Chufue Yang is a Chicago-based model. This week on Instagram, he announced he had been dropped by his agency.
“Recently, I was dropped by my agency @fordmodels,” Yang informed his followers. “The glass ceiling capped on people of color, especially queer people of color prevails.”
Now, in a new interview with Dazed, the 21-year-old is opening up about exactly what he believes happened and what he’s learned from the experience.
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“What I’ve also learned is that some narratives are changed by others within the industry to make them seem more interesting or marketable,” he says.
“My agency not only changed my height (on my comp card), but my ethnicity was erased in certain instances.”
Yang recounts the time he was featured in an article on models.com:
The title to my feature was ‘Minnesota via Mongolia’. Although it could’ve been a simple mistake, being misidentified ethnically is something that not only me, but a lot of Asian Americans experience daily. I made an Instagram post expressing those feelings and when my agent saw it, they wanted me to take it down because they didn’t want to ruin the relationship they had with models.com.
@modelsdot I want to thank you for the new face feature, but assuming my cultural identity is a tad bit disheartening. I do not hail from Mongolia, nor do I have Mongolian roots. I'm a first generation Hmong American. Hmong is not a place, it's a people that can be found all throughout South East Asia and some parts of China. I'm sure this was just a mistranslation and to some it might seem like a simple mistake, but the fact is, being misidentified in regards to my ethic origin is something that I and many other Asian Americans know too well (especially those who identify within South East Asian ethic groups). Be aware, be thoughtful and be open to learning where others come from. I'm in no way criticizing @modelsdot, but simply shedding light on the situation. ??
Little did Yang know, his troubles were only just beginning.
“After the whole models.com incident, things started to get rocky,” he explains.
He booked a few gigs here and there, but quickly learned that clients didn’t seem interested in working with him.
“It seems as though my height, mono-lids, and black hair didn’t make the cut, because the emails about jobs started to decrease,” he says. “Not getting booked for things definitely started to take a toll on how I viewed my self-worth.”
“I think my agents probably felt that I wasn’t committed to my career anymore which wasn’t the case at all.”
Recently, I was dropped by my agency @fordmodels. I can sit here and find multiple reasons to be upset, but measuring my self worth to being signed doesn’t really seem like the mindset to wallow in. But I still can’t help but wonder, perhaps things would’ve been different if I would’ve been honest about myself from the beginning. For example, having my comp card say that I was taller than I really was had already diminished my identity from the get go. It also forced me to follow the illusion and “standards” of the industry. Being 5 foot 10, Hmong American (my ethnicity for those of you that don’t know) and gay already challenges the industry in itself and for a while I thought I wasn’t getting booked because of those reasons, when in reality.. that’s exactly why. The glass ceiling capped on people of color, especially queer people of color prevails. The blame is not on my previous agents, not on my previous agency but on the industry and myself for not having a firmer stance on my values. What I’ve learned is to not lose your voice in an industry where your physical features are placed above everything else, especially your identity. Chapter closed and moving forward. Photographed by @bputerbaughphoto and styled by @katherinerousonelos.
Looking back, Yang feels the agency did him a disservice by not marketing him as who he truly is: a queer man of color.
“I’m the first QPOC that they’ve ever signed onto their men’s board and instead of marketing me for me, I felt like they wanted me to fit me into a mold,” he says.
Today, he is no longer with that agency and is instead focusing on continuing his education, though he hopes to return to modeling one day.
“M focus has shifted to my education full time, but I hope to model again in the future,” he says. “Being a model, for me, is just a stepping stone to a bigger platform. At the end of the day, I want to travel the world, educate, inform and connect.”
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What a wanker. They don’t give a shit as long as you can sell the product. If people bought designer underwear because they thought middle-aged fat dudes looked good in them then guess what. That’s the demographic they’d be looking for. You don’t see me bitching and whining. Grow the eff up.
I’m not surprised that he was forced to pay a price for criticism the ignorance on that models.com IG post, since until fairly recently people who speak out about racism or racial ignorance have been punished, and in modeling it’s fairly easy to ostracize someone. That’s probably as much a factor as the longstanding racism against Asian-American and Asian models, and his queerness, which isn’t uncommon in modeling, though all probably played a factor. Well, maybe now someone at models.com will look up “Hmong” and not confuse it with “Mongolia”!
Since you feel qualified to opine about “racism” or “racial ignorance,” neither Hmong nor Mongolian is a race.
For a model to be successful his look must interest the majority of the population he’s trying to reach. At some point a model needs to stop looking for excuses as to why he isn’t more successful, and to accept that his look doesn’t move the population he’s supposed to sell. No agency will want to represent him, and no producer/manufacturer will be clamoring for his services, if no one wants to see him. When he can’t interest an agency, when no producer/manufacturer is interested in having his look promoting their product or service, you decide that modeling isn’t for you, and you choose another career. That’s where I think Chufue Yang is positioned. No matter how enthused a potential model may be, if no one wants his modeling service for their own, he needs to choose another profession. Good luck in finding your niche. Modeling obviously isn’t for you! … RobtheElder
PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS
Think he is hot as hell…prefer someone like him rather than cookie cutter Ken doll models ..
If he is too asian, why not go model in Asia?
Seriously? All companies are selling their products globally, so they should hire all types of models in order to appeal to the customers.
No all companies do not sell all over, they sell to different markets and an Asian model just does not sell very well in the US.
Please have a seat!!! The modeling industry in built on FEMININE MEN. So your argument is lame and completely false.
This is a yawn… Welcome to the shallow modeling world and get over yourself. No one actually cares.
Nothing special about this dude or his “lOOK” so who cares. You had your moment move on and learn how to do something besides pose and complain. Both are too narcissistic to be of value to anyone other than yourself or those who PROFIT off of you?
He’s better looking than a majority of the boring white men that’s plastered on this site all day everyday *shrug*
So it was a conspiracy by anti-Asian racists to hire him at the most elite model agency in the world and then let him get rich off of his contract and then let him go after a time, which is what happens to every model. How dastardly!
That whole “we don’t hire ethic models because they don’t sell” argument is tired. Companies set trends. If they made it a point to feature more people of color, and actually hired photograhers that knew how to shoot people of color in the right lighting, then things would change. As an example of this, look at the cinematography in the show “Insecure”. Every black person on that show looks stunning.
I can’t stand most of the models that I’ve met. It’s like get real I make more in a day than you do in a year. In this guy’s case he’s not even attractive. This is business. If you sell you get work if you don’t then you don’t. Find another career.
Too Asian? That isn’t even possible. Would all the too Asian guys please call me….so I can worship you.
On the one hand, he’s right. The industry ‘s racist. It sucks, it needs to change, and so does every other incredibly problematic aspect of the industry.
On the other hand, it is beyond belief that this person thinks he’s entitled to a modeling contract. This isn’t like McDonald’s where all you need is a pulse. This isn’t a guy with a great performance record being passed up for a promotion because he has a nonwhite name. That’s clear, quantifiable discrimination. This is am industry where you’re literally paid money because someone thinks you’re pretty. What the hell sort of person do you have to be to wake up in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror, and say “I am clearly so attractive I DESERVE to get paid for my beauty”? A horse’s backside, that’s who. I find 95% of models boring as hell to look at and even worse to listen to and this guy is no exception. Cultivate yourself, for God’s sake, and if you really are serious about fighting prejudice maybe learn something about activism and how to help other, less beautiful people than yourself.
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