by Bret Yager
Tribune-Herald Staff Writer
Former isle woman Jaclynn Joseph finds success as international model It says something about the job of a model that Hilo-born Jaclynn Joseph lists her shoe size on her online professional profile. And that she’s two years older than she tells the professionals in her trade. “They want to know how much you weigh. They’re not afraid to tell you that you look fat,” she said. “I spend a lot of time covering my moles.”
Still, the 26-year-old Waiakea High graduate has a true affinity for modeling, her interest stretching back to school drama performances and the first signs of interest from a modeling agent when she was 18.
Joseph’s career is taking off in Asia, where television advertisements and magazine fashion shoots are spreading her image across multiple countries. But the exposure comes at a price compared to similar work in the U.S., which is better paying and easier — but a lot harder to find.
“On a TV set in L.A., they take care of you, feed you and keep you in the shade,” Joseph said. “In Asia, they have you on the set for 14 hours, no breaks, no food. They expect you to work very hard for very long hours, and it’s exhausting. The attitude is, ‘We’ve hired you. You’re a product: Perform.’”
But the Asian fashion market is greedy for her slender 5-foot-7-inch build, high cheekbones and pale skin (skin-bleaching is a fashion rage in China now, she says). Modeling gigs for cosmetics, handbags, bridal wear and swim wear will keep coming into the foreseeable future, she believes.
After graduating from the University of Hawaii at Hilo with a degree in history in 2004, Joseph traveled the country, landing in Los Angeles in 2008, where “10 million other girls are trying to make their break.”
She was selected by a casting agent for a bit part on the TV show “Boston Legal,” in an episode called “Smoke Signals,” where she played one of a group of attractive women kicking back on a yacht, sipping drinks and flirting with actors William Shatner and James Spader.
“I had a crush on James Spader from childhood for his role in ‘Stargate,’” Joseph said. “For a girl from Hilo, that was such a great moment.”
Joseph is getting to go places her best friend, Rachel Thompson, would love to be if she didn’t have classes, work and children to consider.
“Since she moved to Taiwan, I’m almost jealous,” said Thompson, a Hilo paralegal whose efforts at modeling have been hampered partly by her location. “She’s become a mini superstar. I’m so proud of her. Hilo’s not the place to become a great model, but she didn’t let that get in her way.”
Joseph moved to Taipei in September of 2008 and has worked there since, making a comfortable living. She’s back on the Big Island until late August for a vacation. But she won’t be seen on the beaches. Part of the deal is that she has to vigorously protect her pale skin, which means sun-tanning is absolutely out.
After the bustle of densely populated Taipei, she welcomes the space and stillness of the island.
“I love just hanging out with my parents. It sounds cheesy. I love just being at home, isolated in the country with our dogs,” said Joseph, daughter of Wayne “Big Dog” Joseph, a runner, coach and Tribune-Herald sports columnist.
She gets a lot of e-mails and talks to young people on the Big Island who are also trying to be models.
“I tell them it’s really frustrating to live on the Big Island and want to do modeling,” she said. “There’s no outlet. I try to encourage them to not give up and at least go to another island to develop a portfolio.”
Joseph began building her own portfolio in college, with numerous summer and weekend trips to Oahu. She’s been Miss Steinlager for the Big Island, has appeared in “LOOK Magazine” and “DISfunkshion” and will work with “HiLuxury” magazine on Oahu later this summer.
Big Island girls who want to follow in her footsteps need to be prepared to work hard and should be on the lookout for scams — such as modeling agencies that offer representation for money.
“That’s just not legit. So many girls fall for that,” she said.
Prospective models should also realize that, once they’re in the business, they no longer own their bodies, she said.
“There are no piercings, no tattoos. You manage your weight every day. It’s not fun,” she said.
So what’s ahead for Joseph?
More modeling, then a master’s program in history at National Taiwan University in 2010. History is the only subject she loves besides modeling; her father taught history for decades in Hawaii’s public schools.
There also will be more TV commercials and catalogue fashion shoots that will appear in magazines in China, Taiwan and Japan.
“I like seeing the finished product,” she said. “It makes me incredibly proud. I have friends write me on Facebook and say ‘I’ve seen you on the back cover of Big Island magazine.’”