A chiselled jawline, a physique to envy for, confidence and on-stage presence like none other, models are a major part of what defines a brand. From international fashion shows with all the bling, glitter and big brand names, to your favourite ad shows about your favourite brand of sweatshirt or gadget, they are the first line of ‘lure’ -a perfect tool to create the perfect enigma and allure for anything.
A bold, confident model makes a mundane product/service appealing to many. So it is but natural that models have their fair share of fame, wealth and presence. That is the face you associate with something. And that is the face you’ll find everywhere -from television ads of a bold, handsome man using your favourite phone, to life-size posters and banners of aesthetic people oozing with confidence, to the young woman oozing suave while wearing the perfume of your choice in your favourite magazine -models have it all.
And though male models are a tad bit lesser known than their female counterparts, their popularity is a no joke either -for you cannot just ignore that handsome face of the suave man in a suit in every other advertisement and show you see, making him a household face. Kinda.
Asia is no different. With a refreshing cocktail of culture, heritage and modern, it is not a surprise that some crème de la crème men of the modelling industry are Asians. With their suave looks and confidence, many Asian models have skyrocketed in fame and taken the modelling industry by storm, working with top-notch brands, appearing in an international fashion show and donning the covers of prestigious and popular magazines.
Most of the Asian models in the global modelling industry don’t receive the recognition that they deserve. Having worked for labels such as Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, and several others, it is surprising how only a few of these very talented models are famously known by the mainstream audience.
To make an attempt to do justice to some of these very talented men, here is a list of top 10 Asian male models that are to be looked forward in 2020 and the coming years, in no order:
- ZHAO LEI
- PHILIP HUANG
- DAE NA
- JAE YOO
- SANTOSHI TODA
- JEENU MAHADEVAN
- HAO YUN XIANG
- PAOLO ROLDAN
- SANG WOO KIM
- DAISUKE UEDA
Represented by the Wilhelmina Modelling Agency in New York City, Zhao Lei is a 24-year-old, Chinese model. 6 feet and 2 inches tall, he is identified as one of the world’s leading Chinese models.
Lei has walked for universally known labels such as Dolce & Gabbana, Emporio Armani, Ermanno Scervino, Roberto Cavalli, Michael Kors, Moschino, Raf Simona, and Vivienne Westwood, only to name a few. He has also been a part of the advertising campaigns for Hugo Boss, Diesel and Paul & Bear.
Zhao Lei’s modelling profile includes several editorials in it, such as GQ China, Hercules and August Man. He has also been the face of the Vogue Hommes Japan.
Sought by universally known luxury brands, Lei also appeared in Prada’s summer-spring Campaign is 2010. In the same year, he starred in the short film which was called “First Spring” by Prada itself.
The list of his modelling agencies is vast, with agencies in various cities that are important in the field of fashion; Ford Models in New York City, d’management group in Milan, View Management in Barcelona, Select Model Management London in London, 20 Model Management in Cape Town, Scoop Models in Copenhagen, and SPIN Model Management in Hamburg.
His most recent modelling venture has been an advertisement with Ralph Lauren for the Purple Label Pre-Spring 2020 in January.
Currently ranked in the Icons list by models.com, Zhao Lei was the only Chinese male model to make it on to the website’s “Top 50 male models” before the 2014 list was published. His presence in the Money Guys list also indicated towards his excellent and ever-increasing industry fame and popularity.
Phillip Huang is a Chinese-American model who began his career solely for the purpose of earning some extra money. Now, almost every show in the leading fashion cities of the world has been dominated by him, resulting in his popularity worldwide.
His career highlights include walking for luxury labels such as Gucci, Valentino, Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Lacoste, John Galliano, Etro, Versace, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Nautica. He has also worked for several advertising campaigns that include Barney’s, Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste, Boss Black, Kenzo, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Gap.
He is affiliated with the IMG modelling agency in New York City, the New Madison in Paris, the I Love Models Management in Milan, the Sight Management Studio in Barcelona, Scoop Models in Copenhagen, Mega Model Agency in Hamburg and IMG Australia in Sydney.
Apart from being a model, Huang is also a designer. Models.com has ranked Philip Huang in the Icons ranking list.
After several visits to Europe, Huang observed the difference that existed between the fashion world in the cities of Europe and of that in American cities. According to him, the European fashion boasts a strong men’s fashion scene with different working methods than what is prevalent in New York whereas the New York City fashion world is more focused on women’s fashion, focusing on speed and efficiency as its priority.
Huang is widely known for his charm and physique. Considering the number of labels that sought him and his popularity, especially in the East-Asian region, it would not be an understatement to say that this 28-year old with absolutely chiselled features are to die for.
The Public Image Worldwide modelling agency has signed Philip Huang as one of the top models, only providing more evidence to Huang’s popularity. Aside from his flourishing career in modelling, Huang is also engaged in a real estate company that has been built by him.
A model of the South-Korean origin, Dae Na was found by photographer Hudson Taylor. At the beginning of his career, he was managed by the Wilson Model Management modelling agency in New York City.
Currently, he is managed by several modelling agencies around the world, namely VNY Models in New York City, the New Madison in Paris, Elite London in London and Kult Australia in Sydney. His most recent campaign has been for Cole Haan’s summer-spring 2020 collection.
Dae Na is exquisite at his job which can easily be justified with the fact that he has modelled for shows by Salvatore Ferragamo, Perry Elis by Duckle Brown, Ermano Scervino, John Richmond, Frankie Morello, Moschino, and Calvin Klein.
He has also appeared in campaigns for brands such as that of Polaroid Eyewear summer-spring 2013, Donna Karan, Diesel, Benneton, Forever 21, American Eagle, Shanghai Tang, L’Oreal and Bloomingdale’s.
He has been on the runway for design houses such as Nautica, Joseph Abboud, Polo Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Porsche Design, Moschino, Dolce & Gabbana, Ermanno Scervino, Calvin Klein and Salvatore Ferragamo. Presently, Dae Na is one of the most successful Asian models in the world.
He has been featured in several editorials such as the GQ Taiwan, the American Vogue, the Out Magazine, the August Man Malaysia, Man of the World, the GQ Style Brazil, the GQ Germany, the VMan, the Manifesto, the Esquire US, the DSECTION Magazine and the L’Officiel Hommes Germany. He has even been the face of magazines such as the Lab-A4, the Vogue Hommes Japan and Glow Thailand.
Dae Na has been ranked in the models.com in two of its very prestigious rankings, the Top 50 Models List and the Money List, both of which indicate towards his popularity amongst the audience.
Based in New York City, Dae Na models for top labels in several cities, including the fashion capitals of the world. He is managed by the VNY Models in New York City, the New Madison modelling agency in Paris, Elite London in London, d’management group in Milan, and Kult Australia in Sydney.
31-year old South Korean model, Jae Yoo was born in Busan. Standing tall at the height of 6 feet and 2 inches, he signed up with the Soul Artist Management in 2010 which helped him begin his career.
Jae Yoo has appeared in the rankings in the Hot List, as well as the Sexiest Models List by models.com.
His debut in the modelling world was with the Tommy Hilfiger fashion show in New York City in 2010. Since then, he has walked for shows for Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Bottega Veneta, John Galliano, Hugo Boss and Kenzo.
Yoo has appeared in several advertising campaigns for brands such as Tiffany and American Eagle. He has also played in shows of Michael Bastian and J. Crew in September 2011.
While still being affiliated with his mother agency, Yoo is now also affiliated with other modelling agencies such as Bananas Models in Paris, Elite in Milan, and PMA in Hamburg. He has also appeared in the Japanese Vogue.
Satoshi Toda is another popular Japanese model who walked into the modelling career unexpectedly. He had been working at a sushi restaurant when he was picked out and a business card was offered to him for modelling.
Toda signed up to New York Model Management after he had turned 21, and is now sought by brand labels such as GAP and Theory. His current clientele includes brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Prada and Christopher Shannon.
Satoshi Toda has walked for widely known brands such as John Galliano and Tommy Hilfiger. He has also made his appearance in editorials such as the Chinese Vogue, Glass, the GQ China and the L’Officiel Hommes Germany.
In most recent news, Toda has modelled for Nike’s 2020 Tokyo Marathon Collection in March. Apart from his mother agency, the New York Model Management, Toda is associated with the Marilyn Agency in Paris and Elite Toronto in Toronto.
Jeenu Mahadevan holds a Norwegian nationality and Sri Lankan ethnicity. He was discovered on a bus in Oslo, Norway and he has been an excellent model, exclusively known for his vintage look and sharp cheekbones ever since.
Models.com had ranked Mahadevan in its Hot List, and he is currently listed in the Top 50 Models List.
He began his career at the Paris Fashion Week Men’s summer-spring collection in 2018, modelling for Hermes, Alexander McQueen, Burberry and Etro. He is now a run-way star in Paris and London.
Mahadevan has campaigned for Fendi, H&M and Pharell Williams’ collaboration with Adidas Originals. His appearance has also been seen in editorials such as the L’Officiel Hommes Germany, the GQ France, Allure Magazine and Vogue Hommes.
Team Models in Oslo had been Mahadevan’s agency when he had begun his career as a model. Currently, he is associated with several other agencies, namely DNA Models in New York City, Premium Models in Paris, d’management group in Milan, Elite in London, Uno Models in Barcelona and Nisch Management in Stockholm.
Mahadevan had been listed as “one to watch” by Vogue Paris in January 2018 and ranked in the Hot List of Male Models by models.com. In 2020 itself, he has managed to be a part of several modelling ventures and advertisement campaigns; the A.P.C. summer-spring 2020 campaign, Ralph Lauren Purple Label Spring 2020 and its presentation, Michael Kors’ Fashion Week 2020 Show, Alexander McQueen Fashion Week 2020 Show(s), and Holzweiler Fashion Week 2020 Show are only some of his visible achievements this year.
HAO YUN XIANG
A former athlete, Hao Yun Xiang is a 27-year old Chinese model who hails from Beijing, with Instar Model Management as his mother agency. Currently residing in New York City, Xiang is known for his sharp jawline and abs.
Xiang has walked for top clients such as Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein, Hermes, Missoni, Moschino and Kenzo. His advertisement campaigns include top brands such as GAP China, Lane Crawford and Maybelline in summer-spring 2014.
Xiang has appeared in models.com’s Top 50 Models List ranking and the Hot List ranking. Currently, he is ranked on the Money List which indicated his popularity.
He has appeared in several look-books for Calvin Klein. In 2020 itself, Xiang has appeared in campaigns such as the Giorgio Armani summer-spring 2020 campaign and Abercrombie Spring 2020 campaign, and editorials such as Vogue Me China and GQ China.
As of now, he is associated with The Society Management in New York City, the Marilyn Agency in Paris, the Next Milan in Milan, Sight Management Studio in Barcelona, Instar Model Management in Beijing, Unique-Models in Copenhagen, Modelwerk in Hamburg, Two Management in Los Angeles, and Elite Toronto in Toronto.
Paolo Roldan is a 35-year old Canadian-Filipino model who stands tall at 6 feet and 2 inches. Apart from being a mode, Roldan is also a fashion editor and stylist and is also ranked in the Sexiest List by models.com.
Roldan got an exclusive contract from Givenchy during the Paris Fall 2010 Fashion Week, and closed the show in January 2010. He has also appeared for Givenchy men’s campaign.
In March 2010, he was one of the five men to walk in the women’s RTW show. An absolute catch to the eye, Paolo Roldan continues to be one of the best Asian models that there is.
He continues to walk for top houses such as Giorgio Armani, Michael Bastian, Perry Ellis, Diesel, Dirk, Bikkembergs, Ermano Scervino, Todd Snyder and Philip Lim 3.1. Ranked in models.com’s Sexiest Men ranking, Roldan has also appeared in editorials such as the Chinese Vogue, Details, Numero Homme China,
Roldan’s mother agency is the Elmer Olsen Model Management in Toronto which he is associated with till date. He is also associated with other agencies such as Wilhelmina in New York City, Select Model Management in Paris, Why Not Model Management in Milan, Scoop Models in Copenhagen, PMA in Hamburg and Select Model Management in Stockholm.
SANG WOO KIM
Born in Seoul and based in London, Sang Woo Kim is a British-Korean model. Kim began modelling solely for the purpose of helping his friends for their portfolios.
Sang Woo Kim began his career after signing up with The Lion modelling agency in London, where he is currently based. He is also associated with Success Models in Paris.
Kim has walked for top labels including brands such as Rochambeau, Vivienne Westwood, Dolce & Gabbana and Dsquared. He has also been a part of an advertisement campaign for Puma.
He has shot for the covers of popular editorials such as Elle, Man Vietnam and TOM Magazine. Apart from being a model, Kim is also an artist; he is passionate about creating politically charged art.
In 2019, Kim appeared in the L’Officiel Hommes Korea editorial and campaigned for Lacoste Polo for its fall-winter collection 2019. He also appeared for the Glass Man spring-summer cover.
Sang Woo Kim appeared in the rankings list for the Hot List, as well as the Top 50 models created by models.com.
Currently based in New York, Daisuke Ueda is a Japanese model who began his career in Tokyo. His mother agency is the Donna Models agency in Tokyo, which he is still associated with.
He is the first Asian model to have appeared on the cover of Vogue Hommes Japan and is also the spokesperson for GAP. Ueda has also campaigned for Dolce & Gabbana twice.
Ueda appears in the Icons list ranking created by models.com, and he was also previously ranked in the Top 50 models list. In 2020, he has campaigned for Jimmy Choo summer-spring, and had also campaigned for the Google Pixel 4 in 2019.
Ueda has walked in highly coveted shows by top labels such as Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Bottega Veneta, John Galliano, Hermes and Diesel. He has also campaigned for Dior Homme.
Ueda is currently associated with the IMG modelling agency in New York, Elite in Paris, I Love Models Management in Milan, Supa Model Management in London, Sight Management Studio in Barcelona, VIVA Models in Berlin, Kult in Hamburg, Scoop Models in Copenhagen, AVE. Management in Singapore, Select Model Management in Stockholm and Elmer Olsen Model Management in Toronto. He is also associated with his mother agency, Donna Models in Tokyo, till date.
How to be a model?
Although modelling seems to be a lucrative choice of career ( and which it indeed is, no denial in that), there is more to it than what meets the eye. Many models have to go through a lot of struggle, before getting their big break, and it is not always roses and butterflies. Sure, popularity and endorsements are lucrative, but there are other sides to this industry that is not usually seen or heard of on tabloids and televisions.
Here are a few facts and tidbits about the glamorous world of modelling that you may not have known otherwise:
- A lot of entry-level models do not get paid for photoshoots. A lot of shoots are paid for in trade of goods or clothes, or nothing at all, especially for new faces.
- Models do not usually get to keep the clothes they wear on the ramp. Sometimes a designer or a brand may allow some stuff to be taken away, but most of the time it has to be returned after the show.
- The pictures and portfolio may not actually be as glamorous to shoot as they look on your favourite Sunday magazine. A model may have to be at either too hot or too cold temperatures for hours without proper clothing. So the next time you see an exotic photo of a suave man in a chic suit against a snowy mountain -chances are that they were extremely cold and had to stay so for hours to get that glamourous photo.
- Contrary to popular belief, unless you are touted as a ‘supermodel’ with raving reviews and a high demand, a lot of models do not have a steady offering of castings, and have to wait around for a considerable amount of time from one gig to another.
- Although slowly fading away with time, models still face a lot of discrimination, especially body shaming. The set standards of ‘lean and thin’ have taken a toll on the physique of many, many models.
- Models, due to these very set standards of ‘physical beauty’, often suffer from eating disorders. According to a 2017 article published in Vogue, based on the findings in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, more than 64 of models have been asked to alter physical appearance via diet or otherwise, severely affecting their health and mental well-being.
- Agency representation is very essential to get proper gigs and endorsements, but it does not always guarantee a job. As such, many models also work part-time jobs at other places.
- The gigs may seem lucrative, and the tabloid attention a craze worth pursuing, but income stability is not something consistent in the modelling industry. Models often get paid by the hour, and unless there is consistent work available, models often struggle to make money.
- Work environment is not always as bling and glamorous as it may seem to be. Models take a toll on their physical health with long hours of photoshoots wherein they have to pose in different poses, often requiring them to contort their bodies in uncomfortable positions.
In 2017, just before the Paris Fashion Week, many famous models condemned the action of a few casting directors to keep models in an unlit stairwell for hours for a shoot.
Unfair working conditions like these are prevalent in the modelling industry. In fact, according to the results of a survey conducted by models.com, more than two dozen models voiced their concerns about unprofessional work ethics, non-payments, discrimination and abuse in the modelling industry.
There are many challenges the models face. From malnutrition leading to grave health problems like anorexia and bulimia, to lack of pay, or proper working conditions, as a matter of fact, make this industry a hard nut to break and fit into. Many models start their careers from as young as ten years old. But the real question is, is all this worth it?
It depends. Struggle indeed is a crucial chunk of this industry, but people who make it, like the ones on this list, amass popularity and fan-following like none other. And you stay long enough to become seasoned in this trade, the perks and rewards of that are something that is akin to a celebrity.
From big brand names to brand endorsements, to frequent features in elite fashion magazines and tabloids, to even movie and television roles in some cases, it comes with all. So no matter how hard it gets, people with a flair of aesthetic, and a hunger for getting seen and heard (and of course the fame that rolls in with it) will keep on trying, and the ones persistent enough will keep on shining.
Several top labels seek these Asian male models, and websites like models.com list them in their top models ranking list. This is proof enough that a lot of Asian male models are extremely talented. However, they don’t get as much recognition as their female counterparts, which is why it is so important to highlight them and their talents.