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"Getting 10,000 Instagram Likes Makes You A Pretty Girl, Not A Model"

Model-turned-modelpreneur Serena Adsit is old school and proud of it.

"Getting 10,000 Instagram Likes Makes You A Pretty Girl, Not A Model"

Serena Adsit has been strutting her stuff for 25 years, but the 39-year-old model-turned-modelpreneur now runs commercial modelling agency Mint Singapore, which she started out of her living room seven years ago.

The vivacious mother-of-one aims to defy model conventions by representing a pool of over 1,000 Singapore-based talents who are diverse in age (“from babies all the way to grandparents”), ethnicity and body type (“we don’t need you to be stick thin, or taller than 1.75m”). And in between all this, Serena still finds time to model. “I don’t turn down modelling gigs ’cos I still like the work,” she quips.

8 DAYS: What was it like making the transition from modelling to running a business?
SERENA ADSIT: You learn as you go, as long as you don’t run it into the ground. (Laughs) Over the years, my peers tended to be people who are inclined to be entrepreneurs, so I could bounce ideas off them, or they could give me advice. I’ve never been a numbers person, but I can do simple math and use simple templates on Excel. (Laughs) I made it a point from the first year to hire an accountant to do our paperwork. There’s always year-on-year growth so we’re fine. As you grow into your work, it becomes easier and you become more efficient.

What’s your typical work day like?
My days are very, very long. Office hours are 11am to 7pm. And because we start later, I have time in the morning to exercise, then send my son to school before going to the office. Today, I [squeezed in] a horse-riding lesson ’cos I’m going to Mongolia and will be going horse-riding there. I may have a second exercise session at the office — we have a gym, basketball court and pool there — and try to get the models in for a group workout. Usually after office hours, I’ll head out for social engagements — dinner, drinks or events — and then I’ll wind down at home.

Serena often takes up modelling gigs with her six-year-old son, Evan, who does about three to four campaigns a year. Not bad for someone who’s been modelling since he was four months old. “His first was a campaign we did for Guardian Pharmacy. We sell ourselves as a mother-son duo — it’s easier [to work] because we have that bond and chemistry. It’s fun for him. But if it’s a full-day shoot, it’s hard for kids to manage and he has meltdowns once in a while, so I won’t let him do it,” she says.

With Instagram and #OOTDs these days, it seems like many people think of themselves as models. Is this helping or hindering the industry?
The industry has changed for sure, and there’s no way we could’ve stopped it. Everything now is so accessible, so young wannabes can just find the e-mail addresses of well-known photographers and ask them, “Do you want to shoot me?” I wouldn’t say it’s audacity, but the confidence of young people these days who think that it’s okay to do that is quite interesting. Whether it’s realistic is a different story altogether. Just ’cos your friend takes a beautiful picture of you and you get 10,000 Instagram likes doesn’t make you a model — it makes you a pretty girl. It’s up to the young individuals to keep a good head on their shoulders, be realistic and not get too caught up in their online persona.

You started modelling at 15. How do you think your 15-year-old self would handle this whole social media thing? (Laughs) It’d be quite a shocker to me. My 15-year-old self was just so awkward, even though I joined and won the modelling competition [held by now-defunct Go magazine]. I took part [even though I was very shy] ’cos we were bunch of girls who thought, “Oh my god, you’re so pretty, so you must do a photo shoot!” (Laughs) It’s one of those things that girls at that age did at the time. There was no Internet, even phone calls had to be made from the landline at home. So publications were the only things we had that allowed us to dream about this glamourous life of being a model.

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