From a shy little kid who hid behind her mom to a confident, mature grown-up rocking the runway.
Scouted at the age of 5 for TV commercials, city girl Wafa De Korte officially began her modelling career at 17 years old. 7 years down the road, the Kuala Lumpur-raised Dutch-Malay girl shows no sign of quitting (which is great! We’ll be seeing more of her in the coming years). Sitting down and having a conversation with the professional model who has been in the industry for quite a while, who would’ve known that she was once a quiet and timid kid.
Can you tell us more about your approach to modelling?
For me, modelling isn’t just about being glamorous but more of you building up your confidence. At a younger age, I didn’t think that it was my thing because I was a shy kid. When I went out with my mom, she would have to push me to get me talking to people because I was very quiet as a child. What modelling really did for me was that it gave me a huge amount of confidence that I’d never really thought I had inside me.
What are your thoughts on millennial types of modelling, whereby models become more famous by amassing a large following on social media?
I think it really depends on individuals. I know some of the models who are very successful and they don’t have twenty thousand followers on Instagram. Modelling is not just a job, it’s a craft. Again, you have to work for it. If every pretty girl could be a model, then everyone would be supermodels by now, right? I feel the whole idea of modelling is misleading. What people need to know is that modelling isn’t just about posting up beautiful pictures on social media. It’s more about your hard work and how much passion you have towards it.
What’s your take on being a social media influencer?
When I started modelling, Instagram wasn’t a huge thing. I only started my Instagram about 4 years ago. For me, people need to learn there’s a difference between a model who is really modelling and doing her runway shows, going through the hustle of booking the actual jobs than someone who just posts up a cute selfie on Instagram. Sometimes, they can merge both really well, but other times it takes a little bit more because they haven’t gone through the experience, the rejections, and the hardships. Even from print modelling to go into runaway is not that easy. Yes, you may have the look and everything, but experience-wise, your drive, and the way you work will be completely different.
Of course, it feels amazing when you have thousands of likes. We have to realise that what people post up on social media isn’t exactly what’s going on in the real life. There’s a difference. There’s no denying that your likes and following matters but at the end of the day, you don’t need to die for a perfect picture. Personally, for me, that doesn’t really matter. What I like, I post up and if people like it too; it’s amazing, but if they don’t like it; it’s still my social media at the end of the day. I love getting likes on Instagram but I don’t necessarily feel I have to have certain amount of likes in order to validate myself. Business and work-wise, yes sometimes it really helps, but personally, it doesn’t really matter. I use my social media for sort of a promotion but most posts are for people who genuinely want to follow my real life, my family, what I do and all.
“Your profile speaks more than your followers”
In your opinion, does the number of likes following on social media equate to higher success specifically in the modelling industry?
I have heard of clients who look at your following but for me, you can have an amazing, experienced, and very talented model in front of you and she might not have 45k followers on Instagram. You can’t use that to justify your choice of picking her. I know many beautiful girls who don’t have that many followers but they are brilliant models. On the other hand, I know people with 50k followers but when you work with them, they’re not really sure about many things. It depends on you as a client, do you want to base it off from how many followers they have or how well they deliver to get that desired pictures for your advertising? For me, your profile speaks more than your followers.
How do you position yourself in the industry amongst all the other working models who may want to book the same jobs as you?
First of all, I’m not going say that I’m a supermodel. I think the title is bestowed upon you, or you get it when you’ve been working for 20 years. I’ve been in this industry for only 7 years. To be honest, I’m still relatively new and there are still a lot of clients and brands I haven’t worked with. I’m definitely still learning. I don’t even consider myself a senior in the industry. I still want to experience and absorb as much as I can before I even consider myself to be up to par with the big names. Yes, I’ve my years in the industry but I still want to learn more.
A colleague of ours happens to love your makeup. Does it happen to be a passion of yours or do you do it due to your job scope?
(Excited) Oh, I love makeup. I used to steal my mom’s MAC makeup when I was three and hide it in my room. In this industry, you get to work with so many professional makeup artists and hairstylists. I learn so much just from watching them, how they apply different techniques, how different techniques work with you. But when I go for events, I like to do my own makeup because to me I know what works for my face. I’ve been doing my makeup since I was 10, playing around with my mom’s makeup. So I tend to believe that I know my face better than someone who just met you one day and they look at your face and they do what they think is good. I’ve been looking at my face for 24 years (laughs).
“Brains before beauty”
You’ve been modelling at such a young age. How do you balance a successful modelling career and your studies?
While I was studying for my diploma in Mass Communication at SEGI College, I was a full-time student and a full-time model at the same time. For me, I’ve been modelling since high school. During SPM, I even had the competition going on the same exact week. At that time, I used to wake up at 6 am and go for the exam. Later, I came back at 12 pm and went for any photo challenges or runways and finished at 10 pm, continued with tuition until 1am and that continued like for two weeks.
My mom always told me that I had to get something to fall back on at the end of the day. Modelling can get you so far but brains before beauty. Education is always my number one priority. I made it a point to try not to miss any classes, maintain certain CGPA and I had never failed any classes while I was doing my diploma. Another thing is because I was really enjoying the course, it made it so much easier. For me, if you want to do something, make sure you enjoy it because if you don’t, it’s going to be very difficult. Last but not least, know your body well. If you don’t rest and eat well, it’s just going to make things worse.
What’s your future plan? Do you see yourself modelling in the long term?
For now, I really want to stay in modelling industry because that’s just the thing I love doing. The thing about my job is that it’s not the same routine. One day, I wake up and think – “what am I going to do today, what kind of person I want to be, who am I going to meet”. Sometimes, I get to experience what other people don’t get like doing a show for the royalties in a grand ballroom, get to try different outfits, meet and work with different designers different makeup artists, celebrities. I would continue doing modelling and maybe next 5 years I see myself modelling at a higher level maybe travelling to different countries.
Do you have anything you wish our readers could know about you?
First, to me, social media is not a life-controlling. I feel a lot of kids nowadays and people my age are too caught-up with their phones and showing people like their lives are so glamorous and going on a holiday where they totally forget to live in the reality. I know some girls who purposely go for a holiday with 4 different outfits in a day with friends taking their pictures and that completely ruin the whole experience of going on a vacation. Same goes for when we are at the restaurant and when the food arrived, people be like “No one touches this. I need to take a picture.” I’m like “I wanna eat and enjoy my food. I don’t feel like I have to document this, I have to take this”.
Another thing is that I wish for people to know more about the nature of the job and have respect for it. People looking at us modelling and they’ll be like “Your job is so easy. You just have to stand there and look pretty.” It’s not just those. I wish people could see how much effort and hard work being put in to stay relevant and produce what people expect out of us.
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*Featured image courtesy of EvenstarManagement.