Interview W/ Model Sarah Kim
We recently had an opportunity to interview model Sarah Kim who is signed with Muse Models NYC and Models 1 based in London. Sarah told us about her life before becoming a model, her breakthroughs in her life, difficult shoots she’s has had, and more.
Who was Sarah Kim before becoming a model?
She was just a regular girl attending a small private Christian school her whole life in Panama located in Latin America..
Modeling was never in the picture nor was it even something I dared to think. After high school, I left for Korea for college, graduated with a double major in International World Commerce and English, and right away started teaching kids—fortunately, my students saw through my tough love and loved me. Loved every single student there. I was very invested in their growth not only in education but in their personal growth.
I feel like growing up I was drawn into the arts—photography, videography, painting, singing, all the instruments you can name, I made them mine—not so good in the maths department though.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Hmm, I always struggled with this question. Not to sound arrogant but I was the “jack of all trades, master of none”, so this didn’t help figure out this question growing up.
However, I always loved working for humanitarian causes, specifically helping children in need, which is why I participated in the United Nations debate competition in Asia to dip my toes into this field. This sparked a passion to pursue something in this area.
What were the most joyous or fulfilling times in your life?
2020 during the pandemic. I know, ironic isn’t it? Right before the pandemic hit, I was back in Panama with my family, and to provide you some context, the last time I was home was during my junior year in college. Not to give away my age but it has been seven years since then.
Panama had one of the strictest lockdowns—nobody could go out and was only given certain days at certain hours to go grocery shopping. It was however during those few intense months that I had the most fulfilling, joyous time—it was a time for my unemotional and uncommunicative family to actually spend time together.
We shared moments that were “first’s”—moments where we cried, laughed, and shared extremely personal details of our childhood – unresolved pains, hurts, traumas . It was the most vulnerable I’ve ever been with them—and for that, I am grateful for 2020.
It was a pivotal moment in my life as I learned the power of having a nuclear family. I never knew that something so humble like sharing a hot homemade meal with all of us seated on the floor could be life-changing. Spend that time with your family when you have the time guys.
Were there any moments you recall as true breakthroughs in any area of your life?
When I finally wanted to get to know who Sarah Kim is.
I had spent most of my life people-pleasing and putting everyone else first—investing my time and energy in getting to know other people and being there whenever they needed me.
But, me? I didn’t bother who I was because I didn’t know—no, I didn’t believe that I was worthy. Maybe it was through the help of the pandemic but 2020 was the year when I sat myself down in solitude every day to face all of my deep-rooted demons, traumas, and insecurities.
It was so difficult at the beginning that I’d be screaming in my room, clenching my hands into a fist, shaking with so much resentment and pain, not knowing what to do. Those dramatic scenes in the movies be real sometimes.
But through that process, I learned to love myself, and fully accept the person that I am—even if it was a broken, work-in-progress Sarah Kim. Through the grace of God, I ended up falling in love with myself so hard that I didn’t need anybody else. It was a freedom I’ve never felt in my life, feeling complete without anybody’s approval.
And through that I was able to step out of my comfort zone, checking off bucket lists that I would have never dared to do alone—such as freely expressing myself through my own sense of fashion, trying outfits I used to be insecure about wearing.
What have you learned over your lifetime that you’d share with the younger generation?
Oh, this is such a deep question. But I got an answer for you.
Don’t let fear stop you from experiencing the fullness of life. Fail as much as you can—don’t be afraid of failure. The more you fail the more you’ll succeed. It’s better to fail when you’re young. So apply for that job. Date that person. Buy that plane ticket. Move to that city. Do all the things that scare you, because they’re worth it. Don’t let fear stop you from experiencing the extraordinary and beautiful parts of life.
This is the mindset that I have today that I wish I could have shared with the younger Sarah…
The younger Sarah was constantly bombarded with the fears of –
“what if im not good enough”
“what if I don’t get in”
“what if I don’t pass”
“what if I fail”
“what if we don’t work out”
“what if my heart ends up broken and shattered into million pieces and I have to be the one to put them back together again”
“what if I disappoint my parents”
What ifs, what ifs, what ifs.
A million “what ifs”.
So start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but just start.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
What are you most grateful for?
Yes, so cliche, so Disney Encanto, but my family—specifically my parents, who immigrated from South Korea with three younglings to a Central American country which at that time discriminated towards Asians.
Straight up they are the hardest working individuals I know and despite that, they made sure all of us were raised with morals, values, and good character.
They were strict, not going to lie, but did so out of love and made sure we spoke Korean at home and knew our Korean roots. They wouldn’t feed us if we didn’t finish our Korean assignments. It was a National Geographic survival show in the Kim household every day.
They also made sure that we grew up with faith and remained grateful to God who provided everything we had. My parents have always had a heart for giving and taking care of other people. They have the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen and I’m truly honored to be their daughter. I pray one day I can repay them as much as they’ve given me.
What was the first job you booked as a model?
Is there anything you aren’t willing to do for a shoot? (phobias/fears)
- Nude and thongs. I mean, who wouldn’t be uncomfortable?
What was your most difficult shoot and how did you handle it?
Thankfully, I’ve never had a difficult shoot with any brands. I’ve been privileged to meet extraordinary people in every shoot I’ve had onset. They’ve taught and guided me through my career and have now become my close long-time friends. I think it’s important to go to work with an attitude of wanting to learn. Go to that meeting, go to that photoshoot, that casting, that fitting ready to be guided, corrected, and taught. Having a heart of learning is an attitude of putting yourself in a place of humility. Even if you might know more or be better at the job, there is always ALWAYS room to learn from everyone.
Are there any photographers/ designers/ models you haven’t worked with but you really want to?
I’d like to be given the chance to work with high-end brands and photographers as a curvy South Korean model from Panama.I don’t really have specific names or people, but I would like to work with more—not just mixed—but full East Asian models. I look at our industry and nobody seems to even notice it but there are not enough Asians in all areas. The fashion industry as a whole is notoriously bad at encouraging diversity and Asian models are often lost in a conversation that is simplified to just black and white. How often do we really see magazines, billboards, and commercials and see a full non mixed East Asian as the main? Almost never..
Ultimately, it’s not about having Asian models in the modeling industry for the sake of having Asian models in the modeling industry. It’s about demonstrating that Asians are just as worthy to be the main “character” as their white, black, and Latin counterparts.