NEW YORK ‒ For the past few years, a handful Asian models have risen to stardom. There was Liu Wen who became the the first Asian face of cosmetics giant Estée Lauder in 2010; Fei Fei Sun who was the first solo Asian model to grace the cover of Vogue Italia for its January 2013 issue; and Ming Xi who walked exclusively for Givenchy Haute Couture in 2010, and was recently picked to be a Victoria’s Secret angel.
Singapore model Vivien Ong in New York. Images: Onin Lorente
While most of the Asian girls come from China, there are also notable runway stars who hail from different sides of this continent; the blonde South Korean Soo Joo Park who appeared in the Chanel Fall Winter 2013 campaign, and Japanese model-turned actress Tao Okamoto, among others.
Now Singapore has recently produced a promising model by the name of Vivien Ong. Starting work in her home country after winning a modeling competition ‒ The New Paper New Face ‒ in 2010, Vivien’s international career took off in Spring Summer 2013. She walked for designers including John Richmond, Anthony Vacarello, Zadig & Voltaire, and Vivien Westwood in Milan and Paris. She appeared in the cover of Elle Italia February 2013 and also starred in the editorials for Elle; Vietnam and Mexico versions. Her first season for New York Fashion Week was at the recent Autumn Winter 2014-15 shows, under the representation of Major Model Management. Vivien debuted closing shows for A Detacher and Rolando Santana. She also walked for Heather Lawton, Gemma Kahng and Dominic Louis.
Singapore model Vivien Ong in New York. Images: Onin Lorente
With her optimistic and persevering attitude and a good understanding of the industry that she is in, backed up with a look that is unique among contemporary Asian models ‒ a strong and square shaped jawline ‒ and a cool personality, Vivien has the qualities that can make it to the list of top rank models. Who knows, one of these days this Singaporean may land a stellar campaign for an international fashion brand?
But for now, with Vivien’s accomplishments in hand, the Singapore fashion and modeling industry can only be proud of her, because without a doubt, Vivien is, at the moment, the country’s top model.
HerworldPlus caught up with Vivien in The Big Apple for a casual chat and quick photography session.
herworldPlus: Hi, Vivien! How’s your week been?
Vivien Ong: I’m sooooo relieved that fashion week is finally over and I don’t have to run around anymore! Look at this snow!
HWP: You came back to Singapore after the European fashion week season in 2013, how was you reception from the local industry?
VO: My last trip in Singapore was amazing! I had the opportunity to work with people I’ve always wanted to but never had the opportunity before; and I also had the chance to recalibrate and make decisions on my career plans.
HWP: When and what made you decide to move to New York?
VO: Everyone knows that NYC is the hub! Not just in fashion … But EVERYTHING. I’ve always wanted to further my journalism studies at Columbia University, and it helps that there are internships for any beat you can think of here.
There are already many modeling gigs locally, and with the international clients who are always looking to book models in NYC, it makes the most sense to be based in the middle of all the action.
HWP: Are there adjustments that you had to cope coming from Singapore? How are you adapting to the cold season here?
VO: Thankfully, the pace and lifestyle of Singapore and NYC are pretty similar ‒ fast-paced, urban city living, high-rise buildings everywhere etc. There wasn’t much I had to adapt to, except I still can’t identify puddles of melted snow … I’ve stepped into three different ankle deep puddles today! Sigh …
HWP: You are now on the main board of Major Model Management. What are you expecting from your new relationship with the agency?
VO: It is an “upgrade” to be placed with such a big agency on their main board. I used to be on the new faces board and this is basically recognition from the agency that I am now fully developed and ready to take on bigger things in the city.
HWP: How was the casting during the fashion week?
VO: It was crazy for me. We stumbled on a deal for apartments that was too good to miss out on, so in the midst of fashion week castings I also had to pack, move, unpack and pack again … All in sub zero temperatures!
HWP: For sure, there were a lot of models of different races, colors, looks,etc. Did you feel the pressure to stand out among the rest in order to book a job?
VO: If a client likes you, he/she likes you. They also know the exact looks they need for their collections this season. I can’t change the way I look physically, so I just took it really easy. There’s no point in trying to be something other than you are because you end up overcompensating ‒ also it’s tiring to keep up with something you are not, no?
HWP: Do you think there is a lack of variety in the models that are being booked by designers for shows? For example, during the show of Marc Jacobs, which closes the New York Fashion Week, among the 46 models there seemed to be only 5 black and 1 Asian models. The rest of the cast are all white. What do you feel about that?
VO: To be fair, once you do a big show, you get tenfold the exposure and are seen by so many more people in the industry. I feel like that is the reason why we always talk about a “big break”. Once you are discovered, it just keeps getting better.
Although of course trends play a big part in the casting of models too. This season could be all about Asian models, hence the multiple Asian models in a show), but the next season could be all about the blondes with blue eyes … Or it could even be something as simple as uniform height/haircut. So now I am just hoping for the next trend to be South East Asian girls who talk too much … [ha ha ha]
HWP: You recently got married to a fellow model. Congratulations! Are there adjustments in your career plans?
VO: He played a big part in my decision to move to New York. We definitely didn’t think about getting married when I moved here, so now that we did we have to save for multiple things ‒ my education, our wedding that we are planning to hold in Hawaii, our future home and for rainy days in general. So it would definitely help if i scored some big budget gigs!
HWP: What can we expect from you this year?
VO: Lots of new editorials, hopefully some big commercials, and a lot of tweets on health and fitness.
HWP: Any plans of coming back to Singapore soon?
VO: I’m planning to go back to Singapore in Spring for work and to see my family. I would love to spend more time with my grandmother and steal some of her recipes! Haha!
Photos by Onin Lorente featuring Vivien Ong’s personal style.