I started my modeling career at the age of 17 in Seattle, US with Totokaelo, a store featuring designer Jill Sanders and other edgy clothing brands. It was the first retailer I modeled for. It was difficult juggling school and this very demanding part-time job. I always had to be ready. I carried around a humongous bag, inside would be shoes, my makeup kit, a change of clothes, not to mention things that would help me through the rainy weather in Seattle.
I signed with Heartbreak Management for three years, a modeling agency based in Copenhagen, Denmark. I’ve been working in New York and around Europe, and once in a while I visit Vietnam for fashion shows and shootings.
My parents have always worried about me, and my entrance into the industry really made them even more nervous. They often told me how working as a model can distort one’s priorities as well as one’s real value of themselves. I’ve always been grateful for their insights and the guidance they have given me throughout the years.
There are two things I love: cooking and traveling. I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to fulfill the latter, and whenever I have time I research new recipes and my family are the guinea pigs for my food experiments. I try to do things that can help me balance a very hectic career and building up who I am.
There are a lot of mysteries surrounding a model’s diet, but to me a healthy body boils down to three things: food intake, exercise and peace of mind.
I don’t have a specifically strict diet. I try to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, avoiding carbohydrates, and eat a hearty, meaty meal three to four times a week – I think that’s how I keep binge eating in check.
Vietnamese food is a real escape if you want to eat flavorful, fulfilling food with little calories. I’m extremely grateful to have a Vietnamese heritage; I find recipes from the street foods I’ve tried and recreate them with maybe less noodles and rice and more filling things like lean meat and greens. My all-time favorite Vietnamese dish is bun rieu – a crab meat noodle soup with crab, tofu, tomato, morning glory and shrimp paste. I find that it has everything to fill you up and it’s an explosion of flavors. I usually eat this at Ngon restaurant on Pasteur. Beside Ben Thanh market there is also a small bun rieu stand but they stop selling around 5pm – I find it a bit too hot to eat on the street before 5pm so I usually miss it. I’m on a constant quest of finding the best bun rieu spot in town.
One important thing I’ve had to learn was to find low-calorie substitutions for my favorite foods. For example, I used to chow down on mac and cheese but after realizing the amount of calories I was taking in, I switched to small servings of fresh cheese cubes and slices of melon. I don’t beat myself up whenever I fail to control the craving for unhealthy foods, but I’m much more aware of what I’m eating and how it really affects my health and weight.
The biggest trouble with dieting or eating the right amount is cravings. I find that only a busy schedule can keep me away from overeating. I understand very well how terrible unhealthy foods can be so I try to fill up my time and keep them out of my apartment, not having them available helps me maintain my weight.
As a model, perhaps the most important skin care step is makeup removal. After each shoot, I sometimes have to spend half an hour doing this. If not, the residues cause my skin to break out. Besides that, I also use sunscreen religiously. I try to keep foundation and blemish base cream at bay because they can cause a viscous cycle – the more makeup you put on, the more your skin breaks out, thus the more makeup you will need to use.
I find that exercising makes me feel more energized and better about myself. It’s not the biggest part about keeping an ideal weight, but it tones up my body and teaches me discipline. It’s not easy to do and it’s not something I can do on my own, so I sign up for local aerobics classes three times a week.
Forget all the drama and catfights you’ve seen on television or in movies, this is the life of a model.