It girl with looks, talent and celeb parents

The 16-year-old has her parents, veteran actor Simon Yam and supermodel Qi Qi, to thank for her fame, but the only child is also driven by her own ambition

Ella Yam (above), who juggles school with modelling, inherits her grace and charisma from her show business parents, Shanghai-born supermodel Qi Qi and veteran Hong Kong actor Simon Yam (both left).
Ella Yam (above), who juggles school with modelling, inherits her grace and charisma from her show business parents, Shanghai-born supermodel Qi Qi and veteran Hong Kong actor Simon Yam.PHOTOS: HARPER'S BAZAAR SINGAPORE, INSTAGRAM/ SIMONYAM OFFICIAL
Ella Yam (above), who juggles school with modelling, inherits her grace and charisma from her show business parents, Shanghai-born supermodel Qi Qi and veteran Hong Kong actor Simon Yam (both left).
Ella Yam, who juggles school with modelling, inherits her grace and charisma from her show business parents, Shanghai-born supermodel Qi Qi and veteran Hong Kong actor Simon Yam (above).PHOTOS: HARPER'S BAZAAR SINGAPORE, INSTAGRAM/ SIMONYAM OFFICIAL

You could say Ella Yam won the genetic lottery.

But spend any amount of time with her and you will quickly realise that she got more than looks and talent from her parents, Shanghai-born supermodel Qi Qi, 53, and veteran Hong Kong actor Simon Yam, 66.

Though she has those in spades, she also inherited from them a deep sense of gratitude and a steadfast dedication to hard work.

For many young stars with a claim to celebrity pedigree, there is a desire to carve out a path and identity separate from their lineage.

Perhaps that comes with age, but for now, the 16-year-old delights in her parents' company.

The Yams are a tight-knit family and it shows.

When she is not using her Instagram (@ellayamm) for work, she uses the platform to express her love for her parents, sharing sweet family shots with her 18,600-strong following.

And with no hesitation, she says her mum is her biggest professional inspiration.

"Her work ethic is just so amazing and I always try to learn from her in every aspect."

There is no mistaking the traces of Qi Qi in the natural ease and grace Yam exudes in front of the camera. The charisma and charm that reach all the way to the lens, meanwhile, are a mirror of her dad's.

Her quirky and goofy personality shines through, though, and this balance is why Yam, who was taught by her mother to be herself "no matter what", looks as amazing in high fashion as she does in the casual gear she prefers for everyday life.

"My style is comfortable and chill," she says, but reveals that she feels "really empowered" in the looks she models.

Brands at the top of her list include Celine, Dior, Balmain and Off-White. She also loves Miss Sixty, which is doubly sweet because she cites Bella Hadid as one of her fashion influences and they have both been faces for the brand.

Whether it is Miu Miu for an editorial or comfy Loro Piana for a day out, Yam exudes effortless confidence - a quality that enables her to thrive in all areas of her life.

You would think that juggling school with modelling might be a struggle, but she has the act down pat.

"I had all nines for my 10 subjects for IGCSE, so I'm really happy about that," she says, referring to the International General Certificate of Secondary Education. By the way, her favourite subject at school is mathematics.

She is careful to take time out for her physical and mental health too.

"I run, do yoga and just vibe to music to de-stress and declutter my mind," says the Drake and Travis Scott fan. "But I really enjoy modelling, so I don't get tired from pursuing my passion."

Indeed, along with her enviable height, her ability to take things in her stride is fast becoming the leggy 1.76m-tall teen's signature trait. Which is a good thing, considering how emotionally taxing last year was due to the pandemic.

"My biggest challenge was probably not being able to see my friends and reunite with family members outside of Hong Kong," she says.

It is not surprising then that the app she spends the most time on is Snapchat - to stay connected to her friends.

Nevertheless, she was able to find a silver lining.

"I learnt more about myself and I really started to appreciate the little things in life. I'm so grateful for everything that I have."

Also, social distancing allowed her to spend more time on her hobbies, which include exercising and meditating.

"It felt really good being able to do these things," she says.

She loves reading too and sees it as a form of escape.

"Sometimes, I get so absorbed in a book, I forget about everything. There aren't any burdens when I read and the main reason I love it is that it gives me so much knowledge. I love learning and growing as a person."

But surely she must miss having adventures in the great wide somewhere? You bet.

Like the rest of the world, she is looking forward to when she can travel internationally again.

While Vienna, London and Amsterdam are among her favourite long-haul destinations, for somewhere closer to home, Yam lets on that she cannot wait for the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble to open.

"I'd love to go to Singapore," she says. "The culture and especially the food there are amazing."

But for now, she is happy in Hong Kong, a city that is full of history and character, and one she wishes more people would cherish.

"There are so many places in Hong Kong that are worth preserving," she says.

Modelling and fashion will always be part of Yam's DNA, but she says that right now, she is thinking about studying business and economics at a university in London.

While there is no telling what the future might hold, one thing is for certain: Ella Yam is only just stepping into her power.


  • This article first appeared in Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, the leading fashion glossy on the best of style, beauty, design, travel and the arts. Go to www.harpersbazaar.com.sg and follow @harpersbazaarsg on Instagram; harpersbazaarsingapore on Facebook. The July 2021 issue is out on newsstands now.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2021, with the headline 'It girl with looks, talent and celeb parents'. Subscribe