Making it as an Asian model in Hong Kong: Kelly Chan

For Rhea’s first story, we take a brief look at the Hong Kong modelling industry through the eyes of 20-year-old freelance model Kelly Yeuk Lam Chan. Ahead, Kelly explains what it takes to become a model in Hong Kong, things to do before photo day, and the industry’s overbearing preference of Caucasian models over their Asian counterparts. 

How it all started

I’m a journalism major at Chu Hai College and I’m in my third year (out of four) so life’s pretty hectic for me right now. Modelling had never really crossed my mind until 2 years ago when I did my first ‘photoshoot’ with a photographer friend who approached me. At that time I didn’t really know how to pose, but it was already a really fun experience. Since then I’ve done lots of shoots with friends who are learning photography and amateur photographers who want to build their portfolio. I started getting modelling jobs, which paid pretty well, and I always had fun at shoots so I decided to try freelancing. It’s been working out pretty well, which is great. 

I don’t think a lot of people will admit it, but I’m sure we’re all quite vain. I’ve always enjoyed having photos of me taken and sharing them on social media. Being a model satisfies this little vanity inside of me and I get paid - what’s not to love? 

I want to be a model

Kelly Chan Yeuk Lam shot by Brian HK Chan for Rhea Magazine, Hong Kong

Being a model is easy. Being a good model is hard. Even though there are so many trends and articles in the media that are trying to tell consumers to accept all body shapes, the truth is models need to be tall and skinny in Hong Kong. When I first started I was already a Small, but I still had to work on my arms, waist and legs if I wanted to be serious since every other model was skinnier than me. I’m lucky to be 170cm, but I’d still like to be taller. 

The magical thing about working in Hong Kong is that, because the industry is so small, you get discovered really quickly. Instagram really helped me market myself to potential agencies and clients, and other than that, it’s all word-of-mouth. Until this day, I’m still constantly trying to improve and learn so I always make sure to be friends with everyone on set and be nice to people. 

Dieting, Working Out and Sleeping

I always run 10km every other day. I find cardio to be the most effective way for me to stay in shape and I’ve always enjoyed it so it was an easy sport for me to keep up with. Recently I’ve also gotten into lifting weights at the gym to tone my arms. My biggest meal of the day is usually breakfast. I’ll have veggies, fruit and soy milk. For lunch it’ll usually be a small sandwich or an energy bar. I try not to eat too much for dinner and stick to a piece of fruit or something small, and it’s always important not to eat too much before going to bed. Talking about bedtime, I always hit the sack before midnight and wake up at 8:30, even if I have nothing to do that morning. I just find that this sleep cycle is the best for my body, and it definitely prevents bloating. 

Kelly Chan Yeuk Lam shot by Brian HK Chan for Rhea Magazine, Hong Kong

Asian vs. Caucasian

Honestly, life is harder for Asian models. It’s probably because of the traditional Chinese mindset, or simply because Caucasian/White models have been considered as the ideal body for lots of big media outlets and advertisers. On the other hand, it’s definitely also because Hong Kong is mainly made up of Asians, so Caucasian models will give a feeling of ‘exclusiveness’ or ‘perfection’. This is why I’ve gotta work harder and harder to stay in shape. 

Rituals before a shoot

On the night before a shoot, I’ll usually get a quick lymphatic massage from my mom, drink lots of water and sleep early. I also always think about what I want to work on personally for the shoot. There’s always areas for improvement and I feel like there’s still so much for me to learn. Lots of people think that being a model is easy, but posing is honestly really difficult. You have to make sure your angles are right and that you have good posture. Remember that a photoshoot is a team effort! You have to play your part in making sure you use your best angles, and can’t solely rely on the rest of the team to make you look good. 

Favorite Quote

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” - Steve Prefontaine

You can follow Kelly on Instagram @yeuklam or like her Facebook page here.

PHOTOGRAPHY, STYLING & WORDS: BRIAN HK CHAN
MODEL: KELLY YL CHAN
Babydoll Dress in Burgundy by ZARA