Irene Kim bucks tradition to make it to the top
She broke the Asian stereotype by dyeing her hair blue against her agency's wishes, but that put her on the road to success
Step aside Cara Delevingne, we have a new fashion sensation in our midst.
Meet rainbow-haired, Korean-American model Irene Kim, 28, who is in town to promote the travelogue she hosts, tvN's M.U.S.T (My Unexpected Sweet Trip).
M.U.S.T highlights multiple gourmet and travel spots in different cities across Asia.
The Singapore episode where Kim visits Pulau Ubin and Gardens By The Bay will premiere on Nov 3 at 10.30pm on tvN (Singtel TV Ch 518 and 619/ StarHub Ch 824).
FASHION SENSATION: Kim letting her hair down in Paris last week. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/IRENE KIM
Time called Kim the "New Face of the Fashion World", and Vogue heralded her as "The Korean It Girl".
But who is this eye-candy making waves in the fashion world?
Kim tells The New Paper about how she envisages herself during a group interview at Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa on Monday.
"I just see myself as Irene. I did start with modelling, but the social media (business) is not everything that I do.
"I host television shows, I do social media, I produce my own content. I'd just say I'm an entrepreneur," Kim said.
IN SINGAPORE: Kim with her friend Cho Min-Ho strolling around Haji Lane. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/IRENE KIM
Apart from M.U.S.T, she also hosts beauty show K-Style on Mnet America.
She started full-time modelling at 25 years old, later than her peers, and was warned of being too old for the industry.
Moreover, Kim does not possess a modelesque physique.
"I don't have the traditionally beautiful Asian face and I am not super tall. I'm, like, (178cm) ," she said.
"So I thought of what could differentiate me from other models, such as having a different fashion style."
IN SINGAPORE: Kim skydiving indoor at iFly during her stay in Singapore. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/IRENE KIM
There was her gung-ho attitude for starters.
The Seattle-born Kim rejected a modelling contract at age 15 when the agency insisted she undergo minor plastic surgery.
Kim, who now lives in Seoul, said her claim to fame was when she decided to dye her hair, which was against tradition.
"When I coloured my hair, that's when everything changed," Kim shared.
"I did it without any permission from my agency. I dyed it blue, I walked in, and their jaws dropped.
"They were, like,'you're not going to book any jobs with that' because Asian models are known for their black hair," she said.
"I kind of broke that stereotype and that season, I walked the most shows during Seoul Fashion Week. I walked 18 shows. I almost died."
Since then, her rise has been meteoric and it is mostly thanks to her online presence.
Last year, she was chosen to be a global beauty contributor for Estee Lauder alongside US reality star Kendall Jenner, and she curates content for Chanel and Marc Jacobs on her Instagram.
She religiously documents her travels, clothes, famous entourage, and the runway shows she attends on Instagram, and has amassed 811,000 followers and counting.
She has also cultivated a strong following through her personal YouTube channel, and beauty show K-Style. Social media is a vital platform for the fashionista.
"I use that to show my personality. A lot of brands, editors, and magazines in the industry, they need social media.
"They need people like us who have personalities to help them navigate their publications (and brands among the crowd)," said Kim.
But she's not content to rest on her laurels. She wants to cement her brand name further and perhaps launch her own line.
The only thing that is not on her plate now? Acting.
Only if the right opportunity arises, and only if she gets to play herself, Kim said, laughing.
I host television shows, I do social media, I produce my own content. I'd just say I'm an entrepreneur.
- Irene Kim