Menh Chanvanda’s hobby of making outfits and headpieces from natural materials has made her famous, with her work featured on Asia’s Next Top Model’s Facebook page and Vietnamese news outlets.
The fashion designer, make-up artist and hair stylist has also used her talent and creativity for good causes, from raising awareness about environmental protection, to gathering funds for charitable schools.
Hailing from Kampong Speu province, Chanvanda, also known as Romdoul Lich Tek, has been working hard to chase her dreams in the fashion and beauty industry.
Initially self-taught, Chanvanda then trained with professionals until she was able to perfect her skills in make-up and hair styling.
“I learned how to do make-up from Youtube and got experience when I worked for some professional artists. I managed to pick up some techniques from them to solidify my skills. In 2006, I competed in a hair stylist contest at Chenla Phnom Penh Cultural Theatre. I beat 300 contestants and won first place,” the 32-year-old told The Post.
“In 2010, I competed in the Thai Fashion Expo in Bangkok’s Paragon Shopping Mall. I won first place in make-up and second place in nail art. These are just a few milestones in my journey that got me here today as a well-known make-up artist.”
Chanvanda has been a favourite make-up artist and hair stylist for top singers like Meas Soksophea and Aok Sokunkanha. She was also chosen to be a special make-up artist for Miss Global 2017 and a beauty mentor at Miss Planet International 2019.
Besides her busy career helping celebrities to shine, Chanvanda uses her free time to design costumes
and headpieces from local plants, flowers, herbs, animals, food, wild fruits, garbage and traditional tools.
The first designs of hers that caught the public’s and fashion community’s attention were a hat made from 100 riel notes, and a dress made of banana leaves. She generally models the pieces herself on her social media pages.
“Most of the time, I don’t have plan or prior concept about my design. The idea just pops in my head and I start doing it spontaneously. From everyday objects to what I see on the way, if anything catches my attention, it suddenly inspires me to use it as a theme or design material.
“I spend about one hour for make-up and then several hours putting on the strange costume and headpiece. Then I use my phone to take some pictures and share on social media. That’s it,” Chanvanda said.
With more than 111,000 followers on Facebook, Chanvanda occasionally receives prejudiced comments as she dresses as a woman, but this doesn’t stop her from doing what she likes.
“I don’t mind any criticism about my crazy costumes and style. I really never get angry hearing some people talk about me in a negative way. I also think what I do is crazy stuff too, but it is about fashion, humour and a message about the source of my materials used in my designs,” she said.
“I’m not sure whether I’m the first or last to use things from nature for fashion costumes and headpieces. What I am sure of is that I love doing it and I try my best to promote fashion in Cambodia.”
Her popularity does not come without challenges, as she was clear that her costumes must be part of Cambodian culture and identity.
“This is quite a challenge for me as I was strict in choosing only local materials. As I have many requests to design costumes for big events and music videos, my options for sourcing materials is getting narrower. Most of the design materials that I use are local products or raw things from Mother Nature. I hope Cambodian people will give great support to local fashion.
“My strange costumes and my headpieces are all made from local products and Cambodian nature. For instance, I prefer to use the roses that are grown in Cambodia while almost all the markets here sell only imported roses from neighbouring countries. Not just roses, every flower that I use, it must be a local one,” she said.
With her fame as a designer, make-up artist and hair stylist improving her life, Chanvanda, who comes from a poor family, will never forget to contribute back to society.
She dedicates her spare time to attending various provincial charity concerts and raises funds for children who are struggling to receive an education.
“Seeing very poor primary schools in Sambor district, Kratie province, I was so shocked. It was so touching to see the children in a terrible school. I brought some money and study materials to the children,” she said.
“Now I’m working hard to host some events such as Nom Banh Chok to help raise money to build a proper school and toilet for the children.
“Even though I’m not rich and still lacking, my heart hurts when I see Cambodian children in this state. I believe I’m capable to help them with the support of my fans and the public.”
You can find more information on Chanvanda on her Facebook page (@Romdoullichtek)