learn to cope with it. She said that it was “something I would not wish on my worst enemy.”   



The Bump. Available at www.thebump.com

Marie Claire. Available at www.marieclaire.co.uk

Huffington Post. Available at  www.huffingtonpost.co.uk

If you like this article, do subscribe here. 

The Impossible Princess

The Impossible Princess

May 8, 2022   Return

Ever heard of the term ‘The Kylie Effect’? The term was popularized after a surge in the number of clinical breast exams, mammograms and breast biopsies occurred following the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer of Australia’s electrifying artist, fashion icon, entrepreneur, actress and philanthropist, Kylie Minogue. This whirlwind effect occurred after Kylie disclosed to the media that she was misdiagnosed the first time when she did her breast screening. Her move to undergo partial mastectomy and chemotherapy at the age of 36 in 2005, after the prior misdiagnosis, caused a colossal increase of women screening for breast cancer.

When she appeared in talk shows upon completion of her chemotherapy, Kylie’s repeatedly encouraged all women not to take any first account of screening for granted. They should go for a second opinion, or even third. And, always trust their instincts, as she did. Her bravery and courage in confronting cancer in the face was inspiring to many of her fans and the general public.

Before Kylie Jenner, there was already a famous Kylie making waves in pop culture. Starting out as an actress on the hit Australian soap opera Neighbours, her character’s romance with the clean-cut hunk played by her then-beau Jason Donovan captured the imagination of fans all over the world. Capitalizing on this, she released her first single, Locomotion, in 1988. It was a smash hit, and the rest was music history.

She is recognized as the highest-selling Australian artist of all time by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), and the 12th best selling singer in the United Kingdom with over 10.1 million sales, according to The Official Chart Company. During her success, Kylie had earned multiple global-awards for her outstanding achievements in music, dance and choreography.

She was also lauded for her artistic collaborations with director Baz Luhrman, various famous fashion designers and photographers. Additionally, she was praised for her efforts in fundraising for various causes, such as the survivors of natural disasters such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan.

Of course, she also advocates for better breast cancer awareness and research. Her efforts earned her accolades and awards such as the Courage Award by EIF Women’s Cancer Research and Woman of the Year Award by Elle. She was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Health Sciences for her work in promoting cancer awareness by Anglia Ruskin University.

Kylie celebrated her 10th year cancer-free anniversary in 2015 by thanking her loved ones and her fans for their support during her trying times. According to her, women should never lose sight of who they are in their fight against cancer. “Believe in what you are capable of,” she advises, “and you can conquer even the unconquerable!”


1. Kylie. Available at www.kylie.com

2. Guardian. Available at www.theguardian.com

3. Huffington Post. Available at www.huffingtonpost.co.uk

4. The Telegraph. Available at www.telegraph.co.uk

If you like this article, do subscribe here. 

Nick Jonas, Unchained

Nick Jonas, Unchained

May 8, 2022   Return

The last two years have been very good for 23-year-old Nick Jonas. In late 2014, his self-titled second album hit the shelves to positive acclaim. “His most mature and riskiest work to date,” gushed Jon Caramanica of The New York Times, while tracks like Jealous and Chains hit the charts and solidified Jonas’s coming into his own as an artist in his own right.

Meanwhile, he had major roles in the TV series Kingdom and Scream Queens, while playing main leads in a few movies. You may also recall him flaunting his chiselled physique in various magazines.

2015 also marks the 10th year of him living with type 1 diabetes after being diagnosed back when he was only 13.

“When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t really know a lot about the disease,” he told ET Online earlier this year. “So, I actually thought I was going to die.”

At 13, he was just about to join his brothers Joe and Kevin in The Jonas Brothers, a clean-cut pop group that gained the adoration of millions of teenage girls.

From all appearances, The Jonas Brothers were healthy, upbeat and, of course, very busy. Behind the scenes, however, Jonas, was monitoring his blood glucose several times a day and working closely with healthcare professionals to control his diet and weight as well as develop a regime that would help him stay healthy and control his diabetes.

Jonas attributes his current well-being to the support of his fans, friends and family. His own determination to commit to healthy living also helps.

Ten years down the road, one only has to look at him to know that diabetes is never going to hold him back. He is determined to make his mark – solo this time – in music and acting. “The one mentality I’ve always tried to have is that no matter what stage of your career that you are in – be it a musician or a performer or a songwriter or whatever, there’s always more to learn,” he once said.

He is a role model both for fellow diabetics and young adults. He is a vocal advocate for type 1 diabetes, championing the use of proper monitoring technology as well as living a healthy and moderate lifestyle to those who have this disease. He is also an ambassador for Think It Up, a non-profit organization that provides funding for promising students to pursue projects of interest.

To his young fans, Jonas has only this to say to them: “Find things you’re passionate about, and find others who are as passionate as you are and will focus on giving you an opportunity to shine and to have your moment where you can be in front of others to show what you can do.”

That was what he did, and look at him now.

References: 1. ET Online. Available at www.etonline.com 2. Entertainment Weekly. Available at www.ew.com 3. The New York Times. Available at www.nytimes.com 4. Think It Up. Available at www.thinkitup.org

If you like this article, do subscribe here. 

A Man & His Dogs

A Man & His Dogs

May 8, 2022   Return

Anthony Thanasayan is no stranger to advocacy. He is constantly at the forefront when it comes to advocating for the rights of the disabled. His writings are featured in The Star and The Malaysian Insider, among other publications, and he once served as a councillor in the Petaling Jaya City Council.

He has certainly come a long way from the student who was once barred from attending school because the administrators felt that the school lacked the proper facilities to cater to wheelchair-bound students.

“Malaysians still have the mentality that disabled people cannot do anything, when the thing that really paralyzes us is our attitude. Because of this attitude, buildings and modes of transports are set up without taking into account of the facilities needed by the disabled,” says Anthony. His trips abroad, such as to the United States, revealed to him that there are countries out there which provide excellent facilities for the disabled, and this discovery encourages him to champion for the same facilities to take place in this country.

Anthony was born with spina bifida, a condition that affected his spinal cord and eventually removed his ability to walk. His experiences as a wheelchair-bound person spurred him to become an advocate for better facilities and treatment for fellow disabled Malaysians. And he was just starting on the road to becoming an advocate when he discovered his other calling in life, as a pet lover and advocate.

“I had several dogs when I was young,” he recalls. Dogs aside, chickens and birds were aplenty around his childhood home in Klang. These animals became a constant presence in his life, and he gradually grew fond of them. During his teenage years, he was often confined at home while his peers went out and about. His sole companion then was a mongrel, Biman, who accepted him for who he was and treated him like a normal person.

But it was during a conference for the disabled in the United States that everything fell into place for Anthony. “There we were, all of us in wheelchairs,” he recalls, “and the speaker was a paraplegic (paralyzed from the neck down). He brought a dog in with him. I first wondered why he had brought it in. The reason became clear when he dropped the pointer. The rest of us did not know what to do, and then something amazing happened. The dog picked up the pointer, placed his front paws on the wheelchair, and passed the device back to the speaker! It was unbelievable!”

Until then, he did not know much about service dogs, but the incident spurred Anthony to learn more about them. “The dog was so well-behaved that it stunned me!” he says. The cost of a service dog can be prohibitive, however, and Anthony had the idea of training his own dogs instead.

The Rottweiler comes home

About a year later, Anthony felt that he had saved up enough money to have a dog of his own. “Most of my friends and family members were not keen on the idea of me keeping a dog,” he tells us. “They would tell me, ‘Who will feed and take care of the dog? How are you going to feed it?’ Only one friend supported my idea, and we visited the pet store together.”

It was probably kismet that the Rottweiler which he later named Vai would find him. Anthony initially wanted a German Shepherd, but the store only had a Rottweiler puppy. “I had my doubts about the Rottweiler, but this puppy just jumped out of his box onto my lap and licked me.”

Anthony was stunned. “Many people are hesitant to touch a disabled person, and here was a puppy which seemed excited to see me,” he says with a laugh. The puppy reminded Anthony so much of himself. “I didn’t like to be stuck inside a box myself,” he says, “so I felt like we had some kind of bond.” The dog had a wound, but Anthony did not mind.

From books, correspondences, online research, and trial and error, Anthony began to train Vai. Training dogs is not always easy, but he stresses that it is essential, as an easily distracted dog can be a danger to both itself and his owner. Fortunately, during his training of Vai, he found many fellow disabled people in America who were always willing to share ideas on how to train service dogs.

In time, Vai became not only Anthony’s companion but also devoted assistant. The Rottweiler would voluntarily push Anthony’s wheelchair up a slope, for example. “Often, I only had to train him once, and he got it quickly,” he remembers. “And this only encouraged me to keep going.”

Vai’s presence changed Anthony’s life. “All my life, well-meaning people have been telling me that I should not do this or I cannot do that. This can be demoralizing to the spirit. Vai, however, sees me as a person. He doesn’t judge me, and he is very generous with his love and loyalty. You cannot imagine how good it feels, to have someone who sees you for who you really are!”

After two weeks of living with Vai, Anthony decided to bring home Biman the Second, a Golden Shepherd, and there was no looking back from there. He will always have a room in his home and his heart for his canine good friends. His pets also became his inspiration to found the non-profit organization known as the Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association (Petpositive).

“My dogs have helped me more in five years than any therapist in a lifetime,” Anthony says. “I’m now more confident about myself and my outlook in life is more positive. They have made such a difference in my life, I could not ask for better friends and companions.”

He adds, “Petpositive is my way of gathering like-minded individuals, to give back to others in need of the joyous things that I would always be grateful for.”

If you like this article, do subscribe here. 

Pet Positive

Pet Positive

May 8, 2022   Return

According to founder Anthony Thanasayan, the Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association (or Petpositive for short) is the first and only nationally registered non-profit society in the country which uses animals to empower the lives of disabled and elderly persons. While Anthony is a dog person, he assures that Petpositive works with all animals and offers a helping hand to all handicapped and elderly Malaysians.

“Pets can truly make a difference,” says Anthony, speaking from experience. Having a pet which does not see one’s disability as a weakness can help one develop a more positive outlook in life. Caring for a pet can also make one feel more empowered and confident. All these can help keep loneliness and depression at bay.

How Petpositive can make a difference

Petpositive works closely with a network of animal shelters and veterinarians, and therefore, can provide assistance in finding a suitable companion for an elderly or disabled person. The organization may also under certain circumstances, consider absorbing or subsidizing certain costs for those in need.

“However, we do this on a case-by-case basis,” explains Anthony. “We also have to look out for the welfare of the pets. Hopeful future pet owners and their family members need to demonstrate that they can take good care of the pet. In the event that the pet needs medical attention, there should be at least one person who can help the owner send the pet to a vet.”

Another important point to consider is the expectations of the person seeking animal therapy. Some applicants are looking for service dogs, but they expect these dogs to be able to immediately perform advanced tasks such as leading the blind through the streets. Such expectations are unrealistic and possibly dangerous, as in reality, dogs need to be given rigorous training before they can serve as service dogs. It is important that applicants have realistic expectations for their dog and are committed to participate in the necessary training of the dog.

Of course, some applicants may not want to keep a pet full-time. For these people, Petpositive can help by bringing around a pet to keep the person company at certain time of the day. The organization has volunteers who would gladly share their well-trained pets with those who would love to spend some time with these pets.

This brings us to the next point – Petpositive also assists in training pets, usually dogs, to be capable assistants as well as companions to the elderly and the disabled.

So, looking for a pet?


Like their undomesticated wolven ancestors, dogs are pack animals. Once they accept you as a part of their pack, they will be loyal and helpful companions. Sturdier working breeds, such as the Rottweiler and German Shepherd, can be reliable assistants as well after proper training. If you are looking for a furry friend who will help you in matters such as fetching items out of your reach, you may consider a dog. All a dog wants in return is your love and affection.


Cats are solitary creatures, so they are not ideal if you are looking for a companion which can lend a helping hand. On the bright side, they make lovely companions for the bedridden or people who live a more sedate lifestyle. A cat can curl herself up in one’s lap, and just running one’s fingers through the cat’s fur can be therapeutic for most people.

Fish and other aquarium pets.

From Anthony’s experience, such pets are great for the mentally disabled, as caring for them can be as simple as feeding these pets at the right time. He recalls the mother of a disabled daughter, who managed to bring some joy and laughter into her daughter’s life by having an aquarium at home.

Won’t the pet be an extra burden?

Caregivers may understandably worry that giving their charge a pet may mean having an extra member of the family to care for.

This is a common misperception, according to Anthony. True, some degree of care may be required, but certain pets, especially dogs, can be trained to require the most minimal care and supervision from other people. Anthony’s dogs are an excellent testament to this. Here are just some examples of the dogs in action:

They are trained to do their “business” in the toilet, making it easier for Anthony to clean up when they are done.

Feeding is not an issue at all to Anthony, who is wheelchair-bound. It is easy, and in fact, feeding his dogs is a “special time” that he cherishes every day.

The older dogs help in keeping the younger pups in line. When an overexcited puppy runs out to play, for instance, an older dog would gently herd the puppy back. All this without any orders from Anthony!

While it may be unrealistic to assume that no care is needed from the caregiver, caring for a pet is usually less strenuous than imagined. Anthony suggests that families of the disabled or the elderly, who are considering a pet for the person, can get in touch with Petpositive to discuss the matter further.

Interested in animal therapy?

If you wish to learn more about animal therapy, you can always drop Anthony an email at petpositive@gmail.com or petpositive@yahoo.com. Petpositive also welcome enquires from people interested in volunteering or offering donations/assistance.

If you like this article, do subscribe here. 

Just Call Him “Dennis”

Just Call Him “Dennis”

May 8, 2022   Return


When Dennis Lau last graced the cover of HealthToday, it was 2008. It was the year when the reformed Spice Girls closed their world tour in Toronto, the last we would see of them in a while; when Leona Lewis’s Bleeding Love was a big hit all over the world, putting her and the show The X-Factor UK on everyone’s radar; and Michael Jackson’s Thriller album turned 25 and was certified as the world’s best-selling album for all time.

I had not joined the staff of HealthToday then and when I read the article as part of my research on Dennis, I saw a clean-cut handsome young man who was beginning to make his mark in the local music scene. His accomplishments at that time included performances for Dato’ Khalid and Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza in celebration of their first wedding anniversary and in festivals including the Penang Island Jazz Festival and Europa Awards Orchestra.

Fast forward to August 27, 2015. Dennis has just finished performing a snippet of his most recent composition, The Journey, for the launch of a new Gillette razor at 1 Utama Shopping Centre, and is getting ready for a well-deserved meal at a nearby deli. His manager Daphne Tan takes his request – a quarter roast chicken and lemonade – and kindly orders a lemonade for little old me as well.

Nodding my thanks, I can only marvel at how different Dennis Lau looks compared to that younger gentleman on the cover of HealthToday back in 2008. I have brought a copy of that magazine; his eyes lights up when he sees it, and Dennis shows it to Daphne and several ladies nearby, “See, this was me! Back in those days!” They can only laugh at his exuberance.

Dennis now sports a fauxhawk, a neatly trimmed moustache and goatee. In suit and tie, he is the picture of elegance, albeit a little tired, although I have seen photos of him in more casual ensembles – tank top, pants – letting things rip on stage with his electric violin. Like his music, Dennis can be quite eclectic. Pop music, easy listening, R&B, electronic dance music (EDM) – he has done it all, dressed the part and, of course, lived the music.


D, for Dennis

Talking to Dennis is a bit of a revelation – he is very easy to talk to, without any pretensions or ego despite his impressive career milestones. He and Daphne share a rapport more akin to that of friends rather than a boss and his employee. Furthermore, he graciously poses for selfies despite looking slightly tired.

He insists on being called Dennis. “Please, call me Dennis.” He thanks me when I tell him that I enjoy watching his YouTube videos and will love to get my hands on his album DiversiFy. For someone who has played for luminaries such as Tun Dr Mahathir, Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton, such a display of down-to-earth humility is unexpected, but welcomed.

D, for deliberation

Dennis’s eclectic taste and style are all sincere and innate, as he was raised in a home where music was cherished. His mother was a piano teacher, and Dennis’s earliest childhood memories include the deliberate piano practice sessions under his mother’s strict supervision.

“It wasn’t entirely a wonderful time back then,” he says with a laugh. As a child, he wanted to rebel against his mother’s strict regime, but he is now glad that his mother saw the potential in him and pushed him to achieve that potential. “She taught me the importance of discipline and hard work,” he muses. His current work ethics are based on the lessons she taught him, and they have helped him reach the place where he is today. He will not change any moment of his childhood.

The piano has been a part of Dennis’s life since age three, and he reached Grade 8 at just 11, one of the youngest Malaysians to do this. On top of a Bachelors of Music degree under the Newcastle Australian Music Degree Program, he also has several diplomas in classical piano, including the ATCL, A.M.U.S.A, Dip ABRSM and LGSM (hons).

Therefore, it can strike one as unusual that, these days, he is more often seen and heard performing on his electric violin, an instrument he first took up when he was eight. Why the violin?

“It is the closest instrument to a voice, I feel,” he reflects. “The violin allows me a flexibility and versatility on stage that I can’t find with the piano.” Of course, he still loves the piano, but it is with the electric violin that he struck out and made his mark on both the local and international musical scene.

D, for diversity

How does one describe Dennis’s music?

“R&B, electronic, pop – these are all just labels,” he says when I ask him the question. “Actually, music sometimes transcends labelling. It is more important for both the performer and listener to be moved by the emotions, the sincerity and the passion in the performance.”

Still, his heart has a special place for R&B music. The late Michael Jackson is one of his inspirations, as evident from his playful tribute to the legend in a video on his YouTube channel. Dennis also has a soft spot for various artists from many genres, although his more recent inspirations come from various collaborations with people who may not necessarily be from the music business.

Dennis tells me that these people bring fresh perspective and a repertoire of ideas that can invigorate a muse that may have become complacent or cynical from being too immersed in the music industry.


D, for developer

Dennis’s opportunities to work with people from both inside and outside the music industry have increased over the recent years, after he established Mosaic Music Entertainment, a musical boutique company that offers a platform for diverse, innovative musicians to both find an audience and perfect their craft as well as entertainment packages for those interested in experiencing some of the best live performances in town.

For Dennis, Mosaic is not just a business – it is his way of giving back to the music industry. Furthermore, he seems to have found his newest calling in life by mentoring promising young talents such as the crooner Michael Leaner and the young talent Abigail Chew.

D, for destiny

So, what is next for Dennis?

He tells me he will be releasing another album by the end of this year, although the distribution of physical copies is still being worked on. For people who prefer digital music, he also intends to put the album on iTunes. Also later this year, he plans to go on tour. “It will be something like the David Foster and Friends tour,” he tells me, referring to the legendary American composer’s recent international tour. Given that Dennis has worked with artists such as Sheila Majid, Francissca Peter and Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza, the line-up should be interesting.

Is there anyone he would like to work with? “Usher,” he says without hesitation. Given that the American R&B vocalist had recently provided vocals for big hits by EDM producers Martin Garrix and David Guetta, and given Dennis’s own EDM involvement, who knows, maybe that dream is not as far-fetched as it seems!


5 impressive things about Dennis Lau

  1. He has won many awards. Just some recent ones:
    • Global Music Entrepreneur Icon of the Year Award (Masterclass Category) from McMillan Woods Global Awards.
    • Icon in Contemporary Instrumental Music 2015 from McMillan Woods Global Awards.
    • The Brand Laureate Grand Master Brand Icon Leadership Award 2014.
    • ASEAN Leading Violinist Performer 2014 from the ASEAN Retail Chains & Franchise Federation (ARFF).
    • Rising Star Awards Outstanding Performance Artiste of the Year 2013 from McMillan Woods Global Awards.
  2. Aside from creating dazzling interpretations of famous hits, Dennis has released several albums.
    • DiversiFy (2009) – winner of the Best Producer award at the VIMA 2009.
    • The Malaysian Journey – a collaboration with Jabatan Kementerian Kesenian Negara (JKKN) and various local artists.
  3. He has appeared in movies too, such as Nasi Lemak 2.0 and Hantu Gangster. Also, Mosaic has a movie production arm, with some impressive productions to its name.
  4. He has a really cool YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/dennislautv – a great place to get a sampling of his music (and you should, especially if you are a fan of Sam Tsui, Lindsay Sterling and the like).
  5. He also has a cool website at www.dennislau.com.my, with links to his many social media accounts as well as recent news and updates.

If you like this article, do subscribe here.