She is known for her sexy image and is often clad in swimsuits, lingerie and skimpy outfits that flaunt her 32C-24-34 figure.
As Malaysia’s first Playboy Bunny, professional “mermaid for hire” and ONE FC ring girl, this is par for the course for Malaysian model Felixia Yeap.
Now the 27-year-old hopes to leave those racy days behind for good.
It may be hard to digest this about-turn, but she says she is more comfortable in modest clothing that does not show off bare skin or emphasise her curves.
Yeap, who said that she is still “in transition”, hopes to reduce the number of sexy modelling gigs she does next year to less than half of what she did this year, and then stop doing them.
But for now, she still has to fulfil contractual agreements with Playboy until early next year and a Malaysian men’s magazine until February.
The first time that she put on a tudung (a Malay headdress) was during a casting for a television commercial earlier this year. Even though she did not land the job, it moved her to put it on again.
“I thought I looked quite good in it and I felt comfortable, different and happy,” she said.
She also said that she feels “free, protected and safe” when wearing it.
Following that, she donned a tudung for a Hari Raya fashion show.
Now, Yeap puts on the tudung whenever she goes out and is not required to dress provocatively for work. Her wardrobe currently comprises about 70 per cent conservative attire after she sent half of her tight dresses, shorts and skirts to her mother in Ipoh. “The more I put on the tudung, the more I realise it’s what I want.
“Ever since I put it on, there are times I will cry after I come back from jobs that require me to look, dress and act sexily. I know I don’t want to do this anymore. It’s not me. I know there’s more to life than being a sex symbol,” Yeap told The New Paper last week in a Skype interview from Kuala Lumpur, where she lives.
Yeap said that sexy modelling was not her cup of tea.
“I don’t drink, smoke, have casual sex or do drugs. I took up modelling as I am the sole breadwinner of my family and I need to support them.
“Back in school, I was a big nerd and never popular or pretty. I was quiet and people called me names. I was born into a conservative family,” she said.
“I felt used by men who would see me at events and approach me for sex, not for marriage, due to my sexy modelling image,” Yeap said of her experience in the industry, which she said is a factor for the change.
“Men also touched me in a manner that I am not comfortable with, some repeatedly. I had to tell them off,” she said.
Asked if she is looking at converting to Islam, the free thinker said: “I’m open to everything as long as it’s beautiful, gives me a better way of living my life and makes me a better person. I’m still in the learning stages and still trying to be a better person.”
She expressed interest in taking religious classes next year to improve her knowledge of Islam.
Since news of Yeap’s decision made rounds online, she said she has been offered modelling stints by about 10 Muslimah fashion boutiques but has yet to accept any offers as they are still in talks.
The news invited plenty of praise but an equal amount of backlash.
But Yeap remains resolute, saying that she has received worse insults in her line of work, like being called a “prostitute”. She also denied that it is a publicity stunt.
“Some people said that I’m just getting out there to snag a rich Malay datuk. I laugh it off because it shows how shallow and inconsiderate people can be,” she said.
She did admit that she is currently dating a man whom she said fell for her after she put on the tudung.
“I feel like I can be loved even if I am not sexy,” she said.
Netizens also questioned her decision to let her provocative photos remain on her personal blog and Facebook page.
“These are my achievements in the modelling scene and part of who I am. It also serves as a lesson — if I can change, so can others,” she said.
The former kindergarten teacher became a model at the age of 19 and later, a Playboy Bunny when she did a one-month waitressing stint with Macau’s Playboy Club Sands Macao in 2011.
She then continued her modelling career in order to support her mother and younger brother in Ipoh.
No doubt, modelling is a lucrative industry and she still has to pay the bills.
She earns about RM500 (S$192) per hour for a modelling job, up to RM2,000 for appearances at events and at least RM3,000 for a 45-minute appearance as a mermaid at events.
Yeap acknowledged that she would make less by modelling Muslimah clothing, but aims to delve into Muslimah fashion design and business.
She sends home between RM800 and RM2,000 each month, depending on the number of jobs she does.
Since she donned the tudung, she has had two job offers from an alcohol and superbikes company retracted.
“They told me, ‘If you change your mind, let us know’, but I don’t want to ‘let them know’,” she said.
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