One look at Elisa Khong’s Instagram page and you’ll understand the effort she puts into leading a meaningful life. From promoting eye-opening documentaries about refugees to donating her hair to Wigs for Kids, this 30-year-old vegan green warrior is here to prove how the smallest things we do can make a difference to society.
In the short span of time that I spent with Elisa, she has taught me the pros of supporting locally-made garments, the importance of remaining humble and how to work smart using Otter, the transcription app which I now can’t live without! A true embodiment of the term ‘practicing what you preach’, Elisa is truly a force to be reckoned with – bubbly personality and contagious smile aside.
FEMALE: What are you currently up to?
Elisa: “I’ve been extremely fortunate to have taken a sabbatical (fancy word for unemployment) for the past three years. I’ve spent that time reading, learning, investing, traveling, exploring new industries, meeting new people, developing new skills, picking up new hobbies, spending time with various causes, and working on launching my new plant-based site called Mylking!”
F: Can you share your inspiration behind Mylking?
E: “First of all, the word ‘mylk’ is derived from the plant-based word for milk! I created this site because over the years, friends would ask me questions like, ‘What ethical clothing brands do you buy?’, ‘Where should I eat in Las Vegas?’ or ‘My 12-year-old son just turned vegetarian and he’s afraid that he can’t grow tall. Do you know anyone who has been vegetarian since birth?’ – and I would spend some time answering these questions as I did my research to give them comprehensive answers. Along the way, I learnt a lot, hence this plant-based resource site. It truly is for everyone. No judgements, and no target audience. Everyone who’s interested is welcomed to read it!”
F: Congratulations on getting married! How did the Cloud Wedding idea came about?
E: “The idea of hosting a traditional wedding didn’t sit well with my husband and I. Instead of spending that kind of money in one go, we felt that it was better to channel the amount towards a cause that could create a positive impact on society. I remember how my husband and I were sitting in our living room in Jakarta discussing about alternative celebrations (e.g. wedding camp, small dinner), and the idea of hosting a Cloud Wedding developed – we ended up modeling everything out till sunrise!
We developed the platform with a company called AppleSeeds, and the platform had every element of a traditional wedding incorporated into it, including table seating arrangements, guest book, gift registry (which were donations!), live chat with people on your table or the room, interactive photo booth, Best Man/Maid of Honour Speech etc. On the day itself, we live-streamed the ceremony to all our guests who logged in from different parts of the world. It was an incredible experience even though we didn’t know what to expect as there wasn’t a blueprint for us to follow. Our Cloud Wedding fund (gift registry) reached RM1.3 million and has so far been donated to the Kechara House, Code Tenderloin, Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage Malaysia, Starfish Foundation, and more. You can read more about the initiative here.”
F: Is there a reason why you’re currently living in between Kuala Lumpur & Jakarta?
F: How important is it that your husband shares the same values as you?
E: “We’re both strong believers in ‘you do you’ – where we appreciate, respect and encourage each other to be the fullest of who we are, whatever that may be. I was drawn towards him because I saw that he had this innate and intense drive to grow, and continuously evolve as a person. And I believe that as long as we’re both striving to be better human beings, our values should naturally align.”
F: Growing up with your mother who was the former president of Kechara Soup Kitchen, have you ever felt that philanthropy is an obligation?
E: “Not at all! Thankfully, my parents have never pressured me to do anything but be a good person, put in the hours and work hard, and to always keep learning and doing my best. But hey, if I was ever pressured to be more philanthropic… it’ll very much be a positive obligation!”
F: After the wedding, you donated your hair to Wigs for Kids. Was that one of your long term goals?
E: “It started becoming common to hear about someone’s passing or someone battling cancer, and I asked myself, if I ever went through chemotherapy and lost my hair, how would I feel? Growing my hair out, cutting and donating it was a no-brainer. It didn’t cost me anything, and it would mean so much more to the recipient. Every day that you spend growing your hair out is an act of contribution, and that itself will create a powerful and positive psychological shift.”