updated 24 Dec 2010, 14:56
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Sat, Jul 31, 2010
China Daily/ANN
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She turns defect into winner

When model Zhao Chenchi gently walked into the crowded hutong of Nanluoguxiang, her imposing height caught the attention of many bystanders.

Zhao, a young and elegant woman, is 180 centimeters tall, a good head higher than most of the male tourists walking by.

The 23-year-old model won the fifth China Professional Model Contest and China's Top Ten Model award twice and has done hundreds of fashion shows for brands such as Dior, Miu Miu and Gucci.

She is busy preparing for the China's chief model contest, the toughest in China for professional models.

Zhao said she never expected to become a professional model.

Tall model turns her dream into her career

"I was not born with a pair of perfect feet. I could not hold my legs tightly together when I stood on the stage, which was surely not beautiful for a model," Zhao said.

"After the daily routine in my model training school back in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, I tied my legs together with belts or pillow towels at night to shape them when I slept. That is why I never turn over when I sleep now," Zhao said with a smile.

Zhao's "self-torture" for two months won her the award of "Best Legs" when she won the fifth China Professional Model Contest in 2005.

Zhao initially thought the unexpected win was the perfect end to her dream of modeling, which started in childhood when she secretly wore her mom's high heels. But it turned out to be a launch pad to turn her dream into a career.

Soon after the contest, agents from China Bentley Culture Development Co Ltd, a model company, invited Zhao to work for them and model professionally.

"I just love the feeling on the stage as a professional model as well as the satisfaction I get from accurately expressing the concept of apparel designers," Zhao said proudly.

However, it takes a lot of effort to get where Zhao is, she said.

"Whenever I am free, I stand against a wall to shape my back so that I stay perfectly upright on the stage. I often talk with the apparel designers about what they exactly want to express with an evening dress or a wedding dress. Sometimes, I put forward my inspiration and ideas," Zhao said.

Her innovative ideas often take the designers by surprise but have won her admiration in the fashion industry.

"She even talks with the cameramen so that she could be aware of posing perfectly. I think she is a smart girl who models with her brain," said Ma Chi, spokesman of the Harbin New Silk Road Model School.

Zhao actually plans on staying in her career for a long time.

Tall model turns her dream into her career

"I do not think marriage is the end of a model's career. When Bian Yanyang, winner of 'the Chief Model of 2007', was carrying a baby for six months, I saw a special beauty in her," she said.

"Other famous models, such as Yue Mei and Ma Yanli, are still active on the stage even after they had babies."

Behind the shining image on stage, Zhao is also a sophomore majoring in fashion show and cultural management.

"I think a model is more than a beautiful face," said Zhao.

Q & A

How much attention do you get because of your height?

People tail me and then stand quietly behind my back to find out how much I am taller than them. I usually turn around and give them a victory gesture or tell them they're shorter than me.

How did you feel the first time you walked on a fashion runway?

Although I practiced many times off the stage, I was still nervous and excited on the stage. I did not dare to look at the crowd.

How was your first show as a professional model?

I was happy with earning 200 yuan and used it to buy many presents for my parents.

What are your secrets for keeping fit?

I learned most of them in model training school. I do three sets of 20 sit-ups every night to keep my abdomen fit. But I put my hands beside my ears rather than behind my head when I do the sit-ups. High heels are helpful to shape the figure of lower legs, but it is too hard to wear them all the time.

What is your plan for the future?

Maybe I will try my luck in the film and television industry. But perhaps I am too tall to find a male partner. Probably I will work as an apparel designer or a full-time blogger specialized in apparel design.

What are the differences between Chinese fashion shows and Western shows?

Western fashion shows trend to be simple. A simple Chinese fashion show is like a luxury fashion show in the West because of the complex stage design and light effects we have in China.

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