Model: Emma Sung
EMMA SUNG, 23 years old. Venezuela.
Emma Sung is a young transgender model born in Venezuela who currently lives in San Sebastian. Despite being only 23 years old, she has lived through many difficult experiences that have led her to be the strong woman she is today. Through modeling she wants to give visibility to trans people and make this world a better place.
Tell me more about yourself, who is Emma?
That’s a very good question. Emma is mainly confidence and strength. She is a person who had a difficult childhood, who had many experiences at a very young age and who has emigrated twice. It is very hard to emigrate, even though I moved to Chile with a friend it was not the same. Now in Spain I am with my family.
However, you are from Venezuela. How long did you live there?
I was born and raised in Venezuela. I lived there until I was 19 years old.
We all know the social and political context of Venezuela. What was it like growing up transgender in a country where you were living under a dictatorship practically since you were born?
I started my transition in Chile. However, my family was already very sexist about this issue. Latin American and Venezuelan cultures are characterized by being more intolerant of these issues. In addition, I was bullied at school, and they tried to rape me when I was in high school. Kids bullied me from third to fifth grade, but my family didn’t even know about it. The teachers didn’t do anything about it either, and they made me feel that I was the one to blame for being the way I was. In the end, I ended up changing schools and in the new one, I didn’t have any bad experiences.
Since I was little I had to put up with comments from mothers at school who said “look what a sissy boy”, I don’t think children should listen to those kinds of comments. They saw me differently, I was always feminine regardless of my physique and since I lacked references, if they told me I was a “sissy” since I didn’t know what it was, I would say “well, I’m a sissy”. I had no references to identify how I felt.
Have you held yourself back from being who you were?
Yes. Since I had all these traumatic experiences at school or at home, I thought the same thing would happen to me on the street. And honestly, I have more traumatic experiences at school and at home than outside.
I had social anxiety. I felt like everyone was staring at me, my hands were sweating, I felt uncomfortable and I wanted to run away from places. I couldn’t leave the house without my headphones and my music, it was the way of isolating myself from reality. In Chile, I stopped feeling like that.
This is very hard. You suffered bullying for 5 years, did you ask anyone for help at some point?
Well, I went to psychologists. But mostly for my family, because they wanted to know what was wrong with me. In the end, nothing was wrong, it was just my personality and there was nothing wrong. I have been my own psychologist. I had a lot of mental strength. It was a very hard stage in which I had to put up with many problems at home, with my father. For many years everything was negative. But time heals everything and right now, it has already healed a certain part of it. We grow and learn.
“With modeling I had the freedom to be me, to be able to express myself, to talk to people without anyone judging me”.
And at what point did you decide to be Emma?
I always knew that Emma existed, but there were so many things I experienced that I unconsciously repressed. They made me identify myself with something I wasn’t, and I didn’t know. I didn’t realize it until I went to Chile and started modeling. With modeling I had the freedom to be me, to be able to express myself, to talk to people without anyone judging me. At that moment, I thought about it and looked back. It was very shocking, I started to cry because I felt like a woman and I identified myself as a woman. I didn’t know what to do or how to start. Thanks to the industry, through friends, I met a trans guy who gave me advice, inspired me, and encouraged me to take the step. He made me realize that there were people who felt the same way I did and that it was possible.
At the age of 20, I had the courage to talk to my closest family and tell them what I was going through. In general, the reaction wasn’t bad, except for one or two family members who didn’t support me.
How did you get started in the modeling world?
I started in the fashion world by chance. I am a very creative person and one of my dreams had always been to be a model, but I saw it as something far away. However, when I arrived in Chile, I started following Chilean show business and I got my first job when a photographer found me on the street. The project was for a Mexican magazine. At first, I was a little reluctant, because you know that in this world not everyone has good intentions, but I saw that a friend had already worked with him and I got the courage. This photographer offered me my first job and my first photoshoot to create my portfolio. Once there, through him, I started to meet more people and create connections. It was all very easy, really. The last job I did in Chile was for H&M.
Are you currently working as a model or do you combine it with another job?
In the beginning, I combined both. I worked as an operator from Monday to Friday and I always tried to work as a model on weekends. However, right now I’ve been in Spain for a year and with everything that is happening with Covid-19, it’s been difficult for me to work. Right now I want to find a job doing whatever I can and go back to modeling as soon as I can.
What does modeling mean to you?
The modeling environment is very frivolous, it’s a very strict industry with very specific requirements. However, for me it was therapy. I used to be a very shy person, a very self-doubting person.
Do you use modeling to give visibility to transgender women?
Through modeling you can make many issues visible, not only transgender women. At the end of the day you can transmit a lot with photographs. Despite being a cold world, it is a profession through which you can represent your emotions, yourself, society… I see it as a way to educate society.
What is your next professional goal?
I think I have something to contribute to the modeling world. I would like to work as a model on a recurring basis in Spain and do it internationally to be able to have a bigger audience and educate society, communicating the messages I want. I have also thought about studying fashion design to be able to achieve the same from the other side of the camera.
What do you think about ModelManagement.com?
I think that ModelManagement.com is very useful for all people in this industry, such as photographers, stylists, makeup artists, etc, it’s not just for models. I think this platform can help me start working as a model more frequently in Spain. I am looking forward to it!