[PHOTOS] Meet Ling Tan: Malaysia’s First Supermodel To Walk At Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

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(source: Aqasha Nur’aiman, JUICE Lifestyle Writer)

Malaysian model Nia Atasha and Miss Universe Malaysia 2018 Jane Teoh recently captured the attention of netizens after becoming the face of Victoria’s Secret’s first local campaign.

Nia’s appearance sparked a discussion online, as she was the first Malay-Muslim to model for the lingerie brand.

However, before the two posed for the cameras, did you know that one Malaysian model made history in 1996 when she became the first Asian model to walk at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show?

That model is Ling Tan, who burst into the modelling scene in the mid-’90s and was billed as Southeast Asia’s first international supermodel.

(source: Munich Models)

Tan was born on 9 October 1974, in Kuala Lumpur, to a taxi driver father and a seamstress mother.

She attended a Chinese school before continuing her education at a tertiary level, where she studied art and design.

In an interview with Prestige Hong Kong, Tan said that she broke into the international modelling world after being photographed by legendary photographer Richard Avedon.

She has collaborated with numerous top designers since then, including Elie Saab, Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford, Emporio Armani, and Chanel, to name a few.

She was also featured in a 12-page spread in the prestigious Italian Vogue magazine and made it to the cover of Vogue Germany in November 1998.

To celebrate our fashion darling and icon, let’s rewind the time and revisit some of Tan’s best runways and magazine covers

1. Harpers Bazaar US, October 1997 Issue

(source: @lingtan_ via Instagram)

Tan was photographed in Dior by Patrick Demarchelier, a French fashion photographer who died in March 2022.

2. Christian Dior Spring 1999 Couture Show

(source: Pinterest)

Surrealism inspired Christian Dior’s spring 1999 couture collection. Here, Tan modelled a modest green couture look designed by John Galliano that fits the fashion transition from the late ’90s to the early 2000s.

3. Marie Claire Malaysia, October 2017 Issue

(source: Bunny Paige)

Tan posed in New York City and was photographed by Elio Noguiera for the Marie Claire Malaysia October 2017 issue.

4. Anna Sui Fall 1998 Ready-to-Wear

(source: Vogue)

Aside from Tan, other models including Shalom Harlow, Amber Valetta, and Carolyn Murphy also walked this runway.

5. Vogue Germany, October 1997 Issue

(source: Cool Chic Style Fashion)

Tan was photographed by Ruven Afanador, a longtime contributor to Vogue, Vanity Fair, Elle, as well as The New York Times.

6. Christian Dior Spring 1998 Couture

Not long after joining Christian Dior, Galliano designed lavish clothes that appeared to be from an early 20th-century salon or ball for the brand’s spring 1998 collection.

7. Vogue Korea, April 1999 Issue

(source: Mahertini via Pinterest)

Tan landed on the cover of Vogue Korea for their April 1999 issue, where she was photographed by Tyen.

8. Chanel Spring 1997 Couture

(source: The Runway Archive via Tumblr)

Karl Lagerfeld paid homage to the late ’20s and early ’30s in Chanel’s Spring 1997 collection. Harlow opened the show with a classic and graceful Chanel suit, while Tan donned a much sexier and risqué black dress.

9. Alexander McQueen Fall 1997 Ready-to-Wear

(source: Vogue)

McQueen drew inspiration from H.G. Wells’ novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, which is about a vivisectionist who creates humanoids from animals.

10. Victoria’s Secret 1996 Fashion Show

(source: Malaysian Beauty Pageant Fan via Facebook)

Tan debuted as the first Asian model for the popular lingerie brand, Victoria’s Secret. Aside from the Malaysian supermodel, Naomi Campbell also walked the iconic runway.

Tan’s career has expanded over 25 years, and the model is still active until the present day

(source: Prestige Hong Kong)

However, she told Prestige Hong Kong that it is now getting harder for her to land jobs due to the industry preferring new faces.

She added that when she first started modelling, there were not many Asian models working in Europe and the United States.

“I was lucky to work with so many talented people in the fashion industry and they were all very kind, considerate and respectful to me. But in the last 15 years, the shift is that luxury customers are mostly from Asian countries now and they come to Europe and the United States to buy big-brand designer goods.

“Lots of brands and fashion editors started to put Asian models on their runways and magazines, resulting in a dramatic increase in the diversity of Asian models,” she said.

Despite the new challenges, it’s safe to say that Malaysians will always appreciate and celebrate her legendary career.


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