My story of how exactly I entered the modeling world a bit weird and confusing. I had technically been modeling for over a year before this shoot, but I still consider it to be one of my first. It was at least one of my first big time magazines, even if only the few Chinese people who still buy magazines might be the only ones to see it. I was working in Guangzhou, China; oh the stories I have to tell. I had only been in town for a few days when my new agency there told me at 9:45 PM that I had to fly to Beijing at 5 am the next day. My roommates and I had wine to celebrate my first shooting and then I happily ventured off to the airport, 10 minutes until arrival I forgot my passport and had to mime to the taxi driver who had zero English skills, to turn back. I missed my flight and had to buy a new one out of my own pocket. What a perfect start! Luckily, my job wasn’t until the next day.
The clients in China will pay for your hotel, lunch, and your flight but rarely your taxi. It’s ridiculous how stingy they are about taxis. Luckily, they aren’t too expensive, just a pain that adds up overtime. One of the girls I was staying in the model apartment with had worked for the magazine before and said that her hotel was more than nice and that I was in for a treat. Therefore, when the Taxi driver pulled up to the small, run down “International Hotel” on the side of the highway I started to question what exactly she thought was “luxury”. No one at the front desk spoke a lick of English and we had to communicate through a translator app on their phones. The room looked alright until I sat down on the bed and my bum was suddenly sore. It was a fake bed, just like the one in my apartment, made of wood rather than anything soft and comfortable. On top of it was a very thin and horribly stained futon. Why would you bother to buy a fake mattress? What’s so bad about the real thing? It honestly felt like sleeping on the floor. The internet didn’t work all that well and I ended up having to starve that night since the three restaurants within walking distance all had no sort of vegetarian options. I even called my agent to help translate things between the hostess’ and I.
The only identifiable thing at the breakfast was the hard boiled eggs. When I asked for a taxi it took them a total of 15 minutes to understand what I was saying, calling staff member after staff member hoping someone would understand. Eventually one of the men was able to catch a taxi that was passing by on the highway. The only vegetarian things they had bought me for lunch was broccoli and rice, and then we started. 10 hours I worked, and no I was not being paid by the hour. It was all portrait type photos, mostly lips shots. They made me reschedule my flight back to Guangzhou as well. I asked for a different hotel, mentioning that the hotel didn’t have anything for me to eat and no one there spoke English. She said to wait a moment, that she would talk to me after she booked the flight. When she came back I already had a new hotel that was the same price and an American chain for her to book, but she said she already booked the same hotel.
“Why? I wish you told me…” I said.
“I have a translator you can download so you can order food.”
“No, my agent translated everything for me and they have no vegetarian food.” I wanted to keep a nice but firm tone.
“Maybe you can take the subway to food.”
“I don’t want to take the subway at night here.”
“There should be food at the subway.”
“It’s probably more food I cannot eat.” I was trying really hard to stand my ground while holding back an anxiety attack but she just wouldn’t listen.
Perhaps I should have complained more about how dirty it was and the fake bed was impossible to sleep on, but the fear of being branded as difficult to work with once again overwhelmed me.
We ended up working so late into the night that they ordered dinner anyways. Yes, they made me eat the same thing; rice and broccoli. I’m sure she thought that solved the problem, when it really did not.
I sat in the taxi, tired and hating myself for being a pushover. I was cold and my hair felt like cardboard from all the gel in it. All of the pictures only showed small tid bits of my face in the end. However, there is this one:
It doesn’t really look like me, but my agencies like to use it a lot. They say it’s very “edgy”; I just find it triggering.
They booked me again a month later with another girl from my agency. After that job I always insisted on buying my own hotel rooms and having the client wire me the money afterwards, so we stayed in a very cozy American chain hotel together with real beds and a labeled buffet breakfast. It was only usually around 20 USD more than what the client’s budget would be and it was definitely worth it. This shooting was also long but I had a friend along to endure it with and they even bought us avocado toast for lunch! This was only because the production assistant was half Canadian and was vegan herself; the best she could be in China. She was a bit pushy, but nice and helpful. The theme of the shoot was “The New Generation”, each of us had a role to play. I was Georgia McJagger, my friend was Gigi Hadid, and a mixed Chinese girl was Kendall Jenner.
The gap in my teeth here is photoshopped along with my jawline. During the shoot they wanted me to hold a thin piece of black paper on my teeth to create the illusion of a gap, but since I had to keep my mouth open for it to stay, I kept drooling all over the place and they gave up.
Here’s “Gigi” and I! During this shot the production assistant kept yelling at me to suck in since my fat stomach kept showing off in the camera. In reality the dress was very layered and puffy around my midsection, so this position made the fabric scrunch up and gave me a “tummy”. Just a poor excuse to them though.
There’s the whole gang! Honestly, I think the “Kendall Jenner” was only chosen because of her black hair. She spoke perfect Chinese and English, but didn’t seem interested in talking to us. These pants were so incredibly tight by the way, I had to keep them unzipped in order to sit like this and I still felt like my legs were going to fall off from the lack of circulation.
Thanks for reading! I just wanted to share a little bit about the trials of modeling in China. I’ve got boatloads more. Follow me on Instagram so Marc Jacobs will finally book me @emmakarla77