I remember the day as if it was yesterday. February 28, 2010. Midnight. I couldn’t sleep so I decided to check my email. As my eyes glanced down the list of email senders I came across a letter with the subject line, “Please Feature Asian Male Supermodel Brent Chua.” I clicked on the email and read the following message:
“I’m one of the avid fans of Asian male supermodel BRENT CHUA who is making waves in the international modeling scene. He is HOT and extremely down to earth. He is based in New York. Thank you and more power to your blog.”
To be honest, I never heard of a “Brent Chua” much less a full-blooded Asian male labeled a supermodel. Needless to say my curiosity started to pique and I quickly googled his name. I was completely awestruck at the images splashed across my computer screen. Ladies and gents, I was finally introduced to Mr. Brent Chua, a man dubbed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as an Asian male supermodel. Thus began my quest to find out more about this beautiful man.
Ten years ago, the very idea of publicly calling an Asian male model “gorgeous” or “stunning” was preposterous. As a Gen X’er growing up in the Midwest I never saw an Asian male model featured in a fashion ad campaign. It simply did not exist. The standard of beauty was (and in many cases still is) narrowly defined as white skin and Anglo features. However, there is good news to report. A new paradigm is steadily taking root in mass media. Drop-dead-take-your-breath-away-I-want-to-have-your-babies Asian male models are snagging major ad campaigns, magazine covers and fashion editorials and ripping catwalks across the world. A man at the forefront of bringing Asian masculine beauty to the masses is 25-year-old Brent Chua.
The youngest among five brothers, Brent was discovered in a club by fashion director Rizal Ahyar while still in high school. Having nothing to lose Brent agreed to walk the runway for Ahyar’s upcoming show and the rest, as they say, is history. Proudly Pinoy and standing tall at 6’1” Brent has gone on to strut the runway for fashion weeks in Asia, London, Paris, Milan, Stockholm, Barcelona and New York. He’s modeled for major fashion ad campaigns including Uniqlo, Target, Gap, Levi’s, Benetton, Macy’s, Tommy Hilfiger Jeans and many more.
I recently had the honor and privilege to chat with Mr. Chua. My interview below.
Paulette: How do you feel about being dubbed the Asian Male Supermodel? Was your rise to the top difficult?
Brent: Ever since I started modeling I never thought of myself as an “Asian Male Supermodel.” Whatever I undertake, even before I went into modeling, I always give my very best. As a model I see myself as a creative listener, always bringing creative messages and determination to people. I am blessed and happy there are so many people who recognize my work. In a small way it’s satisfying to know that I may influence/motivate/inspire others. I love to brighten people’s lives and make their sadness disappear. I am blessed to have people in the industry that believed in me and still believe in me. I will never, ever forget them.
Paulette: Many of your pictures remind me of refined artwork in a museum. How do you come up with different poses/expressions?
Brent: Thank you. There’s more to modeling than just looking good. I always believe that a model should be everything. It’s like acting. They should not be afraid of “coming out of their shell” and worrying if they look good in every shot. Certain music genres also influence my mood when shooting and I often request them on set. For example, I love listening to CocoRosie, Massive Attack and Portishead.
Paulette: Filipino model Paolo Roldan recently did a Givenchy editorial with R&B singer Ciara in the June/July 2010 issue of Vogue (Paris) magazine. In one of the pictures he posed full-frontal nude. Would you ever consider doing a full-frontal fashion spread? As a model is there anything you would say ‘no’ to? By the way, have you ever met Paolo?
Brent: Yes, I’ve met Paolo Roldan. Actually, I have done full-frontal nude editorials. I don’t have any reservations about taking nude photos as long as it’s done tastefully and artistically by a reputable photographer.
Paulette: Do you have any upcoming ad campaigns or runway shows?
Brent: I just finished New York Fashion Week and my contract with Macy’s was extended. Also, I did an ad for Tommy Jeans. I’m headed to Europe next.
Paulette: Do you have a favorite fashion designer?
Brent: I don’t have any one favorite designer per se but I do find certain fashion designers to be inspiring and fascinating like Yohji Yamamoto, Damir Doma, Martin Margiela, Rick Owens and the Japanese fashion line Julius. Also, I don’t really care what I wear just as long as it’s comfortable. I usually get my clothes from thrift shops.
Paulette: You were in Stockholm earlier this year. Can you share with us the campaigns you’ve worked on? Also, how did you like living in Stockholm?
Brent: Stockholm is a great city. I met some really great friends. It’s not a city that I would consider staying in forever because the weather can get somewhat depressing at times. It’s always cold and gray. I did ad campaigns for H&M and Boomerang which have yet to be released. I was also in Milan and Barcelona.
Paulette: As a top model you travel extensively around the world. Is there any place you haven’t been that you would like to visit?
Brent: I would love to visit Greece one day. Gwen, my good friend, have so much great stuff to say about the country. Berlin is also on my “places to visit” list.
Paulette: Do you adhere to a strict diet and exercise regime?
Brent: Not really. I love food! I do play sports and occasionally exercise.
Paulette: What is your favorite meal/food?
Brent: I enjoy almost everything except pork. Filipino food is still my favorite. I miss it when I’m overseas.
Paulette: Do you have a favorite color?
Brent: My color taste depends on my mood. I love wearing black and white. I also love wearing colorful urban clothing apparel. Whatever outfit I have on I always wear colorful socks.
Paulette: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Brent: I love researching about photography, skateboarding, watching independent movies, listening to music and chilling at home with my close friends. Basically what others do in their spare time.
Paulette: I think it would be difficult to have a personal life since you are constantly traveling?
Brent: To be honest, it’s very hard. I miss every single one of my friends, family and loved ones. Sometimes I ask myself, “Why am I doing all of this (constantly traveling, photo shoots, living in hotels, etc.)? Is all this worth it?”
Paulette: Do you hang out with other models during your time off?
Brent: I hang out with my CLOSE FRIENDS that I am comfortable around. I don’t care if they are in my industry or not. What’s more important is that I can be myself in front of them.
Paulette: As a celebrity I would think it’s hard to find true friends or date a person who genuinely likes you for you and not because of your fame/money.
Brent: Sometimes it’s really difficult to see who’s real and who’s not. This is why I don’t treat everyone as a close friend. Most of the people I know are my ACQUAINTANCES. I only have a few CLOSE FRIENDS.
Paulette: Would you ever consider dating a model?
Brent: I’ve dated both models and non-models.
Paulette: Do you call Manila, Philippines or NYC home?
Brent: I still call Manila, the Philippines my home even though I don’t get to go back as often as I like. I am currently based in New York City.
Paulette: What does your family think about your celebrity status? Are they supportive of your career choice?
Brent: My family is extremely supportive of my career choice. They are very proud of my achievements. They also want me to be happy. My dad is my No. 1 fan! He loves looking at my photos. I am so lucky to have my family in my life.
Paulette: By the way, do your siblings want to model?
Brent: No. They have their own ambitions.
Paulette: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Brent: Ten years older.
Paulette: Do you want to eventually settle down and have a family?
Brent: I want to experience life first, see things and do things. I’m not planning my life that far ahead. I want life to be spontaneous, refreshing and full of surprises. But if things should go in that direction, I would go with it.
Paulette: If you have children in the future would you want them to follow in your footsteps or choose another career path?
Brent: I don’t believe in steering my children in a certain way. I want them to think and choose for themselves.
Paulette: If you were not a model what would you be doing?
Brent: This has always been my answer to this question: A taxi driver, porn star or homeless. Seriously, I would love to live their lives and get into their daily routine to understand them more.
Paulette: As you know, modeling doesn’t last forever. Some models transition to other fields such as movies/TV, singing or starting a fashion line. Do you see yourself moving towards showbiz or starting a business?
Brent: I don’t see myself ever getting into movies or starting a singing career. Instead, I would love to set up my own modeling agency. I want to be a catalyst behind the scenes helping people fulfill their dreams.
Paulette: You have millions of fans around the world. Are you ever recognized on the street?
Brent: Sometimes I get noticed on the street but I take everything in stride. I live every day enjoying life and not focusing on if someone recognizes me. I appreciate everyone who admire my work. I also enjoy my privacy.
Paulette: Top models have their loyal fan base; however, I’ve never seen anything like your dedicated fans before. There are several unofficial “Brent Chua Fan Clubs” with thousands of members meticulously following your career. Do you ever get nervous over the obsession some people have of you?
Brent: I feel blessed to have the ability to inspire others (my fans) and motivate them through my work. Sometimes I find it difficult to meet my fans every expectation because the bar is set so high. I don’t want to disappoint them. My fans keep me pushing forward and striving for the very best. I want my fans to know that I always give 100% in my work. Am I ever nervous? Never.
Paulette: Generally speaking, modeling is seen as a glamorous job. Most folks are totally unaware of the hard work and long hours models have to put in. In the last few years several top models have committed suicide over the pressure. Are you ever stressed out?
Brent: I don’t allow modeling to stress me out. I’m a very disciplined person. The real issue we are talking about here is finding and maintaining a healthy equilibrium in one’s life. Balance, moderation and discipline are key. Excessiveness in anything is unhealthy. I treat each job with equal importance and give my 100% every time.
Paulette: May you give one piece of advice to an Asian male who wants to enter the modeling world? Also, is it hard to enter the industry being an Asian male?
Brent: First and foremost, I would tell the person to always be proud of himself. Be proud of his ethnicity, unique features, who he is as an individual and the positive impact he can bring to the industry. Appreciate everything that comes your way and never forget the people who helped you get to the top. I can’t necessarily say entering into modeling is difficult; however, once you are in it takes sheer hard work to prove your worth.
Paulette: What legacy do you want to be remembered for in the fashion world?
Brent: I want to be remembered for my professionalism, creativity and hard work. I am proud of the fact that I NEVER slept with anyone to get where I am today. Also, we should live life RESPECTING everyone, not just certain people. I believe the most beautiful thing in life is the ability to LOVE and RESPECT one another.
Brent’s Personal Message To His Loyal Fans:
I recently came back from shooting on location in Colombia. It was an exhilarating experience even though there wasn’t any electricity or running water. This trip reminded me that life doesn’t have to be complicated. We should appreciate its simple pleasures.
Thank you so much for this interview. Thank you to all my fans. God bless.
Photographer: You Bin
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