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Sun, Jan 10, 2010
Urban, The Straits Times
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Life on the catwalk
by By Hong Xinyi and Karen Tee

They are regarded as paragons of style and glamour, but the life cycle of a model - super or otherwise - can be a brief and brutal one.

The top models in Singapore can easily earn a five-figure sum for appearing in an ad campaign. But whereas most working stiffs are only getting started in their early 20s, that is the age when many models start to find work drying up.

Most models tend to start in their teens and many get 'sidetracked' after six or seven years, says Watson Tan, director of Upfront Models Singapore, 39.

'Because of drinking and partying, many gain weight and lose focus. Modelling careers can be long, but models need to have discipline when it comes to maintaining their physique. They are selling their beauty after all.'

Models can easily find themselves top of the heap one day and down in the dumps the next. In this competitive industry, there is no lack of fresher pretty faces waiting for their big break.

Says fashion show producer Daniel Boey, 44: 'Models are their own product and they have to take care of their skin, body and health. I have seen models who think they can survive on a diet of cigarettes and alcohol, but their skin loses luminosity and tone. That whole grungy, druggy thing is over.'

As he puts it: 'No model is indispensable. Everyone wants to look for the next big thing. Now, a model is just a mannequin.'

It is not always the case, of course. Supermodels like Naomi Campbell, 39, Christy Turlington, 40, and Linda Evangelista, 44, are considered celebrities in their own right and still star in ad campaigns for major brands.

The likes of Kate Moss, 35, Heidi Klum, 36, and Tyra Banks, 36, have also parlayed their modelling cachet into success in fields like fashion design and reality TV.

On the homeground, there are success stories like Junita Simon, 32, who is also known for being a polished emcee, and Sheila Sim, 26, who is giving acting a shot.

Indeed, diversifying into other areas is a good way to prolong the longevity of a model's career.

Says Tan: 'I usually advise models who have reached a certain peak not to take their career for granted and not to spend all their money, but think about starting a business.

'A Kate Moss type of supermodel who can keep going for so long at the top of her game is a very rare species - there is only one out of so many.'

This week, we speak to three catwalk stunners, who are at different phases of a model's life cycle, to find out how they are dealing with the perks and perils of living the beautiful life.

This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times.

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