I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you’re not actually mammals…The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus.
-Agent Smith, The Matrix
Perhaps you have spotted those exotic-looking creatures around Thailand, walking down the streets of Bangkok in broad daylight. Some them them seem otherworldly, with impossibly long limbs and features chiseled from alabaster. The males typically sport black tank tops, while the females wear as little as possible.
I’m talking about the ubiquitous foxius carouseslots, more commonly known as the Foreign Model.
Today, I will share with you a Steve Irwin-inspired peek into the lives and habits of these amazing creatures. Don’t worry, they don’t bite…hard.
This is just a snapshot of the life and times of a Foreign Model in Thailand. Of course there are always exceptions, and we are not accounting for half-Thais and other Asians in the industry, though they can (and do) move seamlessly through these circles.
Their migration habits vary, but the majority of Foreign Models come to Thailand for up to three months at a time, as this is the length of time dictated by their visas. The Foreign Model hails from Canada, Brazil, and former Eastern bloc nations, where their “Mother Agency” at home takes note of their vaguely Asian looks and send them abroad. While they are here, they are obstensibly looking for work, on the catwalk and in commercials. A fortunate few arrive as a result of a direct booking, where they are cast remotely and come to Thailand for a guaranteed job, usually shooting a television commercial (TVC).
Herds of Foreign Models can be seen zipping around Bangkok during the day–usually on the Skytrain–portfolio of past jobs (or “Book”) in hand, headed for castings and modelling jobs. Bookers with each agency direct them to these appointments, often going to as many as five in one day. At each TVC casting, the models have make-up applied, their hair styled, pictures and measurements taken, and a short video made, introducing themselves (name, age, height, weight) and performing a short audition. It’s not unusual for a casting to take two or three hours, most of the time spent waiting: chatting with other models, flipping through Thai fashion magazines they cannot decipher, or simply staring off into space. It’s a rough life.
For fashion shows, castings are usually quicker, and often accomplished in absentia with photos. If the show is late in the evening, models have to arrive hours beforehand, and do a quick rehearsal of the order they walk out on the runway.
But most are not here just to make money. For many, this is secondary, as these are for the most part not tall or proportioned enough to be professional models like you see in Milan, New York City, or Paris. These are kids that happen to look good to Asian advertisers. Many are also on a serious mission to party and hook up.
With you? Doubtful. You see, the female version of Foreign Model is an elusive creature indeed. For one thing, it is not guaranteed that you will be able to understand them, as their English is sometimes mangled. Not to imply that they are dumb–I met one girl who was studying to be a lawyer and another brilliant fellow who already had a masters degree in architecture–but there are a few space cadets out there who fit the “dumb model” stereotype. God bless them.
They travel in packs, with each member usually belonging to the same agency. Big-dogs Mode Modelling and E&L Modelling are the veritable Sharks and Jets of Thailand, though you’ll see representatives from other established agencies such as Red, Candor and Jim’s. If you see any models that look like they came from Khao San Road, some of them actually might have. Smaller (and often dodgy) Thai modelling agencies (often a gay guy with only a name card and a cell phone) scout farang models all the time inviting them to cast for jobs.
Since often the first people they meet upon arrival are other models, the Male Model has a distinctive advantage over any Joe Schmo trying to chat up these fresh faced young ladies. They have already divided up the available ones amonst themselves. When they travel, it’s like herd of sheep, with the females in the middle and the males acting as sheepdogs patrolling the perimeter, protecting their fine flock.
Not to say the foreign model is always the most faithful creature. Many of them have a significant other waiting for them back in their home country, but choose to have innocent flings. The Male Model (especially the Brazilian variety) is a notoriously adulterine specimen, trying to copulate with as many females as possible. They are more than likely to stray into the local population of available Thai females. Since they are oblivious to the Thai concept of face, they flaunt their six-packs on the catwalk (as virtually all swimwear/underwear models in Thailand are Foreign).
This is not a reason to hate them, however. Along with the annoyingly tousled hair, the Male Model’s sometimes startling lack of fashion sense is more disconcerting, as they often feel like they can wear noxious-armpit-exposing tank tops on every occasion. All the while, their pursuit of free food and drinks reaches almost a fever pitch. And virtually all of them smoke cigarettes. A dirty habit, yes, but gotta you admit they look fabulous puffing on a Marlboro light!
In fact, if you wishes to see Foreign Models in Bangkok, all you have to do is go to one of the many Models Night events at the hip nightspots. On these occasions, models drink for free, though some of them abused it to the point where now they are sometimes issued coupon books, entitling them to eight or ten free drinks each. Usually this is more than enough to invoke a typical Foreign Model form of territorial marking: aggressive open mouth kissing.
It’s not uncommon to see Foreign Models engaged in a bout of vigorous tongue wrestling in the middle of a crowded dance floor. While this behavior would draw derisive “Get a room!” jeers in America, in Bangkok it leads to fascinated stares by uninitiated locals, who are far less inclined to perform such public displays of affection. The Foreign Models live in their own bizarre universe, and we mortals are merely uninvited bystanders at their never-ending party.
In fact, the may be the most boorish aspect of some of these Foreign Models is this sense of entitlement. They spend virtually nothing, yet expecting to be treated like VIPs. One day you see them scarfing down expensive seafood appetizers at an event held at a five-star hotel, the next they are crashing a hi-so afterparty and drinking free champagne. And at night they go home to dingy dormitory-style apartments, which are closer to their modest backgrounds in the tenements of San Paolo or Slovakia these kids kids usually come from.
Actually, I have met some models who wind up staying for many months and even years, learning a bit of the language, making Thai friends, and developing appreciation for different aspects of Thai culture. While still unreasonably good-looking, we can appreciate them for being a bit more enlightened than their carpetbagging counterparts. They often have photos from parties surrounded by beautiful drunk people, though you would be hard pressed to determine in what context (nevermind what country) it was taken in, except for maybe the odd Singha bottle in the background.
For those who are lucky to be blessed with the right look at the right time, then Thailand can seem like a paradise to these hormonally-charged, carefree youths. Think about it, if you had the chance to go to a foreign country where no one knew who you were, meet gorgeous people from all over the world and constantly get laid with these other models, living not just for free but even making a little money at the same time, wouldn’t you jump at the chance? Can you really blame them for taking advantage of the situation?
The cruel thing is that it is a fleeting life. As looks fade with age, so does the opportunity for such a carefree existence. In this regard, modelling in a foreign country is not much different than partying your nights away as a university student.
Because eventually, we all run out of free drink coupons and have to get a real job. Just as the coroner said to Humpty Dumpty, “Dems da breaks.”
NEXT UP: Techniques You Can Use To Chat Up a Model!