Spotlight: Chen Yu, New York Based Model

By Dominic Ngai, July 7, 2016

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Spotlight is a regular series where we feature a prominent person in the style scene. This month we speak with Chen Yu, a New York based model.

Chen Yu

Tell us how you became a model.
Back in 2011, a model friend took me along to a fashion show casting during Shanghai Fashion Week. Surprisingly, I booked the show (for an English fashion label); because of that, many modeling agencies started approaching me and I eventually signed with one of them in 2012. I was sent to Hong Kong for a few months to build up my portfolio. And from then, I became a full time model.

What was your first big break?
I think it was when I just started modeling when I had the opportunity to shoot for Elle, a magazine that I read very regularly and had always wanted to appear in it one day. There were six models at that shoot and it was a big production. It was my first fashion editorial and they gave me a full-page. Can you imagine how I felt back then?

What was the most memorable job that you’ve done?
No modeling job is exactly the same; they are all different and some are quite ‘crazy,’ but I enjoy all of it. Sometimes a job brings you to places that you wouldn’t go normally. Or, you get to meet super talented photographers and art directors, and I get very inspired working with them.

What was your first impression of New York? Why did you end up moving there?
I first came to New York in 2013. Back then, I just wanted to travel to different cities and experience different cultures, but I never would have thought that I would be based here one day. One of the agencies there wanted to meet me, and eventually signed me on. For the next two years, I traveled back and forth between Shanghai and New York for different jobs. But my agent always said to me, if a model wants to do well in New York, they should be in the city as much as possible. So in the beginning of this year, I finally decided to move to here permanently.

How is working in NYC different from working in China?
The people in New York are more ‘crazy,’ in a good way, of course. The ways that they understand beauty are different. It’s difficult to put in words; it’s something that you need to feel and experience yourself.

Chen Yu

What’s your day-to-day life like living and working as a model in NYC? Do you fall into a set routine?
It’s kind of similar to China. If I don’t have a job that day, I’ll go to castings for future potential clients. Sometimes, you won’t know what your next day is like until the day before, so it’s quite hard to have a set routine. But I’m really enjoying it at the moment.

Is being of Asian/Chinese descent an advantage or a disadvantage for a model?
I think no matter what ethnicity you are, you all get the same chances [of booking a job]. Castings are very competitive here because New York is one of the fashion capitals and many models are based here. At the end of the day, it’s all about whether you’re a good model or not.

What are some upcoming projects that you’re working on?
The Resort 2017 shows are happening now, and I am going to be in a few of them. As always, however, we often won’t know our schedules until the very last minute. But I’m excited to know what I am going to do next.

Chen Yu

Tell us a few places that we must go to when we visit NYC.
I really like High Line Park – an elevated walkway built on an abandoned railway that runs through the Lower West Side of Manhattan (Meatpacking District, Chelsea, etc.). I also love the Dia:Beacon, a museum in Upstate New York (an hour’s drive away from Manhattan). It’s one of my favorite art spaces in New York. Williamsburg is one of the coolest areas, and I often love to spend time there during the weekend. There are so many good brunch places, coffee shops and flea markets with interesting knick-knacks.

Follow Chen Yu at her website,, or on Instagram at @yu_chen

For more Spotlight posts, click here.

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