Jo Lam: Super Natural

THERE ARE SO MANY women in my world who provide me with inspiration on a daily basis: Jo Lam is certainly one of them. This beauty entrepreneur and mother of three – to Jonathon, 5, David, 10, and Matthew, 12 – is forever challenging the codes of modern family life. Then there's her genius insight into wellbeing, raising boys, staying sane. And to top it off, she's now redefining the traditional notion of organic beauty with her online business, Orli

  2. Photographed by LUISA BRIMBLE 


  4. Makeup by JACLYN HNITKO


  2. Earthly Delights: above, founder Jo Lam at home, wears a LANVIN jacket from Belinda with a BASSIKE shirt.
  1. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR GREAT PASSION FOR WELLBEING – WHAT INSPIRED YOUR INTEREST IN ORGANICS AND GOOD HEALTH? I was brought up immersed in a family of health enthusiasts. My mother and her extended family were constantly discussing latest health trends, both traditional and modern. The marrying of traditional remedies with modern medicine, what’s now known as complimentary medicine, has always been a part of my Malaysian Chinese upbringing. Growing up in a modern multicultural landscape steeped in traditional Indian and Chinese cultural influences has left me with a life-long appreciation for the healing properties of food and botanical extracts. My appreciation for food as medicine intensified after becoming a mum. The saying that ‘we all become like our mothers’ really holds true in my case. I was also particularly fascinated by how science seemed to be catching up with traditional medicine. The efficacy of traditional remedies, herbs and food as medicine are increasingly backed by modern research.
  1. When I hit 40, my skin started to become hyper sensitive. I read extensively about natural nutrition and skincare, holistic health and complimentary medicine. I was astonished by how many toxins my everyday skincare products contained. As a result, I virtually tossed out my whole beauty cupboard and went on a hunt for natural beauty alternatives. I saw a vast improvement in my skin health and I haven’t looked back. Just as I have embraced organic and chemical-free in food, it made perfect sense for me to do the same for my skincare and everyday products. Supporting organic and chemical-free has a wonderful ripple effect. It goes further than just benefiting your immediate health and wellbeing. Saying no to pesticides and poisons impact the health of the wider community, ecosystems and the planet as a whole. Every minor decision each person makes counts and contributes to either a cleaner or dirtier planet. 
  3. AND YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE BEAUTY IDEAL? For most women, the lines start to deepen and the wrinkles begin to appear around the 40-something mark. I see many women reach for the quick fixes and other more invasive procedures in the quest for ‘anti-aging’. It made me ponder what message this sends out to the daughters of our generation. Don’t we always try to reinforce how beautiful and special each of them are, how they should be proud of their unique looks and individuality? What signals are being sent out when our generation resorts to quick fixes; compromising health in the pursuit of eternal youth? My personal view of true beauty is healthy beauty, inner beauty and intelligent beauty. Ageing is a natural and necessary process. I think it's best to focus less on anti-aging; more on physical, mental and spiritual health.

Home Paradiso: above left, a selection of Jo's favourite beauty products; and right, the exterior of her eco-friendly home, which is designed around Feng Shui principles and incorporates wild hanging gardens. 

  1. WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO START ORLI? My life plan was always to return to the workforce by the time my youngest child started schooling. However I decided to follow my intuition and use my passion for natural nutrition, skincare and sustainability in some way. This cemented my decision not to return to a corporate role, but to focus instead on creating a platform where I could share my philosophy with the wider community. In the meantime, I was frustrated with the process of trying to find truly genuine organic skincare products. It involved constantly double-checking labels; I came across far too many products containing sulphates, fragrances, harsh alcohols and heavily processed preservatives sold under a misleading ‘all-natural’ umbrella. I decided to merge my passion for natural skincare together with my professional background in accounting; to create an organic beauty hub that was founded on the amazing properties of natural ingredients, backed by evidence and scientifically-based research.
  3. WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL WITH THE BRANDMy objective was to make it really easy, affordable and pleasurable to shop natural, toxin-free and cruelty-free products. My main goal however goes beyond the products. I would love for Orli to be a platform for spreading the philosophy of individual, natural and intelligent beauty by encouraging women to be confident, and to love their own skin, whatever their age. To emphasise clean and healthy skin; not age reversal.


PLEASE SHARE YOUR TIPS FOR ACHIEVING ULTIMATE INNER SKIN BEAUTY? My tip is to incorporate lots of super foods, water, probiotics and alkalising greens in your diet combined with regular detoxification through exercise. Sweat it out! Top foods for skin include tumeric, chia seeds, wild salmon, tomatoes, berries, green tea, broccoli sprouts and avocados, just to name a few. Whilst there is great awareness around nutrition and exercise, skincare is often the overlooked element. Basically our skin eats so it’s important to feed it with as much nourishment as possible from a wide variety of sources. The approach to skincare should be no different to food. It should be nutritious, non-toxic and natural with minimal preservatives. If someone is serious about living a low-toxin healthy life, it is crucial to eat healthy, exercise regularly and switch to natural skincare. My other recommendation would be to mix it up just as we mix up our food and exercise. Most brands specialise in specific botanicals – combining different brands allows your skin to benefit from a broader range of nutrients. Healthy skin can then be achieved by nourishing it from the inside out and the outside in. 

"I was astonished by how many toxins my everyday skincare products contained. As a result, I virtually tossed out my whole beauty cupboard and went on a hunt for natural alternatives."

Green Day: "I wanted to be able to assure people that all the ingredients are natural, safe, scientifically researched and sourced from ethical suppliers who are passionate about sustainability and a toxin-free environment," says Jo who also spent months researching her brand's packaging, which includes a recycled paper version of bubble wrap, pictured above.

  2. Bone broth: This is a staple part of our diet. I make a huge pot once a week using grass-fed chemical-free leftovers. It’s a great way to squeeze those extra nutrients from your food. The health benefits are amazing and bone broth offers an instant taste lift to any recipe. My kids invariably have bone broth served with rice for their daily breakfast. It’s convenient and a super nutritious start to the day.
  3. Coconut oil: I use it for cooking, baking, slathering on toast, as an extra emollient for my scrubs and masks or as a cleanser for skin when it feels extra dry.
  4. Herbs and spices: I use tons of pure or organic spices as they are full of health benefits and offer the best kind of natural flavours. My pantry staples include tumeric, cumin, chilli, coriander, oregano, rosemary, thyme, cloves, cinnamon, fenugreek and fennel.
  5. Teas: I drink a wide variety of organic teas throughout the day and I’m obsessed with Matcha ground whole green tea leaf.
  6. Essential oils: I was introduced to pure therapeutic-grade essential oils three years ago and I’ve been using them diligently ever since. Essential oils contain complex bio-constituents offering so many health benefits proven by science. Not to mention the scent of essential oils, which are immediately uplifting and positively mood altering. I boost my skincare with essential oils and add it to our baths. It’s used on the whole family for boosting immunity, warding off infections, headaches, tummy aches, respiratory aid, skin irritations, cuts, grazes and muscular aches.

Modern Family: Jo, pictured with her son David, has a practical approach to mealtime: "My kids are also old enough to understand consequences: they have a natural curiosity towards health. They can feel for themselves the impact different foods have on their body, the effects of lack of sleep, too much or too little exercise. I always put it back to them to listen, respect and be aware of their own bodies’ needs." Joanne wears BASSIKE.

  1. DESCRIBE YOUR VIEWPOINT ON MOTHERHOODMotherhood is a continuous ever-evolving journey. I seem to have a different viewpoint with each child, each passing year and possibly with each new day. The moment I feel I have it figured out another curve ball gets thrown and I’m on a different ride! I’ve learnt to strap on the seat belts and enjoy the roller coaster as much as possible. It’s not easy but I try to build up courage to let my children blossom to whoever they are meant to be in life. It becomes more apparent that my role is not to mould them to be the perfect human being but simply to be their consultant.  My husband and I feel that the best we can do is teach them strong values, support them and hope they will make good decisions in their own life journey. I lost the capacity to be the full Virgo mum after I had my third child. I did much less micro-managing and forward planning and I think the whole family is far better off for it. We have all developed a lot more faith that things will be okay, we can only put our best foot forward each day and try not to worry about situations outside our control. We certainly don’t hold back on our thoughts and feelings with each other and we all learn to laugh through the haphazard chaotic moments. I’m fortunate that work for me is a hobby and a passion so I don’t feel the need to balance that with life as that is an essential part of my life. My approach is very simple; family and kids take first priority, I make lots of time to nurture and foster friendships and work around that even if it means starting at 5am or working till late at night. There are no set hours for a mum running a business. I can get a few good hours in when the kids are at school, after they go to bed and where I can squeeze it in on the weekends. The kids see me working and I think it benefits them. They learn that the universe doesn’t always revolve around them and they too have to fit in with the family juggling act or else everything falls to pieces.
  1. HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILDREN TO HAVE AN APPRECIATION OF THEIR OWN WELLBEING? I do this simply by thinking out loud. I find myself constantly verbalising why we should eat or shouldn’t eat certain foods. If my kids even have a hint of an infection, I start ranting like my mother, 'drink warm teas, more bone broth, increase vitamin intake, gulp olive oil, apply essential oils'. They know the drill. My kids are also old enough to understand consequences: they have a natural curiosity towards health. They can feel for themselves the impact different foods have on their body, the effects of lack of sleep, too much or too little exercise. I always put it back to them to listen, respect and be aware of their own bodies’ needs. They love hearing about how intelligent their bodies are and how they can either help or hinder its ability to function optimally. I think overall we have a very positive approach to food. There are no strict rules but the kids understand the concept of empty calories and eating to maximise nutrition. I never want them to have a complex about any type of food. The best I can do is to make them aware of how different foods are metabolised by their bodies. I think food should be enjoyed and shared. It’s not about counting calories or over-thinking food groups but to simply eat wholesome well-prepared meals from trusted sources most of the time.
  3. AND THE ENVIRONMENTEnvironmentally we try to teach our kids to observe and appreciate the wonder of nature all around us.  We don’t do big science projects at home but we do have lots of conversations about where the food on our plate comes from. As a family that supports organic and chemical-free food, we naturally gravitate towards a mindset of sustainability, humane and clean farming practices. It’s not uncommon for us to discuss how the steak and broccoli on our plates contributes to global warming. My husband and I love travelling and architecture and we have subconsciously found it to be a great avenue for teaching kids about resources and the environment. Every family member had some input into the building of our home, which is designed around environmentally friendly principles. When we travel, we are usually pointing out architecture and getting the kids to think about how and why buildings were built. They are boys and marvel at any feats of engineering so by observing architecture, we teach our kids to understand how different societies live, what resources are used, how that has changed throughout history and how it impacts the environment.

YOUR INTERIORS ARE MODERN, YET ORGANIC IN SHAPE AND FEEL. CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR AESTHETIC: The house is principally built on environmental and Feng Shui principles. We took into account thermal insulation, grey water recycling, cross ventilation, light and orientation as well as the Feng Shui orientation. We wanted an Australian house that had character, surrounded by greenery and bathed in natural light. We were referred to our architect, Mary Ellen Hudson who fit the bill perfectly and was very keen to work around some of my Feng Shui concepts. She uses natural materials as much as possible – recycled floors, sandstone, marble, concrete and timber to create a look that is both modern yet organic. Mary Ellen is amazing at incorporating curves and angles, natural light and airflow into her designs. The home is engulfed in greenery. Practically every window looks out on to lush landscaping.

"Essentially anything that isn’t organic or natural looks slightly out of place in this house."

LASTLY, AT THE END OF A BUSY WEEK, HOW DO YOU POSITIVELY REENERGISE BODY AND SOULWe always have catch ups with family friends. Hardly a weekend goes by where we don’t do something social involving the whole family. I get a huge buzz from being around positive people. I love spontaneous visits from friends or kids pick-ups that turn into a casual dinner. My home is always open to family and friends and I love the stream of kids and parents that come and go over the week.


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