One of the most recognizable models to come out of South East Asia, the charming Gwen Lu was introduced to the fashion world after a few of her close friends encouraged the five-foot-nine-inch beauty to give modeling a shot.
The Malaysian-born mannequin with stunningly high cheekbones that can cut through glass went on to win the annual Elite Model Look contest of her country and was soon after enlisted by numerous reputable model agencies across Europe, Asia and America.
Lu, who describes herself as "mysterious, daring and strong-willed," has since graced the pages of numerous major fashion publications and fronted the covers of noted magazines ranging from Harper's Bazaar to L'Officiel.
Stay on the look out for this cropped-haired museum fanatic, as her modeling career seems to be on the rise, steady but surely.
Where in Malaysia are you from? Tell us a little bit about your home country/town?
I'm from Penang, Malaysia; a little island filled with historical sites, creative energy, multicultural diversity and great food.
You were discovered at a fashion show in Singapore. Is the international modeling world very different compared to the modeling industry in Asia?
I was discovered at a show in Singapore. The international modeling world is very much different compare to where I first started, it is where the headlights are, everyone wants to be there!
Does Malaysia has a main fashion city? Which city is the best one to start a career as a fashion model in Asia?
Kuala Lumpur is the main fashion city in Malaysia. There are many talented photographers and stylists. It is a good place for new faces to get good tear sheets.
It took you one year to get a U.S. visa to be able to start your modeling career outside of Asia. How would you describe your first time experience in New York?
I was excited to be meeting many castings directors, photographers and clients upon arrival in New York. The city keeps me thrilled all the time, with many happenings and sights!
How was it for you to experience Europe for the first time? In which European fashion city do you like to work the most?
I like to work most in London, people are open to new ideas. Every European city has it's own story to tell, I love to discover all the hidden charms when living in different cities.
Since when do you know FMD? What was your firstmotivation to visit us?
Since I found out that I have a profile in FMD, around 2008...?
Did you always wanted to be a model, or did you stumble upon it, get discovered etc.? Who or what inspired you to become a model? How did you get started in the modeling business?
I never thought of being a model when I grew up. I just thought to give it a try after several push from my friend in college. When I was a newbie, I looked up to Ai Tominaga as the only Asian model who walked so many shows and she is always so stunning!
What is your favorite or most exciting aspect about being a model? What do you like least? Have you encountered any surprises along the way? What has been your most awkward moment (of your modeling career)?
The exciting part is being able to live in many different cities. But it wasn't fun to frequent airports too many times and live in different time zones in the span of just a couple of days. Too many surprises! When getting confirmed for a job, when someone blog about my work, when I saw myself on billboards and covers; I never thought of any of these to happen! Awkward moment: I have to pretend myself as a fairy angel in a fantasy world filled with chocolate fountains when I was dressed all black in a white room with a big camera pointing towards me, casting for a TV commercial.
What's the funniest thing that happened to you on a photo shoot or fashion show?
Shooting with a trampoline. Every jump gave me a few seconds in the air, and I manage to put up with the craziest move and pose!
How would you describe yourself as model in three words?
Ferocious, versatile, tom-boy.
Out of all the places your career has taken you, where was the most memorable?
Who is your favorite photographer? Why?
Peter Lindberg, I love his positive energy in shooting, and all his photos are timeless beauty!
What was the hardest photo shoot for you, and why?
There are many hardship throughout my career, it wasn't easy to show up to work right after a car crash or when I was sick or when my mind was occupied with other issues in back home... But I told myself to take a deep breath and forget my problems, because everyone on set was expecting my performance, I have to give my best. After all, I tend to forget sorrow and pain, and remember the good things in life.
Is there a difference in posing when you are doing a cover and an editorial?
I could be more imaginative and free in editorial shoot, while I have to be more engaged to the readers in cover shoot.
Is there an artistic or general difference in doing editorials/covers in Europe opposed to USA?
From my experience, shoots in USA are more consumer-oriented; shoots in Europe are more artistic.
Did anyone in the industry ask you to change your look, name, etc? If so, what did you do?
My agents and myself discussed before any changes, usually my hair. It has always been short, but I had also try all kinds of different looks with it. I used the name Gwen Lu (instead of Gwen Loo or Gwen L) since I landed in New York, with the approval of my agent.
What tips and advice do you have for aspiring models just starting out, something you wish someone would have told you?
First get some strong tear sheets, then get some really good snap shots, and send them to model scouts and agents in New York!
Have you had any negative experiences with model agencies, talent scouts? What are top 3 warning signs to look out for?
1. Model agencies/scouts don't collect fees to represent a model.
2. Check the model contract before signing.
3. Make sure the account statement is correct.
Would you share some of your future goals, your life motto, any words of wisdom that get you by in life and professional career?
When there is a will, there is a way.
Everything happens for a reason, it makes you wiser and stronger.
What should a relationship between an agent and model look like?
I always check my emails for job details, options or request from my agencies, I also keep my agents from around the world in the loop of my updates and options.
Who is your favorite all-time model?
Do other models inspire you?
Yes! When a fellow model achieved a greater goal, it motivates me!
How do you feel fashion has empowered you?
It gives me confidence.
Is the fashion world what you expected it to be?
It is more than what I expected!
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
I frequent museums, or read a book in a park.
Who are your favorite fashion designers?
What things in your wardrobe would you never throw away?
Comme des Garcons drop-crotch pants and deconstructed jacket.
What era would you like to bring back?
Who is your style icon?
Your favorite store?
Dover Street Market
What are your best beauty secrets?
Make sure to triple cleanse the skin after make up. It is the worst thing to leave make up residue on the face overnight.
Do you have any beauty / skin care tips or tricks to look fresh and rested for early morning photo shoots?
I sleep early if I have an early call time the next day. A good rest is the best for the skin and the body.
Do you believe in homemade recipes? Do you have one to share with us?
Yes. Some sugar in milk cleanser makes a gentle scrub. Then apply egg white or honey on the whole face, rinse off when the layer gets dry. The skin will feel soft and smooth again!
How much attention do you pay to meditation & exercise, or is it all natural? How do you stay in shape?
I do yoga, 2-3 times a week. Sometimes I took the 30-day-challenge, and practice everyday for a month. It is a routine, once I get the rhythm, it becomes a natural thing to do.
What makes you feel sexy?
A glass of Bloody Mary with nice music.
What is your favorite part about your body?
Favorite kind of food:
Penang hawker food, my favorite is Penang Laksa.
When models say they eat healthy, what do they mean by that?
They don't starve and keep a balance diet.
How would you describe yourself as a human being in three words?
Mysterious, daring, strong-will.
What's controversial or unique about you?
I don't follow the mainstream.
If you could have one superpower, what would you choose?
I wish I can fly.
What would you like to change about yourself if you can choose only one thing?
I want to be 3cm taller!
What are your favorite things to do in your free time?
Learn something new.
Do you have a mentor? Who? What is it about them that affects you? Why?
My mother agent, Chuando, he has an eye about models and photos; he gave me appropriate advices and critiques when I need a push.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? What could be your next career?
I would like to be a chef, or a photographer.
Do people act different around you since you've become a model?
They are curious about my work.
Do you have any model friend that you would suggest for the next model of the month on FMD?
Check out Yuen, another Malaysian model who is with Major :)
Favorite kind of music? Favorite television series or movie?
I love the early dub music and electronic. I love Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, Shohei Imamura, Akira Kurosawa, Pedro Almodovar, Jean-Luc Godard, Ingmar Bergman and Fellini.
Love conquers all.
What's your favorite fashion magazine? Why?
iD. I find something interesting in there.
I'd like to meet:
Wong Kar Wai
to find a balance in life.
If you could change one thing in the past years, what would it be?
Nothing. Every moment in the past makes me who I am today.
People have said I look like:
A young Araki Nobuyoshi sometimes.
What would you ask yourself that we haven't asked you in this interview?
Why am I not a boy?
How would you describe FMD in one phrase? Yourquote about FMD?
FMD is all about models and fashion.
Thank you Gwen Lu for this amazing interview!
note: all answers are original and unaltered - Editor: Theo Villegas & Iva Mirbach