With huge spectacles framing an acne-afflicted face and his hair worn in a constant dishevelled state, the teenage Justin Lim was very much the unattractive, unpopular geek. Then he decided to set an audacious goal for himself – to take control of his life and completely revamp his look.
Up to that point, Justin had coped with a kidney disorder that put him off strenuous exercise for most of his youth. Because he could not participate in sports like the rest of his peers, he was labelled a nerd. But all that changed when he was finally given a clean bill of health. Once exempted from 2.4km runs during fitness lessons, he then started to sign up for crosscountry events. “It’s like when you’ve caged a bird. When you let it go, it will fly like the wind,” he says.
While his health and fitness improved, Justin felt he still looked “less than ordinary” – so he aspired to one day be a Manhunt winner. He admits this goal was “fairly ambitious”, but that very fact spurred him on. “I cut out pictures of male models and pasted them in my scrapbook to see how close I was to looking like them,” he explains. “It forced me to take care of myself, exercise and build up my physique.”
And as he exercised, change came naturally. “The funny thing about exercise is that as you work out, you feel your body transform,” Justin says. “Your circulation and skin complexion improve so you look more radiant, your muscles tighten up, body shape improves – the whole package just starts to look nicer.”
His quest for the title was no walk in the park. “I used it as a motivating factor. Even in cross-country races, I would tell myself that if I didn’t achieve my target time, it would somehow disqualify me from ever winning the Manhunt title,” Justin explains. “Because of that, I would race with all my life, and that’s how I started to achieve my goals.”
And achieve he did. After being crowned Mr Singapore/International 1999, Justin went on to establish and manage his own image consultancy firm and model agency. “It was tough but what motivated me to carry on was that I had set a goal to become an image consultant by 30.”
He did become an image consultant at 30, but not a very successful one. So he simply set another goal to become a successful one by 35, which he promptly accomplished as well. Along the way, he also started a modelling agency and attained qualifications in makeup, hairdressing, colouring and styling, modelling and fashion designing, and even casino dealing. It’s difficult to argue that whatever the man sets out to do, he accomplishes.
Today, the family man (he has been married for eight years and has a daughter aged four), entrepreneur and self-esteem guru, regularly participates in biathlons and adventure challenges, while maintaining a weekly routine of swimming and working out. Not bad at all for a former nerd.