five minutes with sheri chiu

Sheri was born in New York City, raised in New Jersey, and uprooted to Hong Kong in a matter of 10 years. Sudden change was difficult, but she discovered her passion for writing in high school. After graduating, she returned to New York to pursue her journalism and sociology studies at NYU. At that moment Sheri stepped into the world of modeling to explore her interest in beauty and art. Now, as the Paris Editor of Schön!Magazine, she spends her time interviewing those in the fashion industry and critiquing art exhibitions.

How did you start becoming a model?

I had spent four years organizing high school fashion shows in Hong Kong, and was curious what it meant to be on the other side of the catwalk. I attended NYU’s Asian Cultural Union model audition with absolutely no knowledge of a proper runway strut and was rejected. At the time, I believed this rejection to be the equivalent of “You’re not beautiful enough.”

The Chinese Student Society was also holding auditions for their own fashion show, so I mustered all the courage I had to try “modeling” one more time. A second rejection would confirm that I didn’t have what it took. An additional “no” would have probably propelled me into other activities and cultivated outside interests.
They said yes. One of the leaders of the fashion show suggested that I create a Model Mayhem profile if I wanted to collaborate with photographers to build a photo portfolio. I was 18-years-old and had never been photographed professionally, but the idea was enticing. I explored the website and found images of everyday girls looking absolutely confident. They were alive and happy, and I wanted exactly that. Some part of me wanted to be captured as I was, because I understood how ephemeral youth was. Another part craved to be seen as beautiful enough to be photographed. It was a way for me to construct a better self-image.

And now you work for a magazine as well? 

I'm a Paris Editor of Schön! Magazine, I discovered the publication because I was a model in one of their editorials way back when. I contacted the Editor-in-Chief to express my interest in covering Paris Fashion Week. Slowly but surely, I received bigger and more exciting assignments such as interviewing model Coco Rocha and Italian Vogue Senior Photo Editor Alessia Glaviano. The Schön! family has been very supportive and fun; I consider myself lucky to be part of the magazine.   
What's your favorite type of photo shoot?

My favorite type of photo shoot is one where I feel I’m inspiring the photographer and vice versa. I love to interpret a concept or emotion and illustrate it through pose. No matter if it’s a fashion editorial or artistic nude shoot, the energy on set is really important because it helps to create that unique image.

How do you feel about nude modelling?

Since I consider myself an art model, I would say that I love nude modeling! If done tastefully, photographs that depict nude models can be considered art. In terms of modeling, I think it’s a wonderful form of liberation that allows me to explore ideas and sensations through movement and body language. It’s graceful and honest. It questions preconceived notions of the female figure, sexuality, and censorship. I think nude modeling can show others the importance of appreciating and taking care of the human body.

How have people in general reacted to your work?

People in the art and photo industry have been supportive of my work because I think it speaks more to them. Friends from high school and college have reached out to me, after years of separation, to talk about their own struggles of beauty and acceptance. I think that is what really makes me happy – knowing that others appreciate my work for the message behind what meets the eye. 

Top 3 inspirations
Film director Lars Von Trier. He was the first director to shake my core to the point that I sobbed for 15 minutes after watching the movie “Dancer in the Dark.” From that moment on, I’ve watched his most important films, all of which are ambitious and profound in meaning and cinematic scope. Von Trier inspires me to explore the magic in darkness.
Malala Yousafzai is known for human rights advocacy for education in Pakistan. She’s the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate, and continues to fight for female rights even after being shot on a bus. Yousafzai is constantly threatened by the Taliban, but never backs down from what she truly believes in. She calls for worldwide access to education and rights for young girls, especially in countries who prohibit them. Yousafzai is inspirational on so many levels; I really admire her.
Lastly, my husband Nicolas Guérin, has been my creative fuel for the past five years. He has taught me so much about cinema, literature, and the arts. I would say that I began to develop my cultural mind after meeting him. With Nicolas, I’ve been able to explore deep and personal photo shoot themes. We have worked on image-making together, both of us behind the lens as photographers. Where Nicolas brings his technical know-how and portraiture expertise, I add a dose of naivety and experimentation, which in total can create unexpected photographs. He has supported and pushed me in this critical stage in my life, for which I am truly grateful.

Who's the dream photographer you'd like to work with? 

Paolo Roversi or Sarah Moon because they create more than just photos. They are artists. Their work resembles paintings, masterpieces that could never go out of style. I feel that Roversi and Moon’s images provoke splendor in use of color and light; they are narrative and dark.

What do you like to do on your down time?

I really enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. I also love to discover new films with my husband. He’s taught me so much about the most captivating directors in cinema such as David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick.

I read in one of your posts that you work out everyday. What is your workout routine?

That used to be correct! I stopped for several months, but I plan to get active again. I suppose like most people, I tend to hibernate during the winter months! For a normal workout routine, I do 30 – 40 minutes of cardio, followed by intense stretching. I do abdominal exercises next because that’s my most fickle zone. I like squats too. If I go to the gym, I would use the machines focusing on arms and legs: 3 sets of 15 repetitions. To wrap it up, I generally do yoga for 15 minutes to cool down and meditate.

What’s your favorite thing to cook?

I really like cooking chicken panang curry. It’s easy, and it was the first successful dish I served at dinner parties. Now when a new person visits the house, I serve them the coconut milk based curry that puts them in a comfortable mood.

Favorite food.
I love anything made out of potato. French fries, baked potato, mashed potatoes, they’re all good! I also can’t resist chili or macaroni and cheese. I’m a sucker for anything that sticks to the ribs.

If you could have one super power in the world, what would it be?
To be in two places at once.

If I could grant you this wish right now, which two places would you choose first and why?

I would love to be simultaneously in New York City and Australia because New York is my home and I think a part of me will always stay there. I chose Australia because it’s summer there right now! I’ve only visited Sydney for one day during a plane layover, but I would love to return to Australia and see the Great Barrier Reef.  

Which photo is your favorite so far?

If I had to pick, I would say the image with the headpiece and dress made out of vegetation. This image is actually a snippet of a much larger video project produced by Nicolas Guérin. We had an entire day of reenacting different scenes, written by Nicolas himself: from a “fawn” dancing and meeting a man for the first time, physical and emotional domination, and a moment of complete serenity in the photo you see here. The entire creative team was exceptional, especially hair stylist Mike Desir and makeup artist Daria Day who transformed me into a creature of nature. This image means a lot to me because it was a terrific day of imaginative exploration, a day where everyone brought their very best to set. It’s really fun and rewarding to work on a personal project with a team of close friends.

What is your future goals for your work and for life?

I’ve been producing and creatively directing photo shoots with my husband for several months now. I would love to do it more professionally and see where it goes.

Do you have advice for those who want to pursue modeling?

First and foremost, finish your education, because modeling isn’t a reliable source of income that will support you throughout your entire life. Study the work of photographers and other influential personas in the industry. Study something that isn’t related to fashion to broaden your knowledge so you can use it in modeling or outside of it. Being a model is like fulfilling certain job requirements. I cannot be a rocket scientist because I didn’t take a science course since high school and I don’t have the technical training. Likewise, I can’t be a runway model because I’m too short. It’s important to understand what you can and cannot do, but not feel rejected because you don’t fill a certain criteria. Work with what you do have, and do it to your best ability. Learn about body movement or dance because no matter where you go, grace is always important. I used modeling as a tool to repair my broken self-image, so before you seriously consider doing it, I’m going to tell you what someone once told me: You don’t need anyone telling you that you’re beautiful. Believe it yourself.

See more photos and follow her amazing journey in Paris below!

Instagram: @nakiesheri
Twitter: @schiuonthis