We continue today getting to know beauty entrepreneur Carolyn Lee Tan, Korean national beauty queen, who has captured not only the heart of her spouse, Elton See Tan Sr., a tourism and construction magnate, but also the numerous Filipinos who have become her friends.
Carolyn takes the limelight with her pioneering beauty products at a time when Filipino adulation of Korean telenovela superstars and singing heartthrobs is at its peak.
While it has only been relatively lately that we have been appreciating Korean personalities, K-pop culture and aesthetics, these are not mere fads or passing fancy. Instead, I would dare boldly claim, as their artistry, to cite just one of their many assets, is not of the ephemeral variety but is deeply anchored on their person.
To go back to Carolyn, both the genuineness of her pleasant and charming character and her flawless beauty make her not a mere overnight sensation, so to speak, but a constant epitome of everything that is worth appreciating and emulating in another person no matter their roots.
Red ginseng and dried mangoes
Daily Tribune (DT): How does your family bond?
Carolyn Lee Tan (CLT): We find traveling the best way to bond, so we always travel every year together, visiting different countries. When we are at home, we hold movie nights and game nights. Moreover, we do outdoor activities together.
DT: What are your favorite local and international destinations? Why?
CLT: My favorite destinations aside from Korea and the Philippines are Europe and Taiwan. I love Europe because it is the leader of fashion and art. Each country is beautiful in its own way, and has very artsy, historical and cultural spots. I learn something new every time I go.
Taiwan is my third hometown. I lived there for many years so I have made many friends there. I enjoy going back to Taiwan to visit my friends and explore all the yummy foods.
DT: What do you bring home as pasalubong?
CLT: I usually bring home food that is famous from the country and unique cultural gifts.
DT: What is your favorite Korean pasalubong to Filipinos and your favorite Philippine pasalubong to Koreans?
CLT: Korean pasalubong? Red Ginseng and Korean cosmetics. Philippine pasalubong? Dried Mango, Coconut oil products, mother of pearl and cultured pearls.
DT: Years after, what do you like best about living in the Philippines?
CLT: After many years, I have made a lot of wonderful friends in the Philippines, so I really enjoy my life here. I love the food the Philippines has to offer. I definitely have found that I belong here now.
DT: How did you cope with the pandemic?
CLT: During the pandemic, I stayed home with the family and started my business with my daughter.
DT: What were the difficult aspects and what turned out to be blessings in disguise?
CLT: Even though the pandemic was a difficult period, there were some blessings in disguise. I had the opportunity to start a business with my daughter and I have enjoyed more family bonding time.
DT: Where do you see yourself five years from now.
CLT: I imagine our business going worldwide in five years.
Marianne Rivera and Gary Valenciano
DT: What is your advice to Koreans living in the Philippines?
CLT: My advice would be to not only make Korean friends, but also try to make local friends here because everyone is very friendly in the Philippines. Also, don’t only stay home. Make an effort to go out often and socialize. Last but not least, travel to beautiful places and enjoy local food and the hospitality of warm-hearted Filipino people.
DT: What is your advice to Filipinos who want to work in Korea?
CLT: Don’t be afraid to speak your opinions out loud and don’t be embarrassed if you don’t speak perfect Korean because that is totally fine. Everyone will be willing to teach and accept you.
DT: What is your advice to Filipinos and Chinese Filipinos who fall in love with Koreans?
CLT: Try to understand that there are bound to be cultural differences so try to accept each other’s differences.
DT: What can you say about the fact that more Filipinos are loving Korean stars and telenovelas?
CLT: Yes, I think Korean stars are becoming very popular and many Filipinos like them. During the pandemic, Filipinos started watching more Korean dramas on Netflix and they started liking Korean stars more. I think it’s good for both nationalities to appreciate each other and learn about each other. Cultural exchange can promote better understanding between our countries.
DT: Which Filipino stars and telenovelas do you love in turn?
CLT: Marian Rivera and Gary Valenciano.
DT: On a personal level, how do you promote Philippines-Korea relations?
CLT: I attend many cultural events both in the Philippines and Korea. Now that I’m starting this business, I’m bringing in many K-beauty products to the Philippines as well.
DT: What were the highlights of your tenure as Miss Korea?
CLT: It was a very unique experience for me. As I became a public figure, I got to attend many different occasions. Such experience included international travels, volunteer work and cultural events. I became the spotlight at different events because of the Miss Korea title so I always made sure to take good care of my appearance and beauty. I got to meet many people from different countries throughout my journey that turned into lifelong relationships, as well as being the bridge to connect different cultures.
DT: What is your ultimate tip for an aspiring beauty queen?
CLT:Always be confident. Believe in yourself and always love yourself. Know how to take care of yourself.
DT: What is your formula for success?
CLT: Hard work, authenticity, good values, network, luck and passion.