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Sun, Feb 12, 2012
The New Paper
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Hanli has that X-factor
by Charlene Chua

HER mother's reaction when she saw her on the cover of this month's Her World was: "Where are the boobs?"

It was spoken in jest - she was proud and beaming when she said that.

But it was something that model Hanli Hoefer admitted she used to be insecure about, especially when she was younger.

Not that it matters very much, it seems.

Hanli, 19, a Singaporean, landed a contract with modelling agency Ave Management two months ago. Ave Management also represents Charmaine Harn, Coco Rocha and Tara Rushton.

Hanli, who is 1.74m tall, has also made it to the cover of this month's Her World - a coup for models who are starting out.

What's remarkable about her achievements is that she did all that without the help of her parents or their connections.

Mum Cynthia Wee-Hoefer, a Peranakan, 60, used to be a writer with Her World.

Dad is the celebrated German photographer Hans Hoefer, 68, famed for his international travel photography.

Mrs Wee-Hoefer is also tight with local entertainer Dick Lee and his family.

Hanli said that Lee had previously offered to pave her way into the entertainment industry, but the United World College graduate, who majored in art and psychology, chose to go at it on her own.

Hanli, who was born and brought up in Singapore, told The New Paper: "My dad could have introduced me to all the important people in the modelling world as he works a lot in Europe too.

"My mum also has many contacts in the local beauty industry, but I wanted to do this myself."

Her World editor Denyse Yeo said they didn't know that Hanli was Mrs Wee-Hoefer's daughter until the cover shoot itself, when she mentioned that her mum used to work in Her World.

She said of Hanli: "She's a very humble, well-brought up young woman. Our fashion editor Patrick Sin spotted her after Ave sent him her comp card (or composite card with a model's portfolio which functions as her business card).

"Patrick had a feeling about her and called her in for casting.

"When she came in, she was sick, but there was a gorgeous sparkle in her eyes, something in them just spoke to us.

"She's a beautiful girl and she has that X-factor. She has beautiful, expressive eyes, fine features, a wonderful complexion and a great smile.

"We think she's got what it takes to be one of Singapore's supermodels, in the same league as Sheila Sim (arguably Singapore's top model at the moment)."

But the road to success wasn't smooth for Hanli, who took a gap year last year from her studies to "figure out" which career she wanted to pursue.

Professing that a desk-bound corporate job was never an option, Hanli found herself in a rut while she sold clothes at Tanglin Mall's Shopping At Tiffany's.

Turning point

She quit after six months and the turning point came when she agreed to model for her friend's fashion blogshop.

Hanli lost 5kg through going to the gym twice a week and giving up her favourite snacks such as curry puffs to achieve her svelte 55kg frame.

Her efforts paid off as her online pictures ended up being spotted by a model scout.

Said Hanli: "When my friend called me and said that someone from Ave Management wanted my contact, I did not expect that it was because they wanted to consider signing me to their agency.

"I was happy to be signed and didn't hesitate to do it because modelling would allow me to travel, which I love."

Hanli herself felt like she looked like she had a boyish figure on the Her World cover, but she said that she was extremely glad to do the shoot as her mother used to work for the publication.

Mrs Wee-Hoefer was at the magazine from 1978 to 1981 as a fashion and lifestyle writer. She said that was how she met a lot of talent scouts.

She told TNP: "We're very proud. I had nothing to do with it, it was all on her own steam.

"She has that confidence and it shows in the picture. My friends all complimented the cover and we hope that if she wants to do that as a career, she can get more opportunities to model."

Hanli admitted that when she was younger, she used to be insecure about her average-sized chest and tan skin.

Although she said she wasn't teased in school, she had gone the route of push-up bras to enhance her assets.

Whitening products were also part of her arsenal in her struggle to become the buxom and fair lass that was, to her, society's ideal when it came to beauty standards.

Hanli said with a laugh: "They worked, you know!

"But I stopped using the whitening stuff for my face as my face was getting fairer while my skin remained the same colour.

"I didn't want to look weird. Can you imagine a much whiter face on a tanned body?

"My skin is the kind that tans really easily, so I've accepted the fact that I can't change that."

When asked if she would feel comfortable modelling in swimwear, Hanli joked that one would have to give her amonth to mentally prepare herself for it.

She conceded that it's part and parcel of a model's work and would welcome the assignments coming her way in the next few months.

She has already done a few other magazine shoots and appeared in a ZoukOut video - things her boyfriend, a 22-year-old British-Italian student, has been very supportive of.

She said: "My family has met my boyfriend and like him a lot because he is a very sweet guy and is very good to me."

Hanli, who has an older brother, also bakes and creates her own beauty products such as facial masks from natural ingredients.

She added: "My parents and brother do eat my cupcakes, but they don't trust my cooking." For now, Hanli is looking forward to studying spa management in Australia next year.

Surprisingly, she and her boyfriend have discussed her impending departure and have decided to break up when she leaves.

Said Hanli: "We're both very mature and he knows that I want to enjoy university as a single person.

"I will continue to model at affiliated agencies in Australia or wherever I end up studying.

"I'm a very personality-based person so I will consider any decent guy who approaches me. "They just have to, hopefully, be at least as tall as me."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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