Modern Muses: Three Models Reflect On Asian Representation In Beauty For Our First Ever Hair Guide

A trio of women at the top of their game reflect on the signature hairstyles that helped get them there.

Fei Fei Sun

Makeup in the best case carries a little bit of magic with it. The transformative process lets you try on different personas without ever getting more than a cleansing wipe’s distance away from neutral, which is how Sun, homebody and new global face of cosmetic giant Estée Lauder, sees it.

Valentino black-and-white dress.

“If I have somewhere to go,” says the model, who has worked with Chanel, Dior, and Prada but prefers a good farmers’-market outing to a red-carpet event, “I moisturize my face and do a bright color on my mouth. It’s simple, but it always gives me confidence.” For the newlywed, who married her longtime boyfriend, Liang Zi, this past winter, the notion of simplicity extends to her hair. “I feel the most beautiful with it long and healthy and its natural color,” says Sun. A tall girl at 5 feet 10 and given to hunching, she was enrolled by her mother in modeling school on the advice of a friend who thought the posture classes might help. Sun fell in love. “There are so many great things that I learned from this industry, like patience” — though given her career successes, that might have been one skill she didn’t need to practice.

Sun, who resides in New York City but still considers Shanghai home, has had the unique experience of being the first Chinese woman to appear on the covers of American, Italian, and Japanese Vogue — and the significance is not lost on her. “China has an old saying: ‘Flowers are beautiful because the seeing is free.’ We need more and more girls from different countries on the runway and in magazines and in global campaigns.”

Ly’s own earrings. Makeup colors: Diorshow Brow Styler in Universal Brown, Diorshow On Stage Liner in Vinyl Black, Diorskin Forever Undercover Concealer in Creme, and Dior Addict Lip Glow in Pink by Dior.

Fernanda Ly

Ly is used to standing out. Before the Chinese-Australian model crashed the international fashion mainframe in a scene-stealing debut at Louis Vuitton’s 2015 fall runway show, Ly was an architecture student in Sydney. After traversing the hair-color spectrum, she was eventually discovered in a shopping mall with her now-signature cotton candy shade. “Louis Vuitton was the last day of fashion week,” says Ly, “and the next day literally all the fashion-news headlines were like, ‘Who’s that girl with pink hair?’ And instead of going back home to Australia, I went to New York. Hair is work for me now. When you think pink hair, you think of me.”

Ly has since found other mediums through which to express herself. In March 2017, she contributed to a survey about models’ treatment in the fashion industry, including a personal #MeToo account of the time she was groped by a stylist. “It’s nerve-racking to write about these things,” says Ly. “But change happens because someone is willing to put their name down.”


When you think pink hair, you think of me.

Her advocacy doesn’t stop there. This spring, via a story on identity published in Australian Vogue, Ly expressed how she is still wrestling with how she sees herself. “I’m torn because obviously I’m Asian, but I grew up really Western.” Ly appreciates the influence she holds and the progress that has been made. “Australia has so many Asian people, but when I started out, pretty much every model was white. It’s an alienating experience — you feel so physically different. I appeared at the time when everything started to change; people like Lineisy [Montero] and Ruth Bell started to break the norm. I guess I’m the colored-hair version of that for Asian girls.”

JW Anderson black dress.

Soojoo Park

At 26, the age that some models might have started side-eyeing their savings accounts, Park’s career took a turn for the stratospheric. Having graduated with a degree in architecture from UC Berkeley, Park had taken a job in graphic design for a Web company when she was scouted in San Francisco. Park arrived in New York City to face a demoralizingly slow burn of casting calls. As in any good movie montage, the catalyst took the form of reinvention — with a sacrifice of the silky, straight, virgin black hair she inherited from her mother.

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