My agent had done his best to prepare me for my Hong Kong trip by dishing out whatever negativity he could think of to encourage low self esteem and insecurity.
The last time I walked out of that agency I did so without looking back, thinking how disgusting it was that such people existed in industries where they could easily prey on youths.
Four days after my eighteenth birthday I flew to Hong Kong, thinking of it as an interim trip where I might be able to land a few test shoots or modelling jobs on which I could learn more about my hobbies of makeup artistry and fashion photography.
I landed, walked into the agency with my suitcases and asked for instructions.
We took some quick test shots at the agency and within that week I had an editorial booking for Harpers Bazaar, Elle, and other magazines, and I shot my first television commercial the week after that. From there, everything snowballed – the press wanted interviews, the jobs lined up for months ahead, and thanks to my fathers background in the military, I was raised with the work ethic to match the bookings as they rolled in.
The first few tabloid interviews went smoothly, but as the magazines were released I discovered that standing in a bikini top and jeans for a shoot – not considered at all risque in Melbourne – was apparently gossip-worthy here in Asia. My curves were getting attention.
The three page interview ‘on my family’ was actually about my bra size, and I started to have random people ask if I wasn’t ‘cold in that outfit’ – a Hong Kong way of commenting on the skimpiness of the bikini top in the interview. I later found out they had given me a bikini top two sizes too small to make my chest look bigger, so they could write that I had triple D measurements.
New to Hong Kong, eighteen years old, and uncomfortable with the unwanted attention, I told my agency I’d only accept interviews that were in writing and approved by them. My agency supported my requests and reasons and acted accordingly.
The interview requests stopped and I was able to continue with my work unhindered by the attentions of gossip writers looking for subjects to laud then attack.
Over the intense years that followed, I was extremely lucky to have the guidance of this small and nurturing agency. Founded by two former female models who were also the head booking agents, they specialised in representing new and young models, and I quickly became their eurasian star talent since I was one of the only full time permanent resident eurasian girls in the agency at that time. I didn’t have school to attend or work visas to apply for. Socially inept, I wasn’t interested in partying or gossiping, didn’t drink, and only wanted to keep busy with work, so ended up spending almost all of my time on jobs and the tiny sliver of my time remaining at the agency.
The bookings were flooding in and I was a happy worker, but with no balance my body and mind started to suffer. I didn’t speak any chinese at the time, and my curves were filling such a void in the market that I was sometimes working three jobs in a day.
Then all of a sudden, the work stopped. I had saturated the market and worked with all my agencies clients. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I had outgrown my agency.
I suspected that something was also amiss personally, so I took six months off and went home, where my best friend told me I sounded like a robot.
I was depressed, though I didn’t realise it at the time. In hindsight, I’m sure that nutrition played a large part in it, and it was many years before my body would finally crash and reveal the carbohydrate intolerance that was keeping me so constantly ill and causing my weight gain. But that is a story for a little later…
Fabulously eccentric TV host, curvaceous model and founder of Hong Kong ’s first luxury corset brand, Pearls & Arsenic. I love sharing my passion for all things elegant and live with my Dearest Beloved and a fluffy Angora rabbit named Lord Pemberly III, who is a ridiculous snob. Find me on IG @RavenTao or FB : Raven Tao
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