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Why Asia’s Next Top Model host, Cindy Bishop, says #DontTellMeHowToDress

“The main cause of sexual assault isn’t from the way a woman dresses…”

Cindy Bishop is a model, mother and, more importantly, a supporter of women’s rights in Asia. The 39-year-old Thai-American model, who took home the Miss Thailand World title in 1996 and subsequently represented Thailand in the Miss World competition, started a campaign titled #DontTellMeHowToDress in June this year.

The movement's purpose is spelt out in its name — it aims to stop the thinking that all women must dress appropriately to avoid sexual harassment. “The main cause of sexual assault isn’t from the way a woman dresses or how she behaves,” says Bishop. “[It stems] from a sense of male entitlement, and [how perpetrators typically get away scot-free, looking at] the percentage of them who never have to face any justice, based on a comprehensive study from the UN women.”

She also learned from the Trial of Rape study in Thailand and Vietnam conducted by UN Women that an alarming 91 per cent of victims said they knew their attackers. But in reality, many of these victims never spoke up. That’s why Bishop partnered UN Women in June and July 2018 to organise an exhibition titled #DontTellMeHowToDress — Social Power Exhibition Against Sexual Assault.

“This is to [promote] public awareness on this issue, and hopefully find ways to reduce both the culture of victim-blaming as well as encouraging victims to speak up and seek justice,” explains Bishop. 

This month, Bishop will be back on our television screens as the host of Asia’s Next Top Model, which is into its sixth season. Ahead of the premiere on 22 August 2018, we spoke with her about empowering models, facing roadblocks and recommending the best places to visit in Thailand.

How has the modelling world evolved in the past decade?

Cindy Bishop (CB): Perhaps the most obvious difference is that everything is much more fast-paced and short-lived. Not just the actual production process, which is now all digital, but the length and nature of advertising campaigns are both much shorter and change frequently. As with almost every industry, knowing how to navigate this fast-paced industry can be a challenge.

The rise and influence of social media has greatly changed the modelling scene. Not only are there more opportunities for a model to be discovered, there are so many channels for him or her to establish their own brand, and use that to their advantage. 

These days, modelling is not just about looks and performance on stage or in front of a camera — it is just as important to be able to represent who you are as a person, what you stand for and how you wish to be represented. In a way, this increases available opportunities, as well as competition, for an upcoming model. The important thing is how to differentiate yourself in a social media-saturated market; how to be unique and memorable.

What is it like being a Thai-American model in the Asian fashion industry? Did you face any roadblocks?

CB: When I first started out, I was told I looked too “farang” or Caucasian. I remember always having to wear brown-coloured contact lenses for my ad campaigns and shoots.

There was a period of time when the trend was more Asian and ethnic and I felt I didn't really fit any of the looks they wanted. However, my confidence and versatility on the catwalk seemed to help, and soon I started to make a name for myself.

I believe it’s important for an upcoming model to realise that in this industry, there will always be someone saying you are not what they are looking for, or that you do not fit the “trend” of the moment.

What can be done to empower models in their jobs?

CB: I would recommend really taking some time to envision where you see yourself in the industry and what kind of model you want to become. There are so many areas that you can explore, from edgy-editorial to more lifestyle or commercial. I'm not saying to just limit yourself to any one; however, it’s good to create your own unique brand if you can — and to bring an element of your personal identity to your work.

Setting short-term and long-term career goals is always a good idea to make sure you continue to learn and expand your horizons. The more life experiences and knowledge you have, the better model you can be, because you can use those lessons and draw on those experiences for your craft.

And do take the time to hone your craft as you would with any other career. If you need extra classes for walking or more practice in a certain area, then make time to do so. Also, make personal fitness and health an integral part of your daily routine. Good models are fit and healthy.  

What’s the heart-breaking moment you’ve had while working as a model?

CB: There was one time I was just about to do the cover shot for a magazine, when I received a phone call notifying me that my friend had just passed away. It was the hardest thing to control my emotions till I had finished the shoot. Sometimes you have to power through and get the job done before losing it. 

"Sometimes you have to power through and get the job done before losing it."  

What’s your top tip for posing in front of the camera?

CB: Know your best light and angles and try to connect with the camera through your eyes.  

When it comes to beauty, what are some products you’re most obsessed with?

CB: They are:

- Shu Uemura cleansing oil to remove my makeup.

- Philip B Peppermint Avocado Shampoo and Forever Shine Conditioner. I love how my scalp feels after using the shampoo. Great for stripping all the product build-up!

- La Mer Moisture Soft Lotion. I love, love, love this one!

- Lucas Papaw Ointment for my chapped lips and cuticles. I carry a tube with me at all times.

What three must-dos would your recommend to travellers in Thailand?

CB: Take a canal tour in Bangkok, with a stop at Bangkok Artist House to watch the traditional puppet show and enjoy a bowl of beef boat noodles.

Railay Beach in Krabi is a haven for backpackers, rock climbers and pleasure seekers (make sure you climb the giant cave for some stunning views overlooking the bay).

Enjoy a traditional Northern Thai dinner at Thai Lao Yeh restaurant at the Cabochon Hotel, followed by drinks and dancing at Sing Sing Theater which is just down the road. 

Lastly, describe your typical work outfit.

CB: Jeans, T-shirt, a jacket and sneakers.

Asia’s Next Top Model, Season 6, premieres 22 August 2018, 9pm, on FOX Life, Singtel TV channel 301 and StarHub TV channel 501.


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