Modelling in Malaysia

Natalia Zurowski, Features Columnist

An In-Depth Guide to Modelling in one of Southeast Asia's Newest Markets.

Natalia Zurowski
Chantale Nadeau's Natalia Zurowski
Style Magazine (Malaysia)
A market that many North American models are most likely unfamiliar with is Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia.

Located in Southeast Asia, with Singapore, Indonesia and Australia as its neighbours, Kuala Lumpur is a modern city in constant development.

Over the years, KL has become a burgeoning and bustling metropolis that within the next 10-20 years is going to become an urban and business hotspot.

Expatriates from all parts of the globe are taking note and placing their investments into the local economy. The potential opportunities KL has to offer are attracting workers to tap into the market and see for themselves what all of the buzz is about. This includes models.

Allow me to elaborate.

Portfolio Development
In regards to the fashion industry, Kuala Lumpur is very similar to Singapore. With magazines like Style, Female, Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar and Cleo amongst others, there is a great opportunity for models to build up their portfolios. The best part? Most tear sheets are also in English, which can help models to further their careers. For those of you that do not know, many models, when going to certain European markets like Italy, get their non-English tear sheets removed from their portfolios. I had a friend whose booker in Milan (from a very well known agency) would not take on any girls if they had even gone to Asia! Although this has been occurring less frequently in recent times, it remains a harsh reality of the industry. It's not racism, or even prejudice for that matter; it's really just another marketing strategy. Regardless of how perverse it may be, agencies in places like Milan, want fresh, new and unknown faces. This way the model can attract attention from potential clients as the next big thing.

Who's Who?
The major publishing companies in Kuala Lumpur are: ACP magazine, BluInc., and MEASAT Publications. It is absolutely crucial that while working for any of these publishing houses, you do your complete best. Each of them is home to multiple different magazines. For example, BluInc., publishes Marie Claire, Female, NuYou, Seventeen, Cleo and many more.

This brings me to my next point...

It's a Small World
A word of caution to the grumpy or moody (male and female models alike): I know we have our off days, but while on set you need to maintain your composure. You are not a diva! Regardless of how much you made from your last campaign, with a bad attitude, I can say with full confidence it was your last. This can be said not just in regards to KL, but every market. The fashion industry on a global scale is already small enough... KL even smaller. As I mentioned above, publishing houses like BluInc., are very important for you to leave with a good impression. Otherwise, you may very well risk never working with them again and losing out on a great deal of jobs, tear sheets and money.

Think I'm overreacting? Allow me to tell you a brief story of a girl who began to complain at a job, who also happened to be my flat mate. She was a sweet girl but was going through some personal issues in preparation for New York. Her complaining became a regular occurrence, as she began to come home from jobs quite irritated. My other flat mate and I began to take note, but seeing as it was not our business, we just brushed it off. One day, I remember being at a job and the makeup artist was telling me about a model who was complaining at a job. Sure enough, it was my flat mate. Sounds pretty catty donít it? Well, like I said, it's a small world, and everybody talks. The makeup artist proceeded to tell me that everyone on set, from the photographer to an assistant, was afraid of this girl; worried that they were going to set her off. The client ended up coping with her actions and after following up with the agency, only then did she complain about the model's poor behaviour. If you are not as lucky, a client may call your agent while you are on set and cancel you on the spot - without pay!

So what happened to the model? Well, her initial eight-page spread was cut down to six and word about her attitude spread quicker than a forest fire. Initially, she was working very well despite the 'slower' season but once her negative attitude became known amongst the industry, her reputation and amount of jobs suffered. It is best to leave your personal issues at home. Don't forget, as an international model you are an ambassador to your home country and your agency. Canadian models are renowned for being positive and well mannered so let's not change that!

No Castings The unique thing about the KL market is that there are little to no castings. You may think, "Wait, no castings? So how do I book jobs?" If there is one, the agency will set up a casting van or taxi for you and the others to attend. However, almost always bookings are direct and based solely on your portfolio and snapshots. Your agency will take snapshots upon your arrival, but these are not regular snapshots. The agency has a photographer that takes your snaps with a good camera/lighting etc., in a studio. Not only that, but they also do make-up (just your basics: foundation, concealer and mascara). They take the snaps very seriously since your jobs are highly dependent on them. These are usually only done once throughout your stay so you must be in great shape! They take the standard snaps of you first in a bathing suit or your knickers, then in casual attire.

You might be wondering, "What do I do all day?" Well, you have many options! Many models actually consider KL to be a vacation spot for them because of the relaxed vibe. KL is a great place to have some down time, either before or after you hit a larger and more intense market like Shanghai or Tokyo. You can also tour the city, go to the gym or even visit neighbouring countries! All you have to do is ask your agency about your schedule and if you have a few days free, book the time off and go! Just be sure to return in time for your next booking because remember, you are there to work. Or are you perhaps a student? Then KL could be a great place for you to continue your studies and work to the side without the stress of running to and from castings all day. In light of the few castings, KL is also a great market for a younger model that wishes to get some experience by going with a parent. Due to the amount of free time, they can go away together for a weekend to a neighbouring country or just take the time to explore the city. It really is a wonderful idea and something models and parents should consider together.

My key message is for models to please remember, while at home and abroad, stay professional. Just remember the three 'best' steps: Act your best, look your best and be your best. No amount of make-up or hairspray can cover up a bad attitude, especially while on the job.

Aside from a good attitude, what are the other factors that determine a model's success in the KL market? What kind of jobs is available? Can you make good money there? I answer all these questions and more, in Part II!

Please proceed to Part II


Blogs We Follow

Cailin Hill (The Model Burnbook)

Natalia Zurowski & Jasmine Chorley Foster (The Business Model)

Madison Schill & Addison Gill's (Mind Over Model)

Ania Boniecka (A n i a . B)