COVER GIRL. Patricia Gouw shares her story that is equally funny, deep as well as inspiring with Joezer Mandagi
Dress by Chanel
Don’t judge a book by its cover. We really, really tend to overuse this phrase, right? Still, it can be quite appropriate at times, especially in those rare occasions where you don’t simply mean “the (figurative) cover might look bad but what’s inside is good” and instead want to say “the cover might look all pretty and elegant but what’s inside is … well, cool and elegant but also exciting, fun yet deep and inspiring.” Case in point: Patricia Gunawan, better known as Patricia Gouw.
Most of us know Gouw as one of two Indonesian contestants in the fourth cycle of “Asia’s Next Top Model” which aired earlier this year. In the popular reality show, she performed consistently well, winning three challenges and never falling in the bottom two, before eventually making it all the way to the finals. Naturally, her appearance and success in the show opened many new doors—but perhaps not in the usual ways we imagine.
“After ‘Asia’s Next Top Model,’ obviously more people got to know me and my personality,” Gouw explains in all-seriousness before turning on her easygoing, casual and all-out-fun charm. “So they’re no longer fooled by my photos, those super-elegant and supercool photos.” She is, in a word, a riot. Yes, it might be hard to tell when you look at her professionally-taken photos (I mean, just look at the photos in this spread—they’re the epitome of sexy-but-classy with a touch of uptown elegance), but once the camera points the other way, she turns into this excitable bundle of fun. She also doesn’t really take herself all that seriously and easily lapses into bouts of self-deprecating humor. “Fashion people who’ve known me all this time know exactly what I’m like,” Gouw explains with obvious glee. “They’d say, ‘You should keep quiet, Pat. You’re pretty when you shut up. Stop talking.’”
Dress and bracelet by Hermès
Beyond “exposing her true self to the world,” competing in “Asia’s Next Top Model” also exposed Gouw to the joys of going outside of her comfort zone. “Since a long time ago people have been saying that I could be a presenter, that I could go into entertainment,” she recalls, “but I was, like, not confident and I didn’t see myself having a place in the entertainment industry.” It took five long years before she realized that she had a talent that could be put to good use in showbiz. “People were telling me, like, ‘Pat, you have a very strong personality,” she adds. “I didn’t know what they meant.”
So, today she’s often busy with MC gigs while also hosting a popular infotainment show on TV. “And I’m preparing myself to create content for YouTube, because I’m making a YouTube channel,” she casually mentions as the makeup artist started working on her face. For this project, she’s joining forces with fellow “Asia’s Next Top Model” cycle four contestants Alaiza Malinao (from the Philippines) and Aldilla Zahraa (also from Indonesia) to create a series of videos modeled after the behind-the-scenes recordings at the show’s Top Model house. “I mean, people on Snapchat have been asking us to do vlogs,” Gouw explains. “So, like, why not?” And on top of that, she’s also working on her online shop, which has been on hiatus for quite a while.
So far, we’ve seen the “cover” of Patricia Gouw as well as the fun-filled personality and online entrepreneur mindset on the pages inside. Reading further into her life, however, uncovers unexpected chapters that are centered on spirituality and compassion toward others.
Lace top by Alexander McQueen
Right after mentioning how she was looking for graphic designers and administrators for her online shop, she adds that, in the meantime, she’s also busy “seeking God.” And just like that our conversation turns serious. “I want to know what the purpose of my life is,” she asserts, “to know what my calling really is.” This pursuit of self-development and soul-searching also goes hand in hand with her passion for social works.
“Before I became really busy like this, I contributed quite a lot for Rumah Pandai,” she says, referring to a local charity for disaster relief and empowerment of underprivileged societies. One of her pet peeves, it would seem, is the constant complaining about how hard it is living in Indonesia. She’s quick to point out that she’s not immune to this (“Yes, I do still complain about Indonesia!”), but she’s also actively trying to make a difference. “I’ve seen how it is out there, how children can’t go even continue school. For elementary school, they only pay 1,000
rupiahs per month for elementary school,” Gouw points out. “A thousand rupiah! And then they quit school because they can’t afford thirty thousand a month for junior high. How much do we spend at Starbucks each day? It’s really like a slap in the face since I’ve been there and saw it first-hand.”
The conversation soon returns to lighter matters again, but it was at that moment that I thought about the whole “not judging a book by its cover” issue. Because Patricia Gouw, at first glance, could easily be the face of a fashion magazine, but beyond her pretty looks is a story of confidence and compassion, of believing in yourself and believing that you can empower others.