At first glance, Hwang Se-on looks like any other South Korean model: tall and lithe, with wide-set eyes, a perfect cupid bow’s mouth, and poreless white skin. In other words, she was perfectly selected as a spokesperson for Laneige, a brand lauded the world over for helping even the most overworked women achieve a Kpop-worthy complexion.
But as it turns out, 21-year-old Se-on possesses one major difference between herself and the other Korean models that we have met: she speaks perfect, vaguely Kiwi-accented English, having grown up in New Zealand. Naturally, not having to communicate through a translator made it easier to strike up a conversation with Se-on, who was in town in August for the Laneige Beauty Road with BB Cushion tour held at ION Orchard.
Here’s what we learned about the budding model and social media star (who has more than 95k followers on Instagram!).
She didn’t know the difference between an essence and a serum either:
If you’ve ever found it hard to explain the difference between a serum, an essence, and a toner, you’re not alone. Until she began modelling five years ago, Se-on stuck to the basics.
“As I started working, I started to learn what an essence is, what a cream is, I got to know my skin more, and take of my skin, how to remove all the ‘hard’ products you put on at work.
As for her skincare routine, prior to modelling: “I didn’t have any! I was just like a student, a high school student, I just like washed my face and put some cream on and that was it. When I started modelling, I put toner on, essence on, eye cream, and a sleeping pack on top. It’s such a daily routine now.
I end with the Water Sleeping Mask and carry it around every day. When I go overseas, I just put it on and go to sleep.”
She listened to her mama
Growing up, our mothers always nagged us about applying sunblock --- and if Se-on’s complexion is any indication, minding their advice will definitely pay off.
“All the countries that I’ve been to recently have been so hot, and the sun is so strong, so I think it’s really important to protect your skin from the sun,” she said, admitting that she wears sunscreen beneath her BB Cushion, which is already SPF 50. (Looks like Se-on has a kiasu side as well!).
She’s totally chill
“I like to dress really casual, like casual chic,” Se-on said. “Because when I’m at work, I need to dress really formal. When I’m shooting I always need to wear like, Prada, so when I’m just myself, I can be ‘no makeup, no heavy clothes,’ loose, I like Kate Moss, her style. Just a ‘daily’ look.
She got emotional – but didn’t cry! – in Pixar’s Inside Out
“After a really hard day -- this is after a really hard day, I just go to bed. I just take a shower or take a bath and just really lie there with my laptop, watch a movie, put a mask on.”
Of course, this prompted us to ask about the last movie she saw. “Inside Out! But I saw that in the movies with my friends.”
“I was a little emotional inside,” said, when we asked her if she shed tears at you-know-which-part.
The transition from New Zealand to South Korea wasn’t too easy
As you can imagine, Se-on experienced a bit of culture shock after moving to South Korea to pursue modelling full-time two years ago.
“I’ve always had a Korean size of me while living in New Zealand,” she said. “I’ve always had Korean friends with me. It wasn’t that hard [to transition] but there was still that tough side – but I kind of got used to the traditions.
“The people, the models, they really work HARD for how they look. They always go to the gym, and they even take care of their skin by going to special treatment places – I don’t—but the models actually work hard to be a model, and that’s what I felt that was surprising.”
And thanks to South Korea’s high beauty standards, Se-on can feel stressed at the pressure to look amazing at all times. “For all jobs, it’s all about the outer beauty for the modelling jobs, it’s hard to look great all the time. You always have to look perfect in front of cameras. [In Korea] they expect you to be quite perfect.”
But other than that, the modelling life is pretty much awesome
Like modelling peers Kendall Jenner and Cara Delevigne, Se-on gets to take some pretty enviable, Instagram-worthy vacations.
“My most recent vacation was with friends from modelling,” she said. “[For vacation] we take a week off – recently, I went to Bali with my friends for a week. We just stay in the hotel and go for a spa, swim and eat, and go to the beach.”
Not that life is that hard on the job either. Se-on, who said that she’s also working on an acting career, is happy to focus on modelling for the time being – although she might want to go back to New Zealand one day to rejoin her parents.
“I really love how you get to show your different self every day,” she said. “You get all sorts of different makeup and hairstyles so that you feel like a different woman every day that you shoot. I love being a different me.”