Hmong Model Accuses Modeling Agency of Dropping Him Because He’s Gay and Asian

Chufue Yang, a Chicago-based model and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, is speaking out against discrimination in the industry after being dropped by his former agency Ford Models.

Yang explains in a lengthy Instagram post how the agency deliberately changed his height on his modeling comp card and stated that he was from “Minnesota via Mongolia” when he is actually a first-generation Hmong-American.

via Instagram / chufue

Like any other queer person that grew up facing internalised racism and homophobia, I was really unsure of what it meant to be queer and Hmong simultaneously,” Yang told Dazed. “Being comfortable with myself seemed like a goal I’d never be able to reach, until modelling came into the picture.”

Recently, I was dropped by my agency @fordmodels. I can sit here and find multiple reasons to be upset, but measuring my self worth to being signed doesn’t really seem like the mindset to wallow in. But I still can’t help but wonder, perhaps things would’ve been different if I would’ve been honest about myself from the beginning. For example, having my comp card say that I was taller than I really was had already diminished my identity from the get go. It also forced me to follow the illusion and “standards” of the industry. Being 5 foot 10, Hmong American (my ethnicity for those of you that don’t know) and gay already challenges the industry in itself and for a while I thought I wasn’t getting booked because of those reasons, when in reality.. that’s exactly why. The glass ceiling capped on people of color, especially queer people of color prevails. The blame is not on my previous agents, not on my previous agency but on the industry and myself for not having a firmer stance on my values. What I’ve learned is to not lose your voice in an industry where your physical features are placed above everything else, especially your identity. Chapter closed and moving forward. Photographed by @bputerbaughphoto and styled by @katherinerousonelos.

A post shared by Chufue Yang (@chufue) on

Yang captioned in his Instagram post:

“Recently, I was dropped by my agency @fordmodels. I can sit here and find multiple reasons to be upset, but measuring my self worth to being signed doesn’t really seem like the mindset to wallow in.

“But I still can’t help but wonder, perhaps things would’ve been different if I would’ve been honest about myself from the beginning. For example, having my comp card say that I was taller than I really was had already diminished my identity from the get go. It also forced me to follow the illusion and ‘standards’ of the industry. Being 5 foot 10, Hmong American (my ethnicity for those of you that don’t know) and gay already challenges the industry in itself and for a while I thought I wasn’t getting booked because of those reasons, when in reality.. that’s exactly why. The glass ceiling capped on people of color, especially queer people of color prevails. The blame is not on my previous agents, not on my previous agency but on the industry and myself for not having a firmer stance on my values. “

My agency not only changed my height (on my comp card), but my ethnicity was erased in certain instances,” Yang, who singed a contract with Ford in 2016, said. “What I’ve also learnt is that some narratives are changed by others within the industry to make them seem more interesting or ‘marketable.’”

I sometimes felt like I never received the same level of respect that other models got because of that,” he said, discussing how he never fit the modeling industry’s straight, muscular, White type that is predominant in Chicago.

via Instagram / chufue

I was also lucky enough to be featured on models.com a couple weeks after getting signed and the editor of the New Face division assumed my ethnic origin completely,” he continued. “The title to my feature was ‘Minnesota via Mongolia’. Although it could’ve been a simple mistake, being misidentified ethnically is something that not only me, but a lot of Asian Americans experience daily.”

via Instagram / chufue

“I made an Instagram post expressing those feelings and when my agent saw it, they wanted me to take it down because they didn’t want to ruin the relationship they had with models.com. This was the first time that my voice was silenced after being signed and unfortunately, I gave in.”

@modelsdot I want to thank you for the new face feature, but assuming my cultural identity is a tad bit disheartening. I do not hail from Mongolia, nor do I have Mongolian roots. I'm a first generation Hmong American. Hmong is not a place, it's a people that can be found all throughout South East Asia and some parts of China. I'm sure this was just a mistranslation and to some it might seem like a simple mistake, but the fact is, being misidentified in regards to my ethic origin is something that I and many other Asian Americans know too well (especially those who identify within South East Asian ethic groups). Be aware, be thoughtful and be open to learning where others come from. I'm in no way criticizing @modelsdot, but simply shedding light on the situation. ✌🏼

A post shared by Chufue Yang (@chufue) on

Yang’s ethnic background on his “NEWfaces” feature, which was first published on July 17, 2017, has since been edited on Model.com.

Screenshot via Model.com

Mongolia can still be seen in the tags of the post despite it being removed from the feature article.

Screenshot via Model.com

Yang admitted that since this encounter with Ford Models, his career has become unstable.

They would send me to a few castings here and there, but Chicago clients just aren’t looking for people that look like me. It seems as though my height, mono-lids, and black hair didn’t make the cut, because the emails about jobs started to decrease throughout my time being signed,” he said in the interview. “Not getting booked for things definitely started to take a toll on how I viewed my self-worth. This was a very hard time for me mentally and emotionally.”

via Instagram / chufue

The backlash from speaking out eventually took a toll on Yang.

I deactivated all my social media and needed to disassociate myself from modelling because I felt as if I didn’t have control over my body anymore,” he said. “It got to the point where I just shaved my head and dyed it a different colour without telling my agents. I think my agents probably felt that I wasn’t committed to my career anymore which wasn’t the case at all.”

via Instagram / chufue

When asked if he has any advice for new models, Yang said, Don’t let yourself feel like you’re just another model. Everyone has so much potential, but the cool thing is, that greatness is different for everyone. Find that and apply it to your career.”

Featured Image via Instagram / chufue

NextShark is a leading source covering Asian American News and Asian News including business, culture, entertainment, politics, tech and lifestyle.

For advertising and inquiries: info@nextshark.com