Up-and-coming model Tran Thi Thu Trang (better known as Trang Tran) has blown the lid off the modeling industry by scratching an old wound.
After only four years in modeling, Trang Tran is still considered something of a neophyte. In a sit down interview with Thanh Nien, the Hanoi catwalker said that she's already familiar with both the sweet and bitter sides of the flashy industry.
"I go out to bars and see many leggy and beautiful girls trying to seduce strange guys. They call themselves models, but I've never seen them at any shows. There are also real models, who pretend to be innocent and obedient just to please their big boss. I even know their price. Not only female but also male models prostitute themselves right before they... get married," said Trang Tran.
In interviews with e-newspaper ngoisao. net and Thanh Nien, Trang Tran has come across as a bold whistleblower. She claims she is trying to distinguish the hard-workers from the harlots and bolster the self-confidence of young girls who dream of a career in modeling.
But not everyone sees her that way.
Noted young model Ngoc Quyen, says that Trang Tran's tell-all has only added to the stigma associated with the career. To others like Quyen, Trang Tran is only seeking to draw attention to herself by making scurrilous claims about prostitution in the industry.
Rich, not easy
After graduating from Hanoi's Art College as an actress in 2005, Trang Tran began to model. After two years modeling in Hanoi, she moved to Ho Chi Minh City.
During her first year, Trang Tran tried to make a living as a promotion girl. She did her best to break into fashion shows. In 2008, she decided to take part in the Vietnam Super Model Contest. According to Trang Tran, many people considered her "kind of dotty."
"I took [the criticism] as a sign that people noticed me. The contest led to greater recognition and more shows. I had a job and I felt respected: a self-made woman."
Trang Tran says she doesn't have a beautiful face and perfect body. But she's tall (1.74 meters) and leggy.
"When you are living in a place which has many talented beauties like Saigon, you have to work hard, especially if you're a freelance model like me. I tried to improve both my wardrobe and knowledge. I felt good when people noticed the difference in my strides," said Trang Tran. She often felt discouraged by the underside of her seemingly glamorous world.
Trang Tran has been frustrated, lately, by the tendency for models to show up to fashion shows sporting luxury items they obviously can't afford.
"Everyone in the fashion world knows that the average model can't afford a Hermes bag that costs tens-of-thousands-dollars, not to mention a car or a house. It is not easy to become rich," said Trang Tran.
A few years ago, the modeling industry was rocked by allegations that cover girls were turning tricks to advance their careers. Business dinners stretched into entire evenings. Singers and actresses were swept into the scandal.
Trang Tran said the best way to protect her reputation is to expose wrongdoing.
She says that when she received calls from bosses offering thousands of dollars in exchange for sex, she just laughed and hung up.
Lately the calls have been threatening, she says. She is not afraid.
"In general, the modeling world is full of bad blood, but there is nothing to fear when you can stand on your own two feet. I plan to quit the biz in coming years, when it is not suitable anymore. But I'm not looking for a sugar daddy," said Trang Tran.
According to local designers and models, Trang Tran's claims are bold and risky.
Designer Van Thanh Cong says that Trang Tran has taken a bold risk by speaking out.
"The top models stay clear [of dirty dealings], but I know some normal models did take the body deal," Cong said. "The solution now is to think of modeling as a real profession with qualifications - just like any other job."
According to singer Truc Diem (aka Miss Fashion of the Miss Earth Contest 2007), Trang Tran is one of the rare models who stands up and fights for justice.