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Underage models: dreams and reality

Underage models: dreams and reality

Monday, October 08, 2012, 17:00 GMT+7

Many teen models are torn between realizing their dreams of fame and facing the harsh reality behind the halo of the glittery world of models.

Ky Han and Truong My Nhan, who are both 17 and 1.78m tall, are among the most promising teen models.

Though both have been in the fashion world for only about a year, they have earned wide popularity among teens.

But they are both determined to protect their innocence.

“As a model, I cannot avoid donning outfits that tend to be provocative, but accepting the invitations or not depends on what show it is,” Ky Han said.

“I’ll agree to wear bikinis in the photo shoots or shows if they are wholesome,” she added.

Starlet My Nhan is of the same opinion. She has thus declined a host of invitations for bikini photo shoots and lingerie ads, though the earnings are tempting, at 2-3 times higher as those from standard shows.

“All models yearn for fame and money. I also love to earn a lot of money to help relieve my parents’ financial difficulties,” My Nhan confided.

“But I’m still too young and have a long career ahead. I don’t need to earn money at all costs, and my parents don’t want me to do so either,” she explained.

School work: the primary priority

“Many teen models choose not to go on to college, though they are academically capable. This is due to a lack of proper guidance and supervision from their family,” said Tuyen Van, who used to be a teen model.

Van pointed to K.H., who was ‘brave’ enough to drop out of school in the middle of her 12th grade when she got the lead role in a television drama, as an example.

The sad thing is that her parents decided to let her drop out of school, Van added.

“I myself decided to choose my studies over acting. I was offered the lead role in a short film when I was reviewing for my high school graduation exam. I was sad to turn it down but I don’t regret that decision. I still keep that script as a memento,” she confided.

“Now that I’ve graduated from university, I think it was the right decision,” she asserted.

Balancing school work and performing, as well as being brave enough to decline tempting invitations, is the biggest challenge for teen models.

Not wanting to be considered brainless beauties, though exhausted from daytime classes and late performances at night, My Nhan and Ky Han always make use of break times at school and go to bed late to study.

“I think high school graduation is a must if I am to advance in this profession,” she added.

“The images of the classroom and the catwalk are always on my mind. I usually have to fight between earning money and gaining knowledge,” confided My Nhan.

Money is even more tempting to this starlet since she was born into a poor family and has had to work part time since she was an eighth grader.

But she doesn’t earn money at all costs. Recently, she declined a show at a car exhibition in Hanoi though she was offered a whopping VND 20-30 million (US$ 970- 1454) for an appearance.

“The show lasted four days but I was busy reviewing for my end of semester exams then, so I refused,” she explained.

“Since I entered this world, I have been faced with countless temptations, but I’m determined not to make money from ‘selling’ my body,” My Nhan said.

“Just like anyone else, models also have to work hard to make money. But outsiders tend to be overly critical of us, including those who nurture the dreams of becoming honest, gifted models,” she commented.

Ky Han said she also received a host of flirtatious offers from rich men as well as promises which are too good to be true from influential personalities in the fashion business.

“I have to learn how to steer clear from such temptations and be wary of suspicious prospects on getting instant fame and wealth too easily,” Han said.

My Nhan added that it is up to the models to decide whether to accept offers from rich men, as these men can’t force them if they don’t want to.

She also added that as models have such a short performing lifespan, she considers modeling as an auxiliary profession only and focuses on her academic studies in the hope of becoming a teacher in the future.

“Teen models shouldn’t consider modeling as a way to make money. I also object to the minor models’ parents who fail to provide proper guidance to their child,” said Nguyen Binh Son, a photograph reporter for Muc Tim teen magazine.

“When I began working as a model, I seemed to live in another world and always wanted to stand out from others regarding outfits and spending,” said Quang Phuoc, who worked as a teen model for six years.

“But I came to realize I had to live a normal life like before. After six years in the business, I have matured quite a lot and can now see through to its true colors,” Phuoc added.

Nurturing dreams

Meanwhile, many teens are cherishing their dreams of becoming fashion starlets.

Among them are 15-year-old orphan Nguyen Ngoc Thuy Trang.

Since she was little, Trang has dreamed of being a model, practicing on her makeshift ‘catwalk’ and wearing lipstick and high heels.

Her childhood dream was yet to be fulfilled when her mother died from illness when she was only in the fourth grade. Her father then fell to his death from a construction scaffold four months later.

Now living with her grandmother, aunt and two cousins in a shabby, less than 10-m2 ‘house’ and receiving no mainstream education, Trang never lets go of her modeling dream.

When she was 11, she spent all her savings on tuition for a kid modeling class, but had to quit when the instructor asked her to pay more.

This brief course has opened a whole new world to Trang.

“I’m still saving money and I’ll get back to model-training classes when I’ve saved enough,” she said, wistfully yet determinedly.

“I was both nervous and elated when performing in front of hundreds of people for the first time,” said 17-year-old Le Dinh Thuan, who began taking modeling classes one year ago and has performed in two shows.


Thuan's daily work is to help his father selling pork. Photo: Tuoi Tre 

Thuan’s performance in the shows, which featured a collection for females, was very brief. But he was stage-struck immediately and it marked a milestone on his way to becoming a model.

“I came to realize that being a model is far from being simple. Apart from our capacities, we also need good relationships and golden opportunities to become known and shine,” the 1.76m tall young model concluded.

Though his parents are poor, one is a butcher and the other a laborer, they are very supportive of his artistic career, particularly his mother, who dreamed of being a model herself some twenty years ago.

“I’ve heard about the complicated nature of the models’ world and was quite concerned, but it’s fate. We won’t know until we give it a try,” Thuan’s mother said.

“Undeniably, in the models’ world, young girls are offered opportunities more readily,” said Nguyen Thuy Nga, director of the leading Elite modeling company.

However, Nga stressed that things don’t always come easy and aren’t as dazzling as the stage lights.

“But I think that youths’ dreams of going onstage and becoming a celebrity are justified and do motivate them to try harder,” she added.

“However, if these youngsters receive proper guidance and care from their family, the path they choose is likely to be more stable, secure and promising, and their career will likely take off,” Nga noted. 

Tuoi Tre


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