Admittedly, there are very few renowned Asian models in the modeling world today compared to their Caucasian, African-American and Latino contemporaries. But with the increasing popularity of high fashion and the booming economies of such Asian countries as China and Japan, it will soon follow that the demand for models of Asian descent will rise too.
Actually, some Asian women have already blazed the trail for future oriental models as early as two decades ago.
In the 1980s, Anna Bayle, a model from the Philippines, was regarded as the first Asian supermodel. She has worked with all the major designers from Europe, and considered one of the top ten models of the world, along with such names as Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista. Then there was half-Korean and half-black model Kimora Lee, who in the late 80s has become a self-professed muse for Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld.
The early 90s saw Yasmeen Ghauri, a Canadian model of Pakistani and German descent, do modeling jobs for Hermes, Versace, Victoria’s Secret and Givenchy, and opened the door for other South Asian-looking models to try their luck in the business. Siberian model Irina Pantaeva also rose to fame during this period, and her very Asian features have been prominently featured in a slew of advertising campaigns for such clothing firms as Levi’s and Gap.
A new generation of models has picked up where the above models left off. Of these younger Asian models, perhaps the best known is Devon Aoki, a Japanese-German-British model. At 5’5”, she is regarded as the world’s shortest supermodel, but has nevertheless worked for the fashion houses Lancôme, Chanel, and Versace. She also dabbles in acting, having appeared in a number of Hollywood films, including 2 Fast 2 Furious, Sin City and Dead or Alive.
Soon enough, a number of Asian models have also made quite an impact on the modeling world. There’s Indian model Ujjwala Raut, Japanese model Ai Tominaga, and Korean-American Hye Rim Park. Between them, they have done modeling work for major fashion houses ranging from Banana Republic to Christian Dior.
So while the modeling industry is still predominantly black and white, it cannot be denied that there is a place for Asian models in this highly competitive industry. Let’s just hope that other Asian models on the rise such as Du Juan, Aline Nakashima, Juliana Imai and Anne Watanabe can carry the torch lighted by Anna Bayle and the others.