Mrs Hong Kong World Natasha Clausen takes contributing to a better world to new levels. Elizabeth Kerr reports.
At this particular moment, Natasha Clausen’s behavior isn’t becoming of a pageant contestant. We’re having a chat in a restroom in The Landmark so that she can do a quick change into a classic little black dress and get over to a Glow event at Verde Organic which, as Glow’s official ambassador, she’s been booked for. It’s all very high school, particularly when she asks for help with her zipper. But it’s also very typical of Natasha, a grounded Cape Town native on a mission to help us all live better, greener, more empowered lives, especially children.
“There’s greatness in each one of us. How do you unleash that potential? Sow the seed and nurture it, it will grow into something wonderful. The grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it,” she begins by way of explaining her wellness seminars. “That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. I get excited about spreading that message, starting with our kids. They are the change-makers.”
Rewinding to a couple of hours before the bathroom escapade and a more relaxed tea at Robuchon (the café), the spookily youthful 43-year-old is excited to detail how she helps people live better – from new parents down to elementary school children. “Your thoughts create your reality,” she says “What are you saying to yourself every day? Am I using basement thinking? You start with your inner dialogue. [Positive] self-talk encourages a growth mindset and helps in all aspects of life.
“I like to tell those around me to show themselves self-care, self-compassion and understanding,” she says. “We are human, we make mistakes in life. If we grow and learn then that’s what matters most.”
Natasha has lived in Hong Kong 17 years, all of them with her pilot husband Richard and eventually their daughter Savanna, 15 and son Hunter, 11. A marketing and communications graduate, Natasha met Richard – an International Red Cross pilot at the time – at the airport, though she blew him off, entrenched as she was in a girl-power phase (he offered help with her baggage). They married two years later and jetted off to Hong Kong when he got offered a job.
Natasha was at a loss for support when they first arrived in the SAR. “Seventeen years ago, there weren’t many family-orientated workshops. Local families and expats interested in child-centred development practices would come to my seminars and I would show them how to deal with a brand-new baby,” she recalls. “I’ve helped thousands of families, from very humble people to the elite. It’s been a privilege. My first client was a policewoman who just wanted to know how to bond with her baby, how to do infant massage. It all comes down to the same thing – human connection.”
And connection is something Natasha excels at. Though she lives in Tung Chung, her clan runs a bee farm and rescue in South Lantau, taking up the dying art of beekeeping from locals and creating something she considers meaningful for the community.
“The local farmers here are teaching us the culture and beekeeping from the Asian perspective and we’re learning so much… what vegetation is appropriate, what flowers,” she notes. “The farmer we’re dealing with has been doing this for 40 years, and because the generation he would be handing the craft over to isn’t interested, he’s sharing it with us. No, we’re not Chinese but we’ve adopted Hong Kong as our home in every way, investing our time, effort and energy into invigorating the land, and he’s happy someone cares.”
Natasha’s dance card is a packed one. Ask the simple question of what she does, and she replies with, “I’m a multi-potentialite. That’s a fancy way to say where there’s potential I tap into it. It would make more sense to say farmer but I guess I’d say wellness instructor.”
In addition to running her regular seminars for new mothers and children at Flex Studio (previously at the YWCA), the bee farm and completing her MBA in economics and social enterprise, Natasha’s presenting a RTHK series focused on environmental issues (individual actions count), teaches yoga (she trained with Birthlight), and is a life coach and children’s book author.
As CEO and president of I CAN WORLD, a global movement and community outreach programme for kids, she follows the dreams and innovations of young children and encourages them to act, not observe. Together they explore solutions for the 17 global goals that were created by the United Nations for 2030.
Listening to Natasha could conjure images of SNL’s Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley. Smalley was a hilarious send-up of the burgeoning self-help/ yoga-mom movement, and Natasha gets the scepticism and rush to judge her personal wellness mantra. Gwyneth Paltrow’s elitist Goop and its ilk don’t help, but she bristles at summary dismissal as an entitled white lady with too much time on her hands.
“For one, I’m multi-ethnic. I come from a humble background in South Africa. It was a divided, oppressive society, so I’ve seen hardship and families struggle,” she states. “People do have perceptions and the beauty is having a conversation and telling them, ‘It’s not what you think it is.’ I’ve been there, that’s my strength. I know I can sit with someone and understand they’re having a lousy day. Meeting people where they’re at makes a big difference.”
Mrs Hong Kong World
Natasha’s going to be meeting a lot of people very soon, in March next year in fact, when she’ll be Hong Kong’s representative (among 40) in the Mrs World pageant being held in Zhangjiajie, Hunan.
“In a world that propagates youth with beauty, I feel incredibly honoured to have been given this title [Mrs Hong Kong World] in my forties,” Natasha says. “I want to prove that women who are married and middle aged should not be discounted. The outward appearance of a beauty queen is only skin deep, our age and wisdom is what defines our true beauty. It is what grows in our hearts as mothers, wives, daughters and role models.”
As it turns out, Natasha’s been down this road before – winning a contest while at Cape Peninsula University of Technology bought her a scholarship that paid her tuition the next year.
“I picked up along the way that there are benefits [to pageants] and that they open up doors,” she says. “There is a Barbie doll aspect some people are not comfortable with but I welcome it all – all sides of feminine power bring value to the table of success. After all, life is for living. I know that when you show up in life, life shows up for you.”
Mrs World is a chance for Natasha to spread her wellness message on a broader platform, which she has every intention of doing. “I figured add the show-horse factor to the workhorse to explore more windows of possibility, though perhaps that’s not the right visual!” she says with a laugh.
Back in the bathroom, Natasha’s finishing up and looking the picture-perfect spokesmodel as she casts out some final reflections on what is essentially the second chapter of her life. She considers herself privileged to have been embraced by two cultures and welcomed by Lantau’s farmers.
“Sure, we look different and we may sound different but there are commonalities that are undeniable, and figuring out where we overlap is rewarding,” she finishes. “We decided to make this home. It’s been 17 years and counting of really growing and learning and creating something beautiful.”
Photos by Duey TamTags: natasha clausen, mrs world, bee keeping