CoverModels' Laura Kell in Z!NK
photo: Mackenzie Duncan
styling: Leila Bani (THEY Rep)
makeup & hair: Sonia Leal-Serafim (THEY Rep)
May 13, 2011
As a model, you have to possess certain personality traits in order to work successfully in Asia. Determination is very important. Patience is another. Stamina is up there on the list. A sense of humour, however, is probably number one.
After a term of studying at Carleton University in Ottawa, I packed my bags yet again and jetted out west, across the Pacific Ocean. Last summer, South Korea was my home for three months. This spring, I'm doing Shanghai.
I absolutely adore the market here in Shanghai. At my first casting, I booked the job and was working within two days of arriving. Now, after a two and a half month stay, I've easily become one of the agency's top booking models. I've worked for Miss Sixty's shoe catalogue and the American punk brand Dickies. It's a great feeling, working a lot and constantly being busy, but remember when you're on top someone's always going to try to bring you down.
Enter the biggest cliché of the modeling industry: A lanky, bleached blonde Russian model, whom I shall call "A", with a sneering smile and hatred for anyone who's working more than her in the agency. Target of interest: Me.
We were at a casting a few weeks ago, when she proceeded to "mock" my poses in front of the client. In Asian markets, posing in front of a client when no camera is present is quite common. The client is able to evaluate the model's confidence, personality and fluidity of poses, giving them a better idea of which model would fit their brand the best.
For someone who is new to the market, it can be very awkward. I, however, have no shame to do what it takes to book a job here in Shanghai. As I made my way front-center to the client, and did my thing, "A" stood behind me. Snickering with the other Russian girls, she saddled up beside me and began imitating whatever I was doing. In front of the client. Talk about unprofessional.
Part of me wanted to rip every single strand of faux-blonde hair of out her head, shove her to the ground, and teach a good old fashioned, Canadian lesson à la Sidney Crosby. But some voice inside of me told me to keep my cool. As a flush of rage began creeping up my neck, I concentrated on breathing and kept doing what I was supposed to do.
The client didn't bother having her try on their clothes. They had no interest in seeing her pose. They didn't even look at her portfolio. At that casting, she dug her own grave in an attempt to go out of her way to bring someone down. She had showed the client a catty, unprofessional personality – and who would want to work with someone like that?
And guess who booked the job? Moi.
In university, I learned a lot about British Literature, Youth Criminal Law and how to write an essay – several times over. Modelling internationally has been a lesson in street smarts, how to interact with people and really work, professionally, in an environment that can be high stress.
Professionalism counts for a lot in this industry – and if you play your cards right, and figure out how to pose "Asian style" you can work quite well in the Shanghai market.
As I mentioned before, the only thing harder than being one of the agency's top models, is staying on top. And I refuse to be brought down with high school-worthy bullying and cattiness.
So, you're probably wondering if anything did eventually happen between myself and "A"… Did we duke it out, girl-fight style? Did I ever tell her off?
I guess you'll just have to check back soon to find out!
With love from Shanghai,
Laura Kell is a CoverModels' model currently in Shanghai.