It takes a lot to be a model, is that even a question anymore? But with the entertainment industry and popular culture constantly white-washing movies, tv shows, and commercials, it’s no surprise that the modeling industry also lacks Asian-American representation. Cultural appropriation is something that most people have heard of but many do not have a firm grasp on the definition. Just months ago, Victoria’s Secret model Karlie Kloss was photographed in Japan as a “geisha,” causing controversy to spark on the internet.
In honor of this year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, here are 4 Asian-American Models that you may not know about that deserve recognition not just this month, but every day.
1. Liu Wen
Liu Wen, a 29-year-old model working under The Society Management is a Chinese fashion model, is known as one of the most successful Asian Models in history. Not only was she the first ever model from East Asia to walk the Victorias Secret Fashion Show in 2009, but she also continues to make a face for herself in the modeling industry by working with brands like Alexander Wang, Calvin Klein, and Hugo Boss.
2. Justine Mae Biticon
Aside from being Filipino, 18-year-old Justine is also half Mexican. Many know of Justine due to her active social media presence, which includes tweeting her opinions on current events and also memes of course. She became popular when she was on the 23rd cycle of Americas Next Top Model. Although she was the first model to be eliminated, shortly after her departure from the show Justine was signed to Ford Models LA and now works with brands such as Nike.
3. Soo Joo Park
South Korean model Soo Joo Park moved to Anaheim when she was young and went to college at UC Berkeley. She was looking around in a vintage store in San Francisco before being scouted and decided to give modeling a shot. Since then, Soo Joo’s modeling career has skyrocketed. She is known for her platinum blonde hair and eccentric look. In 2015, Soo Joo became the first Asian-American to represent L’Oreal Paris as the face of their brand. She has worked with brands such as Tom Ford, Giorgio Armani, and Chanel.
4. Sui He
Wenzhou born model Sui He has walked in not one, not two or even three but four Victorias Secret fashion shows consecutively. She became the second East Asian model to walk the VS runway after model Liu Wen in 2009. Sui He is also known as the first East Asian model to be open a show for Ralph Lauren. Shortly after, she became popular and began to grow her career. In 2012, the popular skincare/sun care brand Shiseido selected Sui He to become their first Asian global spokeswoman. Since then, Sui He has worked for brands such as Christian Dior, Hermes, and Helmut Lang.
So how many of these models did you already know about? Whether the answer to that question is zero or all four, it is important to recognize that Asian-Americans do have a face in the modeling industry. There are thousands of other Asian-American models that have yet to be known by name to the average person. This May, acknowledge that Asian Models are also just the same as white models and that everything they do should not be defined by their race.