FashionValet’s campaign to celebrate Merdeka sees 60 local personalities coming together, proudly proclaiming #IAmHomeGrown.

FIRST, there were the fashion bloggers. When the likes of Bryanboy and Tavi Gevinson sat on the front row of fashion shows — a spot once reserved for editors and fashion directors — the comments on their eligibility to sit where they sat were scathing.

But there was no stopping the digital sphere and the story-telling that comes out of it. When Instagram came along, everyone sharpened their photography skills, mastered the use of filters and curate a collage of photos to show his and her envy-inducing lives.

The world follows, to a point that these people develop their own fan base who would try the skincare they use, buy the clothes they wear and eat at restaurants they dine in.

Welcome to the world of influencers, a disruptive technology that has edged traditional media to the sideline and has produced its own line of celebrities.

Those in the old media — myself included — wince at the mere mention of influencers. Who do they influence when you can “buy” Instagram followers? And if I follow you, does that mean I am influenced by you?

Then, someone came up with the term KOL — key opinion leader — which makes Instagram stars sound more serious, even academic in their pursuit.

My first encounter with the term KOL was years ago, when I went for a medical seminar. The KOLs were professors and medical specialists, with decades of experience.

So where is the similarity?

SIXTY FOR SIXTY
But like it or loathe it, one cannot but acknowledge the power of an Instagram star and in her latest project (I’d call it a coup), FashionValet co-founder Vivy Sofinas Yusof, 29, has shown that she is one of, if not the most influential of influencers.

Her @vivyyusof Instagram account has 1.2 million followers, fewer than some other celebrities but her influence is astounding.

To celebrate the 60th year of Independence, Vivy mobilised 60 personalities, from politicians of the opposite spectrum, singers and actors to corporate leaders and entrepreneurs like herself to come together to show their love for this country.

The hashtag #IAmHomeGrown, plastered on the T-shirts they all wore for the photo shoot is a beautiful reminder that we should be proud to be local.

Vivy and her husband, Fadzarudin Shah Anuar, who is the chief executive of FashionValet are fiercely proud of their roots. She studied law in London, and he, aeronautical engineering, but it is in Kuala Lumpur that they started their business from a small office space in Bukit Damansara.

NOTABLE NAMES
The personalities who participated in the campaign included AirAsia Berhad chief executive officer Aireen Omar, model Tengku Azura Tengku Awang, singer Resh, PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, Wanita Umno chief Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and businesswoman Kwan Swee Lian, who founded the popular restaurant Madam Kwan.

Here, some of them share their thoughts on home, Malaysia and what the country needs.

FADZARUDIN SHAH ANUAR, CEO, FASHIONVALET
What does home mean to you?
Home is where my family is.

What is your favourite Malaysian brand?
FashionValet. Duh.

What makes you proud to be a Malaysian?
The country's peace and diversity

If you were to show and tell one item that best represent Malaysia, what would it be?
Nasi lemak.

What is the one thing that you think Malaysia needs?
We need to highlight our local icons more, not just at the national level, but also internationally whenever Malaysia is represented overseas.

HARITH ISKANDER, COMEDIAN AND HIS WIFE AND MODEL, DR JEZAMINE ISKANDER
What does home mean to you?
Harith: Home is a place of refuge. It's where the most important people in my life (my family) stay and is the place I treasure most.
Jezamine: From cooking meals for the family to tripping over the kids’ toys strewn on the floor, everything about home is a reminder of who I am and why I do what I do.

What is your favourite Malaysian brand?
Harith: Chicken Rice... it's a Malaysian food.
Jezamine: Durian! It’s a brand that is truly Malaysian!

What makes you proud to be a Malaysian?
Jezamine: When I watch my husband perform stand-up comedy in a hall full of people and they all are rocking back and forth with laughter — regardless of race, creed or colour.

If you were to show and tell one item that best represent Malaysia, what would it be?
Harith: Our children. Their grandparents are Malay, Chinese, Indian and Other. What more could be more Malaysian?
Jezamine: The kebaya. For some reason, that stylistically strikes me as the best blend of what a truly diverse and beautiful land we lived in. The embroidery, the cut, the lines.

What is the one thing that you think Malaysia needs?
Harith: Some of its people to exercise a little more common sense in their life. We are some of the kindest, most giving people in the world but sometimes common sense seems to fly out the window when decisions are made.
Jezamine: Apart from exercising more common sense, Malaysians need to be more active. Nearly half of our population is overweight or obese. Eat well, work smart, exercise more.

RESH, SINGER/SONGWRITER
What does home mean to you?
The one true place you belong to. It’s that place where you always can go back to and feel like you’ve never left.

What is your favourite Malaysian brand?
My personal favourite brands are Bon Zainal and Key Ng, spearheaded by two outstanding men who are masters of their craft.

What makes you proud to be a Malaysian?
The fact that we are commonly identified to a home ground, regardless of ethnicity and religion. There are few countries that can match this unique way of life that we have in Malaysia, and nothing makes me feel prouder to be a Malaysian than that.

If you were to show and tell one item that best represents Malaysia, what would it be?
Rojak! It has so many different ingredients mixed together to create something so delicious. Just like Malaysia, it is a potpourri of flavours.

What is the one thing you think Malaysia needs?
For all of us to work together …and to keep it together.

PUAN SRI TIARA JACQUELINA

ACTRESS/ PRODUCER
What does home mean to you?
I've been blessed enough to have travelled to so many countries, discovered so many cultures and lived among different people... but there’s always this beautiful feeling I get when I board a plane to KL — no matter what, there’s no place like home, and Malaysia is home.

What is your favourite Malaysian brand?
Kopi ginseng tongkat ali, no specific brand.

What makes you proud to be a Malaysian?
I'm most proud of the Malaysian spirit whenever we unite to cheer on our football team, badminton team, Olympic athletes. It’s magical when everyone comes together.

If you were to show and tell one item that best represents Malaysia, what would it be?
I hope to “show and tell” the spirit of the Malaysia that I remember and love, from my childhood, when I stage OlaBola the Musical in February next year. I cried my eyes out when I watched the movie because that was a beautiful time in history when we were so “together” as a young nation, happy to enjoy the simpler things in life, and the opportunity to do your country proud was valued more than anything else.

What is the one thing you think Malaysia needs?
Malaysia needs to celebrate together more often. To lift each other up more, and to aspire together to build the great nation we have the capacity to be.

MARION CAUNTER, TV PRESENTER
What does home mean to you?
Home is a place I can return to and always feel welcomed and at peace.

What is your favourite Malaysian brand?
I have so many favourite Malaysian brands. In terms of fashion, I really like what Innai Red is doing at the moment.

What makes you proud to be a Malaysian?
Being able to celebrate so many different festivities with my family and friends. We are so diverse in religion and culture, there is always something new that I am learning about our beautiful country.

If you were to show and tell one item that best represents Malaysia, what would it be?
Our national carrier, Malaysia Airlines. As a kid who studied overseas, I would always almost tear up upon landing, hearing the captain greet us. There was no other feeling like it, knowing we were almost home.

What is the one thing you think Malaysia needs?
I come from a mixed race family. My kids are mixed. My brother-in-law is also about to enter into a mixed marriage. What has been rather disappointing is the way people have responded to our union. I hate to say this but I can’t help but realise that our country is still divided by race. We need to come together as Malaysians. Not as Chinese, Malays or Indians, but as Malaysians. Embrace our differences and unite for a better Malaysia.

AIREEN OMAR, CEO, AIRASIA BERHAD
What does home mean to you?
Home is where you are accepted for who you are, and allowed to grow to be the best version of you.

What is your favourite Malaysian brand?
AirAsia! A Malaysian brand that has evolved into a global brand.

What makes you proud to be a Malaysian?
The most number of holidays in the world! We celebrate everything!

If you were to show and tell one item that best represents Malaysia, what would it be?
Baju Kedah.

What is the one thing you think Malaysia needs?
Passion and creativity.

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