Winners’ Interview

PROJECT M 2019: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH WINNERS CLAUDIA LIM AND ERNEST SIOW

After being crowned the winners of Project M’s annual model search competition, what’s next for Claudia Lim and Ernest Siow? For now, it seems, the sky’s the limit.

ON CLAUDIA: Striped dress, $69, Lucia. Jessa top-stitch jacket (worn around waist), $49, The Editor’s Market. Sunglasses, $168, Glimpse. Belt, $7.90, Yishion. ON ERNEST: Bomber jacket, $32.90, Hi Style. Jacket, $129, and T-shirt, $49, H:CONNECT. Cross-body bag, $89.90, Pedro.

It is a warm Thursday afternoon on the rooftop of Bugis+. The sun is beating down mercilessly. For many of us, that would be reason enough to admit defeat and retreat to the air-conditioned indoors. But the relentless heat goes unnoticed by two models in the midst of a gruelling day-long photo shoot.

At first glance, it would appear that Claudia Lim and Ernest Siow are industry pros with years of modelling experience under their belts. Perched precariously on boxes, they strike pose after pose as the photographer’s camera clicks away. No instructions necessary – these two know their stuff. Finally, we call it a day, and it’s all smiles for the models who show no signs of fatigue whatsoever.

Despite their professionalism, Claudia and Ernest are no veterans. In fact, it has only been four months since the two were crowned this year’s winners of Project M and subsequently embarked on their modelling careers. “It is crazy how life can change in such a short span of time,” Claudia, 24, recalls.

“Sometimes I look back on the journey and can hardly believe it.”

On Claudia: Jacket, $269, HARDY HARDY. Mogen striped shirt, $45, The Editor’s Market. Rainbow top, $24.95, TEMT. Necklace, $15, ZENZI

On Ernest: PUMA x HAN KJØBENHAVN striped jacket, $219, Cayenne sweater, $159, and striped pants, $199, Puma. Sunglasses, $29, KIMOJ. Cross-body, $19.90, Yishion. On Claudia: Tank top, $17.90, and striped pants, $39.90, Playdress. Mogen striped shirt, $45, The Editor’s Market.

ON CLAUDIA: Multicoloured cropped top, $34.90, and skirt, $41.90, MDS. Straw hat, $16.95, TEMT. Sandals, $89.90, Pedro. Tights, stylist’s own.

THE PATH TO PROJECT M
Funnily enough, neither Claudia nor Ernest set out to join Project M in the first place. They can thank their friends for submitting their applications (without their knowledge). “You could say I was sabotaged!” Claudia jokes. “But I knew that Project M was a chance to step out of my comfort zone, challenge myself, and try something different for once.”

For 23-year-old Ernest, it was a case of now or never. “Modelling was something I had always yearned to do, but there was never a right time or place to start – until Project M came along.”

Despite their initially uncertain start, Claudia and Ernest immediately dove into the rigorous competition – from casting all the way to the final – and eventually found their groove. Striking looks aside, the self-professed dark horses impressed the judges with their work ethic and quiet determination. Ernest recalls: “Addie Low (founder of NOW Model Management and one of the judges) calls me ‘the quiet one’ because I would always be in the corner of the room practising my runway walk.” Having had no prior experience in modelling, Claudia knew she was at a disadvantage during the competition. “Compared with the other contestants, I had the most to improve on. But I saw that as an opportunity to make strides and become the best version of myself.”

And that they both did.

On Ernest: Sweatshirt hoodie, $29.90, Hi Style. Top, $45, and sweat shorts, $49, Alcoholiday. Sunglasses, $168, Glimpse. PUMA x HAN KJØBENHAVN backpack, $249, Puma.

On Claudia: Long vest, $59, iora. Matching set of vest and pants, $89, ZENZI. Dress, $69, Sans & Sans. On Ernest: Jacket, $129, H:CONNECT. Striped shirt, $49, Alcoholiday. Oxford pants, $49.99, Cotton On.

THE JOURNEY AHEAD
Project M was an “intense and eye-opening” experience. Another term Claudia would use to describe her journey to becoming this year’s champion? Life-changing. For years, she had focused all her attention on her first passion: architecture (she recently graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Masters in Architecture). “But winning the competition has opened my eyes to new opportunities.”

In the last four months, the leggy beauty (standing at 1.77m tall) has signed on to NOW Model Management and booked modelling gigs for Bugis Junction and Bugis+, Nuyou, and Swedish womenswear label SABINA SÖDERBERG (just to name a few). So where does Claudia see herself in five or 10 years? For now, she has no definite answer. “I’m an improvisator by nature! So at any moment, I probably have 10 schemes up my sleeve.” One of the aforementioned schemes is to combine her love for art and fashion. “I see a lot of similarities in both disciplines,” she notes. “I hope to someday start my own practice and do modelling concurrently.”

Ernest, on the other hand, has it all worked out. His objective is clear: to model full-time. At the moment, he is pursuing a Bachelor’s in Banking and Finance at the Singapore Institute of Management (University of London), but his ultimate goal is to work with international luxury brands and eventually make it to a Fashion Week. “In five years’ time, I plan to be living my dreams and living life to the fullest.”

Whatever life may have in store for Claudia and Ernest, it’s clear that the sky’s the limit.

Photography Veronica Tay, assisted by Melvin Leong. Fashion Styling Jerome Awasthi, assisted by Eugene Gideon. Hair Ash Loi Makeup Lolent Lee.

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