Asia’s Next Top Model and Rubini Sambanthan first crossed paths when she was shortlisted during the early stages for Cycle 3. However, it was not in the cards—timing was an issue as she was tied up in Tokyo representing Miss International Malaysia in 2014. She then gave Cycles 4 and 5 a miss as she was completing her degree in finance and accounting. Fast forward to Cycle 6 and the model’s ready to give it another shot.
1. Congrats on being Malaysia’s only representative on AsNTM this year! What motivated you to join this season?
“It all started on Instagram, that’s how I was scouted for the show. It wasn’t an easy decision to agree to it as I had just lost my older brother at that time. It took me a while to say yes, I’m still grieving, but by being on the show I’m hoping people will see that I can be strong and professional despite circumstances.”
2. You’ve had a standing career in modelling locally prior to joining AsNTM. What were you hoping to get out of the competition?
“Self-satisfation. Going internationally is something I’ve not done yet, and I saw AsNTM as a great platform to showcase myself out of Malaysia.
3. Did you face any challenges coming into the competition despite your previous experience?
“I took time to adapt because I’m used to being told to “Stand still and just show the outfit”, and sell the clothes in lookbook and campaign shoots. In a competition, [the producers are] selling y-o-u and your personality. That was a kind of a culture shock.”
4. Can you please tell us your experience walking into the competition as a racial minority?
“[I felt] the pressure of being a coloured model and seeing how far I could [go]. But honestly, to be scouted by [the producers] because they wanted a coloured model in the show is amazing.”
5. Who is your supermodel role model?
“I love all models in the ’90s because [they represented] all kinds of body types and shapes. My favourites are Yasmeen Ghauri, Liya Kebede, Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks.”
6. If you could bring a fellow model from season 6 to Malaysia and give her a personal tour, where would you bring her and why?
“Jalan Alor for food so she can try Malaysian flavours. I recently made a trip to Lang Tengah and loved it, so that’d be a good spot, too.”
7. Tell us about your most memorable travel experience.
“I did a 14-day backpack trip by land through Indochina, and survived on RM1,400 with public transport, budget hotels and street food. My 7-hour train ride to Bangkok was amazing, the landscapes are phenomenal, and I really enjoyed seeing Angkor Wat. Everyone should try backpacking at least once in their life.”
8. The contestants were on a strict no-phone and no-Internet rule. What was it like going on a digital detox during the filming of the show?
“When they first took my phone away, it was hardest for me to let go of the pictures inside it, and not being able to see photographs of my family. Also, my mum calls me everyday no matter what, so months without talking to her was difficult. But… you come out more focused. [Prior to the show] I’d be on the phone all the time and now I’ve gained the ability to go without it.”
9. What do you do to stay balanced?
“Feeding strays is my therapy. I’ve started doing this since my brother’s passing, and my mum helps me stock up on food. I recently found 11 puppies, one was seriously injured and I had to send her to the vet. I’m hoping she makes a speedy recovery.”
10. What’s your advice to Malaysian girls who want to pursue a career in fashion modelling?
“Go for it but be prepared, it’ll be tough. You can’t please everyone, there will be negative comments—ignore it! Focus on the good and fight back with positivity.”
Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 6 premieres on 22 August on Fox Life at 9PM (GMT +8).
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