My agent told me to think of my first modelling trip to Hong Kong as a holiday because I was ‘too fat and too ugly’ to get any work there.
As a 5’8”, 116 pound seventeen year old with lean muscles, boobs and an ample helping of teen attitude, I didn’t care to give his opinion much weight given that it had previously involved somehow persuading my parents to allow me to sleep over at his house on weekends to ‘train in catwalking’ – an offer which I repeatedly declined because even as a teen these thoughts came to my mind:
- I’m pretty sure that can be done at the agency in the daytime.
- I’m pretty sure I won’t be learning anything in my sleep, so why would I stay there?
- I have way better things to do than hang out with this creep.
- I can’t believe this guy managed to persuade my parents this was ‘the done thing’ by all his other models.
Fortunately for me, my supportive and caring (albeit industry naive) parents had raised me with the very best that they could offer, and the extensive travel and education gave me the wit to be able to suspect a ruse, even from adults who could persuade other adults, and this ability to see a snake as a snake was to be extremely valuable in the adventures that were to play out before me.
Moving between countries throughout my youth had taught me a few things.
- Things will always change.
- People are weird.
- Trust yourself and very few others.
Melbourne had been an eye opening move for me. I was fifteen when we relocated there and I met my best friend at the new school. I immediately loved the fashion, the unapologetic attitude, and the edgy options available in every inspiring nook and dirty cranny of the city. Together with my fabulous new partner in mischief, I stepped boldly into my role as teenage adventurer, skipping school to visit Salvadore Dali exhibitions, getting piercings on the weekends, crafting leather cuffs and holographic tank tops together and doing photo shoots of them for media studies classes and to submit to amateur fashion competitions.
We rocked our attitude around the city, insatiably searching for arts and inspiration; two girls from opposite sides of the track united by a meeting of minds and lust for new experience. She was a feisty petite italian australian karate black belt from an area of town where men pulling you into cars in the middle of the daytime was a common occurrance, and I was a tall reserved eurasian who lived with my tight knit Chinese – English family in a former diplomats house in the one of the most dignified parts of the city.
Fiercely intelligent and outspoken, she and I shared views on logical discourse, taking action, and having a high standard of personal values. These traits were to serve us well over the years of rebellious nightclubbing ahead, and smoothed our exit as we bored of the scene and I tired of the city.
It was within these years that I joined an Asian-centric Melbourne modelling agency to see if I could earn extra cash to buy fashion supplies.
Work was very patchy and badly paid, since eurasian wasn’t a well-recognised look, my hair was short and my eyebrows over-plucked. And as the licentious owner / agent kept telling me, I was rather ‘fat’ compared to taller, skinnier models and apparently my commitment to school interfered with me being able to succeed as a model.
However, thanks to my lean curves I did land my first fashion show where I watched all the other models dash straight for the free champagne; walked Melbourne fashion week for a local jewellery brand, and worked with a famous politician for a store opening job and had him grab my bottom lecherously while the paparazzi photographed us all smiling. Afterwards the model on his other side said it was something he was well known for.
Frankly I thought it would have been better publicity if I had slapped him.
I gradually removed most of my body piercings, and had wisely decided to get all of my tattoos in places that were able to be hidden. My short hair had grown longer and was now mostly in one colour. Still, I was told that my tattoos would stop me from ever being able to have a modelling career, which was fine by me since I had grown up as a gangly, geeky, socially inept bookworm and thought the fact that I was modelling at all rather laughable.
My eighteenth birthday was around the corner, and I wanted to experience the world as an adult before deciding what university degree to study. Having spent my youth in Hong Kong, and with a family friend in touch with a small modelling agency there, I decided to make a trip over, and booked my ticket.
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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