At just 19 years old, Kaci Beh decided to pursue modelling full-time after she dropped out of her Retail Management course at Temasek Polytechnic. Now, she dons the top designer clothing brands as she graces international runways.
Her head is held high as cameras flash like dizzying sparks in her vision.
Kaci has strutted the runways of Paris, Milan, and London Fashion Week. She is also one of the handful of homegrown models (alongside Diya Prabhakar and Layla Ong) to have represented Singapore in these renowned fashion runways. She recently landed her solo cover for the September 2020 issue of Her World magazine.
Of course, the road was far from smooth.
THE CATTLE CALL
It was in 2017 when she had tried to sign up. Basic Models Management was hosting an open casting for the public so she and her friend decided to go. However, due to a lack of courage, she sat back instead because she thought that she wouldn’t get accepted. The next year, her friend had dragged her along. Even though she had done it out of reluctance, she was shocked that she had passed the measurement round and in the blink of an eye, she was doing a catwalk for Bonita, the booker for Basic Models.
“Everything went by so fast,” she recounted. “I was training and debuting as a ‘full-time’ model. I did a few gigs in Singapore, [and] within two months I was in Milan doing my first ever fashion week.”
Growing up, her only travelling experience was to Malaysia. It was a scary experience to be in a foreign country alone, not knowing how to speak their language. Furthermore, she had to live there for one and a half months.
The working pace overseas is vastly different when compared to Singapore. It was an added burden when she’s still a new chick who had just learned to spread her wings. She had to learn and adapt to castings and doing shows on the go. During fashion week, she said that it was extremely fast-paced. She jumped from one casting to the next, getting rejected time and again, but she took it as an enlightening experience.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!
Now, she wakes up every morning at 7am looking forward to the day that she will spend. She has her breakfast, washes up, and chooses what to wear for her shoot. When she arrives on set, she’ll get her makeup and hair done in one to two hours. Usually, her shoots would start on time, and she’ll review the pictures and have lunch with the crew. When everyone returns, the second half of the shoot will commence. At the end of the day, she loves to go for a good dinner with her friends.
Kaci’s love for meeting new people and working with a warm and friendly team motivates her to do well in her job. Knowing that they trust her, be it for her height, poses, expertise, and such, she is always grateful for clients who always book her.
Above that, she also loves what she does as a model. There are different concepts with every new shoot. Every day is a unique experience. She gets to experiment with different styles of makeup and hair, play around with different lightings and poses. She also uses them as a learning platform for herself to grow as a model in the industry.
FRESH OFF THE RUNWAY
The young model has an accolade of runway achievements. In 2020, Kaci walked for Dolce & Gabbana in Milan Fashion Week and shot their campaign. She also walked for Emporio Armani in Milan, and did couture fashion week in Paris.
Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, L’officiel, Nuyou, and Female are just some of the myriad of magazines that she had shot for. Recently, she also shot a beauty campaign for Benefit. Perhaps you could keep an eye out for a familiar face like hers.
None of this is of course possible without Bonita, one of the bookers for Basic Models. At the start, Kaci was always sceptical of herself — never at all confident. Bonita pushed her past her limits and sent her overseas to work right at the start. Sometimes to walk, you need to learn how to run. As the cycle continues, she eventually gets used to it and it comes naturally.
“I have seen girls queue for 5 hours outside, and it only takes a minute to walk in front of a panel of 10,” she recalls her experience while casting for Armani. When the doors open, girls would just rush immediately to the main entrance to snag a spot. “Even Mr. Armani is there. The scene can be quite scary; the whole vibe is very solemn.”
EXPECTATIONS VS REALITY
Unlike what everyone thinks, being a model isn’t the easiest job on Earth. For shoots, such as beauty and commercials, it requires multiple takes to perfect a shot. Several are retaken again and again. Bright lights are glaring directly at a model and their smile has to be kept genuine no matter how tired they are.
Their attire has to be neatly arranged, their hair and make-up have to be touched up while the model is in the post. Additionally, it requires a team behind the camera to perfect the video or picture shot.
On the other hand, for shows, there is a long waiting time backstage. Models are required to change hurriedly with one another squandered in a small space. Sometimes, male models can be seen backstage changing together as well. Some of them are required to stand in heels backstage long before the show starts — at least half an hour before — and they aren’t permitted to sit. There are even times when models have to wear shoes that are smaller than their correct sizes. Despite it all, Kaci says that the experience is worthwhile.
It is tough being a model in Singapore. The average salary earns a model about $6,505 according to Indeed SG. Very little can be known publicly about this elusive job hidden behind a mask of glamour and bright lights. There are very few agencies that work in Singapore, and even fewer that are able to work with international brands. Basic Models Management is one of those rare modeling agencies.
However, as we progress into the digital age, social media starts becoming one of the avenues that house models. Influencers become models through their Instagram pages, and even on TikTok, they can be recognised. There is no “correct” way of becoming a model but there is one thing for sure: the modeling industry is growing every day.
MODELING NOT A BED OF ROSES
Under all the glitz and glamour of being a model, there is something about Kaci that makes her familiar with the fashion scene. She knows the industry can be challenging, having to navigate working in foreign lands and moulding herself to fit a brand’s vision. Despite this, she is determined to smell all the flowers along the way.
One of the biggest challenges that she had faced was overthinking her poses and expressions. When she had first started out, she was told that her face was not fierce and that it was not strong enough. Countless hours she had spent practising her facial expressions and poses in front of the mirror. It takes grace and a specific set of skills to be able to make a pose so natural, and furthermore to hold it so that photographers are able to get the perfect shot.
“My feet are all seasoned now,” she laughs, referring to the blisters on her feet from wearing heels. Being able to walk comfortably in high heels takes a lot of practice. She often films herself to see what can be improved.
Having faced cold and blunt rejections on the job, Kaci ensures she gives her 100 per cent in every job but keeps her hopes in check to avoid disappointment.
Rejection is the norm for anyone working in the creative industry. Perhaps because of her years of experience, Kaci responds to it with a zen mindset which is rare for someone so young.
“There’s no point crying over spilt milk. After a while, you tend to learn to accept these rejections and only look forward to what’s next,” she advises.
“[Focusing] on yourself and giving your best for castings is all that matters.” People often compare themselves and feel intimidated, hence causing them to underperform during castings. It takes a while to unlearn and relearn. Kaci said that even she had only recently learned to just be herself and do her very best.
WORKING DURING THE PANDEMIC
However, the pandemic has thrown off her plans for the time being.
“At the start, it affected me greatly. Even in Singapore, all models cannot work due to the lockdown. Progressively, we started shooting from homes for magazines and catalogues. Slowly, studios were opening up so editorials and shoots are currently still ongoing,” she says.
“I have picked up a few hobbies such as sewing, drawing on big canvases, and learning new skills on illustrator. Furthermore, I have cultivated new hobbies like fish and crab keeping and keeping figurines like skullpanda series and molly.”
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the global pandemic, runways are still not the same for now. Only trunk shows and presentations are ongoing – which allows fashion designers to present the merchandise directly to customers in-store. In the past, designers used to literally bring their collections in trunks, which is how it got its name.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
Kaci is currently undertaking an advertising course in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) — the first time she’s gone back to school after taking a three-year break after signing up with Basic Models. “I really enjoyed certain modules that were interactive and relatable such as marketing which is why I decided to pursue a course that allows me to expand on my creativity,” Kaci explains.
Kaci’s career is poised to go as far as she wants it to. Her renewed self-confidence in the way that she looks, especially for someone who is only 22, makes her an indomitable spirit in the industry.
“I think I am in a better place and I am excelling in what I do,” she said with confidence.