Squid Game’s HoYeon Jung, Indian star Lisa Haydon- 6 models who became actresses
By: Hill Choi Lee
October 5, 2021
Netflix’s sensational Squid Game TV series has shown us that there is always more than meet the eyes. It became the launching pad for Korean model-turned-actress HoYeon Jung who spearheaded her own modelling career – walking in Seoul Fashion Week without an agent. Here we take a look at five other actresses who found their platform first as models
Margaret Denise Quigley was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a Vietnamese mother and an Irish-Polish father. She first started her modelling career in Tokyo at the age of 17 where she took on the stage name of “Maggie Q” as Quigley was a difficult name for locals to pronounce. It wasn’t until Hong Kong that she found her entry as a potential action star alongside Jackie Chan who selected her. It was here where she started training in martial arts. Her first acting debut was in the TV drama House of the Dragon (1998). Her film debut came two years later where she starred in the horror film Model from Hell (2000) and action thriller Gen-Y Cops (2000). Her appearance in the Gen-Y Cops was where she caught Jackie Chan’s eye and she was soon cast in Manhattan Midnight and Rush Hour 2. She went on to feature in several blockbuster films and top hit shows including Nikita (2010-2013), Mission Impossible III (2006), Die Hard 4.0 (2007) and Designated Survivor (2016 – 2019).
Louise Wong won Elite Model Look Asia Pacific at the age of 16, making her the only Hongkonger ever to take home the title. She’s since become one of the most visible faces in fashion in her hometown, working with luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Estée Lauder and Saint Laurent. Now, at the age of 31, she juggles the motherhood, modelling and acting –she landed the role of a lifetime starring as the lead in Anita, a biopic of Cantopop legend Anita Mui. The movie is set to premier later November 12 this year.
Born in Myeonmok-dong, Seoul, HoYeon Jung has recently launched to international fame with Netflix’s 2021 hit K-drama Squid Game. Before her acting career, Jung already made a name for herself as a model walking in Seoul Fashion Week without an agent. She was around 16 when she started her modelling career and was eventually signed by ESteem Models in 2012. In 2016, she debuted as a Louis Vuitton exclusive and also walked for the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Miu Miu, Giambattista Valli, Emilio Pucci and more. She has also competed in a season of Korea’s Next Top Model where she placed second. She was nominated ‘Model of the Year’ and ‘Top Newcomer’ by Models.com. In 2020, she signed with Saram Entertainment as an actress.
Another South Korean native, Bae Doona was scouted by a modelling agency in Seoul in 1998. She was a student at Hanyang University at the time. It took only one year for her to switch over to acting where she later debuted in the TV drama School. Bae’s experience with acting started early where she followed her mother, Kim Hwa-young, a stage actress from theatres to rehearsal halls. She would receive English-speaking roles in Cloud Atlas (2012), Jupiter Ascending (2015), and the TV series Sense8 (2015-2018). Her latest work is the Netflix period zombie show, Kingdom (2019). Bae had taken a hiatus in the early 2000s and during that time she took up photography which she posts on her official blog and published photo-essay books. She revealed in an Instagram post her most recent project – an upcoming South Korean sci-fi mystery thriller TV series The Silent Sea (2021), starring Gong Yoo and Lee Joon.
Chennai-born Lisa Haydon is a woman of many hats. Born of an Indian father and Australian mother, at 18, Haydon wanted to become a yoga teacher and was studying psychology on the side. To pay for her classes and other expenses while living in Down Under, she turned to modelling on a friend’s advice. Her sister DJ Malika Haydon was formerly a model and encouraged by her modelling acts, Haydon moved back to India in 2007 after having lived in Australia and the United States. In 2010, she featured in rom-com drama Aisha having been spotted by Anil Kapoor in a coffee shop. She continued acting in mostly Hindi films until she seemingly focused on other endeavours such as being host to the first two seasons of India’s Next Top Model (2015-2016) and Top Model India (2018). Haydon currently resides in Hong Kong with her husband Dino Lalvani and their three children. The former model-turned-actress is also a trained Bharatnatyam dancer and a fashion designer where she collaborated with lifestyle brand Sher Singh (acquired by Myntra).
An accomplished actress in South Korea, Jun – also known by her English name Gianna Jun – started as a model and gained tremendous popularity for her modelling in a commercial for Samsung’s My Jet Printer in 1999 after debuting in 1997 at the age of 16. At that point, she already starred in her film debut White Valentine (1999) but the feature received little attention. In 2001, she rose to fame with her role in My Sassy Girl (2001), and continued to gain stardom in My Love from Another Star (2013-2014), Legend of the Blue Sea (2016-2017), and most recently in Netflix’s K-zombie series Kingdom (2020). Maybe one of her more international projects is starring as Saya Otonashi in Blood: The Last Vampire (2009). Fast forward, Jun now has two Grand Bell Awards for Best Actress under her belt, a Daesang (Grand Prize) for Television at the Baeksang Art.