One Size Doesn’t Fit All: The Need for More Diversity in the Modeling Industry
“We need more representation of a variety of different people with different identities to truly diversify the industry.”
The beauty of the modeling industry is nothing short of breathtaking. With its creative visuals, inventive storytelling, and alluring models, it’s safe to say the industry knows how to captivate its audience — but behind the scenes, it’s no secret that the lack of representation is underwhelming.
Korean born model Jae Jung is one person who has seen firsthand how the industry can tokenize models of color. Below, we chat with Jae about his experiences as an Asian American in the modeling industry, the importance of representation in the media, and his advice for aspiring models.
What inspired you to get into modeling? What has been one of your proudest moments to date?
I actually got into modeling because I got scouted in H&M around Soho, New York. Even though I have been scouted in Korea before, I decided that I should take a chance and try things I normally wouldn’t have. That first leap was to get over my anxiousness and do something completely out of my comfort zone which was one of my proudest moments to date.
How do you identify and why is your identity important to you?
I identify as a straight Korean male and my identity is important due to the fact that it has allowed me to be in a position of privilege and exclusion. Due to the fact that I am a straight male I have realized over the years that the patriarchal system built in place is working in my favor. However, as a Korean male placed in America, I am faced with casual racism and marginalization of my own culture. This is all-important to me as it allows me to better understand certain societal dispositions.
How do you think the modeling industry can do a better job of representing marginalized people and Asian models in particular?
The modeling industry has definitely been making strides. However, there are still several areas of improvement. First and foremost, I strongly advocate that the intersectionality of individuals should be highlighted. This is especially critical in acknowledging the complete experiences of an individual, instead of potentially tokenizing him/her/they as the “minority individual” in a project or campaign. Essentially, we need more representation of a variety of different people with different identities to truly diversify the industry.
In an industry focused on image, what advice would you give aspiring models and creatives looking to break into modeling?
For such an industry I do believe learning and adapting is very important. Having fun and being yourself is very important. But, it has to be mentioned that professionalism also does go hand in hand. It’s the fine balance of being creative, having fun, and maintaining a certain level of professionalism that allows one to be successful.
Modeling isn’t always a glamorous business as some may think. How do you prioritize your well-being despite the hectic and demanding nature of the craft?
Everything was very new to me when I first started working. I had to study how the industry worked and make sure that I was on top of my own well-being. The way I prioritize my own well-being is by allowing myself to take time off to treat myself. Whether it is dining out with friends or playing my guitar, anything that allows me to rest and tune out from work and school helps me out so much. This allows me to stray away from burnout and exhaustion.
Any exciting new projects coming up that we should keep an eye out for?
I am hoping that more opportunities come by and that I get to work with amazing future creatives. I have also been working on promoting a new dating app called Chance: meet spontaneously. It’s an anti tinder type of dating app and it allows users to avoid swiping and texting. It’s finally out on the Apple Store and currently being used for the NYC and Brooklyn area. So please check it out!
“I strongly advocate that the intersectionality of individuals should be highlighted. This is especially critical in acknowledging the complete experiences of an individual, instead of potentially tokenizing him/her/they as the “minority individual.”