Hoyeon Jung – The Squid Game Actress’s Modeling Career

Hoyeon Jung, also known as Jung Ho-Yeon, became a worldwide name after her acting debut in the popular South Korean Netflix series Squid Game with her role as North Korean defector Kang Sae-byeok, or No. 067. Although she is known for her acting role, her resume is filled with work in the modeling industry. This article takes a look at how Hoyeon Jung became a model and what she has done in modeling since becoming a breakout actress. 

Background

Hoyeon Jung was born on June 23, 1994, in Myeonmok-dong, Seoul, South Korea. While in middle school, she started to wonder what she should do for a living when she grows up. People told her she should model because she’s tall. She’s 176 cm or a little over 5’9”, which is considered tall for an Asian woman. She followed the advice of others and started taking modeling classes at age 15. Since it was mainly other people telling her she should model, she says that she “didn’t really have a big motivation” when she first started, but she found it fun. “I wanted to be good at [modeling] and always sought ways to take things to the next level. I found joy in the process and lived on the motivation created by such trying hours.”

Modeling in South Korea

Hoyeon Jung officially started her modeling career in 2010 when she was 16 years old as a freelance model. She had no modeling agency but made her way to runways during Seoul Fashion Week. She managed modeling with no agency for about two years. Her “next level” move was to audition for the second season of Korea’s Next Top Model in 2011. She made it onto the show but quit after making it into the top 30. In the following year, she signed with her first agency, ESteem Models. ESteem Models is one of the top modeling agencies in South Korea. Now under an agency, Hoyeon Jung returned to Korea’s Next Top Model to compete on their fourth season in 2013. At first, she was eliminated in the third episode but returned in the fifth episode. Ultimately, Hoyeon Jung won runner-up of Korea’s Next Top Model at age 19. Following her success in the competition, she started to appear in the Korean editions of Vogue, Elle, and W. 

Her Decision to Leave South Korea for New York

Even though Hoyeon Jung at age 23 was booked and busy in her home country, she started to question herself and who she was. When having these thoughts, people typically make a change in their lives. For Hoyeon Jung, that change was moving to New York in 2016. A lot of models start working overseas to further their careers, which Hoyeon Jung wanted, but more importantly, she wanted a change of scenery and to push herself. She says, I constantly push myself. I reach for the stick rather than carrot whenever I feel I’m not doing enough. It’s become a habit. I also seem to have developed my career by using my deficiency as a driving force.” While in New York, she learned what it was like to have a work-life balance. When she was modeling in Korea, she “never felt relaxed.” In New York, she got to have alone time, watch movies, read books, and reflect on herself.

Coming to America

Her Agencies

In 2016, Hoyeon Jung signed with 3 management companies. Her worldwide agency is Elite Model Management, which is under Elite World Group. Also under Elite World Group is her New York-based model management company, The Society Management. Elite World Group has discovered many famous models such as Cindy Crawford, Gisele Bündchen, and Alessandra Ambrosio. They also currently represent models like Kendall Jenner, Adriana Lima, and Karlie Kloss. Hoyeon Jung’s other U.S.-based agency is Nomad Management.

Her Iconic Red Hair

While still in Seoul, she went to the hair salon to touch up her hair. She wanted to dye her hair to prepare for New York Fashion Week and to have a bit of an image change. At the time, her hair was “a muted shade of reddish-brown.” She asked her colorist to make her hair “a little redder than usual” because she knew that red pigment fades quickly and wanted the red to still show at Fashion Week three weeks later. She did not inform her agency that she was dyeing her hair because she most likely thought there would not be much of a change. Much to her surprise, her hair came out super red. The fiery red hair accident turned out to be a blessing because it made Hoyeon Jung recognizable among designers and stand out on the runway.

Hoyeon Jung’s Work as a Model Overseas

In September 2016, Hoyeon Jung made her international runway debut with her fiery red hair at the Opening Ceremony’s Spring/Summer 2017 show at New York Fashion Week. At that same Fashion Week, she also walked for Rag and Bone wearing a full red outfit to match her red hair. After her first Fashion Week, she continued to walk for many big designers such as Marc Jacobs, Alberta Ferretti, Chanel, Max Mara, and Fendi. She also appeared in magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Love, and W, and was part of campaigns for Sephora and Gap.

Also in 2016, Hoyeon Jung signed an exclusive global contract with Louis Vuitton. She was chosen by Louis Vuitton’s creative director Nicolas Ghesquière and casting director Ashley Brokaw to walk at their Spring/Summer 2017 show at Paris Fashion Week. When asked what stood out about Hoyeon Jung, Nicolas Ghesquière said, “I remember the first thing that struck me was her smile. I remember she had flamboyant red hair, of course a gorgeous silhouette, and such an elegant way of moving. Off of the walk, we already knew she was in—as we say.” The Louis Vuitton show marked her Paris Fashion Week runway debut.

Hoyeon Jung has also walked on runways for Burberry, Miu Miu, Gucci, Moschino, Acne Studios, Chanel, and many more. She has also starred in international campaigns for Chanel, Fendi, Hermès, Bottega Veneta, and Tory Burch. She has been on the covers of Vogue Korea, Vogue Japan, CR Fashion Book, and Harper’s Bazaar Korea. Since 2017, Models.com has named Hoyeon Jung on their top 50 models worldwide list for four consecutive years. She also won the Asia Star Award at the 2019 Seoul Asian Model Award. Hoyeon Jung was essentially living every model’s dream. 

From Modeling to Acting

By the end of 2019, Hoyeon Jung felt that her modeling career was “slowly declining.” She was getting fewer castings, fewer callbacks, fewer shows. As someone who has been working since she was 16, has a strong work ethic, and found success in modeling, she found her declining career to be “the most painful thing.” “When I started modeling overseas, I did well from the get-go, didn’t I? But as time went on, I had fewer and fewer jobs; the brands I had been working with didn’t want me anymore. I had so many worries because of it. Who am I? I worried about that so much.” Hoyeon Jung’s last runway show was in December 2019 at Moschino’s MTA subway–set show. At this point, she had already retired her red hair and returned to a more natural color. 

After 3 years of modeling overseas, Hoyeon Jung had to seriously consider other options. As mentioned earlier, she watched a lot of movies when she first came to New York. Her love for movies gave her the idea to delve into acting. Hoyeon Jung says, “I felt that urge to express myself on screen,” so in between modeling jobs, she would fly back to South Korea to take acting classes. In 2020, she left ESteem Models and signed with Saram Entertainment, a South Korean entertainment company for actors and actresses.

Hoyeon Jung in Squid Game

Hoyeon Jung was cast in her very first acting gig, Squid Game. While portraying the character, Kang Sae-byeok (No. 067), Hoyeon Jung sported black short hair with bangs, freckles, and deep eye bags. Hoyeon Jung’s look in the show became very popular. She helped popularize hairstyles called the wolf cut and curtain bangs. She also influenced people to accentuate their freckles or use makeup to create some. Squid Game had come out just in time for Halloween, so a lot of people recreated her look for the holiday.

Hoyeon Jung’s Look 

While her fiery red hair was what first caught people’s eyes, it is Hoyeon Jung’s facial features and striking look that attracts people to her. She has a very symmetrical face, which is perceived to be more attractive for both men and women. She also has a mix of masculine features (prominent, wide cheekbones and gaunt cheeks) feminine features (full lips, a small nose, and a short v-line jaw). Her mix of masculine and feminine features helps her pull off androgynous looks. With the help of her features and narrow eyes, she gives off an intimidating, cold aura when she is not smiling. It is this aura that made her the perfect fit for her Squid Game character. People also comment on her dark circles that were more pronounced on the show. Dark circles are typically not seen as an attractive feature, which is why they are usually covered by makeup. However, many people love how Hoyeon Jung has natural dark circles. She inspires others to not cover their dark circles but rather embrace them. All in all, a lot of people found Hoyeon Jung to be very beautiful on and off-screen and were not surprised when they found out that she is already a model.

Modeling After Squid Game Fame

Louis Vuitton

With her newfound success as an actress, people wondered whether Hoyeon Jung would continue modeling or only pursue acting. Questions were answered when Louis Vuitton rekindled their working relationship with Hoyeon Jung. The French fashion house chose Hoyeon Jung to be their global house ambassador for fashion, watches, and jewelry in October 2021. She also made her comeback to the runway in early March 2022 by opening Louis Vuitton’s Fall/Winter 2022 show during Paris Fashion Week. 

Red Carpets

As a Louis Vuitton Ambassador, Hoyeon Jung wears head-to-toe Louis Vuitton to public events. So far in 2022, she has attended the SAG Awards and the Critics Choice Awards. At the SAG Awards, she won her first acting award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series. Because of her appearance and win, a lot of people were interested in what she was wearing. Her Louis Vuitton look was completely inspired by her Korean heritage. Her black spaghetti strap dress featured traditional Korean embroidery work, and she also wore a matching traditional Korean hair tie called daenggi to tie off her long braid.

Adidas

Hoyeon Jung was also featured in two Adidas campaigns. One was for their “Adicolor” campaign where she got to relive her Squid Game tracksuit moment and show off a more athletic, streetwear style. The other campaign was the “Impossible is Nothing” campaign that championed diverse women. 

Vogue

Her fame has also landed her the February 2022 cover of US Vogue, making Hoyeon Jung the first-ever Asian solo cover model for US Vogue. For her shoot, she got to wear brands she modeled and currently models for like Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, Givenchy, Acne Studios.

Final Thoughts

A lot of people did not know who Hoyeon Jung was before her success as the actress from Squid Game. They have equated their lack of knowledge of Hoyeon Jung to her being someone who was completely unknown in the past. Even though she is more widely known now than she was a few years ago, it is important to not forget her earlier work and still highlight her achievements as a model. It will be interesting to see what she does in the future, whether that is on runways or on screens.

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