Modelling may involve creativity and talent but there is so much more to it than meets the eye. To be a model is to subject yourself to the critical gaze of the merciless public, to be told your worth derives purely from the faintest of superficialities, and to be seen as more an object than a human. Yet it is from these tainted springs that adoration is drawn and careers are born. The uninitiated might assume it is all glitzy catwalks and glamorous photoshoots; but the reality can be, rather ironically, quite ugly. It takes more than just slender legs and a pretty face to be a model. It also takes grit, fortitude, and the ability to look your best even when you might not necessarily be. Here, Top 10 of Malaysia shares its pick (in random order) of ten women around South East Asia who have made it into a world many dream of, but few are cut out for.
Layla Ong (Singapore)
One look at Layla Ong is enough to know that she was born for the runway. With full lips, elvish features, and a jawline that could cut glass, her unconventional beauty is at once arresting and unmistakable. Her slender, gazelle-like figure has graced runways for the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, MSGM, and Rodarte, on shores as far away as New York, London, and Paris. The first Singaporean model to walk for Gucci on the international fashion week circuit, Layla has come a long way from her early elimination on Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 5.
Jessica Amornkuldilok (Thailand)
Jessica Amornkuldilok first came to prominence as one of two Thai contestants on the debut season of Asia’s Next Top Model. The best-performing contestant on the show, her victory never looked anything but assured. Winning the show set the foundations for her rapid ascent into the highest stratospheres of fashion; landing her covers for Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, Grazia Thailand, and Posh Myanmar to name but a few. She became the face of the Canon IXUS 2013 Campaign and a highly sought-after fixture for fashion shows around the world under the auspices of the renowned Storm Model Management in London.
Duan Mei Yue (Singapore)
Duan Mei Yue had always been interested in the fashion industry. Her friends and family had suggested that she go into modelling as she had the height for it and she thought ‘why not?’. That decision has proven to be a fruitful one indeed, with Duan not even out of her teen years before having already walked for the likes of Dior and making an appearance at the Seoul Fashion Week. Her unique features and porcelain skin lend her a geisha-like exoticism, making her a creative director’s dream. Besides her burgeoning modelling career, her Instagram account is a source of inspiration for millennials obsessed with all things makeup.
Tawan Kedkong (Thailand)
Tawan was seen as the dark horse of the fourth cycle of Asia’s Next Top Model. Her persistence eventually pulled her through and she was crowned the winner against the odds. Tawan’s modelling career was a product of hardship; she had just graduated high school when she turned to modelling as a way out of her family’s financial issues. Much as it did on the show, the persistence she has shown in her career has paid off and seen her appointed as a brand ambassador for Subaru. She has also made the cover of Elle Croatia and appearances in Cosmopolitan UK, Harper’s Bazaar India, and Vogue Thailand.
Advina Ratnaningsih (Indonesia)
Lasting a decade in the modelling industry is rare, staying on top of it for nearly two is another thing altogether. Yet it is precisely this that Advina Ratnaningsih has managed to do and continues to do now even into her late 30s. Her timeless beauty and wealth of experience see her in constant demand, while her social media presence even persuaded OPPO to take her on as a brand ambassador. From photoshoots to catwalks, she’s seen it all. These days though, you are more likely to find her on the catwalk – the highest of high fashion dangling off her elegant frame.
Ayu Gani (Indonesia)
Ayu Gani was the first contestant from Indonesia to make it into the top three of Asia’s Next Top Model. Short on confidence going in on account of her height (173 cm), she managed to pull it together and ended up winning the whole thing. With a sharp jawline framing sensually oriental features, she caught the attention of the modelling world and earned herself a starring role at the Jakarta Fashion Week 2012. She has also modelled for Zalora and was chosen as the Most Favourite in the Wajah Femina competition, a testament to her popularity with the public. Ayu’s more than just a model though, doubling as an eyewear designer when she is not busy strutting her stuff in front of the cameras.
Widika Sidmore (Indonesia)
Widika Sidmore has never been a personality shy of presenting herself. She had dabbled in theatre before going on to make it big in the world of modelling. Launching her career with Ford Models, Widika’s career took off quickly and she was soon travelling around the world for work. In more recent years though, Widika has elected to spend her time in Indonesia where she has branched out into TV presenting and acting in local films. She has also acted in a web series and continues to impress in just about everything she tries her hand at, truly a rare talent.
Kea Lee (Malaysia)
Kea Lee is a Malaysian girl making waves in the modelling industry and is one to watch. Now based in London, she counts a host of world-renowned brands in her portfolio; having modelled for the likes of Alexander McQueen, Schwarzkopf, and Topshop. Starting her catwalk journey at the KL Fashion Week, she’s gone from strength to strength and has now even seen the runways of the London Fashion Week a few times. Her ambition to pursue modelling was initially opposed by her parents. Luckily though, Kea was stubborn and determined to prove that modelling was worth her time. It is fair to say she has done just that, and in emphatic fashion too.
Tuti Noor (Malaysia)
Tuti Noor is yet another alumnus of Asia’s Next Top Model to be featured in this list. Unlike some models whose claim to fame derives solely from the reality TV franchise, however, Tuti has carved out a name for herself. Her thick, curly hair and androgynous appeal make her a favourite amongst stylists and editors. She is not only popular locally but has built quite the following in Indonesia and Singapore too. Initially struggling with self-confidence and accepting her own unconventional beauty, she has now blossomed into the model everybody thought she could be in those long-ago days on the show.
Atikah Karim (Malaysia)
Atikah Karim had always dreamed of being a model since she was a little girl. She was lucky enough to have support from her parents but sometimes found it hard to come by elsewhere. In her native Sabah, fair skin was seen as the hallmark of beauty; and with her swarthy complexion, Atikah had more than her fair share of doubters. She most certainly shut them up though when she won the Ford Models Supermodel of the World Malaysia competition, earning herself a contract and a place in the international modelling scene. Now based in New York, she has modelled for designers such as Rick Owens and Marine Serre to name just two.