Screen Test is an in-house photo editorial series curated by Highsnobiety. Each edition highlights the best up-and-coming models and photographers from around the globe.
Photography: Georgia Reeve
Shooting since: 2009
Career Highlights: Highlights Magazine, Rhythm Magazine, EXIT, Highsnobiety
Brands featured: DSTM, Chromat via Arcanegallery, Edge O’beyond
You recently moved from HK to NYC how has the move affected your life?
In terms of my career it’s opened up doors I never had access to before. New York really is the central hub of the modeling world. It was a big gamble leaving Hong Kong at the top of my game and starting over in a new market…but no risk no reward. In terms of my personal life it has been hard trying to form roots in New York. I also travel so much it’s very difficult to cultivate relationships.
Where is home?
I think I am the epitome of the saying “home is where the heart is.” I am half Korean, half British, born and raised in Hong Kong, with a Swiss passport, and living in New York. I have no physical place I call home, and my loved ones are scattered across the world. Home is a feeling and that feeling has moved around throughout my life as I have. Right now home for me is Koh Samui, Thailand.
What’s special for you about Koh Samui?
I have been going there since I was a kid and have a family house there and recently spent a lot of time there training in Muay Thai. The friends I have out there like me for me and nothing else. The country, sport and people have done a lot for me and helped shape me. Things are simple there.
Would you say modeling is something you learn over the years, or is it that you either are a model or just not?
You are either a model or you are not. I don’t think it is something that people can try to be. But modeling as a skill (and a verb) is learnable. Being able to deliver a desired image given factors such as light, time, makeup, concept, is definitely something that I have learned. I remember when I was 13 I had no idea what I was doing. I just sat expressionless in front of a camera and thought it was everyone else’s job to make me look like a model. Ha!
What’s the hardest part about the model job?
Maintaining mental and emotional stability in an industry based on judgement and aesthetics.
Was it your conscious decision to become a swimwear model?
No, it just happened. My body changed as I matured. I became more suited to different clients.
Tell us about the Sports Illustrated Model search.
What an unbelievable experience that was. To have been in Sports Illustrated is (actually) a dream come true. When I was a bullied obese teenager I used to have the Tyra Banks Sports Illustrated cover on my wall and I used to tell myself everything would be okay. Never in a million years did I think I would grace those pages one day. If only 13-year-old me knew that, it would have saved her a lot of tears. It’s an iconic establishment. And I am so proud to be a part of it.
You completed a Master’s Degree at a university in the UK. Why did you decide to go back to modeling and not accomplish a career in your field of study?
I have a Master’s Degree in Finance and Financial Law from SOAS, University of London. I never stopped modeling while I was studying. Actually, I briefly retired as a model and worked as a commodities trader, then was training to do derivatives consulting. After about four months I decided to give modeling one last whirl. And boy oh boy am I glad I did!
Do you notice people treat you differently when they know you’re a model?
Yes and I really dislike it. Modeling is what I do, not who I am. People treat me differently – whether it is just ending the conversation because they assume you have shit for brains, or they want to be your best friend because they put you on a pedestal. I am very proud of my career and my work but often when I meet people I make up a fake occupation…currently I’m using “swimming pool technician”.
You’re famous in HK, do people recognize you on the street?
Yes, sometimes (laughs). It’s an amazing feeling for me. I have worked hard and paid my dues in the industry, it’s nice to have that recognized. I am the opposite of an overnight success.
You’ve mentioned the modeling industry has a hard time placing you as you’re not a skinny but also not a plus-size model. Where do you take your body confidence from?
It still shocks me that the industry struggles to find room for me because I am not a size 0 and not a size 16. Beauty is beauty, and fame and stardom should be more about role models. I get my confidence from my sports, mainly Muay Thai. Since training Muay Thai I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt. I’ve struggled with eating disorders, various unhealthy weight loss obsessions, body dysmorphia (you name it I’ve probably experienced it!) my whole life, finally I feel like I’m in a happy place where I have overcome those demons. That was mainly because I found Muay Thai.
How do you prepare for a shoot?
No alcohol. Eat light. Eat early. Work out and sweat. Do your sit ups. Full nights of sleep. A lot of tea. I generally don’t socialize a lot so I can get in my own headspace and focus. Oh, and face masks, loads of face masks.
You are very active on social media platforms is this important for your job?
This is the way the industry has evolved and we have no choice. Social media gives us in the entertainment and media industries a chance to promote ourselves and our work, at no cost. It’s another source of income. It stores our contacts and connections. It definitely creates opportunities.
What’s your favorite emoji?
Bowl of noodles.
Speaking of food, do you have a certain diet you follow?
I believe in listening to your body; it knows what you need. I avoid processed preserved foods – no chips, no chocolate, etc. Eat as clean as possible. I don’t use salt and sugar. I don’t like eating late. And never skip breakfast.
What do you want to tell girls who wish to accomplish a career like yours?
First of all it blows my mind that I could be even one other person’s role model. That’s my dream. I want to make a difference. I want to tell them to ask themselves if they really want it. If they do, then go fight for it. Always assume nothing in life gets handed to you. Believe in yourself, get rid of your insecurities. Go and take what you want, nothing great ever happens inside your comfort zone, so have no limits. Better yourself every single day and ALWAYS WORK HARD.
You’r single, describe the perfect guy you’d like to date.
Am I? 😉 First, I don’t have a type. It’s about the type of man you are, not about what physical attributes you happen to be born with by complete chance. But I am a massive supporter of evolution and natural selection, so I think about strengthening the gene pool and I like the alpha male.
A man. He has strong values, morals, ethics. He has a plan. He is driven and ambitious. He wants something and he takes it. He protects me (and our family), he makes me feel safe. He lets me be independent but he’s always watching. He pushes me to reach my potential. He lets me push him to reach his potential. He knows how to give a compliment. He inspires me. He challenges my mind. He is capable of anything. He makes me laugh, every single damn day. Because I never want a boring day in my life.