It’s not just lip service for someone like Ally Mukhriz. Find out how someone like her (and her famous family) “grew up normal”.
Text and Interview Lina Esa and Pamela Choo Photography Ryan Chiu Make-up Angie Leong Yet Cheng/YSL Beaute Hair Cody Chua Styling Voon Wei Art Direction Mils Gan and Voon Wei Wardrobe Afiq M and Ally’s own Videography Aishath Adam
What are the odds of someone’s life coming full circle in the way that Ally Mukhriz’s has? If you didn’t already know, her grandfather is the current Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who re-entered office following the General Elections in 2018 (and was also the longest serving Prime Minister for Malaysia from 1981 to 2003!).
Following her budding interest in advertising, Ally also went from interning at various ad agencies when she was 16, to now working in advertising as a social media professional. From living a fairly regular life despite a family in power, to trying to find her path after high school (like a lot of us), Ally is walking proof that people are never just one thing, at any one time.
The multi-faceted Ally quickly found a knack for business and recently completed her Masters in Strategic Marketing at Imperial College London. Add to that her Insta-famous status (she has 164k followers!), the 23-year-old Master’s graduate showed her totally casual, down-to-earth side at #TeamCLEO’s exclusive shoot.
On set, she rocked YSL Rouge Volupté Shine lip shades while opening up about the concept of “New Malaysia”, what should empower women, how she’s a total nerd (a fan of Harry Potter, Star Wars and video games to be precise) and how she finds herself “quite funny”.
We understand you have a keen interest in advertising. What brought that about?
I’ve always studied business and enjoyed it. I think I gravitated more towards advertising because I thought it was so fun. Well, fun in the sense that you can be a bit whacky; you can go for pitches and shoots. Working [behind-the-scenes], not starring in shoots [laughs]. To elaborate, I like the more creative side of advertising.
I like seeing ads around. I also love working on like a pitch or some sort of idea, and then driving on the street and seeing it on a billboard. I think that for me is my favourite part. My dad was also in advertising. I interned at various advertising agencies since the age of 16. So I think by the age of 16, I kind of knew my path. I just knew that I wanted to get into business, and advertising seemed like the best fit for me and I stuck to it.
“I went from failing to going to one of the best Universities in the UK.”
What do you do now?
I’m a social media manager at M&C Saatchi Malaysia. We do campaigns. We have to come up with the entire concept. Any competitions that we might want to do, we come up with that. Mechanics, everything. Then we ask the designers to make something tangible clients can see.
Is there a story leading up to you doing your Master’s you want to share with us?
When I was 18, I did my sixth form exams and I failed. Like I really failed. I thought when I failed my exams, I was not smart enough to do business, so that’s why I settled for Geography. And then, turns out I wasn’t smart enough for Geography, and [the University] put me in business! I was at Royal Holloway University for three years and I did really well.
I kind of picked myself up again. And then I worked for a year and I decided to do my Master’s. I said, ”I’m not going to bother doing my Master’s unless it’s in Imperial.” And I managed to get in! So I went from failing to going to one of the best Universities in the UK.
The new year is here and change is happening in Malaysia — what are your renewed hopes for yourself and the country?
I think the intentions for the original tagline “New Malaysia” were good. It opened the gateway to a two-party system democracy and paved the way for the next government to oppose the current government. It gave the road for people to say, ”I can fight for what I want and there’s a chance that I could get it.” But you know how politics in general is like a pendulum. We swung one way during the elections, but now people are fighting for it to swing the other way.
When people were protesting the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), saying they want to protect Malay rights, they were being so vocal about it and that wasn’t the grounds in which the New Malaysia was started. It was more of an inclusive movement. We have to be aware that there are people who live differently and there are different cultures and religions.
“Being nine, you’re not really aware of the gravity of prominent figures. So I grew up pretty normal.”
What was it like growing up with prominent figures in the family?
When my grandfather was Prime Minister the first time, when he resigned, it was 2004. I was nine [years old]. Being nine, you’re not really aware of the gravity of prominent figures. So I grew up pretty normal. When I was born, we were still living with my grandparents. When I became a teenager, my dad was still in business then. So again, pretty normal. The only difference that I realised was that I was a local girl who went to an international school …
And then my dad became a politician and it wasn’t that much different to when he was a businessman because he was just busy all the time.
When my grandfather got elected again, I think that was the first time I really felt the gravity [of the situation] and I think it’s because people said it to me more often — the importance of my family or prominent figures. It was grilled into me way more obviously this time round.
How did it feel like when he won?
I was crying. I was just sobbing. But [I was thinking], we did it! I think during election season, I was talking to some people and the whole way that corruption was happening in Malaysia, and how we just never lost. BN had never lost. For me, I was hoping at the back of my mind, but I would still say, “Oh we’ll never win, but maybe?” [laughs]
So when we won, it was a big thing. I was actually in London [when everything was happening]. I was at my old university, because my cousin goes there and so did my brother. We went to watch it together at her house. And it was really nice. We were watching NTV7.
How did you watch it from there?
We streamed it and the lot of us were international school kids. We were really listening. It was so long as well. They delayed the results for so long. We were just waiting there. And then my grandfather did a press conference right before the official thing, and he said ”we’ve won.” I was like, what does that mean?
So I was quietly celebrating. The next day I just woke up on a high. You know, he was being sworn in that day. And then my boyfriend was FaceTiming me, he was going down Semantan and people were holding flags, people were on the side of the road. He was just giving me updates.
What do people not know about you?
I actually have very bad social anxiety. I’m not very good with new situations. [Laughs] I’m also the biggest nerd. I’m so into Harry Potter, Star Wars, fanfiction. I play video games, PS4. I can talk about theories about Game of Thrones or Harry Potter for days.
“I think [being called tall] has defined me for my entire life. people have been saying that i’m just… tall.”
How would you describe yourself in three words?
To describe myself in three words? I think the most descriptive word would be tall. I think it’s defined me for my entire life. People have been saying that I’m just… Tall.
And then — is this self-praising? — but I find myself quite funny. But I have to be very comfortable, and I do off-the-cuff jokes. I bounce off what people say to me. But, I mean I find myself quite funny. I laugh at my own jokes [laughs]. And then also I find myself quite shy in general. So I can be funny, humorous and like very caring, but to get me into that spot takes luck, because I’m quite a shy person in general. But I think that pretty much describes me personality-wise.
Can you describe your style ethos?
My style is actually pretty laidback. I look at Instagram for inspiration and how these girls always look so prim and proper. And I try that for a week, and then I’m like, “I can’t do this.” [laughs]. I am such a find-the-first-thing-in-my-closet-and-put-it-on-and-then-leave-the-house person. I rarely wear make-up actually, except for events. So if I go to work, I wake up, I shower and I’m out the door. Maybe put on some moisturiser and sunblock. But that’s about it. Me and my friend, Joyce, we describe our style as a pair of jeans and a nice T-shirt. [laughs].
How would you describe your lipstick style?
I like to wear bright red lipstick when I go out, cause I feel like it brings out the features of my face. Red is a very strong, bold colour. It gives you kind of the confidence you need to just go out and take over the world. But on a normal day, I try to go for a nude shade.
For me, it’s really hard to find a nude actually because some nudes make me look a little bit washed out, some make me look really pale, and some are too close to my skin colour. So I love finding a nude lip colour that has to be very similar to the natural colour of my lips, or I go for a slightly darker brown. But I love a good red, bold lip. I think that’s my favourite look.
“Empowerment to me, to put it very simply, is just having a person be able to make their choices without any judgment. And to also be respected for it.”
What does empowerment mean to you?
Empowerment to me, to put it very simply, is just having a person be able to make their choices without any judgment. And to also be respected for it. So an example I can give is female empowerment, which to me is a very important issue. Female empowerment is being able to make choices about your body, the way you raise a family, your career choices.
Being able to make that decision, the best one that suits you as an individual and having people respect you for it. So for women, to choose to focus on their career, instead of having a family. Or even the other way around, like giving up a career to raise a family is already a big choice in itself and having those options or just having options available, which we didn’t have not too long ago, is what empowerment means to me.
What is your favourite memory ever?
Being able to buy my dad a meal with money from my first paycheck, money that I actually earned myself. So I think the embarrassing thing was up until that point, I had never worked before. [laughs] So it was incredible being able to have a proper job, or actually I think at that time, it was an internship. But it was for two months. I worked hard. So I felt like I really earned that paycheck. My parents told me that first paychecks have to go to the parents. I don’t know if this is true or not. So I bought him a meal. And I was like, “Don’t worry, I got it.” Just being able to say that was quite fun.
This story was first published in the CLEO Jan/Feb 2019 issue.