What began as a two mouth internship for the Thai-Finnish Chamber of Commence has now turned into a permanent relocation to Bangkok, where she now has made successful modelling career for herself in Thai, Japanese and European catalogues. Pirta Kähärä from Helsinki is not afraid to catch an opportunity when its there.
“Modelling is certainly not as glamorous as it appears in the magazines, but it really has been a valuable experience and a great way to network. Despite what some people might think there are no cat-fights among the models, actually most girls I have met in the industry have been very friendly and inspirational.” the 24-year-old Finn says.
From beauty-queen to professional model
Pirta Kähärä is no stranger to the flashing photographers. Before moving to Bangkok she appeared in small ads, shows and attended beauty-contests in her native country. But it was not until she came to Thailand she started working on a professional level.
“I met some local models, who encouraged me to try it out and helped me get in touch with a photographer. I quickly started to get jobs, and a few months after my first contact with the modelling-scene in Bangkok I was practically working full time” she says. But the meeting with the professional photographers has not been without difficulties, the first photo shoot was quite confusing for the new-coming model.
“Suddenly I found myself surrounded by photographers and light technicians with arsenals of comments and corrections, I didn’t want them to know that this was my first professional fashion shoot, so I did my best pretending, that I knew what I was doing… and it definitely didn’t make it easier that the shoot required me to be topless and cover my bust with my arms” she adds laughing.
Easier in Asia
But after the first beginners difficulties her star has kept rising.
“Actually I think that my chances of succeeding are much higher in Bangkok, because of their approach toward my look. Out here there is much higher emphasis on a great commercial white teeth- smile compared with Europe, where models a supposed to look a bit sulky, and I think that my smile is one of my best features. Moreover Asians are not so concerned with heights. In Europe I would be considered small, not the best feature for a model, while here I’m actually a bit higher than the average person” Pirta Kähärä explains. But that doesn’t mean, that there hasn’t been downturns in the blonde Finn’s modelling carrier
“My lack of experience was quite a problem in the beginning, most girls I compete with have been modelling since the age of 15 and are year’s ahead concerning photos and networks, so I had to catch up quickly. A much bigger problem is the weight issue, while we in Europe during the last decade have increased the focus on eating disorders among models, problems like that is not out in the open in Asia, it is unquestionably a huge problem but its not something you talk about, The industry can be rather cruel when there are constant comments on your weight, and if you struggle with low self-esteem, like some of the girls especially in this business do, it can easily lead to disorders. I learned to take the criticism as a part of the job- not as something personal.” she says.
Cute little doll
Even though Pirta Kähärä enjoys her success, she still gets annoyed by the common prejudges of female models, and especially the blond ones, being stupid.
“People on the street see me as a cute little doll and I often hear myself referred to as a Barbie. In August I am becoming a Bachelor in International Business, majoring in E-Business Management, me having an actual education has shocked many people. I really don’t see why models should be put down just because of our appearance, there is a lot more than just the looks”, she says adding that she felt ashamed by her profession in the beginning.
“In February I participated in ASEM Interfaith Cultural Youth Camp among with participants from all over the world. When I was asked what I did for a living I found my self shy telling them about being a model. That stopped when a girl told me to stop being ashamed. And she was right, it is a job like so many others and it supports me though university and that it’s nothing to be ashamed about”, she states.
Hard odds for Asian women
Being a model can seem like a dream come true for many girls, but not for Pirta Kähärä. Despite the fact that she likes her modelling experience, her ambitions go in a different direction, where smiles and weight plays a lesser of an importance.
“My goal is to work for women’s rights, hopefully in the UN-office here in Bangkok after graduation. I will be doing an internship in The Finnish Chamber of Commerce and then return to university to pursue a Master Degree in International Development. It is a great problem that so many women here in Asia are prevented from education and high-scale jobs, I think that female empowerment will solve several problems in the developing countries” she explicates. This ambition also means that she probably is going to stick around the Bangkok area for a long time to come.
“I feel extremely blessed of my Finnish background for many reasons but especially because it has enabled me to educate myself, but why would I go back to a rich country when there is so much work to be done out here improving peoples lives? I want to give a voice to those whose voice isn’t heard.” Pirta Kähärä says.