Having established a name for herself as a model, MTV Asia VJ and radio host, Hanli Hoefer isn’t content to rest on her laurels. She’s clinched a leading role on television, adding to her multifaceted career.
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The statuesque model waltzes into the studio, and everyone immediately gravitates towards her.
She isn’t expected for at least another 30 minutes.
“Oh, you’re early,” says Her World’s creative director Windy Aulia. The candid conversation he then has with the model-MTV Asia VJ negates any impression one may have had of Hanli Hoefer as inscrutably aloof off-screen.
She warms up with a fresh spark of energy in a one-to-one dialogue with doe-eyed shyness on the one hand, and unabashed determination on the other. She’s articulate, and a quality of earthiness comes through in her expressive eyes and smile.
“I was two hours late for my ﬁrst photo shoot with Her World eight years ago,” Hanli recalls sheepishly. “I was mortiﬁed, and at that time I wished the ground would just swallow me whole.”
“I made up for it this time,” she laughs bashfully.
At 27, the gorgeous Singapore model, who stands at 1.78m tall, has found equal success in different areas – modelling, commercial work as a host and VJ at MTV Asia (a job she has held since 2013), and hosting her own radio show for the past 1½ years. Hanging out with Hanli airs on Power 98 FM every Sunday, 10am-2pm.
And acting is also on the cards for her: She recently clinched a leading role in a new psychological thriller that will be screened on Toggle at the end of this year.
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“I used to put on impromptu plays for my parents,” she chuckles, adding that she wants to explore more acting opportunities in the future.
Despite her growing popularity, the Eurasian model remains unaffected by the constant glare of public attention and, sometimes, judgment.
“I’m like any other girl, just that I might have a little more experience with being misunderstood. But I get a kick out of proving people wrong,” she adds in jest.
“I don’t try to make anyone like me, nor would I pretend to have it all together,” she says earnestly. “I’m very ﬂawed, but I’m ﬁne with that.”
Yet she’s picture-perfect as she emerges from the changing room dressed in an outﬁt with understated allure, displaying elegant restraint in couture that lets her show off her well-honed craft as a model.
Pursing her lips, Hanli tilts her head towards a repousse hand mirror she’s holding. The scene turns out to have poetic parallels with her past, as she reﬂects on the growing-up years that shaped the girl in the mirror today.
LIVING THE INDIE LIFE
Born and bred in Singapore, where she studied English, art and psychology at United World College, Hanli made a decision not to further her studies after graduating with an International Baccalaureate diploma.
“I wanted to experience what life had to offer and learn what it was like to make my own money,” says Hanli, who also speaks German. “If I failed, I could still go back to school. My family were supportive of my decision.”
With a dogged determination, the then-teenager knocked on the doors of modelling agencies, looking for opportunities.
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“It was such a liberating feeling – that feeling of independence. I wanted to take control of my life and not just do what my friends were doing. I wanted to feel that I had a choice,” she says matter-of-factly.
At 19, Hanli landed a contract with modelling agency Ave Management.
Three years later, in 2012, the then 21-year-old yearned for new challenges.
She auditioned and won in the regional MTV search for a VJ that saw her immersed in the world of pop culture and entertainment, interviewing some of the world’s biggest music acts, including American musicians such as rock band Foo Fighters, DJ Skrillex, hip-hop trio Naughty by Nature and singer Jason Derulo, as well as K-pop star G-Dragon, and Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren.
I WANTED TO TAKE CONTROL OF MY LIFE AND NOT JUST DO WHAT MY FRIENDS WERE DOING. I WANTED TO FEEL THAT I HAD A CHOICE.
Hanli, a fan of Charlize Theron, also got the opportunity to interview the famed Hollywood actress. “She has such presence, and she’s the embodiment of elegance!” she raves.
Hanli’s favourite band and book: Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Scar Tissue, an autobiography of the band’s lead singer/musician, Anthony Kiedis.
Born to a German father and Peranakan mother, Hanli is the younger of two siblings. Her older brother, Hans-Sen, is a freelance photographer. Home for her is a place where she practises yoga and lives with her British partner of ﬁve years, along with her two dogs.
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Hanli’s father, Hans, who is retired, ran a publishing business producing travel guides. He moved to Singapore nearly 50 years ago, and Hanli’s mother, Cynthia Wee-Hoefer, now in her 60s, was a fashion and lifestyle writer at Her World from 1978 to 1981.
Her parents, who are based in Singapore, own and run a boutique hotel called Apa Villa Illuketia in South Sri Lanka. They also own Organic Himalaya, a company that brings high-quality organic vegetables, spices, herbs and fruits from Nepal to Singapore to sell once a month at farmers’ markets.
Hanli travels to Sri Lanka twice a year, staying for two weeks each time.
Her adventurous streak has taken her across the globe to many exotic locations like Ladakh, Busan, Cappadocia, Barcelona and Bilbao.
As a youngster, she often travelled with her parents to China and India. Her most vivid memories are from a trip to Pakistan when she was 14.
Then, Hanli and her parents traversed the perilous terrain from Karachi to Hunza, situated in the northernmost parts of Gilgit-Baltistan, which is in the greater Kashmir region.
It was a journey that changed her perspective on life.
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“I was pained to discover how limited the position of women was in a world so vastly different from my own,” she recalls empathetically. “My father told me to wait in the car. As I looked out of the car window, I was surprised to see that there were no women outside.”
On her trip to Nepal a few months ago, she was moved by the resilience of the people there, living with political troubles, a struggling economy, and poverty.
“Despite the adversity, people still found joy in some ways,” says Hanli.
“When you see all these things, you can’t unsee them, and it changes you inside.”
Hanli, who is a Buddhist, has seven tattoos depicting a common theme of karma. They are an extension of her belief and reminders to stay grounded. She points out her favourite tattoo: 11 rings encircling her right wrist.
She adds: “I hope for our society to have more compassion and empathy. We never know the real reason why someone is doing what he or she is doing. We need to be kinder to one another and know that we are going through this life together.”
I HOPE FOR OUR SOCIETY TO HAVE MORE COMPASSION AND EMPATHY… WE NEED TO BE KINDER TO ONE ANOTHER AND KNOW THAT WE ARE GOING THROUGH THIS LIFE TOGETHER.
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As the shoot wraps up, the girl in the mirror declares to the wide-eyed ingenue on the other side of the looking glass: “I can’t wait to go for dinner at Blu Kouzina in Dempsey Road. It’s my belated birthday celebration!”
One of her greatest attributes is perhaps her unfailing modesty and sensibility in this impersonal, impatient age. Her awe has a sweetness to it, speaking to each moment and, on some level, to the universal.
Her life and the stories she has to share are as eclectic as the gallery on her popular Instagram account, which has 42,000 followers, and Hanli is excited about her plan to start her own podcast where people can share their views on their life’s pursuits.
“I want to look back one day and know that I have lived a whole authentic expression of myself,” she says.
PHOTOGRAPHY GAN, ASSISTED BY SAMSIDI & LOY KOK WEE
STYLING WINDY AULIA, ASSISTED BY SEAN THAM
HAIR EDWARD CHONG/EVOLVE, USING KEVIN.MURPHY
MAKEUP BOBBIE NG/THE MAKE UP ROOM, USING CLE DE PEAU BEAUTE