Why aren’t there any more Singaporean supermodels?
Text: Denise Ngo
Photos: Denise Ngo/Word of Mouth Communications
Former Singapore supermodel Pat Kraal is a rare breed of person. Not only is she impossibly beautiful as a woman in her 50's, but she’s one of the few Singaporean models who have made it big in the international scene.
Sure, we have a lot of aspiring top models, but we’d be surprised if anyone like Marc Jacobs or Karl Lagerfeld knew their names. Pat, on the other hand, was hired as a house model for Givenchy in Paris, France, in the ’80s. From there, she began modelling with high-profile luxury designers like Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain, and Pierre Cardin. She has even worked with talents like Iman, Claudia Schiffer, and Christy Turlington.
So what gives? You’d think that models today would take advantage of social media and digital technology for self-promotion, but so far, no one’s really “made it” outside of Singapore the way Pat did in the '80s and '90s.
During an interview with xinmsn, Pat, who is visiting Singapore from Paris to judge at the finals of Model Search, said that successful models also know how to network and take initiative, which is not something that pretty faces in Singapore are taught to do. Moreover, many beautiful men and women are under the impression that they can succeed on looks alone – that modelling consists simply of standing and looking pretty, while other people do the “boring” tasks for them.
“You have to have a good personality, that’s for sure,” Pat said. “You need to know how to mix with the clients, react to the clients. You can’t just be shy and wait for your bookers to do things for you. You have to do it and you have to sell yourself. Which I think they don’t have to do in Singapore.”
“[The models] just wait around for someone to say, ‘Oh, you have a casting today.’ Nowadays, we need videos and snaps of Polaroid pictures with no makeup, and they just wait for the bookers to take them. They’re not professional photographers or anything. But you can do it at home. You can just get someone to take a video of you instead of going to the agency. But the models are not interested in that. I think you really have to take an interest in building your own book, doing your own pictures, and working on yourself. Because that’s what sells you."
She also said that models who grew up here are simply too pampered.
“A lot of the Singapore models should go to Europe to try [modeling] because it’s a completely different scene there,” Pat said. “I think Singaporeans – as you know—they’re very spoiled. When I first started, you would go [to Paris] and it’s a strange country, a strange language, you’re away from home. There’s nobody to do everything for you. I think models should just go there to grow up and learn that life is not that easy.”
“Nobody tells them that because they keep just pushing the agency and saying, ‘I need better videos, I need better snaps, I need better pictures.’ I’m going to brief the agency on the ones who do have potential to work abroad, but if you want to be that person, be more interested and do not wait for people to do things for you. I think that’s a very Singapore mentality, getting people to do things for you.”
Well, ouch. But to be fair to Pat, she delivers her critique in hope that the women here who want to make it big will be prepared to develop the right work ethic, personality, and tenacity in order to rise above the peers.
Want to know what else Pat thinks about Singapore’s beauty standards and what Westerners consider “model material” among Asian women? Read on for the rest of our Q&A.
Model Search, which is a partnership between Carrie Models International and Jurong Point, aims to disocver males, females, and kids who have what it takes to be a model. The competition will conclude with a grand finale on 26 April 2014 at the Jurong Point Centre Stage, Level 1.