Sophie Chung is killing it. 27 years old, living in Auckland. The Beauty Editor at M2woman, founder of Chatty Chums, and on her way to owning her third house. Read about her upbringing, bartending in a strip club, how she deals with racism and sexism in her industry and more.
How do you explain what you do to strangers?
It really depends who I’m talking to and from which network I’ve met the person through! I guess the regular ol’ spiel would be, “I’m the M2woman Beauty Editor and I do marketing/sales for all of M2 and M2womans’ platforms.
Depending on how the conversation goes, I’ll introduce The Digital Marketer if we get talking about digital marketing for SMEs, and if we chat about the social media space, I’ll segway into @oheyitsfifi and Chatty Chums!
It’s a bit tricky to call yourself an ‘influencer’ as a job title and don’t think I’ll ever end up introducing myself as that, especially not in New Zealand where the market is so small and fresh compared to other countries. As a young woman who likes to dress in 15-year-old boy attire, it’s hard to be taken seriously when you say that’s what you do, even if it’s a side hustle that accompanies a full-time dual role.
As you’d expect, people will mock and scoff, “Oh God, you’re not an influencer are you?!” I usually say, “yes…” but will have to justify it as educational and that it will always be backed with credibility as the endorsements stem from discussions and interviews with world-class cosmetic chemists, founders and therapists. I’m not a fan of green or brainwashing and I think everyone deserves to know the truth behind the toxins they apply on themselves.
The ultimate title that I’d like to go by in the future would be ‘Property Investor.’ I bought two properties in the past 8 months and everything that I do right now is to build wealth based off passive cash flow. Third house here I come!
It’s not always rainbows and sparkles though - part of the job is to have frequent meltdowns after being exhausted from juggling.
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I was born in Seoul, Korea and my parents and I came to New Zealand when I was 3 years old. I’m an only child so it was a pretty drama-free, quiet childhood.
In high school, I was a super-nerd and spent my time doing extra-curricular studies like calculus, english, physics, painting, design, choir, concert band and orchestra. I didn’t care for the all-girls high-school dramas and really enjoyed adding value to myself and having fun with it!
What does a normal day look like for you?
There isn’t much of an inspiring regimen in place and no one day is the same - I do what I can with the energy and resources I have on that day. Because there are so many pies I have fingers in, that all require a lot of attention, I have to utilize and prioritise my time well. Events, project deadlines, meetings and bill reminders are all in my Google Calendar and I work around that.
7 am - I wake up to the sound of birds of water for my alarm. Despite the most serene and calming alarm tone available on my device, the deeper into the week I go, the more reluctant I am to get out of bed.
I shower, get dressed, run to the train station and my commute begins. I listen to Buddhist podcasts, Freakonomics Radio or music, depending on my mood and how I want to set the tone for the day. Makeup is usually done on the train too.
Once the emails are checked and the coffee is absorbed, this is when the juggling begins. Organizing my work for the day, week and the weekend.
When you were 15 what did you think you would be doing now?
When I was 15, I was absolutely flourishing in high school. However, I was also suffering pretty badly from anorexia and bulimia at that age. I have an obsessive personality and get crazed if things aren’t ‘the way it should be.’
I was one of those super annoying goody two shoes with a straight A report card and panicked at the thought of mediocrity. I thought I would be doing ‘greater things’ than what I’m currently doing and have always been my harshest critic. I had super high expectations for myself to be ‘successful’ at an early age, and I’ve got to say, getting kicked in the face by a stripper during a late-night shift was the most dream-crushing thing following my Masters degree. Now that it’s been a decade since high school, I understand that life never really goes to plan and you’ve got to learn how to let go and enjoy the ride - things I’m still working on...
What is it like working in your industry?
It can be great when you’re talking to people on the same wavelength as you - bouncing ideas and inspiring each other with entrepreneurial ideas and solutions, collaborating and building a solid network of amazing people doing amazing things. But as anyone can expect, media and social media can indeed become toxic and send you down the spiral of compare and despair.
What inspired you to start @ChattyChums?
This comparison is the primary reason why I created Chatty Chums. While I was bartending at the strip club, my life was miserable. I was doing internships during the day and bartending at night in a place where staff treatment, unsurprisingly, was appalling - I once got in trouble for filling up the lolly jar too soon.
This was five years ago when social media was in full heat and before the time in which trends pushed for ‘authentic’ content. The overly preened and posed, highlight-reel was all about unrealistic, skewed imagery that portrayed the wonderful life of the wealthy and privileged.
As a follower of these platforms, I understood how it can make people, including myself, suffer from the recurring and consuming pattern of ‘compare and despair’ because we forget that it’s merely a curated compilation of the best moments. It’s force-feeding the youth with oppressive happiness and urging over-consumption without teaching kids the value of money and what it means to be happy in your own skin.
I had a private blog called ‘Non nom de plume,’ meaning ‘no pen name,’ in which I logged the work stories at the strip club. I’m a bit of a justice warrior and don’t like to suffer fools. I decided to share some of these stories to show the real-life, lowlight reels of life with a humorous twist to make people feel less alone. Surely, if a grad read how I was sitting in E.D. with a broken, oversized swollen nose with hot tears running down my face, it would make them feel less alone in their suffering of life’s augmented expectations and perhaps, make them laugh and feel less alone in the world for a second.
What we’re craving is honesty, depth, authenticity and a portal to make us feel better about ourselves. We need to turn things around and harness this incredibly powerful tool to make it beneficial for us rather than parading empty facades that knock our self-confidence and sends us toward existential dread. The future is authentic positive empowerment - and that’s where I’m taking Chatty Chums by providing a portal where real people can discuss raw, relatable issues and our experiences without shame. Everyone struggles.
How did you become a Beauty Editor at M2 Woman?
Two things - timing and experience! I was incredibly lucky to have worked as an assistant to the Beauty Director at Marie Claire in South Korea, right after I handed in my thesis. I’ve always been a massive fan of skincare and makeup since I was little as my mum was a beauty consultant and my cousin was a Beauty Editor for Allure and Marie Claire. I’ve always had an abundance of makeup to play with from my cousin and I made it really clear to my Editor and Managing Director that beauty was my thing. The Beauty Editor left after I had been at M2woman for 6 months and I was thrown into the deep end with that role being added to my full-time digital content creator role.
Influencer Sophie brought to you by Bacardi
Have you ever felt discriminated against in your industry because of your race or gender?
Of course! As mentioned before, sometimes, people don’t take ‘young girls’ seriously. It has always enraged me. Based purely off someone’s age or gender or simply their ability to oversell their skillset, the opinions of merit can be skewed.
And sometimes, it can be conservative young men who have been raised on tradition and just don’t know any better. The concept of ‘boys club’ triggers me - I feel like I’ve been shifted to a different era when I find myself sitting there quietly while all ‘the boys’ are having a yarn during a business meeting. The rich thing is, these young men don’t know they’re sexist. Even if someone told them otherwise, they would be willfully ignorant in their behaviour and believe they’re one of the more woke ‘good guys.’
However, I’ve found that the narrow-mindedness is just a reflection of that person and their ego will eventually cap their potential and growth. I’ve found that the biggest fish I’ve met tend to share traits of being open-minded, curious and humble with little to no ego.
Racism also stems from willful ignorance. It’s prevalent and insidious and I remember getting teased from the age of 6. Before then, kids were kids and treated each other the same before they could point and identify differences in the way we look. I wonder where they learn that from???
What is something you think people don’t know about you?
I’m such a transparent person, I’m not sure how to answer this one! I think I’m funny in a jaded way… and I’m brutally honest too. What do you think Hannah? Haha
That you love beer and have a cute long term boyfriend who does not appear much in your social media life. - Hannah
What does beauty mean to you?
The roots of someone’s true beauty is from the inside - their heart, mind and soul. And I think everyone already knows this but it’s something that requires training towards enlightenment such as meditation and self-reflection, to understand. And those aren’t easy things to do as humans.
Beauty as we know it, is a two-pronged approach. Stress and negative energies can impact one’s perspective on life. If your mind is not working in a healthy way, then there is a tendency to spiral into one’s faults and seeming incompetence in a myriad of areas. If you don’t love yourself, then you’ll never be beautiful in your eyes. On the other hand, beauty is also an aesthetic language that you can speak in. With colours, lines and textures, you can turn yourself into a canvas and portray yourself in the way you want you to be seen.
You would’ve heard of the “lipstick index”. Lipstick sales soared during the toughest of times - post 9/11 and in 2008. While the entire world suffered declines in sales, L’Oreal grew by 5.3%. It proved that beauty and fragrance products are not only a way to attract a partner but also a method for affordable indulgence, more so than clothing, during uncertain times. If you look good, you feel better, and a lipstick can ramp up your confidence like a switch. It’s a tool to help you with your inner beauty.
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