Ask what her wish is for the new year and Ms Vivien Ong says unabashedly: “To make more money.”
But the Singapore model, who has drawn attention after catwalking for seven international brands during Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks last year, plans to put the money to good use.
“I want to go back to school so I’ve got to save up for the fees and expenses,” says the 20-year-old, who holds a diploma in communications and information design from Republic Polytechnic. She plans to pursue a liberal arts degree in New York University in three years’ time.
“Also, it’s good to have more money in the bank for rainy days and, of course, sale seasons,” she adds, laughing. Based in Paris since August, she is in town to visit her family before going back later this month.
She is the first Singaporean to walk at the big fashion shows since Hanis Hussey closed the Yves Saint Laurent show in Paris in 1983.
After winning The New Paper New Face competition in 2010, her career took off when she moved to Paris and was signed on by Next Model Management. The modelling agency represents big names such as Karlie Kloss and Arizona Muse.
“I realised that the Europe market suits me, especially now. Most designer labels are more receptive to Asian models and they want to have new faces in their line-ups.”
While she declines to reveal how much she earns, the 1.78m-tall clotheshorse says she now makes enough to afford a “pretty decent lifestyle”.
“I’m still a rookie so I don’t make that much money, she says. “But I bought a Balenciaga Weekender bag recently that cost about $2,000. All my money either goes to repaying my student loans or saving up for my university education.”
While catwalking in Paris and Milan was a big thrill, she says one of her best moments last year was catching the eye of casting director Russell Marsh, who cast her for French label Zadig & Voltaire’s spring/summer 2013 show. The Briton is credited for discovering models such as Lara Stone and Daria Werbowy.
“Russell told me my time is now. Not only did he love my energy, he also said I have a good walk. I will forever remember that as it was a boost to my confidence,” she recalls.
Since her Fashion Week debut, several major fashion houses, have asked for her in their fall/winter 2013 shows during Paris Fashion Week next month. She cannot name the labels as the deals have not been sealed.
In a scene where Chinese models lead the Asian brigade, what sets this Singaporean apart? Without skipping a beat, she says: “Because I’m faaah-bulous.”
Bubbly and unpretentious, Ms Ong, who is single, endears herself easily to others. Her cheery disposition is a blessing, she says.
While most models, especially the new ones, are very conscious about how they present themselves at castings, Ms Ong says she is her usual relaxed and playful self.
“Everyone is so uptight, sometimes. I always wonder why no one wants to laugh or smile or, I don’t know, have a personality?”
So how does she feel about being touted as Singapore’s next top model?
“I want to faint,” she says, in mock horror. “It still feels very awkward to read or hear that. Besides, these labels don’t really matter. I’m just doing my job.”
A model, she says, will know if she can break into the big league after three or four seasons on the full Fashion Week circuit.
“If you don’t make it by then, chances are it won’t be happening any time after that.
“So, ask me again three seasons from now. Maybe I’ll have a different answer then.”
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