Even before she became a UT student, finance senior Ash Kim established a career as a professional model. Now, in addition to being a full-time student, Kim appears in Neiman Marcus catalogs, Korean Harper’s Bazaar and a number of other publications.
Kim got into modeling at 14 after being prompted by her parents to enter a Kim Dawson model search at NorthPark Center in Dallas. Kim was hesitant, at first, to join the world of modeling because, until that point, she had mostly seen models depicted in the media as catty and snobby.
“A solid 99.99 percent are none of those things,” Kim said. “They’re just normal girls who happen to be very tall and thin, who are trying to make it in this world just like the rest of us.”
After getting signed in Dallas, Kim did mostly commercial work, modeling for catalogs such as JCPenney’s. It wasn’t until her family took a trip to South Korea when she was 18 that Kim got her first peek into the world of high-fashion modeling.
“I went to Korea on a family vacation, [and] my mom found an agency there,” Kim said. “They liked me enough, so we negotiated a deal where I would spend all my summers in college in Korea, and I would study abroad in Korea.”
Many of her most memorable photo shoots have occurred during her vacation time, such as her first shoot for Vogue Korea.
“I was super sick, and, at one point, I had to balance on a rock with high heels,” Kim said. “People were tiptoeing on the rocks around me to touch up my hair and makeup, and they were like, ‘These rocks are really unstable. How are you doing this?’”
Kim’s boyfriend, radio-television-film senior Nathan Waters, said Kim’s academic drive is even more impressive than her success in modeling.
“Modeling is just another piece of the pie,” Waters said. “It’s cool to me that she models, but it’s even cooler to me that she’s really smart, driven and hardworking.”
Early on, Kim decided that modeling is not her ultimate career goal.
“I had to do these interviews with all the top agencies, and they all asked, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’” Kim said. “I said, ‘I see myself graduating college,’ and they were like, ‘So why are you here?’”
Kim decided to study finance in order to better understand the business world she became a part of at such a young age. She felt the need to learn how to manage the money she was making through modeling.
“I didn’t just want to stick it in a savings account or try to live paycheck to paycheck,” Kim said.
After spending more than seven years as a model, Kim will soon have a more behind-the-scenes role in the fashion industry. Next October, she plans to start a full-time job in fashion merchandising for Saks Fifth Avenue. Excited about starting a career that includes both fashion and math, Kim doesn’t plan on modeling for much longer.
“I just kind of plan to [keep modeling] until I have to move up to New York,” Kim said. “Although, if I were asked to do a shoot, I would be happy to do it.”