Fashion show producer and model Jessica Minh Anh is an expert in transforming the world's most iconic venues into phenomenal catwalks. Before her most recent "floating catwalk" on the River Seine in Paris in October, Jessica created the world's first solar-powered catwalk at the award-winning solar plant Gemasolar in Sevilla, Spain in July. Other world-famous places such as the Eiffel Tower in France, the Tower Bridge in London, One World Trade Center, Gardens by the Bays Skyway in Singapore and the Petronas Twin Towers' Skybridge in Malaysia have been featured in her work. During her recent visit to Viet Nam, the Ha Noi-born woman chatted with Nguyen Thuy Hang
about her unique work.
Inner Sanctum: When you were young what did you first want to do?
When I was young, I was very interested in event organising. I've actually been organising events all my life. And because I've studied piano and fine arts, I've just wanted to do something related to art or build up a career in entertainment.
I started organising events, including entertainment, sport and musical theatre and then a little bit fashion, when I was at Ha Noi University of Science and Technology. And then I continued when I was at the Petronas University of Technology, and then in the University of Birmingham.
Inner Sanctum: How did you get started in modelling?
Well, honestly thanks to my height [1,75m] and I just started in modelling in the UK when I was there as a student, I started to get to know a lot of designers and other people in the industry.
Inner Sanctum: What are the best and worst parts of being a model?
I think I always focus on positive things, so I would like to say there is not anything really bad or negative about doing what I do. I think the best part is to be able to express yourself and push yourself to the limit so you can see your ability to transform designers' ideas into photos and videos. And at the same time, you meet with a lot of interesting people in the industry who are very talented and also very hardworking.
I think the challenge is that I'm not able to do very many things at the same time as being a model. I'm also a catwalk producer. I have a very hectic schedule, as we produce three shows per year in three different countries, so being able to balance my life is a little bit challenging sometimes.
Inner Sanctum: I am exhausted just thinking about all the things you have accomplished. How do you maintain your energy?
Actually, I think when you do what you love, it doesn't seem like you are really working or you have to do work. You just feel like you are enjoying yourself, doing what you love and even when you get a little bit tired, sometimes you don't even feel it.
I also think when you treat people who work with you in a very positive and professional way, they will be very happy. Once people around you are happy, you will get a push in terms of energy, and then you will be happy as well.
Inner Sanctum: Why did you choose to organise your shows in the world's most iconic venues?
My show at the celebrity destination Savoy in London in June 2011 was very successful. The event drew the attention of the media, including the BBC and The Independent. At that point I realised that if I keep doing another show in another venue on the ground, it is going to be less impressive.
Honestly, I want to raise my profile both in the fashion and event industry. I was looking up and I saw London's Tower Bridge, which then became my catwalk stage. Actually, the show defined my career because it was the first time I made a catwalk at an iconic venue. After that show I realised that I could continue with the world's symbolic monuments. In addition, it's my principal that I want to be the first in whatever I do, so there is no point in doing something less impressive.
Inner Sanctum: Can you name some of the other venues that you've thought of for your upcoming shows?
Actually, we do not unveil the venue until we do the show, so it's always a secret. People have been following my travels and they have been guessing which venue I'll use next.
I recently travelled to places such as Rio de Janero and Rome. I also have plans to travel to India and Peru, so people have been guessing because there are many famous monuments in those places. I'm quite good at keeping secrets and making sure people will be very surprised.
I can guarantee that the three shows I'm going to do in 2016 will be very interesting and meaningful.
Inner Sanctum: What is the main purpose of your Viet Nam trip?
I haven't been back to Viet Nam for a long time so I wanted to see my family.
During this visit, I also met with students of some universities for networking. Alongside my shows, I run an internship programme and I have been training students from all around the world for years. I work with thousands of students from universities in the US, the UK, Italy, Spain and many other countries.
When I am with students, we talk about the process of being foreign students and about the challenges foreign students have to deal with when they are abroad. I also give them the opportunity to ask a lot of questions that might be important to them, especially at the time when they start to shape their lives and careers. I hope I can give them some motivation and realistic, down-to-earth advice. It's great when I can help or inspire someone.
Inner Sanctum: Do you have any plans to organise a show in Viet Nam? If yes, what locations have you thought about?
Viet Nam has a lot of natural wonders. I think the most famous one is Ha Long Bay, because that is the one that the world has been looking at and admiring for a long time. For now, I don't have a definite plan of when and what I want to do in Viet Nam but I definitely want to do something.
Inner Sanctum: What's the best piece of advice you can give to young models who want to follow in your footsteps?
First of all, it is quite important to find out if you have the qualifications that the industry is looking for. Once you have those qualities, then it is important to work with a well-established agency who can push your career forward. Nowadays it is a very open world so you can work within your country or you can try and find other opportunities abroad as well. You should never limit yourself to only one thing. You need to start exploring and taking some risks. And at the same time, it is important to always maintain a very good attitude at work. Basically, be professional all the time; also equip yourself with the knowledge of the industry.
Inner Sanctum: What is your favourite way to unwind?
I'm quite good at motivating myself to stay calm most of the time. That's why I do not find my job extremely difficult, although in fact it is quite hectic. I've always managed to find the way out of stress. I work most of the time, so I think my job is my entertainment, too, but whenever I don't work and have free time, I usually to go to the cinema. I'm a crazy cinema addict and I've watched all the latest movies.
Inner Sanctum: Where can people see more of Jessica Minh Anh?
I have a tumblr page (http://jessicaminhanh.tumblr.com) that's updated frequently. It is basically a website where people can get news and photos of all my shows. — VNS