Close watchers of the runway already know exactly who HoYeon Jung is: she’s been a top model walking for blue-chip designers and appearing in fashion spreads in magazines across the globe for years. Though, over the past week or so Jung’s fame has exploded to new heights thanks to her co-starring role as “No. 067” in Squid Game. Produced as a Netflix original for the South Korean audience, the survival drama about a mysterious and deadly game has gone viral worldwide. Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos claimed this week that the show could soon dethrone Bridgerton as Netflix’s biggest original hit ever. “We did not see that coming, in terms of its global popularity,” the executive said at Vox Media’s Code Conference.
It’s quite a career coup for Jung (it’s her first-ever acting role, after all). So, how did the 27-year-old go from Louis Vuitton catwalks to the top of Netflix’s most-watched rankings? Here’s everything you need to know.
HoYeon Jung Actually Got Her Start on Korea’s Next Top Model After Some Initial Modeling Work
In some way, Jung’s owes her success to Tyra Banks’ international smizing empire. While Jung started modeling and did some work during Seoul Fashion Week as a 16-year-old, she soon found herself competing on the fourth season of Korea’s Next Top Model in 2013. She was pushed to the bottom three by episode two and was eliminated the next week, but she returned to the competition in episode five. She went on to win the final two regular competitive episodes and wound up as one of the runner-ups.
While America’s Next Top Model’s reputation for launching legitimate modeling careers is dubious, that isn’t necessarily true of some of the international editions, particularly the Korean version of the reality series. Hyun-ji Shin, the model who beat Jung, has a successful career and just walked a string of shows in Milan last week, including Fendi and Max Mara. Model Sora Choi won the previous season and was amongst the supers who walked Fendi and Versace’s “Fendace” show on Sunday.
In 2016, She Made Her International Runway Debut After Dying Her Hair Red
Immediately after her appearance on Top Model, Jung worked steadily in Korea appearing in numerous spreads for the local editions of magazines like Vogue, Elle and W for a few years. In September 2016, she debuted on the international runways. According to Models.com, her first major international runway was for Opening Ceremony’s Spring 2017 show during New York Fashion Week (fun fact: that particular show also featured Whoopi Goldberg, Aidy Bryant, Rashida Jones, and Natasha Lyonne). A few days later, Jung would also walk for Marc Jacobs, then appeared in Milan later that month in shows for Alberta Ferretti and Fendi, and made her Paris debut as an exclusive for Louis Vuitton (she has continued to be a favorite of the maison). W named her one of the top ten breakout models at the end of 2016.
At this point, though, something had notably changed since her Top Model days. Jung dyed her hair a fiery shade of red that would go on to become her signature look in her early modeling days.
Jung Booked Campaigns and Became a Runway Regular
After a successful international debut, Jung continued to rocket to prominence. She soon began appearing in western fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Love, booked a Sephora campaign shot by Inez & Vinoodh, and scored one of her first big fashion campaigns for Louis Vuitton Pre-Fall 2017.
By the end of 2017, she also made her debut in the pages of W in a supermodel-filled photo spread that served as Edward Enninful’s farewell shoot before he left to become editor-in-chief of British Vogue.
Jung Also Became Known For Her Street Style
Her career continued to thrive over the next few years. She’d go on to walk for Jean Paul Gaultier, Chanel Haute Couture, and Bottega Veneta amongst several others. She even scored a Gap campaign. All the while, Jung became known for her killer “model off-duty” style and became a favorite of street style photographers.
In 2018, she also showed off her behind-the-scenes personality for W by shooting her backstage experience during New York Fashion Week.
Her Loneliness Traveling The World as a Model Inspired Her to Try Acting
In a recent interview with W Korea, Jung admitted she knows that her life as it is shown on Instagram may seem divine. “In a way, Instagram is a space where I edit and show what I want to show,” she told the magazine. “But at some point, I thought, ‘Am I really this person?’ People like my shiny look, but to me, I’m a much different person than her.” The reality, she said, is that she’s also spent a lot of time alone over the past years either reading books or watching movies. “On holidays, I spent time alone at home watching a movie, reading a book, and contemplating,” she said. “Now that I think about it, if I hadn’t had that time, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do acting. I relieved my loneliness with movies and books, and I had a strong desire to express what I felt through acting. So during the holiday season, I came to Korea and took acting classes.”
Squid Game Is Not Only Her First Acting Role, But It Was Her First Audition
After taking acting classes, Jung secured an acting agent. Her first script arrived sooner than expected, and it turned out to be Squid Game. She was asked to send in an audition tape, and eventually got the part. After the show’s runaway success, we doubt it will be her last appearance on television.
And Now She’s Graduated To Louis Vuitton Global Ambassador
With 15 million Instagram fans and counting, Jung has now become the most-followed South Korean actor on the platform, and her fashion pals have taken notice. Five years after she made her Paris runway debut with Louis Vuitton, she’s been named a new global ambassador for the house.
“I’m honored to kickstart my acting career with Louis Vuitton, which I’ve worked with throughout my modeling career. I’m looking forward to the partnership as a global ambassador for the brand,” Jung said in a statement.
“I immediately fell in love with Hoyeon’s great talent and fantastic personality, and I am looking forward to starting this new chapter of the journey we started at Louis Vuitton a few years ago,” added the house’s creative director Nicolas Ghesquière.
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