I finally managed to gather my thoughts and sit down to finish the second part of my blog post about `How it really is to be a model in Asia`. To be honest it's not an easy one to write, it isn't one of your light hearted "this is what I'm wearing today" or "here is a cool cafe you should check out" post. It's of course way more personal, so I needed a bit of time to dig deep and think of all my experiences.. But here it is, I hope you'll enjoy it, and apologies as it will be a longer one! ;)
So first and most importantly, models often start their career in Asia, as it's easier out there for us foreigners to get booked for editorials, ergo build a strong portfolio. In fact many top models have started over there. As I said it's much easier to book jobs with great photographers and brands, so even just after a few months you can return with loads of strong images in your portfolio.
The reason is strange and simple, you look different to them, so they think you give their brand or magazine a cool European look.. I know..Weird, but you gotta milk that cow, what can you do..Anyway, so later on you can either decide to try your luck in Europe, or just stay there for a bit, see the world and travel. I did that. I stayed, not only because I wanted to see the world, but I've also been told I would never make it as a model in Europe, since I'm too short and curvy. Which I proofed them to be wrong! ;)
PHOTOSHOP AND POPPING COLOURS ARE VERY POPULAR
However, they do love a good photoshop work, as you can see in the pictures above, I have no pores whatsoever..Ha :) So obviously if you want to stay there and work it's great, otherwise if you show these photos to an agency here in Europe, there is no chance they'll use any of them in your portfolio. Which is good I think, these photos are not a representation of a real human being anyway..Haha
YOU GET TO SEE THE WORLD
As I mentioned earlier, one of the big perks of travelling as a model is that you get to see so many cities and countries you otherwise probably would have never visited in your life. An even bigger plus is, that the model agency in your destination covers all costs. Flights, accommodation, driver, pocket money. All of it. Well, until you start working, then they deduct the living life of your pay checks, so you may end up with very little money. Or nothing. Or a lot, if you worked like crazy. And oh boy you can work a lot. Two-three photoshoots a day are normal, 200 outfits per shoot is also very common. No care for days off, or the need to sleep, you're there to work after all.. :)
Also, if for some reason the season is slow, and you don't book enough jobs to cover costs, you don't owe them anything. Which is a very good thing, as you never know, sometimes it doesn't plan out the way you hoped for.
YOU'LL MAKE FRIENDS FOR A LIFETIME
The people above are just a few of many amazing souls I met on my travels. You'll spend every day with the people you are in the same agency with, so you better do your best being as open as possible to all the different cultures. Or just be patient in general.. But once you understand it's all about team work, that you're there to support each other, since you know absolutely no one in the whole country, you'll understand how good it is actually to have them around you. I can honestly say I feel extremely lucky to be able to say I have friends all over the Globe.
YOU GET INVITED TO THE MOST AMAZING PARTIES
Oh, the parties. Every day. On a yacht, in the forest, at a waterfall. Or just at clubs. Everything is free. The booze, the food, tickets to get in anywhere. A concert? An after party? Not a problem. You spend your day going to castings or photoshoots, eating very little carbs to stay thin, and so you won't get fat drinking all that alcohol. Who needs sleep anyway, you're way too young for that.. ;)
THE LIVING SITUATION
Model apartments. Where an agency will have one or more apartments to keep all their foreign models in, mostly about 5-7 models in 2-3 bedrooms. Privacy you ask? It's non existent. :) We were very lucky to been put together in this apartment in Beijing (in the pictures above). About 9 years ago, we ended up like a close family, partied, cooked and had fun together. It was the easiest time I've ever spent in a model apartment. It's much much rougher most of the times to be honest, you don't always get along with the people you live with, which can be quite annoying if you don't even have your own bedroom.. :D
FINDING YOUR OWN HOME ADDRESS: IMPOSSIBLE
We've tried everything. Learning our address, writing it down, practiced to pronounce it right, yet we still ended up having problems, as in China especially, even the slightest change in the tone of your voice can mean a whole different thing. Luckily we always managed to get back... :)
We are taking a picture of this little boy because his parents asked us to. Why? I'm asking the same question.. Now I'm not quite sure if it's true or not, but once I've asked my booker in Japan why people want to take pictures with us, and she explained it's probably because they either think you are a celebrity, or they just simply never met a caucasian person before, so to them it's a big deal. Hm..
And yes, that's a collection of giant dried fish skin on the right..YUM
Is this not how you rest on a public beach? You'd see people sleeping like this all the time. It's very confusing. I mean you'd walk into a Mc Donald's and it would be completely normal to see at least one person sleeping, head down on the table...
We just had to see what all the fuss was about.. :D
Health and Safety is key, I never got a soup in a plastic bag to take home, I promise.. :D I mean no container at all, just soup poured in a plastic bag. I know, right? If it happened to you here in Europe, you'd freak out, even call the manager. There? You just accept the fact that this is how it is and you take it. I realised I became less fussy once I got to Asia. One thing I couldn't get used to is people chewing EXTREMELY loud, with their mouth open in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Like crazy loud, imagine sitting on a photoshoot, on your lunch break being the only foreign person, having 5-8 people chewing so loud like it's a competition. Eeeeew!
Also, the spitting. Same countries I mentioned before. What someone also explained to me before is that to them it's actually really disgusting when we blow our noses, as to them it's more hygienic to spit stuff out. I mean, no it's just too much, I'm sorry. Having to sit at a restaurant witnessing people spitting in little bin buckets next to their table.. I mean.. NO. Just no.
Who needs uber..
I mean.. This is how I sunbathe.. dunno about you mate..
WORKING IN THE MOST INSANE CONDITIONS, SOMETIMES IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
When your changing room is a towel, and people are watching you. On the beach. No problem, you are a pro after all! :D
Sadly, more often than not, you'll do a photoshoot for a certain price you've been told by your agency for a brand that you don't know. That will later turn out to be on the side of buildings for a price of a magazine shoot.. At least back when I was there.. As most websites in China used to be blocked, including Facebook and Google, we couldn't even make sure if we were given the right price, they had total power of what money we got for the hard work we did. Sadly I only realised when I got to London that I can earn the money I made in about 3-4 days in China in a single shoot in London. Young and careless ha, only if we asked around I guess..
When you get to work from another shoot and the makeup artist doesn't even bother to take your make up off and just starts painting on top of what you've already got on, you know you are in China.. You work like a machine, as I said, shoot 200 outfits per shoot, having 4 woman tear your outfit off you at the time so you get ready for the next look is also normal. Just as normal as offering no food or water until you get most of your outfits done, not caring for the fact that you might be starving, or thirsty.. Sometimes if you get a nice client, they'll take you out for food after work-but only when they are big clients to the agency and they are trying to impress and/or keep the good contact. Then they might take you to a local BBQ place where you can sit in a dirty restaurant, on small chairs, eating very questionable meals. However, food is always delicious, and I never got too sick from it, so whatever. You are respecting traditions, so just deal with the conditions and enjoy your weird experience.. :D
All in all, I do recommend you go to Asia if you get a chance, and try how it is to work over there, because it's an experience you'll never forget. Just try not to be too stuck up and keep an open mind, as their mindset is very very different to what we are used to. About the business side of it, all I can say is to maybe have a bit more care for what the agencies are doing regarding your contract. The percentage they take, the things they charge you for.. Always make sure you check the brand you work for. As much as possible at least, very often it's extremely difficult seeing the brand's name could be all written in characters you can't understand, but try and do your best to always have a confirmation e-mail of all your jobs with as much details as you can get. They can be very cheeky with pricing as I said..
Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself, or be scared to ask for anything you need. Within reason of course. Like to be fed on a photoshoot for example.. :)
Oh also, be careful if you want to go work around Christmas time, as they don't celebrate it. I made the mistake of staying over the Holidays once and I ended up going to castings on Christmas day.. How depressing..
I hope this blog post is not only interesting to all our lovely readers, but also helpful to the future generation of models planning their travels abroad.
Thanks for reading! :)