Wrapping up this week is my interview with our fourth cover model, the Asian stunner Sui He. Terry Richardson and Carine Roitfeld, who collaborated with us at V on our Winter issue’s fashion extravaganza. This week we already met Candice, Saskia and Bambi, and now we meet Sui He. She broke boundaries when she became the first Asian to open the Ralph Lauren fashion show earlier this year. She didn’t know how big it was at the time, but as I found out in our chat below, she’s starting to see what the fashion industry has in store for her. Read our entire conversation below and, as always, go to Vmagazine.com to see more pictures and take a peek at our inside access.
DB: My first real memory of you was the first look at the Ralph Lauren show. You were the first model of Asian descent to open the American designer’s show. Did you know that was such a big deal before the show? Or did you realize it after?
SH: I didn’t realize it until afterwards, when I saw the media’s response. I only knew Ralph Lauren was a huge brand in the US.
DB: Were you proud?
SH: It was such an honor, and I felt really lucky. My family and friends were all really proud of me too.
DB: We’re seeing this new interest in the Asian market. Were you aware of that shift before you started modeling?
SH: No, I started modeling in China, and I didn’t ever think I would be coming to the US.
DB: Did you have any fashion icons when you were growing up? Or is there a model tht you would like to model your career off?
SH: Kate Moss was the only icon I knew growing up. But in terms of my modeling career, I’d like to set my own path.
DB: What is modeling in China like?
SH: It’s not too different than working here in New York. For every job, one has to go through castings and intense competition.
DB: Now, let’s chat a bit about your biography.
SH: I was born in Wenzhou, in China. It’s a small city six hours south of Shanghai by car. It’s a coastal city that’s surrounded by mountains. In China, people from Wenzhou are famous for their diligence and entrepreneurial spirits.
DB: What are your memories from your childhood?
SH: I was a member of the city’s swim team for seven years.
DB: Did you have any other hobbies? Did you like school?
SH: I was a good student, but very lazy. Ha! Throughout my junior and senior years of high school, I was class president. I loved school very much because I enjoyed my classmates so much.
DB: All of the girls in this story are from all over the place: Tunisia, South Africa, Puerto Rico. Do you like to travel?
SH: Yes, I love to travel and see different places of the world.
DB: Is there a place that you’ve been that you think is particularly fabulous?
SH: I love going to the beach. The most beautiful beach I’ve ever been to is Boracay in the Phillipines.
DB: Fashion is such an international industry. Do you feel that with your work?
SH: Absoultely, and you can see that everytime you’re at a show or on a shoot. The models, the make-up, the photographers and the designers – everyone is from a different place, and I feel really lucky to spend so much time with so many interesting people from all parts of the world.
DB: Do you have a favorite place?
SH: I love anywhere where my friends are!
DB: My favorite thing about the fashion world is that we travel so much.
SH: I like to travel, but I don’t like jetlag.
DB: Do you get to go home often?
SH: Not really. But I try not to think about it too much.
DB: What do you miss most from home?
SH: My papa and my mama.
DB: Oh no! It’s because you’re working so much! Let’s talk a little bit about your career. How were you discovered?
SH: I was the winner of a national modeling competition at the age of 17, before I entered into a modeling career. I was still a high school student back then.
DB: Did you eve think about fashion as a career, or even an industry?
SH: I never really thought about it as a career. I initially only wanted to try out modeling as just an experience. I thought it would be something fun to try, but I never thought about it becoming a job.
DB: When did you frist come to New York, and what were your first impressions?
SH: I first came to New York in January, 2011, for fashion week. My first impression was that the weather was really cold. The city was very diverse and I felt free being in the city. I live in the Lower East Side now, and I love it.
DB: Did you have fun working with us? What was your impression of Terry?
SH: Yes! I loved this shoot. The background music set the perfect atmosphere. It was surprisingly easy for me to work with a top notch photographer like Terry. He was lovely, super nice, and made me feel comfortable and free to express myself.
DB: Have you had any photo shoots or jobs that you really loved? Any good stories?
SH: I recently did a shoot for Vogue China’s sixth anniversary with Inez and Vinoodh. There were six of us on the cover, and we were all wearing different colorful dresses. Based on the ressed we all named each other different nicknames, like Mermaide, Lotus Lady and Heroine. It made for a really enjoyable shoot, and I’ll never forget it.
DB: What about catwalk shows? Do you like them?
SH: Oh, yes.
DB: Do you have any memorable experiences from the shows?
SH: When I first starting out, a few years ago, I was in a Fendi show which took place on the Great Wall of China. I was very nervous because it was difficult to walk on this uneven pavement of that centuries old wall in these new high heels, but I managed, and I was very happy when it was over.
DB: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever thought about when you were on the catwalk?
SH: I always ask myself while I’m up there, ‘Do they they think my walk is funny?’ Ha!
DB: What’s been your favorite discovery?
SH: I’ve recently fell in love with Shabu-shabu on 10th street in New York. It’s my favorite restaurant. I also love watching the skyline on Pier 17.
DB: Let’s talk about your beauty routine. How do you take care of yourself?
SH: I eat everything, but I make sure I drink plenty of water and eat lots of veggies and fruits every day. La Mer is my favorite brand for skin protection.
DB: Favorite designers?
SH: I love Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford.
DB: If you had to define your personal style, how would you call it?
SH: Simple, but not babydoll.
DB: Do you think you have a trademark?
DB: If you weren’t modeling, what do you think you would be doing?
SH: Business. Probably a restaurant, because I love food!
DB: And finally, a tough one: Where do you want to be in 10 years?
SH: I don’t like to set my life. I try my best and I try to enjoy it. Besides, life always gives me the best surprises.