Multi-culture Story

This is the era of multiculturalism for 2 million people. If you look around, you can easily see neighbors with different skin colors and languages. However, Korean society's notion of multiculturalism is not keeping up with the changes of the times. To solve this problem, the Joongbooilbo has planned a ‘multi-culture story(다문화 스토리)’ that introduces multicultural neighbors living in various ways. ‘Multi-culture Story(다문화 스토리)’ aims to calmly capture the stories of multicultural people living around us and create changes in Korean society in the age of multiculturalism. -Ed-.


Let’s Think of a model doing the catwalk on the runway. If you think of a model with a tall, skinny body, you may be defining the image of a model as a stereotype. But it's not your fault. For a very long time, the media has created the fantasy that only tall, skinny people can become models.

The image of a model made by the media is not just a physical condition. They also made skin color a standard of beauty. If you look at foreign models appearing in fashion magazines published in Korea, most of them are white Europeans or Americans with slim bodies, small faces, and fair skin. Although some black models sometimes appear, the number of appearances is very few compared to the number of appearances of white models. You can't find models from Arab countries or Southeast Asian countries.

There is one who lives to fulfill her dreams of modeling by fighting against the stereotype fixed by the media every day. Lebanese-American Rebecca George Nour is the protagonist of this story. Rebecca calls herself a healthy model. She boasts a toned and muscular body that has been honed through workouts, and she wants to create the epitome of a healthy model. She wants to change the perception that if models are not skinny and white, they cannot succeed as foreign models in Korea.

Rebecca George Nour. Image=Seyong Lee
Rebecca George Nour. Image=Seyong Lee

▶Why did you come to Korea?

I have had two dreams since childhood. One was that I wanted to live in another country, and the other was to become a famous person. I never really thought of which country I was going to go to. Then I came across K-pop and K-drama by chance. After that, I also went to a concert by a Korean singer. I watched over 100 Korean dramas. I naturally fell in love with Korean culture and decided to go to Korea. above all, I thought it was a place where my dreams could come true.

▶When did the modeling activities start in earnest?

When I first came to Korea, it wasn't easy to start modeling right away. I couldn't speak Korean and didn't know how to become a model, nor did the officials know. So, I started working as an English teacher. I had worked for two years and a half. I also met my aptitudes. I improved my Korean language a lot, especially while living with the children. It seems that the children felt more comfortable with my poor Korean than English. (Laughs) But life as an English teacher was not the life I had dreamed of. As I became able to understand Korean to a certain extent, I looked into how I could work as a model. I changed the visa type and contacted an agency. After that, I started working as a freelancer.

Rebecca George Nour. Image=Seyong Lee
Rebecca George Nour. Image=Seyong Lee

▶ What motivated you to become a model?

Working as a model is both my dream and my mother's dream. Before marriage, my mother worked as a model in Lebanon. But my mother's dream of succeeding as a model was shattered when she married and gave birth to our five children. So I wanted to make my mother's dream come true together. I also wanted to show my mother how beautiful her daughter is.

Another motivation is from my Korean boyfriend. He is now an office worker, but he has previously worked as a model. He generously encourages and supports me so that I can work as a model. Also, as an experienced model, he gives a lot of advice in various areas such as fashion and makeup. With his help, I can continue modeling activities with more confidence.

▶ Was there any reason to model in Korea?

I just felt Korea is like my hometown, my home. It is also very safe and the people are friendly. It's a feeling I've never felt in America. Although I was born and raised in America, I have never felt like my home, my hometown. From the moment I entered Korea, I had an intuition that it was a place where my dreams could come true. Of course, I plan to model not only in Korea but around the world, but this is the place I will return to in the end.

▶ What are the difficulties you feel while living in Korea?

As far as I know, there are only about 20 Lebanese living in Korea. There are probably very few Koreans who have interacted with Lebanese. So Koreans don't know about Lebanon and Lebanese very well. I am also perceived as an Arabic or Middle Eastern person who believes in Islam. But Lebanon is different from other Middle Eastern countries. There are half Muslims and half Christians. Koreans' stereotype that 'the Middle East is all Muslim' makes me stressed sometimes.

▶Are there any difficulties while modeling?

The biggest challenge is that the fashion industry does not favor Arab models. Even when looking for foreign models, they prefer white blondes. They seem to think that all foreign models should have small faces, blue eyes, and white skin. Most foreign models appearing in fashion magazines are also white. Arab models rarely appear in fashion magazines.

Also, there is still a prejudice that models should be skinny. The trend is changing little by little, but they still prefer a skinny body. I think of myself as a model with a healthy body, but I feel a gaze or atmosphere that refuses to admit it. I sometimes feel difficult because of these views or prejudices.

Rebecca George Nour. 
Rebecca George Nour. 

▶ What kind of efforts are you making to break such prejudices?

Being an Arab model in Korea is a big challenge. I want to show Koreans that there are various forms of beauty. So, I normally use social media to promote to give off my charms. I want people to see me and have the perception that Arab women and models are also beautiful. I also try to appear on TV a lot. There are few Arabs among foreign broadcasters who are currently active. I want to appear on TV and tell honest stories about the country of Lebanon, the Lebanese people, and even the Arabs. Then the day will come when Korean people will recognize the beauty of Arab and Lebanon.

▶ What are your plans for the future?

As you can see, my skin is not white and I am not skinny either. But that doesn't mean I can't succeed as a model. I think it's just not my time yet. If I believe in my potential and do my best, the day will come when I will soon be recognized as a model in Korea. Furthermore, I want to become a role model to deliver hope to those who are unable to challenge themselves due to stereotypes.

By Seyong Lee


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