Picture courtesy of oknation.net

Being an Asian model and having international stardom is a huge achievement. I can count on one hand the number of Asian models with international recognition – Hye Park, Ai Tominaga, Liu Wen, Emma Pei and Han Jin.

One in particular who has attained stardom and caught my attention is Du Juan. The willowy, pouty Shanghainese is the first Asian supermodel that has graced the cover of French Vogue.

Picture courtesy of Models.com

“It was the first time we put an Asian on the cover, and it was a special Shanghai issue, so I think we sent a message,” says Carine Roitfeld, editor-in-chief of French Vogue. “I think it’s very fashionable to use Asian girls. They are a particular beauty. Their skin is amazing, and they are very delicate, and they are very graceful.” The Wall Street Journal

A former ballerina, Du Juan trained at the prestigious Shanghai Academy of Dance but eventually grew too tall to find a partner. She went on to participate in the Ford Supermodel Competition and won first place in the East China region. This was followed by winning the title of Miss China in 2003. The next year she started modeling full time and realized that modeling jobs were not easy to come by claiming, “I went to a lot of interviews and sometimes got kicked out.” Her big break came when she appeared on the premier issue of Chinese Vogue with Gemma Ward and other top Chinese models.

Picture courtesy of Vogue.cn According to the Daily Mail (UK), it was the photo shoots for American ‘glossies’ Allure and W which propelled her into the Western spotlight. She instantly became hot property among the designers and graced the catwalk of Chanel, Valentino, LV, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier and Oscar de la Renta. In 2006, Style.com declared her one of the top ten models to watch. Du Juan appeared on the cover of the 2006 TIME Magazine Style & Design with fellow model Coco Rocha. She was also featured in advertising campaigns for Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Benetton, Swarovski and Gap.

Picture Courtesy of Time.com

In mainland China, Du Juan is considered a role model to some having appeared in many magazine covers, editorial, fashion shows and events. I had the rare opportunity to meet her at the launch of the 2008 Pirelli Calendar as she was chosen to model for it. She is stunning, well mannered and very poise. Looks like I’m not the only who thinks so, as Joanne Ooi (Creative Director of upmarket Hong Kong fashion label Shanghai Tang) was reported to state, “She’s unspoiled, modest, thoroughly professional, never a complaint.”

I hope this article paves way for Du Juan to be on your “Models To Watch” list because she is definitely on mine.

More information on Du Juan can be found on Style.com.

Written by Ai Mei