updated 17 Nov 2011, 16:45
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Tue, Nov 15, 2011
The New Paper
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Mummy's super daughter
by Maureen Koh

Tall and pretty. Smart and sensible. Vivacious and sporty. What more can you ask for in a daughter?

Mums, be green with envy for the mother of 15-year-old Fiona Fussi.

From our first firm handshake, Fiona floored me, made me envious and prompted a silent comparison with my own daughter, who turns 11 next week.

Fiona became the hot new face of the local modelling scene when she won over the judges at Elite Model Look 2011on Nov 3.

The teen, who stands at 1.76m, will catwalk alongside 80 peers in Shanghai next month in the global finals.

Now, world fame beckons the Singapore-born permanent resident, a Eurasian (dad's Austrian and mum's from Hong Kong) who has lived in Singapore all her life.

But Fiona is more than good looks and perfect skin.

For one thing, she's a straight-A student (for all nine subjects subjects) who puts studies at the United World College as her top priority.

Still, she was "horrified" when she found out that mum Mona Fussi, 50, had shared her grades with The New Paper on Sunday.

Says Fiona: "I'm pleased with my grades and work at school, and I hope to keep it up for the rest of the school year.

"But really, I've had to work hard at it, put in the time and effort to study."

She speaks four languages (English, Mandarin,Cantonese and German). She gets tuition only for Chinese. Science is her favourite and mathematics is a killer.

But that only means Fiona has to work harder on the numbers and put in more effort, says Mrs Fussi of her only child.

So she looks good, is a great student. But can she sing?

You bet.

Not only that, she takes music as a subject in the International General Certificate of Secondary Education.

She enjoys tinkering on the piano and dancing - anything but ballet.

Fiona adds: "I also really like business and PE."

So she can stun model beauty judges, she can study, she can sing. Is that it?

Wait, we forgot sports. She excels in swimming and cycling too.

Not enough? Fiona declares "my favourite sport is basketball but I also really like football".

Just so you know it's not a frivolous whim, let it be noted that she's in the school's Under-16 A team for basketball.

Fiona, who describes herself as "lively, positive and dedicated", says: "We took part in a tournament in Kuala Lumpur in May last year and took home the gold. Hah."

Prepping for the Elite Model Look competition has taken a fair bit of Fiona's time away from school.

But the support from the school and the teachers has been wonderful.

Says Mrs Fussi: "We really appreciate their understanding and the encouragement they've given to Fiona."

Not that Fiona is taking it for granted. She says: "I've got a whole lot of catching up to do but hopefully the teachers will go easy on me."

Mr Albert Fussi, 53, who runs an import and export engineering firm with his wife, remains quietly supportive of Fiona's interests.

He has only one condition: That she continues with her studies even as she pursues modelling.

Mr Fussi is a graduate with distinction from the Mechanical Engineering and Commercial Academy in Austria.

Can she handle so many demands on her time? Mr Fussi thinks she can.

His words of assurance to Fiona: "You can make it if you think you can."

Fiona admits that she is still overwhelmed by the win and attention since the competition.

She says: "It's been a week, but I haven't really got used to the flattering media attention.

"It was fun being interviewed on the morning radio show and meeting the people behind the voices."

Then, on a firmer note, she adds: "But I'm still myself - whether it's in school or at home.

"That's not going to change."

Fiona has always been keen on modelling, says her mum.

Says Mrs Fussi: "Since Fiona was young, she would wear my high heels and model for us at home.

"We can see she has the passion and potential, and that's why we support her."

Mum also offers a more practical reason: "We want her to know too, that modelling is not all fun and play.

"There's a lot of hard work involved and we thought the backstage experience would be a good eye-opener."

Fiona quips: "My mum allowed me to enter the contest at first because she thought it was a good experience and she wasn't expecting me to win. Haha."

But is this just a phase that young girls go through?

She pauses to think, then replies: "A phase is something that happens over a short period of time, but this is something I've always wanted to do.

"And to have the dedication to do it is incredibly hard. It's not something that you really 'study' to become, though. You have to get that one chance."

She adds: "And when (one of) the top modelling agencies in the world tells me I have the potential to be a model, it becomes more of a reality than just a phase."

Fiona, who describes her favourite attire as "something comfortable and stylish", says: "I'm a teenager, almost 16 years old (in January), living in a hot, international country and my style reflects that."

Despite the online buzz generated since The New Paper published a photo of her in a bikini during the swimwear segment, she is refreshingly cool.

Says Fiona: "Yeah, I do wear bikinis just like most of my friends and other teenagers living in Singapore (when we hit the pool or beach)."

Mrs Fussi says: "I think some traditional Chinese or the more elderly people are more conservative about clothes that are more revealing.

"But that's the same in any country.

"These days, it's very common to see teenagers and young women wearing bikinis at the beach or swimming pool."

But really, it isn't an issue. Even heartlander uncles and aunties - okay, maybe more so the women- say it's fine.

Mrs Fussi, who is clearly proud of her daughter, says: "Fiona's Chinese name is Zhi Xin.

"I gave her this name because I want her to be intelligent and happy."

She adds: "(To model at) 15 can be considered quite young, but for some, like musicians and athletes, they need to start young, grow and develop to be professionals.

"Fiona has good grades at school and is not giving up her education yet.

"We, as parents, together with Elite Model Agency, the school, teachers and her friends, will support her so that she can balance her studies and her passion."

Asked what's next on her plate, Fiona says: "Right now, my focus is Shanghai (for the finals) but I guess we'll see what happens at the end of the competition and I'll get back to you.


This article was first published in The New Paper.

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