He Sui’s career is one marked with many industry firsts: She’s the first Asian model to ever open for Ralph Lauren’s runway show as well as the first Asian model to ever clinch a lucrative contract with cosmetics giant Shiseido. For a woman who has walked the runway for Chanel, Dior and Hermès among many others, and who is largely credited for being one of the pioneering East Asian faces in fashion, the supermodel remains humble about her achievements. She still sees herself as the girl from the coastal Chinese city of Wenzhou.
“I was originally nobody — I had nothing,” says the 31-year-old. As He describes it, her ascent to stardom happened through a series of serendipitous events: A modelling competition at the age of 17 where she won first place; a chance encounter with a Milanese modelling agency the day she wanted to quit modelling to focus on her studies; the same encounter that would send her to her first Milan fashion week, where she would go on to walk in 12 shows at a time where rejection for non-white models was the norm, and that proved to be the eventual springboard for her international career. Things happened so fast for He that, in fact, she says she barely had time to consider the pressures of being one of the few East Asian models of the time — though it was a fact that she was keenly aware of, both then and now.
“In retrospect, it seems like I didn’t really have the chance to feel or digest how I felt at the time,” she says. “It feels like I forgot to feel the pressure. Maybe I was too occupied with work to feel it — I was a nobody back then, so rather than feeling pressure, I was feeling grateful — grateful for every job that I got.” She would go on to garner a loyal fanbase, quantified now in her 1.5 million followers on Instagram and some 10 million followers on Weibo, where she calls herself “a lucky ordinary person” in her profile.
“All of the recognition and affirmation I received gave me more confidence, and strength, to keep going,” says He. It is that support and encouragement that has fuelled He through much of her whirlwind career — that, and her chipper attitude towards life in general.
Crazy how shes managed to look exactly the same size and age for the last decade. She has not fluctuated in size at all during this time.