Growing up in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan, Wu, who now stands at 5’9”, stood out and was bullied for her unusual height. She revealed to NYMag:
“I never thought about being a model. Since I was little, I was bullied because I was too tall, or different somehow — I’m not really sure. I didn’t have any friends and was ostracized.”
“In junior high, I cried every single day. But in high school, my mom saw a company was holding a modeling competition, sponsored by an agency. My mom signed me up. It wasn’t to become a model; it was to meet other tall people like me. We went to China to compete, and I came in second.”
Wu later moved to Taipei to continue modeling where, in a much more cosmopolitan environment, she was bullied even more:
“Coming from Tainan to Taipei, some people from my agency made fun of me, saying my clothes were too dorky. People made fun of my height, and I felt inferior and even started hunching my shoulders to try and appear shorter. I wouldn’t wear anything with a heel, even if it was just with a quarter-inch of height.
“Once a makeup artist on a shoot said in front of me that I needed to learn how to wear clothes and change. I went home and cried.”
When asked if anyone had ever told her she was pretty, she responded:
“My face is so familiar to me that it feels like nothing special. Even now, my boyfriend will say things to me like, ‘Do you know how pretty you are?’ I’m like, ‘You’re so weird. You see me all the time and you still think this?’ I really don’t understand. I know I’m not terrible-looking, but I don’t think I’m as great as everyone seems to say.”
Working in the modeling industry reinforced Wu’s confidence, gave her a thick skin to deal with criticisms and also morphed her perception of traditional Asian beauty.
Wu originally bought into the idea that a fair complexion and large eyes was what an individual needed to be beautiful. She even wore circle contact lenses to make her eyes look bigger when others insisted she use clear ones:
“It’s helped to see lots of different type of beautiful. It doesn’t matter if your eyes are big or your complexion is white — people don’t care. As long as you think you’re beautiful, you will be beautiful.
“After working out of the U.S., I got a little tan. When I returned home, people would say, ‘You got tan!,’ and not in a complimentary way. But I said, ‘Outside of Taiwan, they like this.’ Everyone has their own standard of beauty. If there was just one standard, then what does it mean — there are no beautiful people with darker skin? That is just not true.”
When asked what she’s learned from modeling so far, Wu replied:
“Well, it’s funny now — some of my old classmates who used to make fun of me say they were good friends of mine. But apart from this, it’s helped me to build up a lot of confidence.”