Bella Hadid, Precious Lee, Soo Joo Park, and More on How the Pandemic Changed the Modeling World

For many fashion insiders, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic is intricately linked with the fall 2020 season. During Milan Fashion Week, major signs of the spreading coronavirus started popping up in the city, and models recall feeling the initial frenzy and panic during the shows. “I remember being in Milan and hearing that it had made its way there,” says Kaia Gerber. “I remember everyone trying to get out. Little did we know how it would follow us to Paris and then the world.”   Since then, the global pandemic has shifted all of our lives and changed how many industries operate, including fashion. In a new Vogue video, nine top models, including Bella Hadid, Precious Lee, and Soo Joo Park, sat down to discuss how the pandemic has particularly changed the modeling world. 

The models share how they felt when they realized their busy careers—including all runway shows, photo shoots, and ad campaigns—would all be coming to a halt. Many were worried about continuing to make a livelihood, of course, as well as concerned about the health and safety of themselves and their family. “I was only concerned about the health of my family in Wuhan [in China], which is where the virus was said to have originated,” says model Sherry Shi. “I was worried about Asian discrimination and racism growing.”

With stay-at-home orders implemented shortly after, many of the models said they took the time to reevaluate their lives and mental health. “Mental health came into the center of the picture for me,” says Soo Joo Park. “I’ve been modeling for 10 years now…and when I slowed down because of the pandemic, I had to sit there with my own thoughts and figure out all these things that I had been pushing down. I [sought] therapy and counseling, and I’ve been taking the time to make that a priority since.” Anok Yai also made self-care a priority. “I’ve been more aware of who I have around me, the kind of energy that I keep around me, and what I do that’s worth my time,” she says. Bella Hadid, meanwhile, recognized she could have more of a work-life balance. “This year made us all realize that we need to take ownership back of our lives,” she says. “To understand it’s a job but we can have our personal lives too, which I think a lot of us didn’t understand.”  

While the pandemic set the fashion world back for well over a year, many of the models are now optimistic about the future of the industry, which is on the rebound. Some even believe the lessons learned over the past year and a half can usher in positive change for models. “The pandemic, although it hindered a lot of us, was good for the industry moving forward,” says model Ariel Nicholson. “Everything feels a bit more human and real now. Models are starting to have longer careers of more substance.” Many are looking forward to returning to more sets, where a full crew and sense of community is back in full force. “We make projects together—that’s what this is,” says Hadid. “This is a passion, it’s art. That’s when I look at it and I’m proud to do what I do.”

Above, watch the full video. 

Director: Posy Dixon

Editor: Daniel Poler

Director of Photograph: Kevin Hayden

Set Dresser: Alice Martinelli

Hair: Adam Markarian

Makeup: Mical Klip

Associate Producer: Stef D’agostini

Executive Producer: Marina Cukeric

Bookings Director, Vogue: Helena Suric

Bookings Manager, Vogue: Morgan Senesi

Production Manager: Emily Yates

Colorist: Alexia Salingaros

Sound Mix: Nicholas Cipriano