Tyo Kim(@princesstyo) is a Canadian supermodel with many successful years of working in the fashion industry in her arsenal. You've probably seen her in commercials, banners in and around Montreal and even on TV as one of the beauties on Le Banquier (French version of a popular tv show, Deal or no Deal).

I was lucky to catch Tyo for a quick interview in between her photoshoots and fittings today. If you know anything about modelling, you definitely know that a model's life is always on the run.

I have so many questions to ask Tyo, but let's start from the very beginning.

1. How did you become a model?

Let's just say that my modelling career started with me being fed up with my life at a very young age. Poor, no friends, family in pieces, failing at school, getting bullied and being made fun of all the time... I wanted to change my life. Without my mom knowing, one day, I decided to hop on a bus from Hull, Qc and head to Montreal to go knock at every modelling agency's door. I was only 13.

Some agencies were very polite and declined, some told me bluntly to lose weight and do something else with my life or come back in a couple of years, and others were just annoyed by my presence in their office. Only one agency said "YES!"... MONTAGE.

I went back to Hull to get my mom's authorization to move to Montreal. Not that I cared, because my mind was set and nobody could change it. Montage co-signed a contract, becoming my legal guardian. At the age of 14, I was living in my first apartment.

I then got a job in a clothing store and, suddenly, every Montreal modelling agency wanted to work with me. I was collecting their business cards. Scouts would stop me in the streets, at the movies, while shopping, etc. I took it as a sign that I should really pursue this career.

I had a ritual of putting all the busiess cards I received from different agency recruiters in a box. I had said "yes" to Montage a few months back but still kept my options open. One day, I decided to pick a random card from the box as an experiment... it was Montage's card. So I went to their office and told them I was ready to conquer the world as a supermodel. Here we are today: modelling for 23 years, 14 of them internationally and I still enjoy it very much!


2. What’s your word of advice to aspiring Montreal models?

Stay who you are, don't pretend to be someone else! Modelling these days is not only about being pretty, but more about having a personality. Clients want the models to be easy-going and very professional. The days of clients having crazy budgets for different campaigns are over, so they have no time to deal with 'divas'. A model needs to be punctual, arrive fresh, in shape, healthy, ready to work and deliver what she is paid for. Be you, be happy, be grateful, be polite, be friendly, be professional, be a team player! And never forget that time is money.
 

3. What does it take to become a super model and be recognized worldwide?

Being a model is not what it used to be. Before, it was about being pretty, skinny, tall and only a few would make it internationally.

After, there was a trend of being skinny, tall, pretty but with a very unorthodox characteristic like a shaved head, big ears, or a gap in the front teeth.

Today, it seems like every model has something unique, making it even harder to get work. That being said, if you have model features and a mindset of a business woman, you have all the chances to succeed. And, of course, you need to be willing and available to travel the world, live in different places for long periods of time, attend castings and as many events as you can. 

When I was starting at the age of 13, some agencies told me to lose weight but I didn't listen to them because I wasn't actually working with them. Montage never mentioned anything about my weight. They were very supportive when my mom passed away in 2007, only a couple of months after my grandma. I gained a lot of weight and my agent never said anything about it. They knew how hard my life was at the moment. They always told me, "Models are human too." Of course, some clients were making comments about my weight and even fellow models were rolling their eyes. They probably thought that it would be the end of my career... WRONG! I'm still here, stronger than ever.

5. How do you deal with rejection in this business?

I have a very strong character, so I probably deal with rejection with more ease than others. Sometimes though, it's still hard. When I see young models struggling with rejection, I become like their big sister. I want to protect them all.

Who wants to be rejected for no reason?! Nobody! Yes, the client may want something specific: "Sorry, we are looking for a blond, smaller boobs, taller, smaller feet, etc." But sometimes, damn, it hurts: "Sorry you're too fat, you're getting too old, we saw you too many times already, we already have a girl with the same look... bla bla bla!" I remember when I started, I was getting turned down because I was poor and couldn't dress like a fashion model.


6. Is it possible to survive by working as a model in Montreal?

NO, it's not! You need to travel outside of Canada. Unless you accept whatever job at any pay. Even then, you will get burned and clients will stop asking for you. Also, no agency would allow you to do this.

Sometimes, models try to bypass their agencies to make more money. I remember a story where a girl did a sexy lingerie shoot without going through an agent. Well, that picture made the cover of a porn magazine and her career was pretty much over after that. Agencies are there for a reason, to protect us. Anyway, the answer is "No". You can't survive and make a good living by modelling only in Montreal.


7. Many people in the industry say that Montreal fashion scene is weak and almost non-existent. What do you think of these statements?

Montreal used to be cool, fashionable and relevant. But yes, sadly, I have to agree with them. A few years back, while I was in Milan, I would get a call from my agency telling me I got booked for Montreal Fashion Week: 5 shows a day, 6 days in a row.Then Montreal Fashion week decided to only use Montreal models because budgets were cut and there was no room to pay travel and hotels. The Montreal Fashion Week has now downsized from a 6 day event to a 3 day event. And now, no more Fashion Week, except the one held during the summer. Even at that, they started hiring "models" off the streets because it's cheaper that way.

Yes, Montreal is losing it big time. It's really sad because we have so much talent here: makeup artists, hairstylists, stylists, photographers and designers like Andy The Anh, Melissa Nepton, Jason Noel, Caroline Neron... I can name so many more! Wish they would be more recognized. But how?

This is a problem all over the world, almost every model out there makes way less money than before. Montreal will never be the city where models get paid more and it's normal. We can't compare Montreal to New York or Paris as a fashion capital.


9. What are some of the perks of working as a model? Do you get to keep the clothes from the photo shoots, for example?

No more perks, haha! When I did a fashion show for Giorgio Armani in Milan, we got to keep the sunglasses we were wearing during the show. Jean-Paul Gauthier show in Paris - we got to keep the shoes. Dolce & Gabbana always let us to pick one outfit to keep. Nowadays?! Nothing. But we do get invited to different events, sometimes we receive gift bags. Even at that, most perks are now reserved for VIP guests or famous people, not so much for models anymore. But I'm not complaining, I still love my job!


10. It’s common to assume that one cannot rely on modelling as a long-term career path. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

This is what they say and, yes, I do agree. It is always better to have a plan B or another job on the side. Modelling is like everything else in life: NEVER TAKE IT FOR GRANTED! When my 25th birthday came, it was the worst day of my life! They brainwashed me saying that at 25 I would need to find another job because if I wasn't Cindy Crawford by then, I would never make it. But there are always exceptions, of course. When I was young, I looked older, and now that I am getting older, I look young again! I am still working every week and I thank Montage, my friends and all my clients for being so faithful. I am one lucky and happy model.

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