The Korea Model Association chose model Jang Ki Yong as a promising rookie model. He debuted as a model through the 2012 S/S General Idea’s and Unbounded Wave’s collection shows. As he then received a lot of attention for his unique bright energy and diversified image, he started receiving countless love calls from Korean magazines. The braces he started to wear when he was around 20 became model Jang Ki Yong’s trademark. It made him develop his unique style and he achieved exceptional results during the 2013 F/W collection season although he had been modeling for just a year. He says humility and self-control are the two most important things to become the best model. We’re anticipating even more his upcoming career. Let’s hear the honest and lively story of model Jang Ki Yong who is overflowing with bright energy.
Hello. Please introduce yourself.
Hello. I’m model Jang Ki Yong who debuted a year ago. Nice to meet you.
You’ve been a promising rookie since your debut. The Korea Model Association even chose you as one of the most anticipated models in 2013. You’ve been receiving a lot of attention since your debut a year ago, how does it feel?
It feels very great. I’m from the countryside, so modeling is an honor for me. I’m really thankful for the attention people give me. To be honest, just moving to Seoul to work as a model is amazing for me. (smile)
When you started working as a model, did you imagine you’d get a good reaction?
Absolutely not. When I was doing a magazine photo shoot in June last year, to be honest I didn’t even know this magazine existed. They just told me it would be two face cuts, so I went and it was actually for a magazine photo shoot. The staff kept moving all around the set. I thought to myself “since I’m here, let’s work hard because the staff worked hard to prepare everything for me.” It was a witty concept. Since I usually like joking around, I felt comfortable. However, the downside was that I’m wearing my braces. That’s why I worried a lot, but the photographer said it made it even better. That’s why I felt at ease during filming.
When did you start dreaming of being a model?
It was a vague dream when I was a kid. When I was in my second year of high school, I read a magazine. At that time, Kim Young Kwang-sunbaenim who was a legend and Lee Soo Hyuk-sunbaenim were doing really good. I was really interested in fashion, so I watched a lot of videos. Especially Lee Soo Hyuk-sunbaenim’s show videos. I think I watched nearly all of them. I’m a member of his fanclub which uploaded everything. (smiles) I think this was when my dream of becoming a model became bigger. To be honest, people from the countryside don’t really know about that. They must come to Seoul in order to accomplish something, they can directly confront themselves to it. That’s why I thought about it on my own. When I was 20, my school was in Kyunggi-do, so it was close to Seoul. I told myself that I should try at least once and I started preparing myself.
How did your parents react when you said you’d be a model?
To be honest, there’s no certainty about this path. They worried a lot and wondered if I’d be able to do well. When I actually started and I’m doing well right now, I think they’re proud now. And there’s something my father always tells me. It’s something he told me also when I was selected by the Korea Model Association when I debuted. “You must work harder to get there. Don’t get cocky. Always stay humble”. Although I got popular in the beginning, there’s the potential for me to be even bigger, so I think I should never accept thing as if I earn them.
I can see your family has a great influence on your mindset.
Yes. I grew up fast. I didn’t go through adolescence. When my older brother hit puberty, he was a tornado. As the little brother, looking at him acting this way, I told myself “don’t become like your brother”. (smiles) That’s why I didn’t get into major trouble. I think I just lived quietly this time of life.
What was your debut show?
I debuted during the 2012 S/S season with Choi Bum Suk’s General Idea and Gu Won Jung’s Unbounded Wave.
How did your friends react?
Since I’m from the countryside, my friends probably thought I really made it big. It’s not something that amazing in Seoul, but I think my friends were proud of me and were happy.
It seems that you prepared a lot for your debut stage. How was it?
In the beginning, I received walking lessons from my current agency K-Plus. The teachers scolded me a lot. I was actually very shy to walk in front of other people. That’s why I did a lot of research at home, I read magazines to study facial expressions and poses. I’m comfortable with photo shoots, but I’m very nervous when I’m doing a show. That’s why I watched a lot of show videos. I learned a lot from watching the way other models walk. However, I realized that just walking once is actually a bigger help than practicing 100 times. I remembered the way people I like walked, I tried to do the same and I monitored myself. I think I studied a lot to figure out how to give off my own vibe.
If you compare yourself between who you are today and you were back then, what changed?
I think I’m able to enjoy a little bit more what I’m doing. I was 100% stressed out in the beginning. Now, I’m able to enjoy the show itself.
When you’re on stage, all eyes are on you. I wonder how it feels.
It’s great. I think I probably became a model because of this feeling. I read an interview of Cha Seung Won-sunbaenim did in the past. He said that every cell in his body comes to life when he walks on the runway. I think I know now which feeling he’s talking about. The most thrilling moment is right before going on the runway. They turn the lights on, the music is blasting and you go out there. I think no word can express properly this feeling.
If you were to choose a designer brand you think that matches your style?
There are many of them like Ko Tae Yong, Kim Seo Ryong, Lee Sang Hyun. I think all the brands I’ve been modeling for so far match my image.
I think each brand has its own characteristics. What would you choose as their characteristic?
First of all, I think Ko Tae Yong’s Beyond Closet has this teenage boy image. When walking, it’s not about being serious, you’re supposed to be smiling. The show I did for Ko Tae Yong was the first time I tried to smile on stage. (smiles) To be honest, I don’t really smile because of my braces, so that made it even more unusual.
Is there a designer brand you really want to walk the runway for?
I think I did all the shows I wanted to do for this collection.
So you reached your goal. What’s your next goal?
I want to do a lot of photo shoots for men magazines. If you can say I was the smiling and lovely Ki Yongie all this time, I’m preparing myself this year by working out and in a short time I will take off my braces. (smiles) My goal is to receive love calls from men magazines to highlight a masculine image.
When did you start wearing braces?
Right after I turned 20. It’s been 2 years and a month now.
People usually get braces when they’re still in school. You started wearing yours a bit late.
I had a snaggletooth. When I was a kid, my father told me it looked pretty. That’s why I didn’t worry too much about it. Then he told me one day “Ki Yong-ah, you must wear braces now because of your snaggletooth and your misaligned teeth”. (smiles) That’s when I started wearing braces.
Your braces became your own trademark.
Indeed. I’m really thankful for my braces. (smiles) I didn’t smile much before because of my braces. However, while I was doing a photo shoot, people told me they really liked them. From that moment, I became confident about smiling and I think I stopped being less and less aware of them when I smile.
How did the staff on set react?
They told me to never remove my braces. (smiles) I think they look good on me for now. I think that’s the reason I got to do so many magazine photo shoots.
You said you will remove them soon. It will be a loss.
Yes. It will be a great loss. My braces brought me so much luck all this time. (smiles)
Recently, you did the TBJ photo shoot with Kim Wong Joong and Jin Jung Sun. I watched the video. The atmosphere really seemed friendly. How was it really?
To be honest, it was very awkward because we’re not close. (smiles) You’ll probably see it if you watch the video, but we’re all smiling, right? That’s because we were awkward. (smiles) Still, I was really happy because I’ve always been a fan of Won Joong-hyung.
I know you worked with Won Joong last year too.
Right. We did a photo shoot together for Beyond Closet last summer. It was a real honor. I’m his fan, so being able to work with someone I respect was amazing. And back then, I told myself that no matter how much I respect him, I must also be professional on set. And I think that’s why the pictures came out well. After that, we didn’t get opportunities to see each other, so when I greeted him at an event, Wong Joong-hyung was also awkward with me. He kept using honorifics while talking to me. (smiles) However, we met at a Saturday event not long after the Fashion Week. He told me “Ki Yong-ah, I will talk to you comfortably now”. I was really happy. (smiles) And Jung Sun is younger than me, but she’s my sunbae in the fashion world. She was already famous through “Supermodel Korea”. At that time, I was a rookie who knew nothing, so just the fact of working with her was a real honor.
We were able to see different sides of your image during the 2013 F/W collection. What did you learn this time?
When I debuted, I just hoped I’d get the chance to do at least one show. This time, I did 11 shows. I was very honoured. I think what I learn this time is that I’m able to enjoy the atmosphere now. Before, I was in a “don’t mess up” mindset. Now, although I still feel nervous, I’m happy. My favorite moment is when they turn on the lights and the music starts. And I think this show allowed me to broaden the vision about myself.
You often take pictures with your fans after a show is over. Do you often do it in your daily life?
Yes. I’m trying to take every picture. To be honest, I think I’m nothing, so it’s weird for me to take pictures with them. Still, I don’t reject them. These people wait outside for me just for one picture. That’s why I’m always trying to give it to them.
Is there a fan you particularly remember?
The one who handles my fanclub is a junior in high school. Not long ago, this person came to one of my shows. I don’t write messages on my fancafé, I don’t give direct replies either. Because I’m too shy. (smiles) I’m not a celebrity. However, this person told me that my fans have another point of view. “If Ki Yong-nim leaves us just one message, we will be able to be even more active”, she said [t/n: I’m just going to assume this person is a woman]. (smiles)
You have never written a direct reply all this time?
Exactly. I have never written anything. Ah! Not long ago, the admin wrote “please, write something”. (smile) I’m very sorry. This fan is a student, so now is the time to be studying. That’s why I wrote one thing. “I really thank you for liking me. However, you’re a student, so I hope you will study hard for now”.
Do you often visit your fancafé?
Of course. I often visit it. Even if it makes me shy when I go there, I’m able to see pictures or videos that I couldn’t see. My fans find everything and upload them. It’s helping me too.
I read articles when you say that Cha Seung Won is your role model. Do you want to get into acting?
Yes. My ultimate goal is to become an actor.
So, are you studying acting right now?
I’m not at the moment. Modeling is my priority right now, so this is what I must work hard on. Later on, when I’m done with braces and when I’m ready for it, I’m planning to start [acting]. However, I don’t know exactly what I should do to actually debut. If the opportunity comes, I definitely want to prepare myself.
You seem to be very close with Park Hyung Seop. How did you two become friends?
We’ve been working together a lot. When we have meetings at the agency, they always bring us in together. The agency tells me “Ki Yong-ah, come today and have a date with Hyung Sup”. (smile) For this season too, we did 4 shows in a day together. We stuck together from morning until evening. It’s really like we’re dating. I mean we grew closer because we get to see each other quite often while working. Our age difference is one year.
It seems that Hyung Seop and you usually give each other feedback. How would you describe Hyung Seop?
He’s cute. (smiles) Hyung is very gentle and his image stands out. That’s why I think he’ll even do better in the future.
Recently, you were in the “Gentleman” music video organized by Arena Homme+. You really had a good grasp of the choreography. How much did you prepare?
I watched the music video for the first time because they told me it would be a “Gentleman” concept. I had heard the song too, but it was my first time actually listening to it closely. However, as soon as I watched the video, I got this “Ah! this is for me!” feeling right away. (smiles) That’s why I stayed true to what I was feeling while filming it.
How was it to work with Park Ji Woon, Ahn Oh and James?
Thankfully, we already knew each other, so it made filming comfortable. I think we worked oddly well together. (smile) I think thtat’s why the video came out well.
If you were to choose what you think makes you special?
Shouldn’t it be my braces? (smiles) Pictures come out better if your mind is at ease. Rather than trying to look charismatic, I do show my braces. I think I’m able to be at ease during photo shoots becuase I smile.
Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com