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A Korean look for the world

Elite judges choose local models to compete internationally

Oct 13,2003
A pretty face and a slim figure are not all it takes to be a successful fashion model these days.
Besides good looks, a model should be able to walk with style on a runway, speak a foreign language or two and show off a hidden talent. But without the backing of a reputable agency with a global network, the model might remain ― well ― a homebody.
All 40 contestants in the Elite Model Look 2003 Contest in Korea had endured months of training in an attempt to win the much-coveted Elite title.
The two winners, Ji Seung-hyeon, 24, and Yang Eun-jeong, 19, who were chosen earlier this month at the Hilton Convention Center, will next compete in the international Elite Model Contest Nov. 8 in Singapore. There they will face young contestants from 45 countries around the world.
So how are the Korean Elite models different from the rest of the local talent?
Park Jin-gyu, the chairman of Elite Model Management Korea, says, “Although rules are always changing, this year’s judges, including Alain Attia, the executive president of Elite Licensing, and Calvin Cheng, the head of Elite Asia-Pacific, looked for models that could work in the international market. They chose Yang Eun-jeong to be ideal because she walks with ease and she is flat-chested.”
To meet the international standard, Mr. Park says, a model should have a proportion of 6:4 of leg to body, and should be slim and have small breasts.
“From Asian models, Westerners do not necessarily want to see pretty features, but feel the mystery of the Orient. They want unique or distinctive physical features ― very long arms, for example. Ji Seung-hyeon has typically pretty features that can work in the domestic market, but Yang Eun-jeong has a face that can change dramatically depending on makeup, which is what judges want to see in a fashion model.”
Elite offices in Paris and New York have already shown interest in new faces from Korea, but to Mr. Park, this is a year of investment. The company is now busy preparing for the preliminary Elite Men Contest, the first of its kind in Korea, on Dec. 15.
The most exciting event of all, however, will be the Asia-Pacific Elite Model Contest. This contest will be held and broadcast live from Mount Geumgang in North Korea next year.
The successful launching of Elite Model Look in Korea owes much to the rising popularity of Korean celebrities in southeast Asia. The Elite Model Look 2003 Contest in Thailand on Oct. 18 will be that country’s first international model competition, and through international networking, Mr. Park plans to export his models to a market that recognizes Korean beauty.
The IHT-JoongAng Daily met with Calvin Cheng, the Singapore-based head of Elite Asia-Pacific, who visited Korea to judge the contest.

How competitive is the model market in Asia?
In Asia there is no presence of other international modeling agencies. Our biggest competitor, Ford, has its presence in America and Europe, but none in Asia. In Korea, there are a number of small, locally run modeling agencies. Elite Model Look Contest is by far the most prestigious model contest in the world, and I’m here to select two models from Korea.

So is modeling all about height?
Yes and no. The misconception about modeling is that walking on the runway is everything in modeling. Modeling on runways is just a chip of the huge iceberg, and in fact it pays the least. Height is certainly important on runways, but in other areas, other elements, such as individual character, become important. There are many other lucrative deals, such as television commercials and cosmetics endorsements. I think the era of supermodels, the models with celebrity status, is over. Do we know anyone big after Gieselle?

What’s after Elite Model Korea?
Korea followed India, and now we are trying to enter Australia, Thailand and the Philippines. The Australian market is tough because there are several powerful incumbents there. Australia has had its own agencies for years, making the entrance of any other big agencies difficult. If we’re not careful, we can be killed.

What are your criteria for choosing the two models?
One for the local and the other for the international market. Beauty standards are different from country to country, and we need two who are different in type. For the international market, we choose a model whom Westerners consider an Asian beauty. A good example is Lucy Liu. She’s considered gorgeous by Westerners, but in China, she’s considered ugly because she is too thin, has dark skin and her eyes are too small. In China, a beautiful woman should have pale skin, round big eyes and a curvy body, like Gong Li.
The same thing has happened in India. Fashion models are usually former beauty queens with voluptuous bodies. I’ve been trying to convince the representatives in India that voluptuous bodies cannot work in the international market.


by Ines Cho


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