Sunday, May 16, 2010

International Artist Profile
for Eloquence Magazine, May 2010

The Geeky Model
by Michelle Viljoen

Whether it’s Beijing, Paris, Amsterdam, or the internet’s business domain, Anina manages to crossover to each in style.

Getting discovered
It’s the story many young aspiring models dream of being able to tell their friends, family, and entertainment news reporters - that of getting your modeling talents discovered by the right person.

Anina was working in a healthfood store in New York when a stylist noticed her and asked for a photoshoot. Anina agreed to the shoot, setting a chain of events in place which recently landed her the Top Foreign Model in China award.

This girl from Michigan has become a supermodel who regularly flies between continents for modeling work, can speak five languages, and runs her own fashion business online.

“Of course every girl has the dream to be a top model. Modeling is a great way to see the world, to grow up, experience cultures and more,” Anina says.

The modeling world
While some people might have fears for young girl’s well-being in the modeling world where they are under constant pressure to stay in shape, while so far away from their family’s support, Anina speaks positively of the impact modeling has had on her life.

“I think modelling is like the old finishing schools where women would learn to dress and act in high society. Thanks to modelling I speak five languages, I know how to dress well, and I can speak to anyone from a busker on the streets of Paris to the marquee of Spain.”

Those language skills would come in handy as Anina has spent the past two years jetting between Paris, Amsterdam, New York, and China. Moving to China was a strategic move.

“I felt the economic crisis coming and thought this would be a great new market to work in during this period.”

Taking the east by storm
Arriving in China as the country’s first foreign top model was an exciting experience both for Anina and the Chinese.

“On photoshoots it's kind of crazy. Clients get so excited because the level of photos I'm doing really bring their brand level up to a higher standard. They often start chanting "Anina, supermodel! Supermodel!"

Modeling in China has its differences to modeling in New York, a city that has long been in the fashion and modeling business.

“[It is] a developing country, so they are not all up to the global industry standard. I still have to remind them that I am vegetarian and I have to set-up the change room, ask for heat or cool depending on the weather, put something on the floor to keep my feet clean, ask for water, and to go to the W.C.”

At the same time that Anina is sharing her experience with her Chinese colleagues, she is also learning from them.

“As it is, I am working with all the top photographers in China. So, I am very honoured to learn about their style and they really are top quality.”

The workload in China is another thing Anina had to get used to. She has gone from doing a maximum of six to eight shots per day, in New York, to 50 to 100 shots per day, in China.

“You have to learn, as a model, to be fast and efficient... it’s a great training ground.”

Having top foreign models in China seems to be a recent development. “Sometimes I look around in China and think ‘Is that a model?’”

She attributes China’s lack of top models to low modeling rates and a modeling industry that is still in its infancy. “Only models in Hong Kong are my competition because many top models go to work in Hong Kong.”

She probably has one-up on her competition as Anina isn’t only a successful model, she is also a business savvy tecchie. Apart from the economic crisis driving Anina to China, she also saw it as an opportunity to promote her company 360Fashion Network.

“Modeling, for me, is a way to get to know the market and the people, so that I can work with them at a later date for my company. It gives me staying power.”

Anina describes 360Fashion Network as a digital marketing tool for the fashion industry to enter the new media marketing space and reach a global audience. It’s a network of fashion professionals who use their mobile phones to create online media by posting content and thereby getting their brand noticed.

These days her time is spent doing modeling and running 360Fashion. Doing the work you love, is something Anina says is possible for any woman to achieve.

“I think the world needs more women CEO’s. Also, women can wear many hats in their day and I feel it’s important to show that you can be beautiful, technological, and entrepreneurial as a woman.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

Local Artist Profile
for Eloquence Magazine, January 2009
A Dynamic DJ Duo
by Michelle Viljoen

It makes their audience happy. And it makes them happy. It’s a great job, it's the life of a DJ.

Only a few months after partnering up as a DJ team, DJ’s Unjin and Mang Esilo managed to qualify for the final round of the Miller Fresh M DJ Contest in Seoul.

While the kind of electronic music they produce has yet to become very popular in Korea they are working hard to keep doing their dream job – dj’ing and making music.

Unjin and Mang Esilo met two years ago. They began talking music and eventually realised their shared interest can become a combined initiative. They started performing as a DJ-duo a few months ago.

When the Miller Fresh M DJ Contest came round they took part and recently made it past the semi-final phase.  The final is on December 31 at the W Hotel. “We are planning to incorporate sounds from nature into the set,” say Unjin.

Unjin is into futuristic music. “You have to create your own sound. With the nature music you can get in touch with the music,” he says.

Both DJ’s have been involved in music for years. Mang Esilo started dabbling with music from a home studio. Unjin started his music career in an indie rock band, then became interested in house and finally techno.

It’s hard to make a living with this kind of music, says Mang Esilo. This is partly because their kind of music is not very popular in Korea. “We want to go overseas. We’d love to do a world tour to places like Canada and Spain.”

Even they don’t eat well because making a living off this music is hard, they do love it and will keep doing it because “it makes people happy”.
Local Artist Profile
for Eloquence Magazine, January 2009

Just Dance!
by Michelle Viljoen

Sleep is a luxury. Coffee keeps him going. The life of a choreographer in Seoul isn’t only fun and fame. As Chang-Hoon Lee knows well, it’s a lot of hard work.

Chang-Hoon has been a choreographer for more than a decade. He has worked with big names in Korea, like Rain, the Wondergirls, Drunken Tiger, and 2PM. These days he can be found in his studio, the Noah Art Studio in Seoul, doing anything but taking it easy.

Before the fame, it was a simple ad for a dancing group in a local newspaper that awoke his interest in dancing. This interest was further nurtured by his grandmother. He remembers the day she brought home Michael Jackson’s Thriller – which has inspired his dancing since. “My grandmother fully supported my dancing. She was also creative and artistic.”

Making a breakthrough in the dancing community was helped by being talented and the role of his former teacher, Young-Jin Yoo, a well-known composer. Yoo gave him the opportunities he needed to get his foot in the entertainment business.

His most memorable performance came early in his career. In his early twenties, Chang-Hoon found himself responsible for S.E.S’s dance choreography for their first concert. He had to train 20 people. “For about a month before the concert we worked really hard. I was pretty nervous about it, but the concert well,” he remembers fondly.

A few years later Chang-Hoon again helped a now famous Korean artist on his first album. Rain and Chang-Hoon worked together from 2001 until 2002. “Rain is one of my favourite artists to work with. He is always prepared and passionate about the job. Even if he could sleep for only 2 hours, he would still be ready.” Rain’s passion for dance inspired Chang-Hoon and the two dancers gelled together very well.

Shortly after his success with these Korean stars, Chang-Hoon entered military service. When he completed his military service in 2002, he decided to focus on training and opening his own studio.

Since he started training students, Chang-Hoon realised that being a teacher is a two-way street. “I train students, but I can also learn from them. That’s why I value good communication with my students.”

When he has time, Chang-Hoon is also working on developing a new genre of dancing. One that takes its inspiration from dancing, drama and the circus.

His own style is inspired by music. “I don’t want to copy the western style of dancing. I enjoy listening to new music. And my style changes with the music. “

Chang-Hoon expresses emotions through dance, but it’s something he feels is limited with the available K-pop. “Most of the songs are about the same emotion – love.” A place where he has been able to touch on different dance expressions, has been the musical, Hi Dharma!, an adaptation from the Korean movie that he is currently doing the choreography for.

“Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to sleep. There are too many things going on in my head. There are so many things I want to learn about and things that I want to do.”

“I don’t necessarily plan too far ahead. I think about the present and I work hard on what’s happening now.”

Dancing takes up most of his time and effort, but he doesn’t see it as something he loves. Instead it’s a part of him. “It’s my life. When I started dancing it filled a loneliness in my life. I found myself through dancing and I met people who became part of my development, through dancing.”

International Artist Profile
for Eloquence Magazine, December 2009.
Suit Up!
by Michelle Viljoen

He’s the guy in the suit. Silently standing, watching, hands folded. He is Suitman. And he is the embodiment of social alienation.

Young Kim first donned the Suitman suit two decades ago. Since then the Kim/Suitman creative collaboration has produced thousands of photos and worn through about 900 suits.

For Kim the suit started out as only that –a piece of clothing. But it soon became the material representation of his resistance against alienation.

Having been born and raised in Seoul, his first cultural identity was Asian. When he moved to the United States as a young boy, he became Asian-American. Something he describes as having two cultures in one skin, with neither one quite fitting.

While in the USA he regarded himself as American, but “people who could see me could not accept me as American, because of the way I look”.

When he returned to Asia in later years, the alienation from society was still there, but in reverse.

“My face fitted but my ‘Western’ persona did not. This circle, which my return to Asia had completed, eliminated the possibility of fitting in anywhere.”

Then came Suitman. Kim’s relocation to a new job left him feeling isolated from his surroundings. “The motivation for choosing a suit as a ‘uniform’, to see me through this period of disconnection, was vague and unclear to me. Several thousand photos later, the ‘suit’ as resistance from alienation became more solid.”

Suitman and Kim have the “the freedom to create [their] own world anywhere and everywhere.

They don’t have to try to fit in anywhere. And somehow the images of the man in the suit who stands out from his surroundings is something people can often relate to.

“Suitman represents a universal message. He is an agent, transcending and questioning the notion of identity, time and place, fiction and reality.”

Suitman has already been to at least six continents and to about 150 cities. Out of these places Kim recalls Hong Kong, New York, London, and Paris as the easiest places to adapt to. “There are diverse ethnic groups of people from all over in those cities. That makes us feel less like a foreigner.”

In preparation for Suitman’s 20th anniversary, they have recently traveled to Australia, New Zealand, North and South America, and Ethiopia to film a collection of short films for this.

Kim considers traveling the best education because “...we are always learning and observing from each other.

“Everywhere we go. We are all the same kind. Humankind.”

In Ethiopia Kim recalls how happy people there seemed. “It was amazing to see people so happy and respectful to each other. It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor...”

During the past 20 years, Suitman hasn’t changed much, says Kim. “He’s just more experienced in travel and has more friends.”

Suitman and Kim have become a creative collaboration. Suitman products are available, they are working on children’s travel shows, a new collection of suits, and DJ street sessions.

“When you love what you do, there’s no separate line between business and personal life. I am fortunate enough to utilize my past experience as advertising creative to market my own art and brand.”

And something Suitman hopes people learn from his experience is to “be yourself! Have respect for yourself and others. Follow your own drum beat!”

Mnet Asia Music Awards (MAMA) 09
for Eloquence Magazine, December 2009.

MAMA rocks!
by Michelle Viljoen

There was music, there was dancing, there were many excited schoolgirls and a much talked about onstage almost-kiss between Ivy and Nikgun, 2pm heartthrob. It was the 2009 Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA) held recently in Seoul.

Popular songs turned into mini-musicals, an elaborate stage and a line-up of some of Korea’s biggest stars kept audience members entertained during breaks from the actual awards presentation.

The evening’s performances were kicked-off by a booming performance by Drunken Tiger, sending hundreds of schoolgirls into a frenzy of screams not five minutes after the show started. And it didn’t stop.

The audience’s loud enthusiasm lasted until the end pitching at every sight of G-Dragon (who performance of Heartbreaker was followed by a ‘duel’ with Tae-Yang).

When 2NE1 came to the stage for a musical skit of “I don’t care” the audience kept cheering and it reached a feverish climax when Ivy was bent over Nichkun putting her lips very close to his during their performance.

Leading current Korean artists, like Epik High, Kim Tae-Woo and Seo, In-Young wrapped up the performances with a tribute to veteran singer Sim, Soo-Bong.

The night’s other big winners were 2NE1 (Song of the Year – “I don’t care”, Best New Female Group, and Best Music Video), 2PM (Artist of the Year, and Best Male Group), and G-Dragon (Album of the Year).

Other winners:

Best New Male Group – Supreme Team

Best Dance – Kara (Honey)

Best Male Solo Artist – Drunken Tiger

Best Female Solo Artist – Baek, Ji-Young

Best Female Group – Brown Eyed Girls

Best House and Electronic – Brown Eyed Girls

Best Ballade, R&B – Kim, Tae-Woo

Best Asian Star – TVXQ

Best Asian Composer – Park, Jin-Young

Best Trot – Hong, Jin-Young

Best Mixed Group – Eight(8)

Best Hip Hop – Leesang

Best Rock – Boo Hwal

International Artist Profile
for Eloquence magazine, November 2009.
Justin M Maller - Exploring freelance
by Michelle Viljoen

Freelancing is responsibility. Freelancing is freedom. Freelancing is nipping off work to go buy an awesome pair of sneakers for you sneaker collection without having to explain it anyone.

“I’ve actually had to ban myself from buying high-tops,” says Justin, from Australia. “I reckon they look heaps better on the shelf, but I always get so much more burn out of the lows.”

When Justin M Maller is not indulging his sneaker addiction, he is in front of his computer, working as a freelance digital artist.

Justin’s success as an illustrator is notable, as his major at university was in creative writing. “I am self taught in illustration... I got my first copy of Photoshop 4 back in 1998, and have been playing around with it ever since.

By the time he graduated university in 2006, Justin was already booking his first freelance jobs. Soon he decided to quit his job to freelance full-time. Work started off on an un-glamorous note with mostly editorial work, but Justin had only to wait before he started booking small scale illustration work. Nowadays, he gets to work on some “pretty excellent” projects.

He has also found the time to work on an artistic collective called Depthcore Collective. He co-founded the group with fellow artist, Kevin Stacey. to create an artist’s collective with a 3D and abstract vision. “It seemed to me as if the internet had been custom designed to facilitate interaction and collaboration between artists across the globe.”

Justin calls himself an “unaffected artist” as he hardly ever looks at what other artists in his field produce. “I simply sit down and create the things that occur to me – as such I feel that my work stands on its own, and doesn’t come off as inspired or influenced by other illustrators.

Justin takes pride in quality work and spends time experimenting and refining new techniques in his work. His inspiration comes from anything and everything he comes across in his daily life.

“I would hope that my approach to my work creates my signature more than any specific content or execution.”

It this individual signature that attracts clients to his work, Justin says. “Most clients come to me because they want my style of work, so even jobs that are rather guided still afford me a greater deal of freedom than I expect a lot of designers enjoy”.

Freelancing has paid-off well for Justin, but he admits it has its ups and downs. “There is only one person to do whatever work you take on; if you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done, and the buck stops with you.”

He says this immense freedom is one of the bigger challenges of working as a freelancer. “Having no oversight and no enforced structure is something that I think a lot of freelancers struggle with initially; they’re challenges to be reckoned with.

After some years as a solitary freelancer, Justin has learnt to deal with these challenges in his own way. “They’re offset by some pretty wicked plus sides – I don’t have to wear pants if I’m not inclined, and I can nick off to buy some sneakers whenever I feel like it.”