Modelling in Malaysia
Natalia Zurowski, Features Columnist
An In-Depth Guide to Modelling in one of Southeast Asia's Newest Markets.
Please proceed to Part II
Chantale Nadeau's Natalia Zurowski
Style Magazine (Malaysia)
A market that many North American models are most likely unfamiliar with is
Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia.
Located in Southeast Asia, with Singapore, Indonesia and
Australia as its neighbours, Kuala Lumpur is a modern city in constant development.
Over the years, KL has become a burgeoning and bustling metropolis that within the next
10-20 years is going to become an urban and business hotspot.
Expatriates from all parts
of the globe are taking note and placing their investments into the local economy. The
potential opportunities KL has to offer are attracting workers to tap into the market and
see for themselves what all of the buzz is about. This includes models.
Allow me to elaborate.
In regards to the fashion industry, Kuala Lumpur is very similar to Singapore.
With magazines like Style, Female, Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar and Cleo amongst
others, there is a great opportunity for models to build up their portfolios. The best part?
Most tear sheets are also in English, which can help models to further their careers. For
those of you that do not know, many models, when going to certain European markets
like Italy, get their non-English tear sheets removed from their portfolios. I had a friend
whose booker in Milan (from a very well known agency) would not take on any girls if
they had even gone to Asia! Although this has been occurring less frequently in recent
times, it remains a harsh reality of the industry. It's not racism, or even
prejudice for that matter; it's really just another marketing strategy. Regardless of how
perverse it may be, agencies in places like Milan, want fresh, new and
unknown faces. This way the model can attract attention from potential clients as
the next big thing.
The major publishing companies in Kuala Lumpur are: ACP magazine, BluInc.,
and MEASAT Publications. It is absolutely crucial that while working for any of these
publishing houses, you do your complete best. Each of them is
home to multiple different magazines. For example, BluInc., publishes Marie Claire,
Female, NuYou, Seventeen, Cleo and many more.
This brings me to my next point...
It's a Small World
A word of caution to the grumpy or moody (male and female models alike): I
know we have our off days, but while on set you need to maintain your composure. You
are not a diva! Regardless of how much you made from your last campaign, with a bad
attitude, I can say with full confidence it was your last. This can be said not just in
regards to KL, but every market. The fashion industry on a global scale is
already small enough... KL even smaller. As I mentioned above, publishing
houses like BluInc., are very important for you to leave with a good impression. Otherwise,
you may very well risk never working with them again and losing out on a great deal of
jobs, tear sheets and money.
Think I'm overreacting? Allow me to tell you a
brief story of a girl who began to complain at a job, who also happened to be my flat
mate. She was a sweet girl but was going through some personal issues in preparation
for New York. Her complaining became a regular occurrence, as she began to come home from jobs quite irritated. My other flat mate and I began to take
note, but seeing as it was not our business, we just brushed it off. One day, I remember
being at a job and the makeup artist was telling me about a model who was complaining
at a job. Sure enough, it was my flat mate. Sounds pretty catty donít it? Well, like I said,
it's a small world, and everybody talks. The makeup artist proceeded to tell me that
everyone on set, from the photographer to an assistant, was afraid of this girl; worried
that they were going to set her off. The client ended up coping with her actions and after
following up with the agency, only then did she complain about the model's poor
behaviour. If you are not as lucky, a client may call your agent while you are on set and
cancel you on the spot - without pay!
So what happened to the model? Well, her initial eight-page spread was cut down
to six and word about her attitude spread quicker than a forest fire. Initially, she
was working very well despite the 'slower' season but once her negative attitude became
known amongst the industry, her reputation and amount of jobs suffered. It is best to leave your personal issues at home. Don't forget, as an international model
you are an ambassador to your home country and your agency. Canadian models are
renowned for being positive and well mannered so let's not change that!
The unique thing about the KL market is that there are little to no castings. You may think, "Wait, no castings? So how do I book jobs?" If there is one, the agency will set up a casting van or taxi for
you and the others to attend. However, almost always bookings are direct and based
solely on your portfolio and snapshots. Your agency will take snapshots upon
your arrival, but these are not regular snapshots. The agency has a photographer that
takes your snaps with a good camera/lighting etc., in a studio. Not only that, but they also
do make-up (just your basics: foundation, concealer and mascara). They take the snaps very seriously since your jobs are highly dependent
on them. These are usually only done once throughout your stay so you must be in great
shape! They take the standard snaps of you first in a bathing suit or your knickers, then in casual attire.
You might be wondering, "What do I do all day?" Well, you have many options!
Many models actually consider KL to be a vacation spot for them because of the relaxed
vibe. KL is a great place to have some down time, either before or after you hit a larger
and more intense market like Shanghai or Tokyo. You can also tour the city, go to the
gym or even visit neighbouring countries! All you have to do is ask
your agency about your schedule and if you have a few days free, book the time off and
go! Just be sure to return in time for your next booking because remember, you are there
to work. Or are you perhaps a student? Then KL could be a great place for you to
continue your studies and work to the side without the stress of running to and from
castings all day. In light of the few castings, KL is also a great market for a younger
model that wishes to get some experience by going with a parent. Due to the amount of
free time, they can go away together for a weekend to a neighbouring country or just take
the time to explore the city. It really is a wonderful idea and something models and
parents should consider together.
My key message is for models to please remember, while at home and abroad,
stay professional. Just remember the three 'best' steps: Act your best, look your best and
be your best. No amount of make-up or hairspray can cover up a bad attitude, especially
while on the job.
Aside from a good attitude, what are the other factors that determine a
model's success in the KL market? What kind of jobs is available? Can you make good
money there? I answer all these questions and more, in Part II!