In 2011, Chinese model August Zhang was all but ready to give up her runway dreams.
Though acknowledged by many as a beauty, she lacked that X factor that could help her stand out from the pack.
That changed when the 24-year- old made the decision to chop off her long hair.
"Before I cut my hair, I was not getting many modelling jobs and the path ahead was quite bleak," says Zhang. "I had a girl-next-door look and a clean and nice image. But I did not have a selling point that made me different from the rest."
Just as she was thinking about giving up her career as a model, she met celebrity hair stylist Kim Robinson.
"He told me that I should make a change and that I should cut my hair," says the 1.78m Zhang.
"The general impression is that models should have long hair. This gives you more opportunities for advertisements for products like shampoo or make-up. Having been a dancer before, I was also used to having long hair. It was not an easy decision," says Zhang, who trained in ballet as a child before her height prevented her from being part of a ballet troupe.
She adds: "After talking to Kim and listening to his advice, I decided to take the gamble.
"At the time, I did not understand what made me special as a model. I was unsure of my own quality. As I did not have much to lose, I made the decision to cut my hair."
It was the spark her career needed.
Immediately after that, the Chinese model secured a contract with European skincare and cosmetics brand Vichy, which is owned by beauty conglomerate L'Oreal.
She then started getting more jobs in Hong Kong, Paris and Japan.
Zhang's star has since continued to rise. Based in New York since late last year, the Nanjing native is currently signed with top modelling agency Wilhelmina Models of New York City.
She recently debuted at Paris Fashion Week, walking for independent fashion brands such as Vivienne Westwood, Jarret, Novis and Oscar Carvallo.
She was picked to be one of the faces for Yves Saint Laurent's Pop Up Your Lips campaign last year.
Zhang says: "The cut gave me more job opportunities.
"Having short hair made me more edgy and gave me the distinct look that I needed to stand apart.
"But it also changed my whole attitude. When I had long hair, I think I was more timid. I used to over-think things.
"But after the cut, I definitely have greater confidence and spunk."
Things in her bag
This is an essential modelling survival tool. I have to look professional all the time especially in my line of work. Sometimes a designer might give you a pair of shoes that does not fit your feet perfectly or a new pair that has not been broken in yet. So I am always prepared to help myself feel as comfortable as possible.
2. CHLOE PERFUME
I love this perfume. I do not like scents that are too strong. This is more of a floral and feminine scent that is not too sweet. I think it fits my personality.
3. BOBBI BROWN CONCEALER, SKIN FOUNDATION STICK IN SAND 2
This is really convenient. It stays on for a long time and the cream texture does not make your make-up lumpy. I use it to touch up my look on the go.
I bought these in New York. I feel like the sun is stronger there so I wear these all the time when I am there and I love the style.
5. NUDE EYE SHADOW PALETTE
I'm not sure of the brand, but I bought this in Hong Kong. I really love these colours because they are very versatile and I can use them every day. They match almost every look and outfit so I always carry the palette with me.
6. CHLOE POUCH
I use it to hold all my smaller items such as my eyedrops, a small bottle of perfume and my vitamins.
7. KIM ROBINSON HEADBAND
When I wash my face or put on make-up, I have to put my hair up. Regular headbands are quite hard and hurt my head, but this one from Kim Robinson is made of a soft plastic and fits my head well.
This article was first published on Jan 7, 2016.
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