Super Street Magzine's Top 10 Import Models
on the Import Model Culture
I interviewed a friend and former Import Model, Janet Chen* on her experiences in the Import Scene of the San Francisco Bay Area.
On car shows and races,
"It was just something to do and somewhere to go on the weekends. There was good music, dancing, and if you're into cars like I am, it was like heaven, really. I actually liked the races more than the shows because you really get to see how these cars run. It's really fascinating again, if you're there for the cars. You'd be surprised to see who showed up though. People have the idea that kids in the Import Scene are troublemakers, but they're really not. In fact you'll see a lot of nerdy kids show up and take pictures with the models. It was all in good fun. I do know some people who were affiliated with gangs, but hey, gangs exist everywhere you go, in all ethnicities."
On her reasons for being an import model,
"I wasn't really serious about modeling. That wasn't my motivation at all. It was actually just a way for me to get into all the shows and races for free [laughs]. But seriously, I'm a huge auto nerd. My mom and I have this plan after graduation to build one from scratch. Anyway, I wasn't allowed to show interest in the cars at all. It was pretty clear what we were meant to do there, which was to look pretty and take pictures with people. I remember getting yelled at once at a car show by one of the guys who was running it. He said to me, 'I know you don't know anything about cars. Why don't you just go take pictures.' Yeah, I was pretty upset by it but one person wasn't going to make me stop. It was just a phase in high school."
On other import models,
"I know those girls and they aren't there because they actually think they're going to make it big in the mainstream. A few of them do become famous but only in the import world. I feel bad for saying it, but their main reason for being there is because they really like the attention. And what better way for a girl to get that than being ogled at by a bunch of horny teenage boys? It's really just way for them to validate themselves. It's a pretty cut throat world though, if you are part of the import modeling scene. I remember being in the bathroom once and Natasha Yi practically got into a physical fight with this other girl for some dumb reason. Tila Nguyen [Tequila] was standing there just watching."
On Tila Tequila and her fame in mainstream media,
"One in a million. And you know what? It's a huge double standard, because it's only possible for the girls. You look at Tila Nguyen [Tequila] and you look at an Asian guy with a tricked out car. People are just used to seeing "exotic" Asian girls, and MTV is going to give people what they want. Who would be the audience if they gave some Asian guy a show on modifying Japanese cars? No one's going to watch an Asian version of 'Pimp My Ride.' It's just awkward and unfamiliar to most people. It's sad, but it's true."
On this Asian American subculture,
"Back when I was into it, which was in the early 2000's, it was mostly Asian American. I live in the Bay Area and my high school was like 90% Asian so obviously there were going to be lots of Asians in the shows I went to. It was a comfortable place to be, because everyone there looked like you had similar backgrounds as you. But I know that the demographics of the scene are really changing and it's pretty popular in the East Coast too. After 'The Fast and the Furious" it just became so mainstream, a lot of Asian Americans are pretty annoyed with it. Even magazines like, say 'Import Tuner' used to be all Asian Americans in it but now you'll seldom find one."
*Name has been changed to respect individual's anonymity