Falling out of fashion
To brave the international spotlight, there are a lot of elements local models have to consider. Height is possibly the main issue here, especially in high fashion. Working in Thailand, girls can probably call themselves models even standing at 170cm, but the Western model empire now calls for at least 175cm, with a preference for the shortest to be 178cm, according to stylist Linda Chareonlarb, who studied fashion styling at London College of Fashion and has worked for Dazed&Confused, POP magazine and Intersection among other major publications. Linda warns that hopeful Thai models also need to study global trends, dress fashionably and let their personalities shine in order to be considered for jobs abroad. This is necessary even as Asian looks become a stronger presence in the world of fashion.
‘‘Most importantly, they need to be prepared mentally,’’ Linda said. ‘‘It’s a different world out there. The competition is so cut-throat that you need to be more than strong to survive the responsibilities as well as the rejections. I think it’s quite important for any Thai girls who want to try working outside of Thailand to have a good support system back home as well as education to fall back on. It’s not easy, and being tall and pretty alone won’t cut it.
‘‘I think that’s what happened to Rojjana. She came out of nowhere — wide-eyed, naive — and she got too famous, too fast. Her level of success was really high. She did make it, but at the end she just couldn’t handle all the glitz, the booze, the boys or the drugs. She was also quite unlucky that she didn’t have anything that she could use to help her find her footing again.’’
Tiriree and Linda agree the pressure on models is higher outside Thailand, and a lot of times you end up working for free to create an impressive portfolio. While Thai models complain of having to make it to three castings in one day, in New York, casting calls can be as high as 18 a day, according to Tiriree. There it is a systematic world with agencies sending out girls and boys to castings while holding ironclad contracts. Free test shoots or editorial work for famous photographers and stylists is a regular occurrence, while it’s almost unheard of in Thailand.
‘‘You can’t be sick, you can’t die and you can’t mess up because there’s always someone else to take your place. No one cares,’’ Tiriree said.
Cheera ‘‘Rosie’’ Choo echoes the sentiment. She almost gave up a modelling career in Thailand as she believed that her full Thai looks were too severe for the local market, but luck had it that Singapore’s Upfront agency signed her, and she was later picked up by Wilhelmina Models in New York. Cheera moved to New York two years ago, and has walked for Rebecca Minkoff and WHIT as well as shot a commercial for Warren Tricomi Salon.
‘‘It’s much tougher than Thailand,’’ she said. ‘‘You can’t use connections or wealth to land jobs. We can’t change our looks, or leave town without telling our agencies because in a way we are products for them, and we must be ready at all times for castings.’’
Tiriree added: ‘‘You can’t drive to casting, and you can’t take a taxi because it’s too expensive, so subway it is. The cost of living is very high, so time is money, and we really have to live independently on our own feet.’’ Models are often associated with glamour, but that’s not always