JUNG HOYEON: FIRST EAST ASIAN ON VOGUE COVER
The Korean model-turned-actress is featured on Vogue's February cover.
When Hoyeon Jung landed in Los Angeles for the first time in over a year, she noticed that something had changed in the air. She was immediately asked for her autograph after going through the immigration desk.
A few days later, she went to the Beverly Hills Hotel in a casual denim shirt and a blue Henley, and her hair was styled in a low ponytail. The maître d'hôtel slid a frothy latte with a milk-foam-rendered Kang Sae-bye on top of it, her character from the TV series Squid Game.
The series, which came out in the fall of 2021, became the most-viewed show on Netflix. Among the cast of established South Korean actors, Jung was the breakout. "Sae-byeok-y coffee, isn't that crazy? My entire life changed in just one month," she said during her interview with Vogue.
Within three weeks after her Instagram follower count started to rise, she had reached 15 million, and her name has been mentioned in a stream of memes and clips that have amassed 3.5 billion views on TikTok. At the time, she was stunned by her sudden success and spent time in Los Angeles with various Hollywood agents.
A bit about Hoyeon
Hoyeon was born in Seoul and grew up in a household with two sisters. Her father owns a roadside restaurant known as Oori Nara. Hoyeon inherited her love for cooking from her father, who prepares dishes as fresh as he can get.
She was always a tomboy who loved exploring the mountains and streams east of Seoul. She still enjoys driving in that direction. She also likes to go to a more traditional and grungy place. "Personally, I like to go a little more traditional and grungy—where the food is so delicious," she said.
When she was a girl, she didn't have an interest in fashion or modeling. After being told that she was tall, she decided to give it a try. At 19, she landed on Korea's Next Top Model, a program that launched the country's most famous faces. It was a baptism by fire for placing second. She struggled a lot with criticism because of her low self-esteem then.
Hoyeon was a favorite of Korean editors due to her hard work and determination. In six months, she signed with The Society, dyed her hair in the brilliant shade of vermilion, and she lived in a studio on 34th Street in Koreatown. It was her first time moving away from home.
Despite her struggle to get natural light into her apartment, she loved New York more than ever. "The sun never came in, and there was no closet, so I kept my clothes on a rack," Hoyeon said. The city made her feel like she had a home and showed her that there are people who are okay with her flaws.
The rise of Hoyeon as a model
In 2016, she caught the attention of Nicolas Ghesquire, the artistic director of Louis Vuitton's women's collections. He was impressed by her smile, impeccable red hair, and elegant way of moving.
Hoyeon was held as an exclusive, which meant she spent multiple days waiting for the fittings. The day she stepped out of the building, which was still unfinished, she became one of the country's top models. She would go on to shoot for campaigns for various other brands such as Juergen Teller, Tim Walker, Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, and Chanel.
The last time Hoyeon walked a runway was in December 2019, and it was a bittersweet moment for her as she saw her career crest and fall. It was also a time when she had fewer and fewer jobs.
Now, the Korean model graces the cover of Vogue's February issue. It is the first time that an East Asian has ever appeared on the magazine's prestigious cover. In 2019, Indian actress Priyanka Chopra became the first-ever Asian to receive an American Vogue cover.
The model-turned-actress also discussed her career goals and how she would like to continue working in acting. She also mentioned that the success of her film, Squid Game, has changed her mindset, and she is now focused on telling a story that is more important than anything else.
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