With razor-sharp cheekbones and a fresh-faced beauty, Chinese model Sui He is one of a handful of East Asian models that have risen to gain global recognition on and off the runways, thanks to a number of high-profile editorials, campaigns, and cosmetics contracts. Born in the mild coastal city of Wenzhou – or ‘pleasant city’, for its mild climate and prosperous people – just a few hours south of Shanghai, Sui He was part of her high school swim team and class president. At age 17, she entered and won a national modeling competition, which enabled her to model locally. She never imagined that modeling would amount to anything more than a part-time job.
She was wrong. In 2010, she signed to New York Model Management and posed in an advertising campaign for cashmere king Brunello Cucinelli. Her breakthrough moment came in New York in early 2011, when she opened the Ralph Lauren runway show for Autumn/Winter 2011 – the first Asian model ever to do so. Soon after, she was featured in the brand’s advertising campaigns and also rapidly appeared in editorials for top fashion magazines like Numéro, V, and W magazines, photographed by such celebrated photographers as Inez and Vinoodh and Terry Richardson.
Her favourite stylist is Carine Roitfeld, and she is the first relative newcomer to be on the cover of W magazine in recent memory. On the runway, she is praised for her professionalism and mile-long legs, and has walked exclusively for Dries van Noten and Schiatzy Chen in Paris, as well as opening and closing for Vivienne Tam in New York.
As part of a second wave of East Asian models to appear and work for Western brands, Sui He has set some formidable milestones. Besides being the first Asian model to open for Ralph Lauren’s runway shows, she was the second ever to walk in the annual and much-publicized Victoria’s Secret runway show, after Liu Wen. She has a lucrative contract with cosmetics giant Shisheido – she is also the first Asian model to do this – and is now a fixture in Vogue China, which she first covered in 2011.
Outside of modeling, her hobbies include reading and traveling. Although she has told Vogue Italia that “The most important thing for me is to do well now, to not think too much about the future,” she also plans to start her own business when she retires from modeling, most likely a restaurant. When not working, Sui He lives in Beijing with her boyfriend.