When Kaci Beh dropped out of her retail management course in Temasek Polytechnic and became a fashion model months later, her parents were too stunned for words. After all, the then-18-year-old had always been camera-shy and had never worn heels.
“I regretted a little when they expressed disappointment in me, but I knew I wasn’t interested in business. It was a leap of faith,” explains the now-21-year-old full-time model.
Since then, Kaci has strutted down the runways of Paris, Milan and London Fashion Week for the likes of fashion houses Dolce & Gabbana, Emporio Armani and Stella Jean. She is also one of the handful of homegrown models (alongside Layla Ong and Diya Prabhakar) to have represented Singapore in these renowned runways and recently landed her solo cover for Her World.
Channelling her biggest insecurity into her strength
Despite standing at 1.8m, the self-proclaimed ‘tomboy’ never considered modelling until a friend convinced her it was worth a try. After all, growing up hadn’t been easy for her as she had experienced a growth spurt of 30 cm within three years.
“I was on the bigger and broader side and really struggled with that. I would cover my upper body as much as I could with oversized long-sleeved T-shirts and avoid eye contact with people,” she shares.
These insecurities continued to haunt the introverted and sensitive teen, who feared being the centre of attention or taunted for her size. It was only after learning that it was her height that propelled her to beat other Asian models to land gigs in Western countries that Kaci discovered a newfound appreciation for her stature.
“The two words I hated the most were ‘giant’ and ‘’big’ as that was all the other kids talked about me. Back then, I even wished I had grown a little shorter. Now, I love being tall. It literally helps me stand out and open more job opportunities in the European market.”
Modelling wasn’t always a bed of roses
While many of her almost 10k Instagram followers are green with envy of her life of glitz and glamour, Kaci brushes it off, explaining that modelling is more hard work than sitting and looking pretty.
“People don’t see what goes on behind the scenes where we have to sit in hours for makeup and wear heavy garments just for the 30 seconds catwalk. It also can be physically exhausting attending many fittings of about half a day each, with no guarantee that we get the job,” shares Kaci.
Besides dealing with homesickness during work trips as long as three months, she is also often flung out of her comfort zone and into a pressure cooker environment, alone in a foreign land.
Recalling an incident where she struggled to perform a theatrical catwalk on an overseas runway, the young model was once yelled at by the show’s director in front of twenty other models.
“I went to a nearby park and broke down after that rehearsal. I was intimidated, shocked and humiliated. I gave my best effort but it didn’t seem enough. I asked myself: ‘Why am I a model?’’”
After having a good cry, she gritted her teeth, researched ways to improve her craft and practised for hours before the show. Her mantra? Learning to just do it and live life without regrets. She had flown over ten hours for this gig and was not going to leave without acing it.
“Being in this industry made me tougher, stronger and I learnt how to deal with rejection and criticism. Sometimes, ignorance is truly bliss as I need to focus on being optimistic. There will be professionals who try to intimidate you and glance you up and down. You really need to believe in yourself.”
How to get past rejection
Having faced cold and blunt rejections on the job, Kaci ensures she gives her 100 percent in very job but keeps her hopes in check to avoid disappointment.
Her best advice to keep your head up?
“Be always prepared for judgement, be it agencies telling you to lose weight or that you are not suitable for the job. If you lack confidence, it shows on camera when designers put their clothes on you. Never take it personally and you really have to learn to love yourself.”