updated 3 May 2012, 01:22
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The New Paper
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I won't strip down to go up
by Joyce Lim


She started posing in racy snapshots for lad mags like FHM, HOTstuff and the now-defunct Maxim when she was just 16.

That was her route to fame, confesses Miss Calista Lim, 26. But no, she will not sleep with any publisher just to appear on his magazine cover, even though she has heard stories of how some girls have made covers - in the industry parlance - through that dubious route.

Modelling is a glamorous business, but there is also a high price to pay if one wants to stay in it for the long term, warns Miss Lim.

First, there is the mental stress that a model has to put up with, especially when she is a newcomer and beautiful. You are constantly surrounded by beautiful people who can turn out to be the ugliest back-stabbers, reveals Miss Lim.

Everyone will have something to say about another model. Rumours will abound whether someone's big breasts are fake, and there's always talk about how so-and-so had plastic surgery to achieve her good looks, she says.

Then, models have to maintain their looks. No matter what. While she's never had a problem with weight, she has seen a couple of girls with eating disorders because of the pressure, she says.

Standing at 1.67m tall and weighing just 44kg, she says she does not gain weight easily, claims that she eats anything she fancies, and she "loves" french fries.

Her big break came back in 2007, when she won the Newman Cover Girl Search 2007. Her photogenic good looks also won her the Canon Perfect Face title.

Within months, she had made the September cover of Newman magazine, and was offered a modelling contract by management agency Phantom Models.

In her career, Miss Lim has posed semi-nude for magazines. But she says she draws the line at being in the buff.

"I don't believe in stripping down to go up," says the Oklahoma University mass communication graduate.

She says she has no regrets having appeared skimpily dressed in lad mags, and doesn't think that those saucy photos will return to haunt her one day.

She says: "Those photos were taken by professional photographers for publications and not by some dodgy photographers for their personal portfolios".

Miss Lim says that she went into those shoots with her eyes wide open, fully aware that a model's career span is short. So, she does all she can to maintain her good looks.

At 17, Miss Lim was already visiting aesthetic doctors regularly. She currently spends an average of $300 on skincare products a month and about $300 on hair treatment every two months.

But she reveals with a coy laugh that no matter what the models do to keep beautiful, there is still a lot of fakeness involved in the industry.

"All the photographs one sees on magazine covers? The ones that men drool over, are really touched up to perfection," she says.

Miss Lim says she has had her busts pumped up and her thighs touched up to look more fleshy in print.

In her 10 years as a professional model, her most unforgettable photoshoot was when she had to gulp down four huge bottles of beer before posing for an advertisement for a Mexican restaurant.

Miss Lim recalls: "I wasn't fully awake when I arrived at the photo studio to do my hair and make-up at 7.30am. I was told that I had to appear drunk in the photos and no amount of blusher could achieve that effect. Hence, I was told to finish up the beer.

"I have no problems with drinking, but what was unbearable was when the stylist smudged some red sauce on my lips to achieve a certain sexy effect."

Miss Lim was terrified that the sauce would leave her with acne problems after the shoot.

She confesses to being paranoid about how she looks, and a little red dot on her face will ruin her day.

"If there is a spot, I will not go anywhere else, but head straight to my doctor to get an injection," says Miss Lim adamantly.

As an established model, she is now able to be more selective of jobs and grimaces at the recollection of less-than-professional photographers who have asked her out after a session.

No way she will date a photographer, she says tartly. She does not want to mix work with pleasure and prefers mature businessmen now.

While interviewing her at a cafe in Bugis Junction, her willowy frame and obvious good looks attract blatant stares from passers-by. But she is unfazed.

Miss Lim claims that her good looks has got her priority spots in queues for taxis, and even to use the loo. She has also noticed how some service staff pay more attention to her.

She says: "I am vain... Being able to make heads turn gives me some sense of fulfilment."

Miss Lim says modelling has opened doors, and at her age, she is ready to retire before she gets "too old".

She adds: "A model's career span is short... So I seize every opportunity that comes my way. If not, my career would not have been as fruitful."

The young woman is ready to commit and to start a family too, saying: "I hope to have three kids, after which I will join a beauty pageant like Mrs Singapore."

To young, aspiring models, she has this to say: "Do not be afraid to flaunt your assets while you have them."

Her secrets of the trade

Sign up with a well-known agency and not some dodgy practitioners. You can check online on the agency's reputation and by talking to people in the industry.

Always question if asked to pose nude for the camera - it is very rare for a model to have to do nude shots here.

Coffee black without sugar helps to burn fats and lose water trapped in your body. This is a good remedy for people with water retention problems. Drink two cups of that just three hours before a photoshoot to ensure that you appear slim in front of the camera.

This article was first published in The New Paper.


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