Something happened to me recently after my final hosting of a show at Telstra Perth Fashion Festival. I had had a wonderful 3 days of being paid to model for Target Australia and their Dannii Minogue’s petite line. I had even been asked to close the whole show and the lovely Dannii even re-grammed and retweeted me. My mother had come to my first ever fashion event even though I have now been hosting for a decade. Things were looking up.
Above: One of the 6 women dressed by CHANEL and shot by their photographer from Paris in 2011 for the Numeros Prive exhibition when it came to Dubai.
Then one of the participants in the show I had done said to me: “Is this your first modelling job?” I said “Well, I am more of a host and I’ve been presenting for a decade.” She then asked me if she could keep her image which was laminated (this is the card which is tied to all your garments backstage at a show so a model knows where her clothes are). For models it’s usually a laminate of your comp card.
Above: My changing card.
I replied:”I ‘m sure that’s fine. I kept mine from when I finished walking for Target.” The woman, who was short and voluptuous said: “So are you a model? Is this your first time?” I said it’s my first time on a runway, yes, but I am actually represented by one of the big agencies here in Perth, Chadwick Models, and have been doing this for 10 years as a commercial model in Asia and the Middle East.
She then says: “No offence but models are usually tall and you’re rather short.”
I said: “You do know there is such a thing as petite models?” I started to explain but thought better of it. No point telling someone who has no idea about the industry…about the industry. But it bothered me. Firstly because I am confident in who I am. For the last 5 years in Dubai I was a household name and my height was never an issue. People didn’t refer to me as the “short girl” or the “Asian girl,” I was just “Simone Heng.” I am pretty sure people don’t go up to Kylie Minogue and Tom Cruise and remind them of how little they are. Not that I am putting myself in the same league as them but it helps to illustrate the point.
Above: My first 2 magazine covers in 2005 and 2006. The first is from Seventeen Malaysia and the second is from Chalk in the Philippines.
At the beginning of the year I was flown to Dubai for the launch of my Dove endorsement and at the launch the MC who was meant to be promoting me as one of the Dove ambassadors (take into account Dove as a brand is all about female empowerment and the sisterhood), who is a tall Australian girl, referred to how small I was on stage. I told her right there and then in front of everyone to “Go easy on the short comments, thanks.” She was taken aback, fumbled and then mumbled something like: “Oh…it’s just that I’m tall…” So you’re tall, no one cares! Why did it even have to be said?
Above: Part of my 6-page spread for FHM in the Philippines in 2009. I appeared in both Maxim and FHM in the same month and was later nominated for the Hot 100 in 2011 when I was already based in Dubai.
And that’s what I am getting at in this blog. What is the point of reducing someone down to their physical size? I could easily have reminded the MC of her prominent nose or the woman today of her voluptuous figure, but what good does that do? When people limit me to my height or my ethnicity it only proves to show how small minded they are and how insecure they feel about themselves. I know what I can create with my mind! I also have worked in 3 different markets in entertainment and I know the possibilities are endless. Us little people are sick and tired of people (often perfectly unattractive people who are marginally taller) pointing out how little we are. Get over it! We sure have.
Above: Closing the entire Target Australia show at the 2014 Telstra Perth Fashion Festival.
I don’t carry my portfolio printed on my T-shirt but I know all the massive clients I’ve modelled for in the 10 years I have been working (yes, I am 30), including Dove, Ponds, Sunsilk, Target, Sephora and the list goes on. I’ve been dressed by CHANEL and styled by one of Karl Largerfeld’s direct employees. I’ve shot for the cover of Seventeen, and posed for FHM, Maxim and Elle. I know my CV. I know what I am capable of and yet other people love to box you in and I find myself in the world’s most isolated capital city having to broaden minds. Saying things like: “You know in Asia petite models are widely accepted” or “You know in the Middle East they love brunettes over blondes.”
Above: Part of my 6-page spread in Maxim Philippines in 2008.
I thought I’d take a look back at my 10 years in and around the modelling industry to show you what small people can do when they are surrounded by people who aren’t blinded by our height:
One of my earliest modelling jobs (2006) was as the face of a campaign for Sunsilk in the Philippines. The brand flew me in from Singapore and cast the other girls (who were both taller) around me as the central model in the commercial. This is the first time that I was given an apple box to shoot on for my close up shots (hence the title of this blog):
Then many years later in 2011, Unilever (who owns Sunsilk) came knocking again, this time in the Middle East and for Ponds. By this time I had become a “known name” and had cut my hair off because I was essentially “free” to be me.
And then in 2013…well Unilever Middle East came knocking again. This is a sign that you’re good at building relationships, when you can consistently work with a brand. Bear in mind now, that I was in Arabia and I was an Asian Australian girl. There is no limit to your ethnicity, even though in Australia we “ethnic” girls are constantly being knocked back. My first big Dove (also owned by Unilever) billboard opposite the world’s only 7-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab.
Earlier this year, at the age of 29 (which is practically a Granny in the modelling world)!! I booked a South-East Asia-wide campaign for Sephora:
To sign off, I’ve also noticed it’s a lot of other Asian Australians, who seem to want to put me down now that I have returned home. Why are we not banding together and lifting each other up? It reminds me of when Tyra Banks spoke out about Naomi Campbell side lining her in the industry when there were so few black models.
Short people, lift other short people up. Women who are 5 cm taller than me, love to tell me how tall I make them feel. I never say this, even this weekend when I met a woman who was gorgeous and is much shorter than even me. Why use other people to make yourself feel better? You can do that on your own by going out to achieve whatever you want in life. People can try and belittle you, but your achievements are proof of what is real and no one can take them away from you.