WHEN popular Malaysian motorsports athlete Leona Chin first Google searched her way into the racing world some 15 years ago, little did she know that she would become the high-earning internet celebrity that she is today.
Now, the racing star’s views on the internet giant’s streaming site YouTube number in the millions, bringing her a string of endorsements and sponsorships — from racing teams to luxury car makers — with big pay cheques that come along with internet fame.
While making herself out to be an all-rounder motorsports careerist, the 32-year-old Chin is largely known for skills in drifting. This could be seen in a prank video in which Chin cloaked herself as a regular salesperson pitching a new Mistubishi Triton.
The video starts off with Chin innocently introducing the Triton to customers, mostly males, of which some were even caught mansplaining how she should drive. Only when they follow Chin for a test drive with her behind the steering wheel would they truly find out her driving prowess.
Who could blame them? At first glance, it’s hard to imagine how a demure persona like Chin would be a motorsports monolith, and how a seemingly girl-next-door type from Subang Jaya — a predominantly middle-class suburb in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur — could be involved in such an expensive activity.
“It started out as a hobby when I first got my driving license after I turned 18,” Chin, who holds a Bachelors Degree in Business, told the Asian Correspondent when met at the Google Kuala Lumpur office recently.
Chin said at that age, she was friends with a lot of boys who shared the same interest.
“I just wanted to be the cool girl driving a sports car.”
There’s also a pervasive stereotype that celebrities in Malaysian motorsports, or celebrities in general, came from affluent backgrounds. But Chin says she was not born with a silver spoon; her widow mother had raised her and three elder siblings as a single parent.
Now, however, Chin owns four sports cars which she uses on the road and at the racing track. She also has a racing simulator rig set up in her house to practice her laps.
Chin’s success — which includes winning racing tournaments at home and abroad, and invites to test drive BMWs and Aston Martins — was no mere stroke of luck either.
She explained that Google searches and optimisation tools had allowed her to navigate around the internet, showing her how to promote racing and drifting teams that trained her in motorsports in return for building their websites.
“I learned some HTML and coding all on YouTube,” she said, adding the skills had helped her snowball her hobby into a full-time job.
Chin’s noteworthy career path is one of many that Google Malaysia wanted to highlight in conjunction with its search engine’s 20th anniversary, which falls on Sept 27.
Google Malaysia said like many others, the company has had a long and storied relationship with people like Chin who have “super-heartening” stories on how they have used Google services.
“The thing that we want to highlight most is the human stories, folks that in many ways have created careers thanks to the availability of Google Search and their ingenuity in using the Google services, and eventually allowing them to realise their dreams,” said Google Malaysia Head of Communications and Public Affairs, Zeffri Yusof.
“That’s where we really feel honoured where the magic of Google Search is there (to help them build their careers).”
Zeffri says since its introduction in Malaysia, Google has come a long way in terms of its use across the country.
“Internet penetration in Malaysia is very high as 24 million of the nation’s roughly 32 million population are online, and the smartphone penetration is at the high 90 percent range,” he said.
“And that means almost everyone in Malaysia is a smartphone user and 85 percent are using Android so most Malaysians are very Google savvy.”
Much like Chin, 11-year-old celebrity chef Danish Harraz is also earning his share of internet fame which could turn into a lifelong and prosperous career.
With the help of his parents, Danish, who developed an interest in cooking at the age of three, used Google to learn how to bake and cook.
“Therefore, by the age of 4, I started using Google so I can explore more and more cooking knowledge and cooking skills! When I was 6, I started to cook and bake on my own,” he told Asian Correspondent via email.
“I remember trying out a recipe that I learnt from Google, by myself. It was Spaghetti Bolognese! That was my first recipe.”
Danish said as he grew older, he had learned how to upload videos on YouTube all by himself, adding that he typically spends an hour or two, outside his studying time, to research cooking topics and recipes for his audience.
“I put everything into practice, go through episodes of trials and errors, and back to researching online till I succeed.”
“I’m more into creating simple yet delicious recipes that require little time to prepare, simple cooking techniques, and using manageable ingredients.
“From time to time, I try to create recipes that do not just help mums out there to be able to enjoy preparing home-cooked food for their loved ones despite their busy schedule, but also as motivation for beginners! So as of now, I have no recipes that I myself find it hard to learn and try.”
On whether he would have been a celebrity chef without Google, Danish said it might have not been possible.
“If Google was not around, all these won’t be possible. I would have not learned what I have learnt. I would have not even been where I’ve been now. To me, Google in life is a blessing, a bonus.
“It helps me to learn and explore the world without limit, by just sitting back and relax!”