Foreign Models Are Struggling to Survive in Vietnam

Vietnam’s fashion industry has been growing at an accelerated pace and it’s starting to make its mark in international design circles. The industry’s growth in the country has even attracted many up-and-coming models from Western countries who are aiming to launch their modeling career.

Being a foreign model in a Vietnam, however, has proven to be quite a challenge for those who have made the decision to pursue their modeling careers there, according to Tuoi Tre News.

After visiting Vietnam for vacation in the past, Russian-born Amy Nikolaus, decided to start a new life in Ho Chi Minh City, so she moved there to pursue modeling in 2011.

The 27-year-old freelance model has not looked back since, and has spent the past five years living in the city doing what she loved best, albeit with a few challenges. She even had to take odd jobs in the beginning to compensate for the scarcity of job opportunities for a foreign model.


She explained that looking for jobs in a foreign country was made more difficult by not speaking the native language, so she took it upon herself to learn Vietnamese. “I started working as a salesperson at a fashion store in a local Russian market to provide for my expenses,” Nikolaus said. “It was also a chance for me to accustom myself to the language.”

Even after learning enough Vietnamese words and phrases, it still took a while before she landed a real modeling job. She was hired by a wedding photographer to be a dress model for ₫1 million ($45) per day.

She has since modeled for hundreds of events with a variety of scope and scale. Today, she is living with her Vietnamese husband and three-year-old son in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City. 

Nikolaus’ life, while far from glamorous and perfect, is still miles better than some foreign models who have unfortunately fallen victim to scams by opportunistic locals.

Polish aspiring model Ruvenla landed her first modeling stint by signing up with a company based in Vung Tau City. Her manager however, allegedly ran off with her salary and was forced into working for free.

Without having any money, the 22-year-old took a variety of low-paying jobs to survive and settled for a cramped rented room in cheaper locations. For work, she did wine marketing and some dancing to earn money. She’s now waiting for her break to be a real model soon.

Ruvenla’s roommate Lusica, who is also an up-and-coming model, took several jobs at a time, including teaching English to children, so she can send some money home to her family in Russia.

Despite hearing the misfortunes of other models, male British model Anthony said he still remains optimistic about his future success in Vietnam, noting the opportunities made available to him in the last couple of years.

Anthony revealed that being in Vietnam gave him the opportunity to model for top, luxury, high-class brands and famous magazines.

Foreign models typically find it difficult to live in Vietnam by the income of models alone, yet they choose to stay and work professionally in order to build a portfolio. A majority of the foreign models who work in Vietnam stay to develop solid resumes before seeking better opportunities in other countries.

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