It’s a big milestone for a 16-year-old girl, who gave up studying to earn a living as a waitress, to unexpectedly become one of the top models at Sapors Modelling Agency, a leader in the Cambodian fashion business.
Her name is Kouy Chandanich, a Phnom Penher who has made her name as a beauty in many commercials, magazines, TV campaigns and at the first Cambodia Fashion Week.
She has made the country proud, and she will feature at the International Fashion Week in Australia this September, and will prowling the catwalk with hundreds of professional models.
How did you become a model?
I have a long tale to tell about my childhood, but let’s start with me giving up my studying at the age of 16 due to my family’s financial constraints. I always wanted to help my mother from shouldering the whole family’s tension. I worked as a waitress at a restaurant, but then I met Sapor Rendall at a housewarming party in late 2009. I was delighted to meet her, and we talked a lot about modelling. She asked me to join her agency, but I was reluctant and lacking in confidence. Fortunately we met again and she asked me again. I said yes – and my career started from that point.
What inspired you?
TV is what inspired me the most when I was 13 or 14 years old. I was alone in front of the TV, following those international models, and everybody thought I was spooky because of that. I saw those models and they looked so beautiful; I was inspired to know that a brown-skinned girl like me could become one, and I had always wanted to be one. Sapor Rendall is another inspiration of mine. She has pushed me up to the reach for my ultimate dream and she believes in my talents.
What do you think about the Cambodian fashion industry?
Economic and political stability has not been the only thing moving forward in our country. Last year, we had our first Fashion Week in Cambodia. It simply tells us that our modelling and fashion industry is not far behind the rest of the world. We are now recognised because many of our models have worked overseas. And surprisingly, I have been chosen to join International Fashion Week in Australia this September, which is the biggest fashion event for a Cambodian model to be able to attend. So I think we are moving forward, and I feel positive about that.
Why were you chosen to join International Fashion Week at Australia?
I should thank Sapor Rendall for her help getting me the opportunity. The organiser of Australia International Fashion Week did not think having a model from Asia to walk at the event, but Sapor had shown off Cambodia model’s talents to the committee and they chose me.
However, it wasn’t easy. I had to meet their high requirements as well. My height, 1.72 metres, is the same as Australian models, but most importantly my brown skin and Khmer figure was different, a difference which can be crucial for a model to have.
How did you feel when you were chosen to join International Fashion Week?
You won’t believe it, but I shouted and jumped like a kid in the market when I received my acceptance and invitation form. I felt so emotional because I will be the first model from Cambodia to walk on international runways, wearing clothes by world famous designers. Sapor and I burst into tears when we saw the Australian press coverage of our participation, saying that a Cambodian model will be a showcase on their runways. When we arrive there, we will be very excited if the Australia press watches me us on the day of the event.
Do you think your participation in International Fashion Week is good for Cambodian modelling?
It is a golden chance for not only me, but also other Cambodians to feel proud of our models. By exhibiting my talents internationally, I hope I can get more attention from world-class designers to take a look at Cambodia so that we will be even more recognised, and I hope this chance opens the door for Cambodian models internationally. Who knows? Cambodia could be one of the top modeling countries.?
What is your future as a model?
Since I started as a model, I have held the dream of becoming an international star. People might think it’s hard or impossible, but I can see opportunities already. My participation in International Fashion Week is a good start for me for the rest of my career.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lim Meng Y at firstname.lastname@example.org