Influence Asia 2017

April 13, 2017
Photo by Jaschong Photography (@redcameraguy)
My friend Terrence gave me tickets to Influence Asia, the largest social media award show in Asia. I was interested mainly because Jessica Jung was one of the performers. With zero expectation, we almost walkd in wearing our usual shirts and jeans, but at the very last minute, we were told that the dress code was black tie. "Seriously…? Isn't it just a show?" Oh boy was I wrong. Hundreds of young people, including my twenty-year-old cousin, lined up for hours to get in the Plenary Hall and cheered for their favourite social media stars.

The show started with cool music and feverish screams from the fans. A few friends even expressed their jealousy when they saw our Instagram story - us sitting inside the plenary hall. I felt like an outcast as I hardly recognized them at all. Then I finally understood, I'd been living in a cave. The hottest boys and girls in town are all here.

I curated some gorgeous photos of the event from #influenceasia2017 for your viewing pleasure. These beautiful people are bloggers, Youtubers and Instagrammers, in which collectively they are called social media influencers. As you can tell, this is a glitzy glamorous event, not the shirt-and-jeans kind that we thought.

@chandraliow. Thailand. YouTuber. 1.2 million followers.

@pimtha. Belle of the night from Thailand. 2.8 million followers. 
A post shared by PIMTHA (@pimtha) on

Tricia Gosingtian. Phillipines. Fashionista and photographer. She's probably the only one I follow. Her photography is amazing.
A post shared by Tricia Gosingtian-Gabunada (@tgosingtian) on

Walking around the convention center, my sister Shan was constantly pointing to me so and so was the hottest girl in Malaysia now. So and so is the popular Youtuber now, gaining half a million views in one day. This girl in backless dress is the babe of the country now, and that girl with the sparkly dress is the queen of Instagram.

I was awestruck. The local social media stars in my mind was Marina Mahathir, Namewee, Jane Chuck and the radio DJs. The Thailand ones were perhaps Happy Polla and Lowcostcosplay (opps). Where do these uber glamorous people come from?

“Influence is the new currency.” 

The influencers create content ranging from beauty, fashion, food, parenting, lifestyle to entertainment. And this event was dedicated to celebrate and award some crème-de-la-crème in Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Korea. They are way more than just good-looking, young, cool and fun. Most of them have at least 100,000 followers on social media. A handful of them have millions. To put things in perspective, that’s like 10% of the population in the whole Malaysia. Whatever they say, millions of people are going to hear it. They are even more powerful than most of the politicians.

Here are some more photos for your viewing pleasure. I deliberately chose the Malaysian ones in case you’ve been living under the well like me.

@cupcake_aishah, 16 years old. Malaysia. Youtuber.

 Christinna K. Malaysia. Blogger. 122k followers.
A post shared by CHRISTINNA. K (@ms_kuan) on

Johanis, 19 years old. Malaysia. Youtuber.

Emma Shazleen, 23 years old. Malaysia. Blogger. Business Owner. Mother of two.
A post shared by Emma Shazleen 📍KL (@emmashazleen) on

Jinnyboy. Malaysia. Youtuber. Winner of the night.

Attention please

These influencers are redefining what we knew about marketing, career, creativity and the most striking one, big and small choices. Who do you go to for product review? Where do you search for the best cafes in town? Whose travel photos that you're obsessed with? Whose wedding is your reference?

We casually google and look for recommendations and reviews. The influencers are friendly, approachable and ordinary people, just like us. Although I do suspect if they are really like us, after witnessing the glamour of their look and their seemingly perfect lives portrayed on social media.

The branding and marketing strategy they used to build trust and garner attention is crazily effective, way more than conventional billboard or media advertising. As Seth Godin would say, permission marketing. "WHAT MATTERS MOST IS THE ATTENTION." says Gary Vaynerchuk. At this generation where attention is the scarcest resource, the influencers won our eyeballs with their impeccable style. How information spreads is a massive revolution now. That strikes me the most - are we capable to keep up with the revolution?

Good influence and impact

You might shrug, "Numbers don't matter. It's the work that counts." Well, I too, was at first questioning their approach. But after geekily reading up about some of them, I'm impressed. It takes tremendous effort and maintenance to sustain their look, influence and audience. Of course there are some rotten apples in the barrel, some influencers are contributing to social awareness and conversation too. Some of the topics include cyberbullying, homosexuality, parenting and health.

If you’ve ever uploaded a photo or edited a video, you know how tricky it can be and how exposed you feel. But these influencers exhibit high level of commitment and dedication, and they seem... brave, that's rare in our culture. Traditionally we are taught to be hard-working, quiet, humble and low-key. But clearly things are changing. Everyone is building a brand called 'you'. What will happen in the years to come? Will we be more open to different kind of jobs or personalities or lifestyle, or will the gap be bigger between the traditionalists and avant-garde?

The laymen, Shan and I
Are you a creative person?

It was eye-opening to see the interesting and refreshing content they put out to the world. Photography wise, some of them can turn any regular coffee mug to super glamorous, uber cool, striking shots. What sorcery is this? Ahh, no sorcery there, it's creativity.

I went through the traditional education system, was told to land a stable and secure job, take the safe path and think inside the box. Creativity didn't have any room at all. I basically memorized theories, sat for the exams and hoped for good grades. I think not just me, many of us were produced and packaged by the same mould. Just to add context to this post, the current education system that we have was developed during the Industrial Revolution to train factory workers. The goal was to make everybody think and work similarly, and follow the same instructions. Clearly, the dynamic is changing, this system doesn’t work anymore.

We embrace people who come up with remarkable things. Interesting ideas are praised and spread like wildfire. Beautiful creation and machinery do not come out of following instructions, they are the results of innovation and environment. Are we ready for this? Is the education system keeping up with the dynamic?

Break your thought pattern

When we see something new, it's easy to explain it using the information we were fed. Taking this social media award as an example, I did feel disbelief and skeptical, not because I was judging their business models and rational aspects like that, but merely because I wasn't taught that this career path was plausible. What was taught to me (the factory mindset), what’s happening now and what I think are not surprisingly, different. After recognizing this pattern, I'm playing with the idea if I should/can/want to keep or break it. With things changing, sometimes we can't use the systems we are taught to predict and judge the present.

I was sharing this experience with my scientist friends. We agreed that this social media revolution hasn't affected us... yet. But it is already happening elsewhere, the challenge is to embrace change and stay competent. Every path is different, but it boils down to passion, perseverance and adventure. We are all using our own way to make an impact and create value on topics we are interested in.

So, two questions for you:
1. Do you notice a change in things, people and culture around you?
2. Who or what impacts you the most? Is it a person, a book, a drama series, a website, or maybe, somebody on Facebook?

Never stop learning. - E 


  1. I know some of the Chinese Malaysian social influencers, and the emma shazleen was definitely looking stunning that night!

    Agree, the people in modern era are changing. Everyday, I have so many books cant finish, coz I spend the time on social medias. haha

    Not only they can turn a normal mug into the exquisite one, u can too!

    1. Hmm okay let's try turning a normal mug into an exquisite one... ;)


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