During my first month in Singapore I was at Orchard, trying to meet a girl for a date. After some miscommunication, and rushing to the wrong MRT station, I ended up waiting at the Mandarin Gallery. It was here that two well-dressed guys approached me and asked if I was lost. They introduced themselves as Chad and Earnest (the whitest names I ever heard). So ensued an awkward conversation, where they engaged me in small talk and I tried to work out what they were trying to sell me. It turns out they wanted to recruit me as a model for Shine Models and bring me to their office to discuss it more in detail. I was hesitant in case it was a scam but there was no talk of exchanging money.
So that weekend I turned up at their offices. I was already very cynical and was alert for signs of falsity. As I walked into their office space my first impression was one of modesty. It was one medium sized room with a few tables and chairs squeezed in. Chad sat me down and asked me some questions before instructing me to perform a video introduction, as well as displaying a few facial expressions. He left for a short while, returning saying the director had looked at my photos and said I had good expressions. My bullshit detector was tingling but I continued to listen. Chad told me that I would be joining some modelling classes for $180 SGD and he wanted me to get a photo shoot to build a portfolio. The modelling class would be once a Saturday for 3 hours. He explained that I could get a photo-shoot done by myself or I could use their preferred partner for $350 SGD. Not wanting to throw my money away, I left and decided to research the legitimacy of Shine Models and whether I was being scammed.
After Googling around it seems it was very common for people to be approached by modelling agencies around the Orchard Road area. Typically they would be offered shoots for over $1000 SGD. Shine Models actually seemed to be legitimate with a portfolio of work. Additionally I figured that $350 for photo shoot wasn't a bad price, and I’d be getting my money’s worth with the modelling lessons. I'm always trying new things and being a model (or at least training to be) would be pretty damn new. Finally I was currently unemployed and had nothing to focus my energy on.
So I decided to go for it.
I arrived the following Saturday and stepped into a tightly packed room of guys. Most wore a white t shirt with blue jeans; the Calvin Klein look. Some were handsome, some were skinny, some were reasonable build, some were tall, some were short and some were surprisingly ugly. When I saw that a few of them weren't good looking I had to wonder if, despite my initial enthusiasm, I hadn't been scammed. Why invite ugly people to modelling classes? I set aside my scepticism for the moment and focused on the lesson. Our first lesson was on how to cat walk. Despite some of my classmates being nervous, I found it quite enjoyable. Walking to the music seemed easy, a bit like dancing, and the instructors were quite positive with me. Afterwards our teacher (Roland) told us he, and others, would be harsh and that if you were sensitive you should consider quitting. He asked us to come onto the stage so he could critique our dress sense. I was a little hesitant and he called out the way I rolled up my sleeves and my hairstyle (or lack thereof), but otherwise he was satisfied. Over the weeks some people got much harsher comments than just poorly rolled sleeves. So ended my first lesson. The following week I was scheduled for my photo shoot, it was kind of exciting!
Continued in Part 2