“Don’t let race, skin colour or even your economic background deter you, because everything is possible when you put your mind to it,” declares Michelle Quan, makeup creator, mother and brand ambassador, in a stirring interview with Liviani Putri.
Learning about what she does and listening to what she has to stay, it’s pretty clear that the maxim “forty is the new thirty” definitely applies to Michelle Quan. The life story of the Surabaya-based creator of LT PRO Perfect Glow Liquid Highlighter and brand ambassador for Under Armour, the edgy footwear, sports, and casual apparel brand, teaches us that nothing is impossible, as long we dream enough and work hard for it.
“Luckily, my husband and family have been really supportive about my career choices,” smiles the 41-year-old Australian beauty, who runs and works out to keep healthy and in shape, and looks a decade younger than her years. “They see how hard working I am, and all the progress I have made so far. As an expat, there were a lot of differences for me to adjust to when I moved to Indonesia 17 years ago. But life became much easier when I started to understand Indonesian ways and to accept everything. And surprise, surprise… now I’m in love with Indonesian culture!”
Michelle laughs about having finally managed to check something off her bucket list, which was to appear on the cover of Prestige. “A few months ago, I was looking at your issue featuring Adinda Bakrie and I thought: ‘Wow, she looks damn good!’ I was wondering, when will it be my turn?
“But I know the magazine only features influential people who make an impact on society, so I put the idea at the back of my mind. But then, out of the blue, I get a phone call from the magazine asking if I would like to be photographed. I jumped out of my chair! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Until two weeks ago, I didn’t know that I was going to be on the cover of Prestige. I’m beyond blessed to have the opportunity.”
Born and raised in Australia, Michelle launched her career in makeup and beauty when she was 18 years old, even though her parents wanted her to do something more academic. “I remember when I was a child, sitting in the corner and watching my mother having her makeup done by a makeup artist. I dreamed about becoming a makeup artist, too,” she says.
“I believe that I was destined to be in the beauty industry. Sure, my mother was against it at the beginning. But I kept pursuing my dream by working persistenly and very hard. It took some time to prove to her that I could be successful at it, but now I can see clearly that she is proud of me.”
The secret to looking good? It’s all about having flawless skin, Michelle says, adding that she loves the no-makeup look. Getting ready for her Prestige cover shoot was effortless. It took her a mere 10 minutes.
“I learned this in the early stages of my career,” Michelle says. “When I used to work for magazines, the editor would look at the photos with a microscope to see how good the makeup was. There was no filter and no editing at that time. If you were no good at it, it couldn’t be fixed and you would be out of a job. But then I learned that when the skin is beautiful, everything will go beautifully. And you know what the secret is? It comes from inside.”
Looking back on her move to Surabaya with her husband 15 years ago, Michelle reflects that her early years in Indonesia were no easy ride. “It took me a while to adjust, and at first I fought against it. Later, I decided to compromise and then life here became a lot easier.”
It didn’t take her long to become one of the most in-demand makeup artists in Surabaya. Her humble and bubbly personality surely steals the heart of everyone who meets her. She lives a busy life, juggling the demands of her career and being wife and mother of a son.
Although she’s the personification of wellness today, there was a period in Michelle’s life when she neglected her health. “I lost myself, which resulted in gaining a lot of weight. I became the most unfit person, and my body called out to me that I couldn’t go on like that forever. Ageing won’t stop, as we can’t stop time. The only thing we can do is to control our own bodies.
“Two years ago, I reversed my lifestyle and began working out. I was starting from zero, and the memories are still fresh in my mind of when I couldn’t keep up with everyone else in the class. Everything was so painful, and there were days when I ended up blanking out or vomiting. But I knew that if I kept pushing forward, everything would get better.”
During her transformative journey, Michelle recorded her progress on social media. Initially, it was only for personal documentation. She didn’t think that her posts would capture the public’s attention. “But gradually, followers sent me messages, telling me how they felt encouraged by what I was doing. Then I made a promise to myself: If I can inspire just one person, I’ll keep going.”
It was her positivity and example that convinced Under Armour to make Michelle a brand ambassador in 2019. “This was something that I didn’t dare to dream of before,” she beams. “It’s thrilling because I just do what I love to do, and get recognised for it. I’m thankful to Under Armour for the opportunity, because I’m now able to tell every woman out there not to be scared of ageing. Because if you dream it hard enough, guess what? You can be it. I started to reach my peak at 40, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
As well as fitness and wellness, her followers also look to Michelle for style tips. “To be honest, I don’t follow fashion,” she admits. “I wear what I love and what I’m comfortable with. My go-to look is a white shirt, high-waist black pants and high heels. As I’ve grown older, I have become simpler. I’ve learned that confidence shows through when you feel good in your own skin.
“I’ve finally been able to release a lot of life baggage in recent years. I’ve learned that it’s OK to fail. Like the song goes, you just have to pick yourself up and start all over again, because each failure is also one step closer to success. Seriously. A winner keeps trying, and I learned that along the way. From daily training, I put this philosophy into family and career life. I’ve realised that there is no amount of hard work that is a waste of time.
“I’ve learned that it’s OK to fail. Like the song goes, you just have to pick yourself up and start all over again, because each failure is also one step closer to success.”
“To every person out there, I say seriously, dare to dream. Don’t be afraid to work hard and to pray even harder. Believe me, they do come true. I came from Australia without knowing anything about Indonesia, but I’ve been able to reach out and create the life I have now. Don’t let race, skin colour or even economic background deter you because everything is possible when you put your mind to it.
“I don’t really focus on what people think and say about me, because this is my own journey. I choose to be happy, regardless anything that I went through. Our mind is such a powerful mechanism, as it can manifests into what we like to project. You will be surprised that you can go through a lot even when you think you can’t. To every woman out there, I say: Never compare yourself to anyone, just do it for yourself.
“In the end, I surrender everything to God. Whatever journey He wants to give me, I would walk proudly, loudly and strongly. My only wish is to empower as many women out there as I can, and to be able to tell every single soul out there: Love yourself and the world will be a better place in which to live.”
PHOTOGRAPHER Ryan Tandya
STYLING Brad Homes
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