Getting to know FHM Malaysiaâ€™s Most Wanted should be a daunting prospect. Sheâ€™s obviously hot and has her game on, and fellas might think that she eats guys for lunch. But on the other hand, she can talk pretty hard politics (US elections, Malaysian elections â€¦ she calls me on both), with her fame dreams of one day building libraries on every corner in the country, and likes nothing more than being curled up at home, in front of her laptop to the sounds of Damien Riceâ€™s â€œsuicide emoâ€. Thereâ€™s definitely more there than meets the eye. Oh, sheâ€™s a kidder, too.
â€œIâ€™m such an â€˜emoâ€™. I cry to myself all the time (laughs). Girls are mean,â€ jokes 25-year-old Sarah Lian, the third child of four children whose globe-trotting parents picked cosmopolitan Vancouver, Canada to rear their kids. â€œPeople perceive me as coming from the wild, wild west, like Iâ€™ve got these ideals, Iâ€™ve got these things that I say, my sexuality, and my comfort, and all that kind of stuff, and so quick to think that â€˜she must have done that (slept with) so and soâ€™ to get there, which is just not the case. Thereâ€™s only so much you can get from that but if you really put your head down and youâ€™re independent things will open up for you and on your own terms.â€
As FHM magazineâ€™s top pick of the past year, sheâ€™s usurped the ubiquitous likes of Hannah Tan and Amber Chia as your new favourite Chinese hottie. Sitting down for our interview in blue jeans and a T-shirt, Sarah, whose first movie credit was in â€˜American Pie 6: Beta Houseâ€™ as â€œHot Asian Girlâ€, was not at all the man-eating weather vixen she plays on The Gua Centre on gua.com.my (GUA). She essentially loves to talk, laughs a whole lot, and is disarming in a kooky kind of way. Later that night, she would glam it up for an appearance on â€˜Latte @ 8â€™ on 8TV, to make for one of the giggliest, most excitable episodes ever.
â€œWhy I do â€˜Latteâ€™ and the covers is to step into the industry because once Iâ€™m in there youâ€™ll know how I really am like,â€ she says matter-of-factly.
Sarah Mui Lian or Mui (which means â€œlittle sisterâ€ in Cantonese), the name she goes by when not busy being her model/personality/cover face self, has been back from her childhood home of Vancouver for about nine months but sheâ€™s wasted no time in getting herself out there as a new Malaysian personality with something special. Look out for her name â€“ or donâ€™t bother. Because for all we know it might just be on every billboard and magazine ad in the next six months.
As for the naysayers, she offers this: â€œIâ€™m here, a fish out of water, going into your water trying to swim, thatâ€™s all. Iâ€™m just trying to do my thing here. Iâ€™m constantly talking to myself and pushing myself to keep going. So whether you like me or donâ€™t, or think Iâ€™m hot, fat, slutty or ugly, I donâ€™t have time to â€˜layanâ€™ all this stuff, you know? I just do what I do because I want to and I think I should be because I was born to do something like this, and because, I ought to.â€
<>So for all you new Sarah Lian fans, this is how our little game of Q&A went down.
Looking back, itâ€™s been a big year for you. You were named third on FHM magazineâ€™s 100 Most Wanted List. Thatâ€™s kind of a big deal right? Itâ€™s a huge deal. Like … Wow! I mean, being third in the world is a little funny. But my friendsâ€™ support helped me a lot. I always say, â€˜this is all youâ€™ve gotâ€™ (pointing at herself and laughing). Iâ€™m No. 1 in Malaysia â€“ it doesnâ€™t get any better than this! Itâ€™s been really good lah. I get random people coming up to me, emails on my website. Itâ€™s just, I never expected I would get something like this, and I have.
What does a magazine mean to you? Oh my goodness, a magazine cover is so important! I think in anybodyâ€™s career, if you donâ€™t have magazine covers, itâ€™s like youâ€™re almost never there. To know that youâ€™ve got selling power and that you get put on a magazine and people would want to see you and pick it up … I think thatâ€™s what itâ€™s about. You either do it or you donâ€™t. I hold a lot of regard for a magazine cover. I hit my ultimate milestone when I was on two covers in a month. I couldnâ€™t believe it, but really sometimes when you work hard and you meet the right people, things can happen. Not everybody watches TV, or logs on to GUA but having a magazine cover is concrete, in my eyes.
Do you feel like a celebrity now? I think Iâ€™m nowhere close to what I feel a celebrity should be like. I still walk around town without makeup, I still do silly things here and there, and Iâ€™m still myself. So in that sense I donâ€™t feel like a celebrity, but the fact that Iâ€™m in the public eye, people look at me like I am one. Celebrity or no celebrity, I feel like Iâ€™m just not there yet, (because in) my career I still have goals that I want to achieve and Iâ€™m barely even halfway there.
People that know you before FHM, before â€˜Latteâ€™ and the Cadbury ad say youâ€™re a cool person anyway. (Laughs) In terms of being cool, Iâ€™m just myself,
Iâ€™m honest and Iâ€™m an open book. If people ask me a question I just tell them, I donâ€™t really hide and I donâ€™t like to lie.
How does it feel to play the hot weather girl on GUA? Oh! I didnâ€™t mind playing the character. And itâ€™s just that â€“ a character â€“ and people have to remember that it isnâ€™t an extension of me. Iâ€™m not 30, Iâ€™m not 21 â€“ Iâ€™m 25. However, I feel confident with who I am and how to play this character and I donâ€™t feel like anybody was telling me what to do, you know? Like I said, itâ€™s a character, and I go all out for it. Iâ€™m not going to be all worried and think â€˜oh no, people are gonna see this and theyâ€™re gonna say this and thatâ€™. Like when Heath Ledger played a gay guy, he never thought that his mom would think heâ€™s gay â€“ heâ€™s not gay, itâ€™s just his character. Iâ€™ll be myself one day and people tell me to â€˜be sexyâ€™, and I go, â€˜I can beâ€™, you know but thatâ€™s not who I am.
What would you say are your real talents? My real talents? I would say my real talent … is my love for durian. Ha ha! It takes a serious talent to love durian as much as I do. I write a blog (sarah-lian.com/blog/) that I donâ€™t really update, and youâ€™ll see that probably a third of my blogs relate to the fruit. Iâ€™ll just talk about how it gave me a zit, how I love it so much …
Any plans to act? Yeah, I really want to do a drama, I really want to do a movie, and those are probably in the pipeline for me. People see me in Malaysia more as a host, but I actually have more of an acting background. But thatâ€™s what made me adapt and try other stuff. Definitely more acting though, and I also want to look at going a little bit more regional as well. Iâ€™m such a transient person â€“ I move from one place to another and adapt to different surroundings really easily so I wouldnâ€™t find it too hard to explore outside of Malaysia like Singapore, Hong Kong, maybe the Philippines. Iâ€™m always hoping something else will carry me through.
What gets on your nerves? I hate ignorant people. I hate people that donâ€™t look beyond what they know, and just assume that what they know is the last word. There are always people that can challenge what you think and if youâ€™re not open to it …
*You can catch Sarah Lian on www.gua.com.my (The Gua Centre on Gua TV), as well as episodes of ntv7â€™s info programme â€˜NUVOâ€™ and 8TVâ€™s new season of â€˜The Ultimate Prom Nightâ€™.