Veronica Farren's Modeling Journey in China!
This is a blog by Veronica Farren of Chelmsford, MA, our first fashion model to journey to China for three months via the ABMG China Model Project!
My adventure is going wonderfully! Things are already so busy here. We get up first thing in the morning and go to castings all day :) But hey, that's what I'm here for! I am having the time of my life. Thank you again ABMG for this wonderful opportunity.
PART I: Veronica Farren, An American Model’s Life in China
June 1: My name is Veronica Farren. I'm an American fashion model from Boston, Massachusetts, who was just sent over to Shanghai by AsianBoston Media Group!
A few months ago, I began the exciting process of ordering my passport, getting my visa, determining and organizing everything I thought I would need to have in a new country...and now I'm here in China! And wow- Shanghai is a non-stop party. Not many people speak English here aside from the models, but everybody is really sweet and welcoming and celebratory. China is a magical place with a beautiful culture and great parties. My agency here is the best group of people I could have imagined working with! Greemy, Julie, Vincent, Maybe, and Melissa are our bookers. They work to secure us jobs, find us castings to go to, and come with us to help navigate through our list of casting calls.
The agency has two model apartments: One is the home to Maya and Tanya from Russia, Norbert from Hungary, and Evengy from Ukraine. I share my apartment with Martyna from Lithuania, and Tatianna and Yana from Russia. I have my own room for now, but in a few weeks, a Lithuanian girl named Emilja will be moving into my top bunk. My childhood dream of having bunk beds is coming to life! That and modeling... I started working right away- my first job was just three days after my arrival: swimsuit: very fun gig, they had two above-ground pools set up with a runway stage and along with a male model from Ukraine named Jason, and two beautiful Chinese models. I did two sets of walking on the platform and one set posing in the pool each day. It was a great gig, and a cool experience working with other models from different areas of the world.
I've noticed that the models from other countries have dramatically different styles of modeling, so I am learning a great variety of new poses, walks, and definitely becoming a better-rounded model. Chinese poses are very cute, delicate, and sweet, compared to the more direct, high-fashion German styles.
I'm also learning some important vocabulary in a plethora of languages!
PART II: Veronica Farren, An American Model’s Life in China
June 8: I had three jobs during my first week, and they gave us the weekend off for rest, so this week was my first real introduction to the daily lifestyle as a foreign fashion model. I had no idea what it would be like, and I must say I am pleasantly surprised at how chill this is. Every morning we wake up, stretch, go outside, and hop in the van that is waiting for us by the curb. Chifu Lu, our driver, drives us around to castings all day long. So we ride on, hanging out in the van, sleeping, singing, listening to music, teaching each other bad words in different languages, LOL. Every once in a while, we'll stop at a casting, grab our portfolio books, jump out, and put our best faces forward!
We have so many amazing opportunities daily! Every casting is unique and exciting in its own way. Some of the castings are short and sweet: we walk in and stand in a line; the clients will look at us for a while and pick one or two, or none...to try on their clothes and pose for sample shots. They might point to a few, then say xie xie, which means thank you, but translates to: better luck next time! It's nothing personal, though: they know what look they need for their particular project. We go to so many castings, and there is one for everyone. This type of casting is my favorite. I would much rather be told that I am not right for the job than have to try on a bunch of outfits to take photos for no gig in the end.
Sometimes, we will arrive at a casting and there will be more than fifty other models there, and the client will want to photograph each of us. Sometimes they will ask us to show our catwalks, sometimes we are videotaped, and other times the casting feels more like an entire photo shoot the amount of poses they have us do. It’s always a surprise what the castings will be like! And hey, that’s the beauty of it :) Then we're back on the road, sometimes hitting 8 or 10 castings in one day. If we have a modeling job, we go to that instead of castings, but otherwise, this will be my life for the next three months. And I have no complaints- it is a rare and wonderful experience.
Today, we welcomed a new roommate from Brazil: Kamille. I love this girl- she is a very cool model. It’s been raining oceans here in Shanghai, so rather than going off on my usual roaming of the city; I've been staying in and spending time getting to know my roommates. Kamile worked in India for 6 months, and Shanghai for another 3 before that, so she is already accustomed to the lifestyle and the city. She'll be my Sacagawea and show me the ropes that I haven't found yet. Nice! Tonight we are going out for dinner, and to meet some of her old friends from her first trip to Shanghai. I have learned that it is very common for models come back to or just decide to stay and live in Shanghai after their first contract ends.
That says something great about the character of this city!
PART III: Veronica Farren, An American Model’s Life in China
June 15: The Chinese work so hard and always on the go. Even the post office, one of my favorite places, is open on Sundays in China. Every so often, the whole country takes a three day holiday. Lots of people leave the city and take their families towards the countryside, on vacation, to visit family, or out for general recreation and relaxation.
This week was the Chinese holiday, so we had three days off- such a wonderful surprise! I savored this opportunity to get in some real quality wandering. I rode in taxis, buses, and the underground metro system. This roaming confirmed that China is an amazing place. Shanghai is all about the flashing lights, over-the-top architectural design, and magic beanstalk-high sky scrapers. I modeled at an event for Moet in a really nice lounge called Bar Rouge, which is on a rooftop overlooking "The Bund." This is one of the most famous views in Shanghai, and from across the river, you see the skyline of the magnificent city.
There are also lots of little hidden zen gardens and cool places to meditate here: benches, statues, mosaic bricks and tiles on the ground, and very interesting landscape designs. Our apartment complex has a bunch of little courtyards, fountains, and walkways; people walk their dogs, sit and picnic, or just wander like I do. Also this week, my bunk bed mate Emilija moved in! She is beautiful and a lovely soul. Our other roommate, Tanya, moved out and went home to Russia when her contract ended. I have been here for three weeks, but it seems like just yesterday I was stepping off the plane!
I'm already accustomed to the lifestyle and the city- I've figured out how to navigate the language barrier, and windy roads. Drop me off anywhere within a 2-mile radius of our apartment, and I can find my way home. That’s tricky in Shanghai because the roads run every which way! That is my ultimate goal for this trip…to develop a reliable map of the city in my mind.
Now, time to go rollerblading!
PART IV: Veronica Farren, An American Model’s Life in China
June 22: This week, we welcomed a new roommate into our apartment- Valeria, from Russia. She is very cool, and has a totally different style than the other girls. The agency has a variety of looks, and we do not compete against each other because everyone is for a different market. Not only am I meeting new people and making friends from all around the world, I get to know what these girls are all about. I live with them, ride around in a van all day with them, and sometimes, work with them! I had a job with my roommate Kamille modeling at a Porsche car show for the Asia Carerra cup this week…so many outrageous sports cars! Our outfits were pretty glamorous, too! We wore sporty crop tops, booty shorts, and thigh-high white heeled boots. I posed with all of the race car drivers who will be competing in the cup and with the cars for photographers as well as everyday people attending the show.
The Chinese love to take photographs - even when just walking down the street. Kamille and I had a great time posing together for all of the spectators. Modeling with friends makes the job so much more rewarding. I've had jobs with Martyna, Kimille, Norbert, Emilja, and lots of other models from different agencies. There are many other agencies in Shanghai, and it is a very competitive market, but all the models see each other at the same castings each day, so it is a friendly community. Our van pulls into the parking lot of a casting call to join a whole line of other vans, and the drivers hang out smoking cigarettes together or playing cards as all the models walk inside together greeting their friends from other agencies. Models are everywhere here.
There is also another model apartment on the top floor of our building, so we run into them on the elevator and in the apartment shop all the time. Shanghai seems to be made up of mostly foreign models, Eastern European and Brazilian, but there are a few girls and guys from the states. While I love and appreciate the mix of nationalities that I am surrounded by, it’s always refreshing to run into someone from America.
And when I go back home, it will be great to run into someone from China!
PART V: Veronica Farren, An American Model’s Life in China
June 29: Yesterday, I had a job in Hangzou, a city nearby Shanghai. The high-speed train runs between the two cities in a little over an hour, but my team had the chance to enjoy a three-hour scenic bus ride through China's countryside. It is certainly not considered "countryside" by the Shanghainese, but to a foreigner who has only explored Shanghai's urban-scape, this was a great contrast! I hope I have another opportunity to travel outside of the big city. China is a huge country, and there is so much that can be learned from it and the striking differences in culture between varying locations within its borders.
The Shanghainese, for example, speak with a totally different dialect than Mandarin, Cantonese, or any others among the numerous banks of languages used by the people of China. Even though Hangzou is very close to Shanghai geographically, it was a noticeably different community that I feel blessed to have been able to connect with.
July 6: Today, I only went to a few castings before my catalogue shoot, which consisted of trying on and modeling 34 different outfits! I was amazed at how fast-paced and efficient this team was- the stylist, makeup artist, and photographer were all strong natural leaders, and the other members of the team were great workers who did their jobs with no problems.
There was someone who took the clothes after I wore them and put them into labeled bags. There was another person on set with tape in case anything needed to be hidden from the photos and someone to else to help me get dressed, and someone to make sure the accessories stayed organized. The format of the shoot was very structured. I did a series of poses facing forward, then facing backwards to shot the entire outfit. This type of catalogue is intended for the sales of the garments, so it was my job to wear them well and make anyone who saw the picture want to wear it themselves.
The client booked me for a shoot next week, and now that I have the routine down, I'll be able to work as efficiently as they do! I am very surprised at how fast-paced the modeling world is in Shanghai. Sometimes, we attend castings that are for shoots taking place on the following day!
It keeps us on our toes (in high heels)!
PART VI: Veronica Farren, An American Model’s Life in China
July 13: The other day, I worked an e-commerce shoot; photos for an online shopping website. I sported 68 looks in 6 hours! I also had one pretty unique job that I would never have imagined before coming to Shanghai, where they truly go all out when it comes to fashion. The photos were used in an advertisement for a product that filters air for cave miners. Also, I posed for a calendar and a product book that they mail out to their distributors. My attire consisted of a blue bikini, thigh-high latex boots, wrist cuffs, and two different wild neon wigs. The makeup artist glued on gigantic lashes and drew thick lines on my eyelids. The look was modeled after a computer-animated girl that the company used for their last set of work. With my photos along with those of the 11 other girls in the calendar and book, their marketing campaign will be really cool! Next week, I'll take a train 5 hours for a runway show in another city. Two of my roommates and I are doing the job together and will be staying in a hotel overnight. I am very excited to have the opportunity to explore a new city!
July 20: This week was very light on castings. We had a day off during the week that fell on the most beautiful sunny afternoon, and my roommate and I lounged at the pool! Other days, we had a few castings spread out throughout the day. This weekend, my roommates, Kamille, Martyna and I traveled to NanChang for a show for Cassille handbags. NanChang is the capital of the Jiangxi Province in southeastern China, and took about 7 hours by train to reach and another 10 to return home. Kamille and I thought the train ride there was awesome because we got the front row and could put our feet up on the wall, recline our chairs back, and because we were right next to the sink, water, and bathroom. The way home, however, blew the first train trip out of the water: we had beds! The train was rows of bunks stacked three high-I felt like a little kid at summer camp, so much fun! I took the top bunk, and enjoyed amazing vista views of the China sunset through the window for the first hour or so, and then I closed my eyes and woke up back in Shanghai!
The hotel we stayed in was very nice, too- I hadn't slept in a real bed since I'd been in China, where our beds are pillow mats over wooden boards (something you get used to very quickly). All of the places I slept during this trip were amazing. The job wasn't so bad, either; in fact, it was one of my favorite gigs so far. Our hair and makeup artists were outstanding, and the wardrobe was super glamorous. Three outfit changes: a white evening gown, a hot pink bubble dress, and tight jeans with a top. We began by posing with the bags, and then over the course of the afternoon, we did about 6 catwalks each. The client was great, and the booker, Lanx, who traveled with us from Shanghai, was lots of fun! I explored the city for a few hours afterwards as the girls got pedicures, and we all went shopping and out to eat before the train ride home. Next week, my jobs will be very different: they are events in the evening at a night club.
Variety is the spice of life!
PART VII: Veronica Farren, An American Model’s Life in China
July 27: This week was relatively routine- I had a catalogue job and two events. We had many castings during the days, a rest on the weekend, with jobs in between. The one thing that was unique about this week with the agency was the fact that Shanghai was so hot on Friday that many of the castings were cancelled! As a lover of the heat, I was very comfortable lying out in the sun for hours. The beautiful thing about Shanghai's cloudy skies is that you can bask in the summer rays without getting sunburn, or tanning lines, which are bad news to any model!
I had a job in Hangzouh this weekend, as well as one in Shanghai. I have been to Hangzouh many times now, and am starting to see more parallels between the two cities. At the job, we were dressed up 1920's glam style - hair wrapped up to the side with feather head pieces, tight sequin dresses with beaded fringe, sparkles everywhere, platform fairy dust shoes, and big, showy costume jewelry. We carried glamorous kaleidoscopes and big feathered fans!
There is no job that is more fun than mine!
PART VIII (Coming Home): Veronica Farren, An American Model’s Life in China
Aug 3: It’s August! It is crazy to think that my time in Shanghai is almost over. Many of the castings that we went to this week were for jobs that do not start until after I leave…wild! At my catalogue job, the client asked me to return for another shooting, but I could not because the date was too far ahead. I have had such an amazing experience here and will definitely be returning, even just to visit the city and all of the friends I have made here. My roommate, Martyna, moved out this week, and new girls are flowing into the agencies for the next season.
In the fall/winter, clients hire models to shoot bathing suits and summer clothes, whereas many of the jobs this summer were for jackets, jeans, and clothing made for cooler weather. My new roommate, Elena, who moved into my bunk-bed, is very cool! She has worked with this agency once before, and came back because she enjoyed her time here. Her two friends, also former models for this agency, will be coming to join her in a few weeks.
Models in Shanghai are in and out on a constant rotation.
Three months seems like such a long time, but time flies when you are having fun…and hard at work!
Thank you to AsianBoston Media Group and the agency here in Shanghai, China, for a wonderful experience.
Sincerely, Veronica Farren