I want to know your personal back story, so tell me where abouts you grew up
So, I was born in Singapore, I grew up within South East Asia. Moved to Bangkok when I was 2, I think. Moved to Indonesia, Jakarta, when I was 4, back to Singapore when I was 7…to Brisbane when I was 9 *both laughing* and then Sydney when I was 12 and like, did high school here.
Did your family settle in Sydney for your high school education?
Yeah, cause it’s important to take seriously.
I went to Balmain High and then moved to St Andrews in year 9, the school had just turned co-ed and boys and girls still went to separate classes. It was a bit of a culture shock because my school prior had many different demographics that all mingled but St Andrews had clear gender divisions.
Tell me about your introduction to modelling and how it became a job for you.
So, I started because I was actually doing an acting course at NIDA and a coach there suggested it to me. For a few years I did both but it got to year 12 when I had to choose one or the other and I choose modelling because it was giving me more results as opposed to the option I liked more; acting…because it has more personality.
“The girls that fit the usual; blonde hair, beach looking, young look…their struggling for work now.”
How do you think your race has shaped your modelling career?
Ummm I think there really wasn’t much work for…brown people in the modelling industry even like two years ago, you know. At the moment, it’s funny because I actually did a journalism piece on diversity within the modelling industry and the girls that fit the usual; blonde hair, beach looking, young look…their struggling for work now. Because every body’s like ‘No we need to be diverse!’ And they’re trying to prove diversity, so the girls that were getting all the work are not getting any work now. It took a while to get to this point but the agents I’d worked for were like; ‘Your times going to come’”
Who are the brands that are giving you more work?
Brands like, H & M, all the freshly launched European brands are doing it. Bonds, are a big one for diversity, even General Pants. Sometimes it’s really obvious that they [Fashion Brands] are trying to include diversity.
Do you ever feel like you’re involved in a tokenistic way?
Oh yeah! There was this one job I did recently for GHD, and I was a head shorter- I’m shorter as well so it kind of makes it even harder. But I was a head shorter than all the other girls and like if you look at the photo there’s maybe ten of us in the photo and I’m on the side and they’re all like…a head taller, And they all kind of…don’t not look alike but they..they..they all almost look Eastern European and Russian. And then there’s just like me *laughing* on the side
How did you feel?
I was kinda like, ‘Good on them’ for like..you know including me in this. I did feel a bit out of place because there wasn’t a couple of different looks, It was like I was THE different look, you know? It was like very obvious even with the height and stuff.
In the wake of the Terry Richardson scandal, I’m very curious as to what the vibe is like on set
I’ve never felt uncomfortable onset, and I haven’t worked enough on set to say that this doesn’t happen in Australia, but my experience has been positive. I feel like it’s less common here than in America
Because the industry is younger here and it begun at a time where casting couch culture was already something people spoke about rather than being common place.
In fact, the times where I’ve done lingerie or swimwear shoots, the photographer will always ask me what I’m comfortable with before the shoot. Even during- I can change my mind and there’s never any repercussions.
Ilias Bakalla is the producer, director and interviewer of Women of color: The Intersectional Experience. He is a young journalist based in Sydney, Australia a lot of his work centers around intersectionality stemming from his formal education in the Sociology of religion, Gender and Cultural studies. He has authored a number of opinion pieces on civil religion and racial identities published in his blog; Fouzi Thinks and in The Artifice. He also writes extensively for the online-based publication; Sydney Scoop about cultural events happening in Sydney.
Louise Dietz-Henderson is the Filmmaker and editor of Women of Colour : The Intersectional Experience. Lou is a film producer, freelance photographer and videographer who studied her bachelor’s degree at the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney, Australia. Lou currently resides in Sydney.