It’s almost that time of the year again where families gather around to celebrate wonderful endings and adventurous beginnings. At the end of every year, we look back and see what we’ve left behind and make amends with it, before moving forward with the New Year. It is in the same spirit of family values where each person extends a hand in helping others and shares the joy of giving.
In commemoration of the festive season, we’re turning to the poster girls of unbreakable sisterhood who represent these warm family values in everything they do. Joined at the hips longer than they can remember, we talk to the Xu sisters, Cecil and Isable, on a lesson that transcends time and stories to comfort our hearts.
To the public’s eye, Cecil and Isable Xu are perfect targets for criticism. They lead seemingly perfect lives that inspire envy from unknowing followers. There’s so much more to these Instagram-famous girls than meets the eye. In this interview, we peel back layers of highly manicured social media feed and find out the real Cecil and Isable Xu.
Being the center of attention is never easy, especially when people pick apart their lives and gossip over the smallest changes on their Instagram feed. No pictures of Cecil’s husband? They probably got a divorce. No pictures of her son? She’s a horrible mother for abandoning her son. Why is Isable not as thin as her sister? She needs to diet. These are just some of the comments in their Instagram pages. When in reality, they couldn’t be further than the truth. Cecil is happily married and always care for her son. “I bring him everywhere. He might not be in the pictures, but he’s probably sitting on the side while we take pictures.” And when questioned whether her son is the reason why she stopped taking endorsement, she answered “I stopped taking endorsements to spend more time with my family. I did too many that everyday my life is about taking pictures. When you accept endorsements, you have this responsibility to finish it within a time limit. Your priorities become different. So my husband asked me, ‘Ask yourself, what’s more important to you in life?’ And of course, it’s my family.”
Getting the chance to talk to these sisters face-to-face was a reality check that nobody’s life is perfect. Isable clarifies, “We capture moments when we’re happy. We capture what we want them to see. It’s not always what we are. It’s different from reality.”
Through out the one-hour interview, our team are constantly surprised by how open and honest the sisters were as we touched upon the question, “What is the toughest thing you’ve ever experienced?”. From one moment to another, Cecil and Isable were opening our eyes to the reality they don’t show to the public. One incident they don’t readily share on social media is the fact that Cecil suffered second-degree burns and a miscarriage. A year ago right on her birthday and in a series of oblivious actions, her husband’s co-workers and staff sprayed party strings near a cake candle, which resulted on it latching on to her hair and catching on fire.
“Back then, she was 5 weeks pregnant and she intended to tell her husband that day”, Isable explains. So when Cecil got to the hospital, she refused to be injected with painkillers, thinking that it would harm the baby. “My husband thought I refused the painkillers because I’m afraid of injections. So I told him no, it’s because I’m pregnant. And then Isable explained to him too that [the baby] is real. At that time, I didn’t realize I got a miscarriage.”
Three weeks after the accident, Cecil went to visit her Obstetrician only to be told that her baby had stopped growing. When she caught on fire, her husband attempted to remove the party strings from her hair so they would not cause any further damage. In his attempt to save her, he grabbed her hair and accidentally caused Cecil to fall harshly, which led to her miscarriage.
“After the miscarriage, at that time I felt like dying. But I’m a mother so I have to be strong for Jose. Looking back, I think of it as a lesson to be more careful”. It also helped Cecil tremendously that her family and friends were there for her every step of the way to help ease the pain of losing a child. As Cecil kept the story in the shadows, not a lot of people knew about the accident so every time people asked why she has yet to have her second child, she has to go on again and explain the entire accident to them. “Until now God hasn’t given me another child, yet. Maybe because it’s not time yet.”
One thing we noticed from the interview was how religious Cecil was in person. One advice she gave from the Bible that really struck us was,
“Everything will be beautiful at the right time”.
[Cecil is wear Potts’ Air Color Dress]
If you know Cecil, then you would know Isable. The two are always together and it’s hard to imagine a Cecil without Isable, and vice versa. To their followers, Isable is often considered living in her sister’s shadow (Cecil has almost twice as many followers as Isable). “Of course people compare us a lot! They say you have to diet. If you’re thinner, you’ll look a lot prettier. I mean it’s not that I’ve never tried to diet before, I tried.” Isable exclaims (at this, we saw a fire to Isable that we’ve never seen before). The criticisms often start with the way she looks and extends up to her career prospects.
What woman likes to be compared and commented on about their life choices, especially when it involves their appearance? At a public platform even! Not only is Isable compared to her older sister, she’s also routinely compared to other influencers. She shares with us a story of an anonymous person sending her side-by-side comparisons of her pictures in Morocco against another popular influencer.
The pressure often leaves her distressed as she feels she has to prove her worth to the public. “That’s the worst for me. Because I’ve graduated since February and until now, I’ve done nothing.
But I mean I have plans for myself so you cannot judge me until you see what I’ve done”.
Unlike what people see on social media, in reality, Isable is a hard-worker that surpasses expectations. When Isable came to our studio, she was feeling under the weather and couldn’t digest anything. The Xu sisters woke up at the break of dawn to get their makeup done at 6AM so that Isable could “di kerok” afterwards. The two of them then arrived at our studio right on time, with Isable surviving on isotonic drinks so she wouldn’t pass out. Even on an empty stomach, Isable remained cheerful and professional throughout the entire time, and even helped the team carry a sofa around. We found out later through Instagram that she went to the hospital right after the session.
It’s not easy in this young adult’s life, being compared and underestimated all the time, but she has her own way to dismiss ignorant haters.
“What people see is the front page. Nobody knows the behind story. I feel so much luckier than her [Cecil], and sometimes, she says ‘I wish I were you.’ I love my sister because I know her story but I don’t want to be her.”
Since it was close to the holiday season, we decided to deck the Xu sisters in our charity collection. They were vocal about their love with the designs and great cause behind the project. Cecil adds how amazed she is that LOVE+FLAIR’s vendors are willing to give up all their proceeds to help out in producing this special collection. “I think it’s a very good thing. Nowadays people don’t really think about philanthropy anymore”. On the topic of charity, we asked the Xu sisters for their thoughts on it. Isable believes in creating a culture where doing good and helping others are valued upon, and we need to start with the little ones. Educating youngsters about sharing means the next generation will be more compassionate and have greater empathy for those in need.
“What we have now won’t permanently belong to us. It’s a Merry-go-round; we won’t always be on top. What if we were in their position crying for help but no one’s listening?” said Isable. So while they’re in a position to help, they want to help as much as possible.
To wrap up our short time with the Xu sisters, we asked them to share what they would say to each other if the other were not present. Cecil immediately says, “Get here now”, which led to choruses of laughter. Isable takes on a more sentimental route.
“I’d say I’d never know what my life could be if she weren’t here or if she was never born. Because whatever I decided to do, it was always with her support. When I went abroad to study, or when I took different majors, she was behind it all. She was the one who helped me analyze which major I should go into. And when I was halfway [studying] and felt homesick, she was the one who motivated me to get back on track. I believe she’ll need me a lot too. Everyday she’ll ask me little things like what to wear.”
Hearing this, Cecil reconsiders her answer. “I can’t live without her either. I’m very comfortable when I’m with her so whatever I do; I do it according to me. Whatever that I want to do or whatever that I dislike, I can just tell her and she’ll just accept it for who I am. I mean not even your friends can accept everything, you know. They’ll judge you, but for her I think that’s the best part. I think she’s like the second me. There’s nobody else that can be so similar to me.”
Through all the good and bad in life, we’re sure the Xu sisters will get through it just fine with their hands intertwined. They’re aware of how blessed they are, without abusing that luck, and they remain true to their humble selves of extending a helping hand to those in need. Should the time ever come when they need help, we’re sure their good hearts and perseverance will be rewarded aplenty. As the sisters say, life is a Merry-go-round. Everything will be beautiful at the right time.