The simple life


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Starting her modelling career at the age of 17, Sui He has already achieved huge feats in the fashion industry. She was the first Asian face to open a Ralph Lauren show, the first Asian face of Japanese beauty giant Shiseido and only the second Asian model, after Liu Wen, to walk in a Victoria’s Secret show.

Sui’s striking looks and warm personality have won her innumerable catwalk shows, campaigns and magazine covers and she has worked with some of the industry’s biggest photographers including Patrick Demarchelier and Nick Knight. She is also the only female judge in the newly launched China’s Next Top Model. This issue we dedicate our winter fashion section to the rising star that is Sui He.

You started your modelling career when you were in senior high school and became famous overnight. Did you pursue modelling as a lifelong dream or did it occur by accident?
I never thought I would become a model someday. I was too tall as a Chinese girl so I often felt a little embarrassed when walking or speaking in public. One day, my tutor at senior high school told me, “Sui, since you are so tall, why don’t you try and see if you can be a model?” I convinced my parents to sign me up in a modelling course. I registered for the national modelling contest the first day I went to the class.

And I became the national champion of that year, without even one day of training! I was sick the night before the final and I remember I called my father and said I wouldn’t choose to be a model even if I got first place. But when I finally won the contest, I suddenly decided by instinct that I should be a model. It is sort of destiny to me.

From your perspectives, what is the most important quality required for a model, apart from an excellent figure and good looks?
Respect the job and think positively. Being a model, you need to respect the job from the bottom of your heart and show respect to those who work for you and those who you work for. You should understand that the responsibility of models is to present the clothes and cosmetics. So as a model, you never become fussy about what kind of clothes and make-up you’ll wear during the shows.

You should bear in mind that you are in the same team with other colleagues and models and you need to trust the team and be cooperative. What if you really dislike the 
clothes or the make-up you’ll wear? I think self-centeredness is the top mistake a model should avoid. What I do is to look on the bright side and do my best.

We’ve heard that show season can be extremely tough, with back to back shows, very few breaks and hardly even time to eat. How do you stay sane during this part of the season?
Food is the key to my health. I always eat enough food to rejuvenate during the show seasons. I prefer to relax or take a nap whenever possible, which means I don’t usually go to the after-show parties in the evening so that I don’t exhaust myself. Is that a little boring? (She laughs) And I pay special attention to skin care. I always clean my skin thoroughly when the shows are over.

Part of your job is to travel all around the world. Does the exhaustion and jet lag affect your performance? How do you cope with that?
Of course the travel affects my performance. But, well, that’s the No.1 characteristic of my job as a model, isn’t it? So what I can do is accept it, and deal with it. Every time when I’m travelling by plane, I force myself to sleep or at least have a rest. Even if I don’t fall asleep, it still helps relieve my stress and anxiety. I drink as much water as I can. I never diet and I hate to see picky eaters! I am a swimmer, too.

Can you remember exactly how many countries you’ve been to? Which one is your favourite?
…oh, I really can’t remember the number. The United States is my favourite, mostly because I have a bunch of friends here in New York City. I enjoy having fun with them, so New York City is more like a warm home to me. Also, I like the cultural atmosphere of the States – respect, freedom, the enterprising spirit and the pursuit of dreams.

You must have made friends with many of your peers. Who are your friends that you usually hang out with?
Hmm, Chinese models are all good friends! I’m not kidding. Seriously, my colleagues once told me, whenever two Chinese models meet, they will always start chirping and twittering. Even quiet girls laugh loudly and become talkative. We all get along very well with each other. We also go shopping or eating out together after work.

What kind of a girl are you on your days off? What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m quite idle in my spare time. I like staying at home alone or hanging out with some of my best friends. Sometimes I go out for dinner or tea. Sometimes I go shopping with friends. But I’m still not used to it when there are too many people I don’t know. I bet probably nobody would recognise me walking down the street (she gives a winking smile). I look just like a random girl living next door. And I like it, not being noticed by people around me.

You are a supermodel and university student. What’s your major at university? Why did you choose to continue your education?
Actually I graduated from university last year. I majored in fashion show and fashion-related marketing. After winning the modelling contest, I went back to senior high school and attended the College Entrance Examination as my classmates did. In the first four years of my career, I attended classes and passed exams just like other students on campus. In the meantime, I joined a modelling agency and became a model as well. The main reason is I don’t want to miss any experience that girls of my age will have.

What do you want to do when you are no longer a model? Do you have goals for the future?
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, yet haven’t got any answers. The most important thing I’ve learnt from my modelling career is to focus on the present and life will surprise you. I would say my modelling career is an unexpected one. You know I started it at 17, but to tell the truth, I hadn’t become a superstar overnight, as I used to expect. What happened was, I spent the first three years studying very hard in university.

I simply hadn’t got many jobs. I regretted entering the modelling industry sometimes and even wanted to quit. In my junior year in university, I got a job offer from a company in Milan which invited me to walk for Milan Fashion Week. I accepted it, planning to end my modelling career with this one last show. By then I didn’t know that Milan Fashion Week was the real start of my career. I walked for 13 shows there! To sum up, I’ll do my best and always prepare myself for every possibility that comes to me. I enjoy my life as it is.

We heard that you’re setting up your charity foundation. Could you give us a brief introduction to it?
What?! No no no no no … It is not as grand as you think. It’s only some tiny goodwill from my friends and me. A family friend of mine has been funding impoverished primary students in Qinghai Province, China. When she told me about what she’s been doing, I was deeply touched and motivated. So I asked some of my best friends to see if they’d like to help. It turned out that all of them were absolutely willing to help those students together with me. We are still doing this now, but it’s really not worth mentioning. A lot of people are doing the same thing.

What does it mean to you to be the first Asian model to open a Ralph Lauren show and the first Chinese face of Shiseido?
The Ralph Lauren show was literally the turning point of my career and my life. It brought me to a brand-new start and changed my career substantially. Shiseido represents the recognition of my past works and meant more changes. I am grateful and honoured for having them.

Who are your favourite photographers to work with?
I’ve been so lucky to work with some really amazing photographers like Mario Testino, Nick Knight, Inez & Vinoodh, Lachlan Bailey, Terry Richardson, Patrick Demarchelier, Mert & Marcus, Chen Man, Daniel Jackson. To pinpoint one as my favourite would be impossible. All are amazing and I’m very blessed to have the chance to work with them.

What has been your most memorable shoot so far?
There were so many great shootings! A lot of shootings, either for advertisements or magazine covers, have been impressive. I take all these shootings seriously. I especially appreciate those insightful photographers, those who know exactly what they want and won’t be distracted by others’ ideas. Working with this kind of photographer everything goes smoothly and efficiently, which puts the emotions and energy of the models into full play. I also like shootings with distinctive style.

The theme of this issue is desire. What do you desire the most in the world?
Love is what I desire the most. My modelling experiences have changed me a lot. Back in school, girls like to gossip – so did I. But after I started to work as a model, I began to understand that everyone has his or her own habits and different worldviews. One may be unable to fully understand others, so it’s unreasonable to judge them by your own standards.

As to fame and fortune, I’m not materialistic at all. At my agency I’m known as the “OK girl”, because I simply say “OK” to whatever news or job opportunities come up. I’m not too excited at success, and not too depressed at failure. The most wonderful thing is to be with my family, friends and other people I love. I desire the pure love between people, love that is unconditional and unreserved.

by Shao Chen

From the Glass Archive – Issue 16 – Winter 2013

About The Author

Glass Magazine editor in chief

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