Think of a pair of PUMA kicks and chances are a megastar (hello RiRi and Cara Delevingne) comes to mind too. The German sportswear giant isn’t just all about the hype, though. With its line-up of influential women comes empowerment of equal measure.
From the brand’s #DoYou campaign – which profiles extraordinary women all over the world – to Selena Gomez’s ‘Strong Girl’ collection, PUMA’s been driving one thing home as of late: women can do it all. And the brand’s latest sneaker release, aptly dubbed ‘Rise’ was constructed with the ambitious, on-the-go woman in mind. Think: breathable mesh uppers for a comfortable fit, a supportive, padded sole for all-day wearability and an overall lightweight built. Complete with a fresh mint green, white and orange colourway, the sneaker – now available on PUMA.com and PUMA stores – Bugis+, Century Square, ION Orchard, Jem, Jewel Changi Airport, Paragon, The Shoppes @ Marina Bay Sands (PUMA SELECT), VivoCity as well as OG People’s Park, On Pedder, Robinsons and Royal Sporting House.
And our idea of a woman doing it all? International runway model and two-time Female covergirl Layla Ong. A quick scroll through her Instagram (@laylaong) and it’s clear that Ong is booked and busy. In just a few short years, the quirky-cool model’s unique good looks have taken her from a spontaneous open casting at Singapore modelling agency Basic Models to walking for some of fashion’s most esteemed brands. And at only 23-years-old, the former Asia’s Next Top Model contestant is showing no signs of slowing down. Literally.
Ong’s days are now a dizzying mash-up of travel (blazing runways from Milan to the South of France); fittings and keeping her 45.3K Instagram followers – a sizeable sum of which are young female fans – updated. And while most might get swept up by the thrill of being Singapore’s biggest Gen Z model-of-the-moment, Ong retains her laidback, easygoing demeanour as well as a down-to-earth attitude towards her success. While she acknowledges the work she’s put in to get here, Ong continues to hustle for the future – and as the quirky model would have it, she’s headed towards her goals her own way.
Below, she gives us an honest glimpse of life as a model-on-the-rise – from her biggest challenges to what it truly takes to rep the +65.
How do you feel about your rise in the international modelling industry so far?
“I feel like my work so far has been a blessing. I’m very grateful for all the people who have helped me this far.”
How do you think it has made any cultural or societal impact here or overseas?
“Here, I feel like more girls see how modelling can be something – that it can be a job and a passion. Overseas, I feel people are realising that Singaporeans actually can model and that we’re venturing into the whole new modelling scene.”
Breakdown what life for a model-on-the-rise is like.
“Life for a model-on-the-rise means you actually have to be prepared. You’ll get last minute requests, castings and jobs. I think you sort of have to just get ready for everything. For me, I don’t have any expectations so whatever comes I’ll just go for it.”
What has the greatest rewards been through your rise in the global modelling industry?
“I feel like my greatest rewards would be that I’ve worked with creative people, really talented ones. I also feel like I have the opportunity to travel around the globe and really see things beyond just what you see in photographs.”
What have been the biggest challenges that you have faced in your rise in the modelling industry?
“My rise has been not that easy. One of the biggest challenges would be the rejections – cliche, but it’s true. Otherwise, it’s my size. I’ve been told that I’m too small and too petite for clothes. And lastly, I think it’ll be my height. I’m not that tall. I’ve not hit the standard model height which is 1.78. I’m 1.75.
Honestly, modelling is not all glitz and glamour. There’s a lot of stress that you have to go through. For example, keeping up with your diet, your proportions and also ensuring your skin is in good condition. There’s a lot of waiting as well in day-to-day jobs. Behind all the make up and pretty clothes, there’s a lot of stress. There’s really a lot of pressure as well.”
How have you overcome these challenges?
“If you’re faced with any difficulties, face them head on. Try different things, really accept and embrace them. Only then can you move on.”
What should every woman who has similar aspirations know and be prepared for?
“I feel like women who aspire to be models should follow your heart. If you think that it’s your time to do it – to go to an audition, or to start your modelling career, try it, at least you won’t be disappointed … this industry is actually very flexible and very decent.”
You’re without doubt Singapore’s biggest Gen Z model. Is your rise complete?
“Honestly, of all that I’ve done, I feel like it has really been out of my expectations, but my rise wouldn’t be complete without a Vogue.”
Complete this sentence. To rise…
“To rise is to fail first.”