In Conversation With Sarah Hani Jamil on Empowering Malaysian Women Through ELLE Malaysia


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Photo Credit to Herry Chia

It’s the dawn of a new era in the Malaysian publishing industry as a much-loved international fashion title, ELLE Malaysia, makes its return after a long hiatus. This time, it will be presented in Bahasa Melayu, allowing it to connect with local readers in a language that speaks directly to their hearts.

As the leading female media brand in the world, the new ELLE Malaysia under Heart Media is poised to elevate the Malaysian publishing scene to unprecedented heights. Leading this relaunch is Editor-in-Chief Sarah Hani Jamil, who brings extensive industry experience from renowned publications such as FEMALE, Harper’s Bazaar, and BURO. With her background in women’s titles, she’s all for championing diverse narratives that resonate with the modern woman. Ahead of the magazine’s official debut this September, we speak with Sarah about her vision for the new publication.

Congratulations on your appointment with ELLE Malaysia! Tell us, what does this mean to you?

Thank you! It’s such an honour and privilege to be given this opportunity. For me, the ELLE brand represents more than just a magazine; it embodies the spirit, strength, and sophistication of women around the world. Personally, this appointment is an affirmation of my years of dedication to the publishing industry. I look forward to bringing my vision to the title and connecting with our readers in meaningful ways while respecting its rich heritage.

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Photo Credit to Herry Chia

How do you feel about ELLE being in Bahasa Melayu?

I think that it will be a refreshing twist to the international title. ELLE is a magazine that speaks to women on various levels—from their lifestyles and tastes in clothes to music, art, food and technology. So it makes perfect sense for ELLE to be available in the national language of our country, as it allows us to connect more deeply with our readers.

There’s a huge market to be tapped into by offering content in Bahasa Melayu, allowing us to reach a broader audience. I want the magazine to feel like it truly belongs to Malaysian readers, celebrating their identities, achievements, and aspirations.

You have been in the Malaysian publishing industry for 13 years now. Do you have a childhood memory that inspired you to embark on this career path?

I credit my sisters for introducing me to the world of magazines. My eldest was a loyal reader of InStyle, while my second sister was an avid fan of Teen Vogue. Growing up, our home was always filled with these glossy publications, and naturally, I developed a strong love and affinity for them as well.

I remember spending countless afternoons flipping through those magazines, fascinated by the vibrant layouts, stunning photography and creative fashion content. I would then create my own mock articles, cutting out pictures and writing stories, dreaming of one day being part of that world.

Over a decade ago, I was fortunate enough to land my first role in a notable women’s magazine, FEMALE Malaysia, which honestly felt like a dream come true. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside and learning from some truly inspiring female editors—shout-out to Terry Saw, Yang Mei Ling and Rachel Au—who have helped shape my career. Knowing that I can continue to contribute to and be a part of this dynamic field is incredibly fulfilling.

Having led a digital publication for the past two years, how do you feel about the transition back to print and integrating it with digital?

I honestly feel like I’ve had the best of both worlds. My past experience in print has taught me the importance of crafting strong, thoughtful stories and appreciating the power of a compelling visual language.

On the other hand, my recent work in the digital realm has emphasised the need to stay current, agile, and responsive to fast-evolving trends and reader preferences. Digital content requires a keen sense of timeliness and an ability to engage with the audience in real time. Merging these two experiences, I believe, gives me a unique edge. Additionally, being supported by a great team whom I respect and am excited to work with makes this journey even more promising.

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Photo Credit to Herry Chia

You started in the media industry as a writer and have made it all the way to EIC. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned in your career?

Oh boy, I’ve learned so many lessons and made plenty of mistakes along the way! However, perhaps my most significant lesson of all is the importance of collaboration and teamwork. No single individual can achieve a goal alone, which is why respect and kindness are the principles I uphold in all my team interactions. Whether you’re an intern or a creative director, I believe that treating everyone with respect, regardless of their role or seniority, fosters a positive and efficient work culture.

How will you approach the debut issue of the new ELLE Malaysia in September 2024?

Without giving too much away, our aim is to inspire and set trends while maintaining reliability on the fashion front.

Beyond style, our focus will also be on celebrating local talent and narratives that reflect a sense of pride in our community. We want to highlight the achievements and unique perspectives of individuals making an impact within our country and beyond. Rest assured that the September 2024 issue will reflect our commitment to creativity and inclusivity in Malaysia.

What are your plans for ELLE Malaysia in the future?

I see ELLE as not just a magazine, but a multifaceted brand that influences and inspires women in Malaysia and beyond. Whether through innovative collaborations, community initiatives, or fresh editorial features, we will strive to set new standards in women’s media while also celebrating our unique Malaysian identity.

The whole notion of magazine publishing has evolved in the last decade. What are your thoughts on this transformation and what do you believe is necessary moving forward?

That’s absolutely true—the pace of the industry has evolved dramatically! Previously, filing a story was the primary focus of the day. Now, the role has expanded to include video production, editing, being the face of the brand, and social media reporting. It’s become a wonderfully multifaceted role that constantly challenges me to think faster, work harder, and innovate creatively.

I embrace this shift because it allows me to engage with our audience in dynamic ways. One of the most inspiring aspects of this development is witnessing the creativity and bold ideas of the younger generation. Their innovative approaches push boundaries and bring fresh perspectives to the table, which I think is very much needed for our industry to evolve.

Lastly, what defines the ELLE Malaysia woman and what kind of lifestyle does she lead?

The ELLE woman is not only someone you aspire to be but also someone you’d genuinely want as a friend. She embodies style, warmth, and compassion—a woman with whom you eagerly share stories and from whom you eagerly listen.

At the heart of ELLE are the core values of fun, joy, and relatability, which we are committed to amplifying. Our goal is to celebrate and empower women through content that resonates with their lives, interests, and aspirations. We aim to foster a community where every reader feels inspired, understood, and uplifted.

Reach out to Sarah at sarahhani@heart-media.com and follow her on Instagram at @sarahhanijamil.

The first issue of ELLE Malaysia is slated to launch in September 2024. Stay tuned for updates on elle.my.

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