Glam up with Sazzy and Jeannie

Many of the comments thrown at the "fashion victims" on popular American fashion makeover show How Do I Look? are brutally blunt.

While the show's host, Asian- American fashion guru Jeannie Mai, is more witty than mean, her criticism of the participants' choice of outfits is often extremely direct.

In past episodes, she has, for example, pointed to their clothes and said: "Is that attractive to anyone after the 1600s?"

So will the Asian spin-off, How Do I Look? Asia, be as biting?

No, says its host, actress Sazzy Falak, who adds that she has to be tactful when talking to the participants.

"We Asians are culturally more sensitive than Americans. If you say something to Americans about their looks, they might not really care. But Asians can take things personally and go, 'Oh my god, people hate me'," the 34-year-old Malaysian tells Life at an interview at The St Regis Singapore recently, where Mai was also present.

This is also why How Do I Look? Asia became a lot more than just a fashion makeover show, Sazzy adds. In many instances, the makeover process turned into therapy sessions for the participants.

She says: "It became a lot more than just about the clothes on their bodies... Some of them had very low self-confidence because of a bad break-up or just felt insecure, and they felt uncomfortable wearing certain things.

"My job was to find out why, and where that insecurity came from. This is not just a makeover show - it's a soul-transformation show."

The series, which features participants from across Asia including Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, follows the same format as the American original.

Each episode features one "fashion victim" nominated for a sartorial fixby a friend or family member.

The participants will see their wardrobe sucked into the signature vacuum cleaner-like device known as the "Eww Tube", before they are given tips on how to look better.

Apart from a wardrobe makeover, they will also get their make-up done and a new hairstyle.

Mai appears in every episode as a guest adviser and gives her opinions in separately shot video clips.

Even though the two stars met in person only after the series finished filming, it is clear that they have since bonded. During the 20-minute interview, they got on like a house on fire, good-naturedly poking fun at each other and even finishing the other's sentences.

Sazzy, who is married to a financial coach and has four-year-old twin girls, says: "Jeannie treats people like she's known them forever and she's what she's like on TV. She's so real and I just love that about her."

Mai, 36, who is married to television host Freddy Harteis, is quick to return the compliments.

"What I learnt about Sazzy before I met her was through her Instagram and I love how she praises her husband and her children. I think it's important for anyone in a glitzy lifestyle to stay grounded and relatable and that's how Sazzy is."

Style is so subjective. Who are you to tell others what to wear if they claim they are just expressing their personal sense of style?

Mai: My job is not to tell them what to wear. My job is to ask them, "What do they want the world to know about them?"

So if you're going for a job interview, you're saying that you want to be hired. If you're going out with your girlfriends, you're saying you want to have a good time.

So your statement of what you want to do should match your outfit. I'm just there to guide them to reach that goal and rarely will you meet a woman who will say she doesn't want to be hired or doesn't want to have friends.

As fashion icons and public personalities, do you feel the need to dress up all the time, even when just lounging at home?

Sazzy: No, if you care about how you look even when you're at home, then you have a problem.

Mai:Style is about being dressed for the occasion.

So if it is to lounge on your couch and watch four seasons of Desperate Housewives, then you're going to wear your sweatshirt and sweatpants.

What do you think of people who simply imitate their favourite celebrities' sense of style?

Sazzy: It's fine to get inspiration from celebrities, but not copy from A to Z. They should choose a style that suits their body shape.

Both of you have visited Singapore multiple times. Where are your favourite places to shop?

Sazzy: Orchard Road, of course, but I make it a point to get stuff from all over because I like mixing and matching my outfits. And I've heard you can buy interesting things at Mustafa, but I haven't gone there yet. It's on my list.

Mai: For me, there are three places I have to go to every time I'm in Singapore. One is the fourth floor of Far East Plaza, where there are three boutiques where I always go to get some great new pieces I haven't seen elsewhere.

The second is Haji Lane, but also only certain boutiques, because the rest of the street is filled with things you can buy anywhere else.

And the third is not fashion related - it's the food court in Marina Bay Sands to get my laksa fix.

What is your top style tip for women dressing up in the hot, humid climate of Singapore?

Sazzy: I'm wearing a thick dress now, but that's because I'm inside the air-conditioned hotel, or I would be sweating. But if you're going to be outside, stick to light, airy fabrics such as chiffon.

Mai: The best style tip is to protect yourself from sweat. So take your anti-perspirant deodorant, but don't just put it under your armpits. Put it on all the folds of your skin, such as the inside of your elbows and even your inner thighs. You'll stay so much cooler.

Is there a look that you once carried, but now regret?

Sazzy: I was an awkward ugly duckling growing up and wore a lot of baggy T-shirts and jeans. And when the television series Beverly Hills 90210 was so hot on TV, I loved Jennie Garth's fringe, so I cut my own fringe. It was not a good look.

Mai: The only thing I regret is getting body piercings. I wish I didn't pierce parts of my face because my eyebrow has a scar now.

Which celebrity would you most like to style?

Mai: Chef Anthony Bourdain - because I just want an excuse to see him with his shirt off. There's just something about an older man...

Sazzy: Mine would be singer Adam Levine. I know he's always shirtless, but I think it'll be different to see him in person. Have you seen his tattoos? Wow.

How would you like to be remembered?

Sazzy: As someone who was an amazing mother and daughter because, in the end, family is what I live for. And also as someone who has made a difference in people's lives and this show is one of those ways.

Mai: When I was 12, I made a mission statement for myself - that Jeannie Mai would celebrate people's potential. I also want a big party at my funeral. I want my favourite foods there, people sharing funny stories about me and all my favourite music being played.

How Do I Look? Asia airs on Diva (Singtel TV Channel 303 and StarHub TV Channel 513) on Mondays at 8pm.

This article was first published on September 14, 2015.
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