Molly Chiang has built her brand and her business around determining and embracing her true self. The Taiwanese influencer talks to Natasha Gillespie-Wong about fame, pressure and how she defines success
Molly Chiang insists she’s “just a girl sharing her life”. But what a life it is: for the past four years the Taiwanese social media sensation has been documenting her love for fashion, art, fitness, nature and more to a following that’s grown to more than 714,000 on Instagram alone. While the fast-paced lifestyle and intense pressure only seem to fuel her more, Chiang credits her success to her strong sense of self.
Indeed, the presenter of the TEDx talk “I Am Molly, This Is My Core Value” is all about working hard, marching to her own beat and achieving goals on her own terms. And if the life of an influencer ceases to challenge or excite her, Chiang already knows her next move.
How did you get into digital media? Is there anything you would do differently if you were starting out now?
Actually, I downloaded the apps about nine years ago just to play with them. When I started, I didn’t deliberately download them as a business to operate. In fact, back then there was no such thing, it didn’t exist. Then, almost four years ago, I was simply sharing photos and sharing my life for fun. Then I met my current agent and we realised that the Internet and apps would gradually become the next big thing and become more mainstream. That’s why we started to devote ourselves to this. We saw it more as a business to run; we truly branded it.
I think it’s quite interesting that people are now sharing their lives in an attempt to start a business and they want to do it as a job. Actually, I find that the current people’s mentality is a bit different from mine. What I post and write is not there because I want to be an Internet celebrity. I do these things because I want to. I don’t think I would change anything, because I didn’t deliberately start this as a career, I was just being authentic and I can now share my life as my job.
You’ve spoken extensively about finding your individual core value. To what extent do you think this an ever-evolving process?
I think it’s very important to talk about core values. You have to know very clearly who you are. You have to constantly work on and understand yourself and say, “This is who I am”. Without knowing yourself you will never be able to succeed in any other experience. You need to know your boundaries, understand what you don’t want and what you don’t like to do. It’s not about being good or bad, you just have to know yourself well.
In fact, I think having a so-called “aesthetic” does not mean that you only have to stay on that track. I think the key point is that you must know yourself carefully. But I think many people want to be like others because they don’t know themselves yet, which is a pity. Knowing yourself is the base you have to build upon.
You are an advocate for a range of things from fashion to sports to nature. How do you find balance? Do you ever feel pressure to only post things that fit your aesthetic?
From the outside, I do appear to do a lot of different things. But for me, I don’t think what I do or advocate is anything special. It’s just the different aspects of my life that I enjoy sharing. I don’t go out of my way to do extra. For example, exercise is a part of life for me, like brushing my teeth, washing my face and eating, so I just share it all.
Actually, I don’t really feel as if I can’t get a balance because I don’t think anybody’s life is fully balanced. How much you like or dislike certain things changes over time and I think if your mentality is that you have to always be balanced then that’s unrealistic.
How did it feel when you were asked to be featured in your first ‘big’ magazine?
Of course I felt very happy! When magazines, #legend included, ask to collaborate I feel great. Part of me also thinks, “Finally!” because it shows that people are recognising my hard work and identifying with me. My career provides a sense of identity for me, so being featured in magazines is an amazing affirmation.
How do you define success, both personally and in your career?
I don’t think there’s a solid definition of success. Everyone has a different definition. Even though many people think I’m successful because I’ve become an influencer, I really don’t think I’m that successful. My standards are high, so other people’s opinions don’t define me.
I think success really depends on whether you have achieved the goal you wanted to achieve. If you complete a task you set for yourself, that’s success. You don’t need others to affirm your success. Knowing what you want, how to achieve it and meeting your own standards, that is success to me. I’ve never strived to be recognised. I’ve just wanted to accomplish my own goals through hard work so that, to me, is success.
Fashion is a very fast-paced industry. Do you feel a need to keep up or do you take things at your own pace?
I think it should be said that the era of the Internet is very fast. Luckily for me, this suits my personality. I am an impatient person so when I do things, it’s fast. If I have something to do, I will do it straight away. So I think I’m very lucky because the pace of this era fits my personality perfectly. I don’t see it as fast-paced; it’s instant gratification.
I’m a person who wants to try new things every day; I don’t want to do the same thing all the time. For me, no pressure means no progress. The pressure encourages me and drives me to do more. I think the important thing is knowing how to handle the pressure. I know how to handle pressure myself, but I can’t tell anybody else how to do things because we all work differently.
The development of social media means everybody has access to a platform now. For this reason, everyone has the opportunity to get ahead. It’s less about what you’re putting out and more about how quickly you put it out. The speed of the trends actually inspires me. There’s so much inspiration all the time.
If you weren’t an influencer, what would your job be?
If being an influencer stops fulfilling me, I will move on. I want to be an actor next. I put a lot of pressure on myself to progress so I can’t stay at a certain stage for too long. I think being an actor would provide a new challenge for me.
What legacy would you like to leave for future generations?
What I want to tell everyone is that you should not be trapped by any label. Because I feel like I hear a lot of people saying, “You’re not an artist, so you can’t talk about art”. In fact, I think this is a problem a lot of people face. They are bound by labels. For example, if you’re a mother people will think that’s all you are and it’s not true. You can be a lot of different things at once.
Like I said before, I didn’t join social media to become an Internet celebrity. I just want to be myself and share it. The only thing you have to commit to doing is you; only you can play that role. You can switch your role at any time. You just need to do what’s best for yourself and not be restricted. You need to explore your likes and dislikes in order to grow.
Part of the excitement of this job is seeing your own passions, visions and ideas come to life. Nobody else can do that for you; it’s important to build and learn on your own terms. Methods that work for me will not work for other people. So you shouldn’t think you have to do something just because other people are doing it. Stick to what you know and be authentic.
Everybody eats, right? But if somebody is eating chicken, beef and lamb, that doesn’t mean you have to as well. Maybe you don’t like lamb and that’s okay.
Photography / Hedy Chan
Videography / Lu Ziheng Sid You
Art Direction / Saem Xu
Styling / Eddie Yeh
Hair / Weic Lin
Make-Up / Fiona Lee
Styling Assistant / M Shiuan Wang