Today we talked to Hanli Hoefer, an acclaimed model, presenter, and actress. Listen to hear about how she elevated her career to span multiple platforms and media types, including starting a successful podcast two weeks before the start of the global pandemic.
Hanli Hoefer [00:00:01] Using modeling as a tool to move on to, I guess, like a progression in your career, like TV presenting, it’s something that a lot of a lot of people try. But I think that one of the reasons why it might be hard is that you do have to have a strong sense of who you are.
Sam [00:00:41] How do you elevate your career from modeling, magazine shoots, and commercials to becoming a host, emcee, presenter and model all at once? Hanli Hoefer is a television host and model known for her work as a VJ on MTV. But she’s also a model, influencer, and actress who’s been featured in the press and has built a portfolio career. Hanli, welcome to Ideamix radio.
Hanli Hoefer [00:01:06] Hi, thanks so much for having me back.
Sam [00:01:10] So Hanli, tell us about the mix of things that you’ve built as part of your career. How did you build to doing this mix of things?
Hanli Hoefer [00:01:23] Right, yeah, I do have my foot in a lot of different industries, all sort of within the production umbrella. So I’ve dabbled in modeling and hosting and acting and radio presenting and now podcasting. And I think that there is a common thread with all of those, which is being a speaker. And then once I realized early on in my career that this is something I wanted to do, I just became really passionate about being proactive and voicing my opinions, practicing how to speak clearer and just networking a lot to let people know what I’m about and and do that through the industry. I use each pillar of my career to lean on the other. So through modeling, that’s how I got into TV presenting and then through that industry, just networking. That’s how I was introduced to radio hosting. And then once I started to create a good network, I started to express interest in acting and it all sort of fell into place quite almost naturally from this progression.
Sam [00:02:31] It’s so important to feel that natural progression, right, and I think, as you said, getting to the essence that speaking was the common factor among all of these things, that it was something you really enjoyed doing was a critical piece.
Hanli Hoefer [00:02:44] Absolutely. Absolutely. I think one of the big moments was when I was younger and I did start on MTV and I really got on stage with a mic and I started to present and it was something that I didn’t even realize was something that I wanted to do. And it came naturally. And I thought “whoa I’m on to something here”. But yeah, ‘naturally’ being the keyword, I think.
Sam [00:03:12] So, revenue in the Singaporean fashion industry has increased and is almost at about 500 million USD in 2020. Of course, some of that’s going to change on account of the pandemic. But given that rapid growth and – home base of Singapore for you – how do you feel fashion and Singapore has changed since you first started and how does it relate to the industry in the rest of Asia?
Hanli Hoefer [00:03:39] Yeah, I mean, it’s true, since I joined the industry all those years ago, it has taken off in an accelerated and such a quick way. And I think it’s really a reflection of Singapore also as a whole. I think that it’s no secret that Singapore has landed much more on the map from so many ways in the global sense. We had Crazy Rich Asians that put us on the map and also having a lot of local designers just in the fashion scene who are making it out there. So we really just opened up this year alone as well. Just recently, Vogue opened up in Singapore, to which I think is a huge reflection of where the fashion industry is. And I think also a huge part of it has to do with social media. I mean, Singapore is a young country and our creative scene is just fueled with so much young talent that had exposure in recent years and growing up to new platforms and you have new types of creativity that has all fed into what we see in Singapore fashion. So it’s moving really quickly.
Sam [00:04:48] Singapore is an amazing place, in my view, and it’s it’s so interesting for you to know that it is a young country and the combination of people and talents that’s come together there, as well as the changes that have gone on in Hong Kong, I think have really helped Singapore grow in its profile and place relative to the rest of Asia.
Hanli Hoefer [00:05:12] Yeah, yeah, for sure. I mean, I remember even growing up, like if I mentioned Singapore outside of Asia, people would have no idea where we were. But now everyone knows and I think it’s awesome.
Sam [00:05:27] So true. In 2012, you took the plunge and decided to audition as a host for MTV and that turned into a launchpad for your career. Tell us now, looking back, what is the role you think it played?
Hanli Hoefer [00:05:44] I think you nailed it when you said launchpad, really, MTV opened up my world and I can confidently say that working with MTV changed my life. It just opened me up to so many types of experiences. I was so young when I joined. I had just turned 21 – I was so fresh.
Hanli Hoefer [00:06:06] And so joining that industry, the music industry, the production industry, joining a big, strong brand like Viacom and learning about the culture and learning the personalities that work within these fields and just sort of soaking up everything I could from them has been one of the most valuable things that I think I’ve taken with me along to where I’m at now.
Sam [00:06:29] It’s really played such an influential role for you and so many other people. At the same time, there’s no dearth of models who’ve turned into TV personalities, Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum, both notable examples. It’s not a choice that works for everyone, though. Why do you think that is? You still do both – but do you think that they present an incompatibility between the two professions or the lifestyle that each requires?
Hanli Hoefer [00:07:00] I don’t quite think so. I think, you know, using modeling as a tool to move on to, I guess like a progression in your career, like TV presenting is something that a lot of people try. But I think that one of the reasons why I might be hard is that you do have to have a strong sense of who you are, because being a voice, you’re not being a talent as a presenter. You’re not acting, you’re merely being an amplified version of yourself. So you have to have a confidence in who you are and what you represent. You kind of need to be out there and all those personalities that you listed, who I love, by the way. I look up to them as well. Tyra, Heidi, they all have very big personalities like Chrissy Teigen. They’re extroverts. And I think that that is sort of the dividing factor between those who remain as a model and those who can take it further to become a TV personality.
Sam [00:07:57] It almost feels as though as a model, they’re expecting you to be a bit more of a blank canvas that the designers or fashion houses can use to display their clothing and accessories. And I agree with you that I think in TV, if you don’t have a big personality, if you aren’t naturally an extrovert, it’s difficult.
Hanli Hoefer [00:08:24] Yeah, and, you know, I don’t want to discount the great models out there because it is an art form and to be able to be a muse, but there is also a choice and an ideal. But when I was growing up and I was modeling, I just had so much outward energy that it was always really important for me to not just be a ‘pretty face’. I mean, and I say that in quotations, but I mean, really, I really wanted to show that I was more than just something that looks good on a magazine…that was really important for me. And I think that’s where I ended up now with, you know, having a podcast and just sort of taking the risk to be a bit more outspoken in my opinions on it.
Sam [00:09:09] So I’m glad you mentioned the podcast. I was thrilled to see that you’d started one. “Just so We’re Clear” with your friend, Marissa Trew, earlier this year and the description on your site highlights the difference between the paths you and your friend have taken in your professional lives. Tell us a little bit about your partnership and what led you to it?
Hanli Hoefer [00:09:32] Yeah, so Marissa and I are old friends. We actually were in school together from middle school all the way through high school, but we were never technically friends in high school. We just shared a lot of each other’s classes and we were very much acquaintances. And I guess our friendship developed naturally in adulthood because who we were in our youth were just very different girls having, I guess, similar experiences just from being in the same environment. And then when we reconnected being older in our mid 20s and really creating a great bond. We realized that while we have a lot in common, there’s still so much of us which is completely opposite in so many ways. And I think that makes a really great partnership when it comes to conversation. And also, she’s one of my closest friends. So the chemistry is there.
Sam [00:10:30] It’s so important, I think what you just said about the differences between people who partner in any sort of venture, whether it’s creative or business oriented or both, in your case, the complimentarity is super important. And I think we see this a lot, that partnerships fail when there is a commonality of skill sets and experience and there isn’t enough difference so that two people actually complement each other.
Hanli Hoefer [00:11:00] Right. Right. Yeah, absolutely.
Sam [00:11:04] So your first episode came out on March 5th, just as the pandemic was starting to go global. To say a great deal has happened between then and now would be a huge understatement. What’s that experience been like during this time?
Hanli Hoefer [00:11:20] Whoa, what a question. Well, firstly, it was just pure luck that we managed to get the beginnings of our podcast kicked off before Singapore went into a circuit breaker or lockdown. So we were able to buy the microphones. We were able to kick off the first two episodes and kind of get slow going. And having that during the during the pandemic has almost been a saving grace for the two of us. We were able to really focus in on it because we had all this extra time. We were able to talk about topics that were just sort of a collective experience because of the pandemic. And so many of our listeners would end up writing in because they would feel understood. And it created this gorgeous sense of community, even behind the scenes which we have kept going. It also allowed us to just because of all the extra time that a lot of us had during this year, to put out two episodes a week, which was a lot of work. Podcasting takes an effort if people haven’t realized, I’m sure you know.
Hanli Hoefer [00:12:23] So two episodes a week with guests and post-production..it was a lot! But I’m so proud of us. And we stuck to our commitment to the show and I believe we did about 28 episodes for season one. And now we are about 7 episodes deep into season two.
Sam [00:12:46] Incredible. So let’s switch gears a little bit. As you look back on on this combination of things that you do – podcasting is the most recent addition – What do you feel has been your most effective method of extending your reach across these different forms of media and growing your profile and brand, as well as these different product categories effectively that you’re now involved in?
Hanli Hoefer [00:13:20] Yeah, I think there are two things that are pretty important factors in this. Firstly, it’s consistency with my values and the type of topics I want to cover and where I stand in them, and I’m not just being consistent with it, but being bold with it in some aspects. Speaking about mental health in Singapore, it is coming from an Asian society where it’s a lot about saving face. That’s not something that a lot of people commonly do on a public platform. So I’ve always been a big advocate for mental health and just being consistent in that has attracted to me the types of brands and clients and audiences which are just in line with what I believe. So definitely sticking to my values is huge and being consistent with that. And secondly, I believe in the power of collaboration on all my platforms. I think independence as a businessperson is great, but it’s also a little too, I guess, for lack of a better word, it’s a little overused because I think there’s so much more strength in teaming up and working together with others. And that’s really been the case with all my platform just being open to create together with others.
Sam [00:14:43] The collaborations are so key, I absolutely agree with you, I think what’s enabled people like you or our business and ideamix is that there is this strength in community and this strength in collaboration and growth in numbers. And so collaborating with other people doing interesting, complementary, creative things is such an important avenue to growth and success.
Hanli Hoefer [00:15:11] Absolutely. And especially when you’re working in an industry like podcasting, where it is essentially about storytelling, you need others to tell stories, too. It is a community based choice. So 100 percent, collaboration is everything.
Sam [00:15:31] Totally. So as a model, actress, influencer, now podcaster…You are your own business effectively. Who are the people you look to and rely on for practical support and advice in your work life?
Hanli Hoefer [00:15:48] I’ve been really fortunate to have a group of friends in the same industry as me and working in this industry. There is a misconception that it can be competitive, it can be catty, it can be a little bitchy. But like I said, I’m really fortunate to have found a solid group of girls where that is not the case. We’re all very supportive and transparent with each other. We all recognize that if one of us do well, we all do well. And I love that about our mentality. And they are the ones that I can trust with honest feedback and asking them about the industry and where it’s going. Because at the same time, I mean, working on social media as a model and all this, that there is an element of uncertainty because essentially you are a freelancer, even as established as some of us are. It just changes so quickly. And so to be able to have that support is just so key.
Sam [00:16:49] Amazing. What keeps you up at night right now, Hanli?
Hanli Hoefer [00:16:54] Yeah, when you shared this question, I really took a minute to think about it. So right now, I’m in Bali. I shared with you earlier before we started recording that I had changed from Singapore to Bali. And just the change of energy and a change of environment out here is that I have a lot more time to be very focused and present. I feel like my life has simplified down quite a lot. And so I guess the thing that keeps me up at night now is being really grateful and present and sort of comparing my mindset to now one of a lot of simplicity to one before where I was drowning and overwhelmed in anxiousness and thoughts and just sort of sitting and noticing the two, I think, living, firstly, in city life, we do a good job of distracting ourselves. And living alone during the pandemic in Singapore, where there was a lot more fear in the air because of the media and everything, it definitely took a toll on my mental health. So to feel the difference between that and now, I don’t feel like I’m being kept up at night for anything sort of as negative as I did in my previous environment. So that’s nice.
Sam [00:18:15] I’m really glad to hear you say that. I think urban environments are…we love them because of all the distraction, entertainment, stimulus, the combination of people, everything that it brings together…but I think through this pandemic, that has really been a challenge for a lot of people in terms of their mental health, because with it has come a level of stress that is unprecedented. And when I think about our children at school and the sort of school experience where everyone’s doing the best they can, I think under these circumstances. But the stress level in a dense urban environment has significantly amped up in a way that we’ve never really seen in our lifetime.
Hanli Hoefer [00:19:04] Absolutely. And it’s interesting because even with stillness, because in Singapore, everything going into a standstill for me, I was fraught with exactly that, the stillness and and after being so fast paced for so many years, I actually had stress over having to be still, which is almost ironic.
Sam [00:19:26] And so counterintuitive, isn’t it?
Hanli Hoefer [00:19:29] Isn’t it? But sometimes being still is hard. So I think that’s been one of the biggest lessons for me. And also now being out here in Bali, where it’s a whole different life. I mean, you know, the energy here is just so still and so chill. And there’s something really energetic and magic about this place. But just having the hindsight to realize what we’ve all gone through this and the stress of what it’s induced for us.
Sam [00:19:55] It’s wonderful, I think in a sense, it was a it was a necessary pause when I look back on the months of lockdown here, it led to a much simpler life, as you said, and actually time with family and the need to pause and to really think about our lives and how they were before the lockdowns. And did we want them to actually be that way once this clears, whenever that is because the stillness and the peace that came with it once you got used to that was a really unique privilege in a sense.
Hanli Hoefer [00:20:38] Yeah, I think I mean, it is peace when you eventually got used to it. When I got used to it, I was like, wow, I’m…everything’s a lot simpler, but it’s peaceful.
Sam [00:20:49] Totally. So last question, Hanli, if you could fast forward three years from now, so we’re well past the pandemic, life is some kind of more normal state. Where do you see yourself in your work?
Hanli Hoefer [00:21:06] So one of the great things about what I’ve learned not only about myself but also about the ways that industries can adapt is just that – they were able to adapt to more digital ones. So I worked in events and digital events took off, and all these apps and companies are created around that. And that’s become quite sustainable for me. It’s also given me a lot of time to focus on creating content for myself, like the podcasts and so from that I’ve decided…I really hope that in three years I’d be able to have more work being online so that I can live remotely and hopefully in three years, if that’s all stable, I will be a bit more nomadic and maybe living somewhere completely new and doing what I do.
Sam [00:22:03] I love it, the pandemic and the lack of travel it has induced is going to turn you into a global nomad eventually where you’re going to live everywhere and be able to work remotely.
Hanli Hoefer [00:22:13] Absolutely. I think that’s another thing a lot of us have gone through in this lockdown is how much we miss travel. And now that…the moment we’re going to be able to really have it as accessible as it was before, we’re not going to take it for granted and we’re going to be going for long form holidays. People are going to be moving and leaving.
Sam [00:22:34] I was reading a really interesting piece a few months ago by the writer Alexandra Fuller, I don’t know if you’ve read anything by her, but she grew up in Africa. She lives now in Wyoming, and she writes her own fiction, but she equally writes journalistically about Africa. And she’s been thinking a great deal about the sustainability of the travel habits that are sort of endemic to our generation, where we hop on trains, planes and buses at a moment’s notice to go some pretty long distances and the sustainability and environmental implications of that. And it was a really great piece – I’ll send it to you. And it made me pause and think about: How do we make travel and our sense of adventure, which is incredible that our generation has, but how do we actually make it sustainable?
Hanli Hoefer [00:23:39] Sustainability is I think a lot of us realized, you know, a lot of us talk about sustainability for the environment and how this pause has been good or bad for it and people had a lot more time to focus on their own role in the environment. I don’t know about you, but after living at home and just being aware of how much I consume, I never realized how much I actually consume and how much I trash that I was accumulating as an individual and that my friends as well. We were like we had no idea until we had to sit here and see the results. So yeah, I mean, I would be interested to see how that changes and travel to.
Sam [00:24:21] Yeah, I think a changes is coming. Anyway, here’s something else you should know, podcast consumption on Spotify doubled between March and July of this year and 21% of Spotify’s users now actually use it for podcasts, thanks to Statisa and the Verge for the data used in today’s episode. Hanli, we love your story because it really illustrates how you don’t have to pick a career path at 18 and stick to it for the rest of your life. We’re inspired by how you spontaneously found and continue to find new passions and follow them to build this portfolio career. Thanks so much for being with us on the show today.
Hanli Hoefer [00:25:15] Thank you so much for having me back.
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