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Going inter and beyond

Thai model and App War actress Varitsara Yu on the lessons and hardships of her professional move to South Korea

What is it like to work as a model in South Korea's fashion industry?

"Very, very serious. It's tough competition and everything is a race against time," described Varitsara Yu, 21, who is also known abroad by her nickname JingJing. "It's not that we're not as serious in Thailand. But in many ways, we're definitely more relaxed."

After having conquered Thai magazines and becoming a darling of the local fashion industry, it's been a year since the Thai-Chinese model signed with South Korean model agency ESteem Entertainment. While there, Varitsara crossed a lot of things off her bucket list, one could say, even ones she never expected to experience, or endure.

Wearing a sports bra in an outdoor photoshoot at -14C? Check. Being hooked to an IV bag at the hospital during lunch over a stomach flu and heading back to work afterwards? Been there, done that.

"I thought I was gonna die, really. I was calling home, crying for my dad. But in South Korea, everything has to be precise and punctual. You can't really cancel any work." Through sickness, and in unknown territory and language, Varitsara persisted. A year later, she has made it out a little more grown up and experienced. During that time, in between participating in photoshoots and fashion videos, she also found time to come back to Thailand to immerse herself in yet another challenge: acting.

Muse recently caught up with Varitsara when she was in Bangkok to promote App War, her first feature Thai film. From T Moment, App War revolves around two competing start-up companies of young app developers that are trying to make it big. Youthful aspiration, friendship and romance fuel this Gen Z tale, and leading the cast is Varitsara in the role of June, who the model-turned-actress described as a modern girl relentless in pursuing her dream.

"We're quite alike in that arena," she added.

Varitsara 'JingJing' Yu.

Since a young age, Varitsara has wanted to work abroad, or "go inter" as Thai people like to phrase it. In Thailand, she started out as a fashion model, then began starring in music videos. Her journey to being an international model kicked off not so long ago, and was a bit of a fluke, she said.

"After a year at university, I decided to put my study on hold to focus on work. There was a time when I would travel to South Korea pretty often. Then, one time, it was by chance that a friend of a friend knew a stylist there, and when they saw that I was in Korea, they asked me to join Seoul Fashion Week. Just like that. And I got a photoshoot after that, too," recalled the bubbly young model of her unanticipated big break. She was soon signed by her current agency.

It's not too far off to say Varitsara is now living her dream, but real life and daydreams have often been at odds.

"I first went to Korea with a friend. And so it began as an exciting adventure. Everything was fun until I actually encountered problems, and then it started to hit me hard. This was it. I was scared. Later on, my friend came back to Thailand and I was living alone. I've got no family there.

"It gets very lonely, at times. A happy kind of lonely. You gain one and you lose something else. We can't always get both at the same time," she said.

Working in another country requires a lot of getting used to the culture, and Varitsara admitted she still hasn't got used to certain aspects of the Korean work life.

"For example, I eat a lot!" she laughed. "But over there during work, you have to eat on time, together, at the same time. There's no running to grab a quick bite or eating when people do your hair, unlike here. If you miss breakfast, the next time for food will be straight to lunch. People will never ask if you've eaten because that's your responsibility."

In App War, Varitsara plays June, a young app developer.

Despite some hardship and pressure (and limited food time), Varitsara said that she still prefers to work in South Korea, to an extent.

"One of the reasons why I strive to work there is because many magazines are closing down here. I really like fashion. In Korea, you could be in photoshoots non-stop and that makes me really happy as they have countless magazines there. If one is closing down, the state would step in to lend their support because they really take the entertainment industry as their priority."

Most of the work Varitsara has procured are photoshoots for magazines, lookbooks and fashion videos. She is not on the runway so much, as that mostly takes place during Seoul Fashion Week.

Deciding on which future path to take can be quite a dilemma. Varitsara revealed her agency has been discussing the possibility of pushing her into South Korean showbiz, and even to send her to work in New York -- the next fashion arena she aspires to be a part of.

It will be a whole another dream. Another journey. A new beginning.

"I will have to start from the beginning. It'll be taking risks again, to see whether or not it's gonna work out."

At the same time, she also feels like coming back to work in Thailand.

"It's still my home. Everything is here. The comfort, peace of mind, culture," said the model. "After a year in South Korea, I feel like taking a break and coming back to Thailand first. But I also can't prolong other options like New York or I'll just lose my chance there. There are lots of competitors. And at this age, my age, you should just go."

Varitsara revealed her parents still want her to get a university degree, which she said she'll most likely finish one day. She used to study communication arts before she dropped out. Film production was among the classes she enjoyed. Coupled with her growing interest and passion in acting, the future certainly holds a lot of options for her.

"Whichever has better opportunities, then I'll go for that one," she concluded. There's just no backing down when it comes to making the best out of opportunities in life and pursuing one's dream. "You just gotta go out there and do it."

During the filming of App War.

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