ON WOMEN EMPOWERMENT, THE ARTICULATE COMMUNITY AND EMCEEING
BY HIRANMAYII MOHANAN
Former Miss World Malaysia, emcee and public speaking coach Nadia Heng, arrived at our photoshoot venue, the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur with a beaming smile and exuberance to her. Her contagious spirit and affability drove through the day and was reflected on the photos. For the March issue, we discussed the emcee’s brainchild, The Articulate Committee, her thoughts on the relevance of beauty pageants today and her role model.
TELL US SOMETHING PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT YOU.
Perhaps the fact that I have a twin sister, which is pretty cool. A lot of people who meet me for the first time obviously don’t know that. We’re fraternal twins and are very close. So that’s a little ice breaker when I talk to people.
DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW THAT YOU’D PURSUE A CAREER IN PROFESSIONAL EMCEEING?
The answer is no, mainly because I didn’t know that it could be a career. To be honest, when I was younger, I wasn’t the most talkative person and neither was I opinionated, nor would I stand up in front of people and talk. Although having said that, I used to watch things like GlobeTrekker on television and it did make me think that it would be quite cool to pursue something like that, to be able to travel the world and host a TV show at the same time. That definitely had some appeal to me.
HAVING BAGGED THE MISS WORLD MALAYSIA TITLE IN 2010, WHAT WAS YOUR TAKEAWAY FROM THE PAGEANT?
I would say the opportunity to form some beautiful friendships with women from across the globe. I believe we had 103 countries participating that year when I went to Sanya, China representing Malaysia. There, I got to meet people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, and it was definitely an eye opener. It gave me a lot of insight into what things were like for them and where they lived. It was definitely a unique opportunity and something that I will always value and treasure.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RELEVANCE OF A BEAUTY PAGEANT IN TODAY’S WORLD?
I think that it’s quite an interesting question. I know that there would be a lot of people who would agree with the relevance of beauty pageants and a lot who won’t and I understand their perspectives. But I do think that it has the opportunity to be a huge platform to influence and educate in a positive manner if things are done well. However, in order to continue to be relevant, it’s important to be attuned to what’s going on on the ground and be a little more inclusive in terms of the talents they are looking for. I think there are a lot of physical limitations to joining a beauty pageant that in many ways discriminate against many people. I think if we changed some of those rules and made them more relevant to today, people could see more representation of themselves and it would be huge. So, that’s my take on that — I think they still can be relevant but some things need changing in terms of how these pageants are orchestrated.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER THUS FAR?
I would say the proudest moment of my career so far happened during the pandemic. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to bits with all the emcee works that I’ve accomplished in the past decade since starting in this industry, but my biggest accomplishment was last year, when I sat down and started to create my own public speaking course. It has been on the back burner, back of my mind for the past five years and it has occurred to me on numerous occasions that it could be something wonderful to do, to be able to guide and mentor younger emcees and people who struggle with public speaking. So this year, I finally sat down and created my course and I’m about to launch my website called The Articulate Community.
YOU’VE HOSTED A MYRIAD OF EVENTS FOR RENOWNED CLIENTS. WHAT GOES INTO YOUR PREP-WORK BEFORE AN EVENT?
I would say number one is obviously going for briefings whether it’s virtual briefings or face to face, to ask questions about the client. It’s really important to do research first to understand what the brand represents, what are they all about, what they are launching and come up with a list of questions that you might need to figure out during that meeting. So, it could be anything from a check on dress-code, going through the entire flow of the event step-by-step to the smallest of details. I also always like to ask what is Plan B if Plan A doesn’t work, and I think that is really important because you are the facilitator and the moderator for the entire event. You would need to know not just what you would do but proposing to the client and finding out what their take is on things because sometimes it’s important to make sure these minor hiccups that can happen are addressed and that the client is okay with Plan B that you proposed or that they have their own version. Those are some of the most crucial things before the event. The second part is the paperwork or the prep work in terms of writing your script. Sometimes, the clients are really particular and have their own script sent to you, but other times, you write your own script and in situations like that it’s again important to do research about the company and the tonality you should be using in your language, the language you should be using in your content and understanding the flow so that when you script it, it’s going to sound natural going from one part of the event to the next. The third thing, that is quite important, is figuring out what your wardrobe is going to be in advance, so it’s really important to ask the client beforehand on the dress code so you come prepared and are appropriately dressed for the occasion. I would also bring a backup pair of shoes and clothes in the car because accidents happen and you want to be prepared. The fourth thing is mental prep work, which means immersing yourself in the content of the event, understanding the uniqueness of each event, really getting your head around from start to finish because at the end of the day, everyone will look to you to cue each segment. So, you really have to sink your teeth into the program to really memorise that, go through the script as much as possible and rehearse multiple times so you are extremely confident with the content and the manner it’s presented. The last step I would say, is to arrive early on the day for soundcheck and just doing your very best for the client.
DO YOU FACE ANY CHALLENGES IN THIS ASPECT?
There are plenty of challenges as an emcee because the event industry is such that it can be very unpredictable. For example, the time might be delayed, VIPs arrive late and there might be even a last minute change in VIP names. So, it’s up to you to make sure everything is changed and you are saying it accurately. There are plenty of things that can happen and have happened; take it all in stride and that means really being present in the moment, not being on your phone or talking to someone else, but anticipating what may happen, what to do and to say and how to handle the moment. I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of challenges with my favourite example being that I was hosting a fashion show when the music went out and the models platform for these kids to go to school, with two meals a day, really trying to not just take care of their education but also their mental well-being to a certain degree. They do a fantastic job and I would like to say thank you for the opportunity to mention this. Anyone who is reading this and would like to learn more can head over to NTA refugee school on Facebook and get in touch with them.
MARCH 8, 2022 MARKS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL?
I would say my role model is definitely my sister because she is adventurous, bold and is always getting out of her comfort zone. That to me is something that I aspire to be and am constantly were still walking. At that moment, it occurred to me that it was a song I knew, so I went out on stage, started singing and got everyone else to sing and clap along. At the end of it, everyone had a good time. It is moments like that when you are able to think on the spot that the clients really appreciate.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR WORK WITH NTA REFUGEE SCHOOLS.
I have been with the NTA refugee school for about six years now, unfortunately, I don’t do any of the hard work on the ground but instead, I have been contributing for the past 6 years by spreading the world, sharing the cause and organising charity webinars to raise funds and trying to find collaboration with brands to raise funds but ultimately, the hard work is something that my best friend who is one of the co-founder does. Essentially, we get a lot of refugee families who land on our Malaysian shores and the ones that are up north who are on the fringe of society don’t have any access to anything such as healthcare and education. So this is where NTA comes in and provides that striving to do.
HAVE YOU FACED ANY BARRIERS IN YOUR CAREER DUE TO BEING A WOMAN? IF SO, HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
I honestly have been quite fortunate that I have not experienced any barriers in my line of work. I think in media and entertainment, there are plenty more opportunities for both men and women and so I am really lucky in that sense. Of course, there have been comments of discrimination every now and then, however, for me, I have always pushed on through and played the quality of my performance work as a main priority and really focussed on that because I firmly believe that my actions, character and actual delivery speaks volumes and is what changes peoples minds. So if someone doesn’t have as much confidence as you to take on the job, you prove them wrong by being yourself, doing your thing, having faith and trusting yourself in the process. I think that in and of itself is very powerful.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN?
The most important piece of advice that I’ve been given is to do things with conviction. So in everything that you do, do it with conviction, with a sense of purpose and commitment, otherwise it’s not worth doing.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGE YOU WANT TO SEND OUT TO YOUNG WOMEN THINKING ABOUT THEIR CAREERS?
My advice for young women out there starting their careers is to firstly, take on as many opportunities as possible, as diverse as they may be and explore them to really figure out what you love doing and what your passions are. Secondly, once you have done that, commit yourself, go all in and if you can, find a mentor to help you and give it your best in order to level up and carve out the career that you want for yourself. Thirdly, have some fun along the way, don’t take yourself too seriously and make sure you find time for yourself, family and friends.
IF YOU COULD HAVE DINNER WITH THREE INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN, DEAD OR ALIVE, WHO WOULD THEY BE AND WHY?
I would definitely say Greta Thunberg, because I think she is an incredible young lady who is doing so much and is so bold and amazing to watch her go out there and challenge world leaders into taking real action to battle this climate crisis. The second and third person I would say would be my paternal great grandmother and maternal grandmother because I have never really gotten the chance to know them and it would be incredible to find out what life was like when they were growing up, at my age or Gretha’s age, and what they would think of the crazy state of affairs in 2022 and if they would have predicted any of the things happening today. Also, it would be really lovely to learn about my family, origins, what life was like for them and getting in touch with my roots. I think the four of us would have some really great conversations.