12 Famous People You Didn’t Know Had Malaysian Connections

12 Famous People You Didn’t Know Had Malaysian Connections

We had a hand in producing these great people in one way or the other. Somehow…

1. Barack Obama. Yes! The current President of the United States has a brother-in-law whose family was born in Sabah.

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  • Dr Konrad Ng is amused that his Malaysian roots got noticed halfway round the world, thanks to his link to Democrat candidate Barack Obama. An assistant professor at the University of Hawaii in Manoa (UHM), Ng, whose family originally comes from Sabah, is married to Obama’s half-sister Maya Soetoro. Maya and Obama have the same mother. In an e-mail interview with The Star, Ng, 34, said that his father, Howard, was born in Sandakan and his mother, Joan, in Kudat. “I have many relatives who live throughout Malaysia, especially in Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and the two towns where my parents came from,” he said

2. Shaun Maloney. The former Aston Villa and Celtic footballer was actually eligible to play for Malaysia! Born in Sarawak, he and his family eventually moved to Scotland where he would represent the country 37 times.

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  • Four Four Two: You made your Scotland debut almost 10 years ago, but before that, did the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) contact you due to your eligibility?”Nah, they did not contact me. I could qualify to play for other Home Nations as well – my father is English and my grandmother was Welsh – but in the end it was the Scottish FA that really got in touch with me.” – Shaun Maloney
  • “My family absolutely loved living there, but unfortunately my dad’s contract was not renewed and he was offered a job in Aberdeen instead. Because my mum was from Scotland, he took up the offer and that was it.” – Shaun Maloney

3. Jay Manuel. The America’s Next Top Model judge is actually a quarter Malaysian thanks to his dad’s heritage.

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  • “I grew up in Toronto, Canada. My mother is Czech and Italian and my father is from South Africa, a Cape-Malay mix.” – Jay Manuel

4. Guy Sebastian. Hailing from the country of Klang*, the Australian Idol winner is making waves not just because of his super cool hair but due to his musical ability

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  • Guy Sebastian was born in Malaysia and moved to Australia with his family in 1988 when he was just six years old. Back then, he was just a church going guy from suburban Adelaide who juggled two jobs. Today, the Australian Idol winner is a genuine cultural phenomenon, a pop idol whose mesmerising voice, and was one of the judges for the Australian version of X Factor.
  • *Klang is so huge it’s considered a country in itself. – Darian

5. Godfrey Gao. The Canadian actor and model is actually half Malaysian thanks to his mother. Fun fact: He was the voice of Ken in the Mandarin dubbed version of “Toy Story 3”.

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  • Gao, whose father is from Taiwan and mother is from Malaysia, went to high school in North Vancouver but now lives in Taipei. He speaks both English and Mandarin. His Facebook site lists his favourite activities as playing the drums, volleyball, basketball and ice skating. In a video interview posted on YouTube, the soft-spoken Gao also professes his love for food (especially peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) and says he’s a good cook.

6. Gwen Stefani. Gwen’s husband, Gavin Rossdale actually has relatives here living right in Kuala Lumpur! So don’t be surprised if you see her hanging out at a mamak with the family.

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  • “I am practically Malaysian,” Stefani told 10,000 screaming fans, including Muslim mothers in traditional headdress toting their young daughters, and members of a militant student group which had initially protested her concert. “I just want you to know I am very inspired tonight,” she said. “You are a very, very amazing audience.” She said she has a special affinity for Malaysia because her rocker husband Gavin Rossdale had relatives in Kuala Lumpur. She then waved a miniature Malaysian flag, and said thank you in the local language.

7. Penny Wong. Born in Kota Kinabalu, Penny moved to Adelaide when she was just 8 years old. She then developed a passion for politics and is now the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate of Australia.

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  • Born in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia in 1968, to a Chinese-Malaysian father and a European-Australian mother, she moved to Adelaide with her mother and brother at the age of eight. She attended Coromandel Valley Primary and subsequently won a scholarship to Scotch College before studying Law and Arts at the University of Adelaide.

8. Yin Chang. Most people will recognise Yin as Nelly Yuki in the famed hit TV series Gossip Girl but did you know she’s actually the granddaughter of Dr. Teng Beng Chew, a world renowned artist from Malaysia?

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  • Chang was born and raised in New York and is the eldest of three daughters. She is of Taiwanese and Chinese, Malaysian ancestry and is raised as a Buddhist.
  • “My Grandpa was born and raised in Malaysia and is referred to as the most qualified artist of his country. Besides his breathtaking works of art that challenges your imagination and senses, he’s also internationally known for inventing a specific way of making handmade paper art and is dubbed “The Malaysian Genius of Papermaking”. He earned a Fulbright scholarship to study art at the Cranbook Academy of Art in America. Then he earned his BFA and MFA at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. My Grandpa continued on to complete his PhD at New York University.” – Yin Chang

9. Andy Lau. One of the four heavenly kings of Cantopop, Lau Tak Wah is married to Malaysian Carol Chu.

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  • He has been married to his long time Malaysian girlfriend Carol Chu since June 23, 2008, but the marriage and relationship, though rumored, have only been confirmed by Andy Lau in August, 2009.

  • There are also reports that Andy Lau has received an ‘indecent proposal’ by a female Malaysian Datuk to spend the night with her after she became infatuated with him.

10. Aarif Rahman. Blessed with the good looks of having a Malaysian father who has Malay, Chinese and Arab ancestry, the star has worked with Fan Bing Bing and played legendary Bruce Lee in the film “Bruce Lee, My Brother”.

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  • Rahman was born in Hong Kong, the youngest of three siblings. Rahman’s father is from Malaysia of Malay, Arab and Chinese ancestry, while his mother is Hong Kong Chinese.

11. Lee Gaze. A member of popular rock band Lostprophets, he’s married to Syirin Said, a Malaysian communications specialist! They have a child named Daniyal Rehan Said Gaze.

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  • “We are extremely excited to start our family with the arrival of baby Daniyal. He is so, so cheeky—he sleeps so well when we’re out and about, but refuses to sleep when he’s home, which means no sleep at all for Mommy and Daddy. But it’s all so worth it,” say the new parents, who were married in Syirin’s native Malaysia earlier this year after four years together. “We’re looking forward to whatever comes next from our little monster!” – Lee Gaze and Syirin.
  • *Thanks for the heads up Clement Chiang!

12. Bic Runga. The New Zealand singer has songs topping charts in New Zealand, Australia, and even the UK! Her mother is a Malaysian Chinese who used to be a lounge singer before she met her future husband.

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  • Runga was born in Christchurch. Her mother, Sophia Tang, was a Chinese Malaysian lounge singer in Malaysia when she met Joseph Runga, a Māori soldier on leave from Vietnam. They both moved to New Zealand to live.By Darian Goh. Published on 10 Feb, 2015.

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Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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