Interview with Model Aura Tao
What is it like modeling and living in Milan?
“If you see modeling and living in Milan, life here is so different from Taiwan, and Asia, because of the pace of living here. I think it’s more life orientated, as for comparing their work. They have their own space, and they own their personal private time, instead of Asia like Taiwan, we work a lot. For example, like interesting thing is that everyone takes maybe 2 weeks, even more holidays in August like they say summer vacation. So, it’s different.”
“If you see modeling, I never thought that I could be a model. when I was kid, you know, in Asia, we have a kind of stereotype of beauty like big eyes, skinny body. And then, I was definitely different. And also, I was a boy, you know, I never had it. I never thought that I could be a woman, not even mention that I could be a model. But modeling for me, it’s kind of like symbolizing beauty and perfection. So, being a model here, the real modeling is that our job is showing clothes, with a brand. And the brand chooses us to show and present their clothes. There’s only probably 15 percent of models do big fashion shows and big campaigns However, in my case, I’m not a big model. I don’t have a lot of chances to do the big campaign every single day. Most of the models are making a living by shooting an editorial or doing showroom like, which is what I did a lot, you know, to support your life, campaign is not a thing for every single day. So, for the real modeling job, I would say it’s not that fancy.”
How did you first get into modeling?
“Actually, it’s kind of like my journey of modeling. It’s so different from people you know. It was not like a fairy tale like someone scouts you on the street, or you have a connection, and people introduce you to the Agent. For me, it’s totally different, because I came to Milan to finish my master’s degree. So, I was studying contemporary fashion buying. At that time. I wanted to be a merchandiser. Because my background is in journalism, and I love fashion. But I wanted to work for Brands. This was in the first place.”
“But modeling was not my life plan. After graduation, I found a job, and I worked for a startup company which is they focus on technology and sustainability fashion. I was working as a global brand curator. However, in 2019, they have a financial crisis of the company. So, the startup company led to a solution for the team, which is I lost my job. And then, Coronavirus came. I couldn’t find a job.”
“To stay in Milan, I was looking for some ways to stay here. And during that moment, some people just said, why you don’t try out modeling? and then I was kind of like a little bit whoa. because, as I said before, modeling for me, it’s like symbolizing fashion and beauty, which has a little bit of something attractive, which, oh, I want to try it out. So, I started applying to the agencies in Milan. In the beginning, there was totally so bad feedback, because none of them wanted me. Then eventually, luckily, the Lab which is my current model agency, appreciated my talent, and that’s how I started.”
What do you like about your job, or is there anything you don’t like?
“This question is so interesting. Modeling for me is kind of like dream, like, you know, all the girls especially, trans girls. You want to close even closer to beauty, with prettiness, with perfection. So, it’s symbolized beauty. I found out that what I like about modeling is there’s always a space, always a place to allow you to show your beauty, no matter what kind of job, a big job or a small job. and then, the interesting part is also you can always work with different teams and different people. You change the city, yeah, it’s different things.”
“And then I also found out that actually it’s kind of like the bad part of modeling, but eventually, it brings out some benefits, which is to strengthen your mind. I don’t think there is another job where you would get dozens of rejections in the day. The reasons for the rejections are because of how you look, because of your appearance, or your body height. Or it’s even just really subject to the clients. They just don’t like you, there’s no substantial reason. So, you need to train your mind to accept all the negative feedback. This is I felt this job is interesting yet harming. Actually, modeling is a very unhealthy and incomplete job honestly. Now what I say is standing on my case. So, if you’re a big model, you have connections, you have different things. And then on the other side, people always say elimination of body size, gender fluidity, and gender equality, and no restrictions for nonbinary gender, plus-size models, or the older. But if you ever go through Milan and Paris, I don’t feel it’s true, probably London may be better, and New York is good though. There is still room to be improved in the industry.”
What was the most memorable shoot, or the one you liked most?
“So, it was definitely a Vogue Taiwan cover. Because I think it’s kind of like recognition and support for transgenders. I was the first transgender girl featuring the cover of Vogue Taiwan. And even in Japan and Korea, they never had this kind of model before. For me, it’s like a huge step.”
“I really appreciate the editor of Vogue Taiwan. And the editor wrote a quote about the meaning of the vogue cover on social media, which is supporting trans girls and LGBTQ communities. I really appreciate her comments. Also, during that time, I was just a little model. So, when they want to do both photoshoots and the cover, I felt so appreciated it.”
Who inspires you within the industry?
“Karlie kloss. She runs a coding boot camp for young women.”
What do you wish more people knew about being trans?
“I think people like to be categorized. when a new concept comes out, they will resist. They express their discontent, especially when it impacts their own knowledge or original cognition. We are new. We are not male or female. We are different. I think this is exactly how people react to us, or we say that is a prejudice against transgenders and non-binary people because they don’t know where to put us. When people learn about my past or found out about my past, I hope that they will still see me as they did, you know, when they first time meet me without adding any prejudice or any certain type of discrimination.”
“If you say what I want to let people know, I want to show a lot that people, as a trans woman, I’m normal. I’m not different from other women. I just want to let people know about we are normal. But. also, I believe, every job I did no matter big or small, I think I can really bring hope to the girls like me. I want to let them know you deserve a dream. You can pursue your goal. So don’t let your identity hold you back. you can still have your dreams and goals.”
What’s up next for you?
“I want to let people know that I’m the same as you, I am not a celebrity. I’m really real and true and honest on social media. This is me. I want to share a lot of my failures, and my frustration.” I don’t know what my next step is, honestly. So, when you ask me what the next step is, all I can tell you is I probably will slightly make my modeling career by my side, job instead of full-time. I really love it. But I don’t see this as a long-term plan. And then, I would like to keep working on human rights and how I can contribute to this society and this community. I think I really appreciate that I have a little privilege to do my little part of the job and to inspire people. This is why I am grateful and appreciate it. So, I will keep working hard on this side. But if you ask me for some specific plan. I cannot tell you because I really don’t know.”
Featured image via Vogue Taiwan