Jang Yu Min, a vanguard of a generation of women willing to take control of their own destiny in pursuit of happiness, wasn’t into modelling to begin with. She was timid and not keen on people staring at her. When Jang Yu Min was finally discovered, she decided to take on a challenge and grew to become a ravishing model. She is no stranger to Seoul Fashion Week where she walked for Abraham K, Cres E Dim, Vleeda and many more. In addition, Jang Yu Min’s work includes National Geographic Apparel, UGIZ China, Signiel Hotel and L7 Hotel. She also featured in Singles, Marie Claire, Vogue Korea, Ceci and My Wedding.
In her free time, Jang Yu Min loves to play golf and hang out with friends, and she also finds pleasure in travelling and eating out. While waiting for her work to resume, we spoke to Yu Min about her modelling career, the challenges of being a model and life in general.
Photo © Courtesy of A.Conic
What fuelled your decision to become a model? Was there anyone in the industry who inspired you?
Actually, at first, I was not interested in modelling at all. I was shy and hid my face, and most importantly, I was very afraid of strangers staring at me. My friends and family had encouraged me to be a model since I was young, but I did not think it would fit me because of my personality. Then, when I was a college student, I happened to receive business cards from model agencies several times on the streets of Seoul, and I thought to myself, “Shall I give it a try?” It began with simple curiosity. Since I started by not knowing anything about being a model, I was not inspired or motivated by anyone, but I thought of it as a challenge for my very shy self.
What were some challenges that you have had to face as a female model and how did you overcome them? In general, how do you handle the pressure of the fashion industry?
Until two to three years ago, diet had always been my biggest challenge and stressor, but recently, more than ever before, the industry itself seems to have lost a lot of pressure to be skinny. Nowadays, if we match the brand and image, many models with short and plump bodies appear at the shows. I also do not try to diet as hard as I used to. Being on an extreme diet made me depressed, and I became obsessed with food and fell victim to binge eating. Therefore, now, rather than not eating what I want to, I eat moderately, exercise, and maintain my body in a healthy way.
How would you describe your own fashion style? Consider anything and everything from colour to historical eras, and more.
I like simple designs, jeans, and white and nude tones. In the past, I used to wear dark, black clothes, but I bought a lot of brightly coloured clothes after raising a cat, because I had a lot of cat hair on them. When I get the feeling the outfit is too simple, I make it a point to use a scarf, earrings, etc. Recently, I have been trying out clothes with showy patterns and diverse colours.
Photo © Courtesy of A.conic
In an industry that requires you to work long hours and attend many castings, how do you motivate yourself?
I have never thought it is hard, even when shooting for a long period of time. Doing a shoot is so enjoyable and fun that I seem to concentrate and not realize how time flies. I often check my work during the middle of a shoot, and simply seeing another me in the pictures motivates me. When I was casted, there were so many models auditioning which made waiting for my turn tedious and difficult, but the excitement of getting the job made enduring the wait worth it.
Looking at the fashion world and models, it seems that today, models are given more of a voice – especially through social media – rather than just being the image of a brand. Do you agree?
I agree. Through SNS I can share certain parts of my life and show people many different sides of myself. It is a space where I [can] express myself freely in my own way. Also, I can communicate with many people and get inspired by seeing their different personalities.
Who encourages you? Who supports you from the sidelines on your hardest days when you do modelling?
My friends give me a lot of support. I tend to talk to my friends a lot when I am tired or bored. My friends cannot empathize with everything that modelling encompasses since they are normal company workers, but because they always unconditionally cheer me on and encourage me in my work, I receive a lot of mental support which I am very grateful for. In addition, it is reassuring and I am always grateful that our A.conic agency staff understand the model’s mind and the problems that arise while working, and that they strive to resolve them quickly.
Photo © Courtesy of A.conic
While working on an editorial photoshoot, how do you build your professional relationship with a photographer?
I am very shy, so I am not close to many photographers, but when the shooting time gets longer, I naturally talk to them. Those who I have become close to, follow my Instagram account and that is how we communicate.
Let’s talk about your beauty regimen: how do you keep yourself healthy? Do you have any tips for our readers?
I usually eat seafood or vegetables rather than meat. I enjoy seafood such as grilled fish, sashimi and sushi, and I often make Korean dishes using tofu, radish and kimchi. And I take multivitamins once a day. I usually do not eat bread or fast food because I do not like them, but the main reason I stay away from such food is due to them being difficult to digest and my body feels heavy after. To get my body moving I enjoy anaerobic exercise and golf. I feel that playing a round of golf is good exercise not only physically, but also mentally as it heals my mind to look at the natural scenery. Above all, not being stressed is the most beneficial for health.
What do you think makes a good model? And what are your strengths as a model?
I think you need to always be humble to have a long run. I think that is the most important trait to have because I have seen models who work with arrogance end up being left behind in the modelling industry. I think my strength is being able to present a different image by changing my makeup and hairstyle. I do a variety of hairstyles and makeup while shooting or doing a fashion show, and since it feels different every time, I feel that I am not limited to any single image and can express various concepts.
Photo © Courtesy of A.conic
How do you perceive the modelling industry in South Korea? Is there anything you really wish would change?
I think the rivalry between models is getting more and more intense as time goes by. New face models with diverse personalities are constantly appearing, and as other occupations share the modelling field, it seems that existing fashion models are losing ground. However, since modelling changes with the times as well, I think this is natural.
In your downtime between shows and campaigns, what helps you relax? How does your perfect day off look like?
I think travelling is the best. Whenever I have the time, I try to travel a lot. I do not like to go sightseeing, so I visit vacation spots that do not have many people and are near the seaside, where I like to peacefully rest at a resort. I tend to swim all the time, lie down on a sunbed in front of the beach, listen to music, and rest. Travelling like this is very helpful for a positive mood change.
What are your goals, how do you see yourself progressing in this industry? Perhaps you have different plans for the future?
My goal is happiness – when you do something and it makes you feel happy, it’s meaningful. Modelling is still always enjoyable and makes me happy. While working, I have experienced much growth and many changes within me. There isn’t a job as of yet that I want to do more than being a model. Models have a certain lifespan and we are aware we will have to find a different job someday, but I want to keep doing it until I can. I have not decided on a plan for the future yet, but I am always worrying about it. I want to do something that makes me happy in the future as well.
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Julia Litwinowicz
Translated by Ajda Rozina
All other photos © Courtesy of A.conic