WHAT THESE FIVE LOCAL FACES HAVE IN COMMON: THEY’RE REFLECTIVE OF CHANGES IN ONE OF THE MOST CHANGE-RESISTANT INDUSTRIES – MODELLING. IT’S A BUSINESS THAT, UNTIL RECENTLY, STUCK TO ITS OWN AND CHAMPIONED ONLY ONE KIND. NOW THE PLAYING FIELD IS MORE INCLUSIVE, AND THE “STANDARD ISSUE” MODEL IS NO LONGER THE STANDARD. WHAT IS: BEING UNIQUE AND HAVING A DARING ATTITUDE – QUALITIES THE FIVE INGENUES HERE HAVE. OH, ANOTHER THING: THEY’D RATHER BE SUPER ROLE MODELS THAN SUPERMODELS.
AMEERAH SMITH, 23
“I STRIVE TO CONSISTENTLY BETTER MYSELF IN ALL ASPECTS OF MY LIFE. THAT’S WHY I AM WORKING AS A CHEF, WAITRESS, AND MODEL.”
Shearling hoodie, $3,100, and Dreamer Tote 52 in leather, $3,200, Coach.
The pint-sized Smith, who stands at 1.65m (minus the additional height of her natural Afro), is definitely not industry-standard. But you know what? The part-Arab, part-African- American, all-Singapore girl doesn’t care. She thrives on challenges.
When she discovered that she had a flair for cooking, thanks to her grandma, Smith entered the food and beverage industry at 14. She became the first under-18 student at culinary school At-Sunrice Global Chef Academy. To challenge herself more, she specialised in baking rather than cooking, because the former is more exacting.
She’s now working as both a pastry chef and a waitress in a bistro, and models too. She cites her Philadelphia-based African-American father as one of her inspirations. “He used to be a chef, is now a musician, and occasionally grooms backyards for fun. He showed me that I, too, can do more than one thing at the same time.” She started modelling after a makeup artist friend used her as a face model. Subsequently, she was approached for more assignments. Now, she is saving up what she earns from modelling, learning how to cook Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisine from a chef friend, and aims to open her own pastry restaurant in Toronto or Philadelphia by the time she’s 35.
“I like the culture in Toronto, but I also want to be where my father is based. I hope to first excel and achieve fame as a model, then start my restaurant, and hopefully be a celebrity chef. It’s a small dream of mine.”
NAMETHA RANDHAWA, 20
“I WANT TO ACHIEVE THE BEST IN MY MODELLING CAREER AND USE MY INFLUENCE AND CONTACTS TO HELP THE DISADVANTAGED.”
Cupro dress (price unavailable), Signature Whipstitch Dreamer canvas and leather bag, $750, and leather boots (price unavailable), Coach.
Randhawa grew up in a family where helping and volunteering were quotidian. “My family and I are huge animal lovers. We’re constantly involved in a lot of animal-based projects, like a neighbourhood association that helps dogs. We have also joined volunteer groups that help orphanages here, organising outings such as trips to the zoo. The main focus of my life was definitely helping others when I was younger, although for now, modelling is my focus.”
After completing her O levels in 2016, she put her studies on hold for a modelling career that allows her to meet people from different walks of life and cultures while travelling the world.
“Through modelling, I’ve met many kinds of people, ranging from models who come from poor families and can’t even go home because they don’t have one to go back to, to owners of businesses and clubs like the Potato Head Beach Club in Bali, from whom I’ve learnt about running a business and acquired skills to apply to what I am doing.”
While the extroverted model hopes to join the events and PR industry in future, or use her modelling contacts to raise funds for the elderly or people with disabilities, her focus for now is to be a top model.
“I used to worry a lot about my future, and I couldn’t stand it if things didn’t go as planned. Modelling fell into my lap, and while it is unstable, I count it as a blessing as not many people get the opportunity to do it. I have learnt to take life as it comes, while also working towards achieving the best in my modelling career. I hope to one day walk for Manish Malhotra, my favourite designer.”
JEAN YONG, 23
“I WANT TO END DISCRIMINATION AGAINST MIGRANT WORKERS.”
Jersey dress, $3,660, Balenciaga.
For shaping most of her values in life, Yong credits one Auntie Dang, her former domestic helper of more than 20 years. Auntie Dang started working for her family before Jean was born, and she was “an inspirational and influential figure in my life”.
Auntie Dang returned to the Philippines five years ago. Yong visited her a year after. “I stayed with her family for more than a month. She keeps me grounded with her guidance, her reminders to treat others the way you want to be treated, and the importance of paying it forward,” Yong says.
Having witnessed Auntie Dang’s sacrifices as her family’s breadwinner, Yong was inspired to help end discrimination against migrant workers here. In 2011, she took on an internship with Transient Workers Count Too, a nongovernmental organisation that advocates rights and aims to improve conditions for migrant workers. During her stint, Yong participated in various public outreach events to raise awareness about the cause. She also helped to organise a celebratory event for International Migrants Day to recognise and thank migrant workers for their contributions.
“While I can’t do as much now because of my unpredictable schedule as a model, I still love speaking with domestic helpers, knowing their stories, and lending a listening ear.” The fledgling model walked for Antonio Marras’ F/W ’18 show at Milan Fashion Week, and has set “landing campaigns for big brands” as one of her milestones. After modelling, the biology and business management graduate from Imperial College London also hopes to use her biology knowledge to pursue a related philanthropy based career.
PHOEBE TAN, 17
“I WANT TO BE THE BEST PERSON I CAN BE FOR MYSELF, AND MY FRIENDS, FAMILY, ENVIRONMENT, AND SOCIETY.”
Sweater, $1,420, and necklace (price unavailable), Balenciaga.
Newbie model Tan has mad ambitions: The Singapore Polytechnic interior design freshman wants to appear on the covers of international magazine titles, walk the runways of the big four Fashion Weeks, score a scholarship to the National University of Singapore’s architecture department, and eventually open her own interior design firm.
And she’s not doing them one after another. She’s tackling her to-do list every minute she has. “If I am not working on my school assignments, I am practising my catwalk skills and poses, and I run for an hour three times a week. I don’t like to waste time and I don’t mind making sacrifices like forgoing entertainment for schoolwork and working out.”
Her interior design studies do not teach her the use of graphic design software, so during her recent school holidays, she juggled modelling assignments with self-taught graphic design lessons. She has since managed to design her own stickers.
“I actively pursue my goals by always doing something that brings me closer to them, and I like the sense of accomplishment and contentment I get after seeing hard work pay off. I hope this will also inspire youths and adults to keep chasing after their passions.”
The young go-getter is eco-friendly, too. She is part of her school’s environment club, and walks the talk by recycling and avoiding plastic bags wherever possible. “I always keep a tenugui (a traditional Japanese hand towel) in my bag which I fold into a reusable bag when I need one. As a design student, I produce a lot of waste materials, especially paper, so I make sure to categorise my trash at home and recycle the paper waste every month.”
TALIA NICOLE TAN, 19
“I WANT TO SPREAD AWARENESS OF THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION.”
Cotton-blend hoodie, $3,100, Coach. Jeans and sneakers, Tan’s own.
If she looks vaguely familiar, it could be because Tan is the daughter of Angelia Sam, one of Singapore’s Eurasian supermodels in the ’90s. But if you think Tan is following in her mum’s footsteps as a lot of daughters of ex-supermodels do, then you don’t know her very well.
Despite her lineage (Chinese + Indian + Dutch), which has given her exotic features, Tan isn’t interested in modelling in the traditional sense, though she has received requests to do so. Her real interest is in the power of education.
In 2016, she travelled to Myanmar as part of her International Baccalaureate programme. There, for 10 days, she taught English to orphans who lived in a monastery. The stint opened her eyes to the importance and impact of education. “One of our teachers, who was originally from Yangon, told us that most Myanmar people don’t go to university. In their culture, it’s very hard to move on from the primary or secondary school level,” she says. “The head monk at the monastery tried to make a change by giving free education to the children, and his efforts paid off – the percentage of children from that village who went on to university increased.”
Thanks to that experience, and learning more about young advocates for education like American actress Yara Shahidi, Tan dreams of making a change in the world by helping children gain access to – or at least understand the importance of – education.
“In some way, even children with resources are not aware of the power of having an education. I told the daughters of a family friend how important it is to learn what they want to learn, to thrive and develop into beautiful people who can change lives. Their mother contacted me later to say that they looked up to me as a role model, and that they started studying harder and became more motivated and driven in school. I have never felt more honoured that I helped someone in such a small way. From then on, I wanted to make a greater impact. I want to help children anywhere, in any conditions.”
Tan plans to further her studies in social sciences or media studies so she will be more equipped to spread awareness about her cause. “The media is one of the larger platforms for spreading awareness, and it allowed me to learn about Yara Shahidi, my idol. I want to work for a magazine or take on an advocacy job in future to spread my message.”
PHOTOGRAPHY ELVINA FARKAS/ ANUE MANAGEMENT STYLING BRYAN GOH HAIR JIMMY YAP/ KENARIS SALON, ASSISTED BY AMANDA SIM MAKEUP MELISSA YEO, USING CHANEL, ASSISTED BY NIKKI KOH MODELS JEAN/ NOW MODELS, NAMETHA/ LOOQUE, PHOEBE/ BASIC MODELS, AMEERAH SMITH & TALIA NICOLE TAN