Beauty Models: Altered Images ; Poise, Perfect Make-Up and How to Impress on the Catwalk - These Are Some of the Skills Learnt by Women at Cambodia's Pioneering School of Modelling. but the Most Important Lesson Is Independence
Rattray, Fiona, The Independent (London, England)
Cindy Crawford is big in Cambodia. "Everyone wants to be like her," says Sapor Rendall, the 29-year-old owner of the country's first modelling school and agency. That a nation so blighted by a violent past should have a modelling agency at all is surprising. That it should be run by a young woman, whose own life is steeped in the tragic events of the country, is extraordinary.
It is three years since the formation of a coalition government in Cambodia saw the surrender of the few remaining Khmer Rouge, and the peace and stability that followed has opened the way for the return of many who had fled. Sapor Rendall is one. As the eldest of four children growing up in Pol Pot's Cambodia, Rendall witnessed the death of her father from starvation, and her mother's desperate struggle to keep the rest of her family alive. Relief came when a Chinese-Cambodian couple adopted Sapor, but life with her new family was tough. Later, under threat from the Khmer Rouge, her new family escaped. They left in secret (the 19-year-old Sapor wasn't allowed to tell her own family, who thought she had died) on a boat to Australia. The journey took one month, in appaling conditions. Safely arrived in Australia, they were put in a refugee camp.
For four years life was grim - on one occasion Sapor was nearly raped - but, she says with a glint of steel, "By then, I'd learned how to take care of myself." While Sapor was in the camp, she met an Australian lawyer, and they fell in love and married. Four years ago, the couple returned to Phnom Penh.
While in Australia, Sapor studied modelling. She knew how to apply make- up and how to dress. She learned office and dining etiquette, deportment and hairdressing. "In Cambodia," she says, "women didn't know how to dress - they were so daggy. When I first came back, you'd see them going to the market in their pyjamas. And they'd wear really big shoes, so all you could see was shoes, not feet."
It's not that she disapproves of the traditional style of dress, it's just that after four years away, she was shocked by the subservience of her countrywomen - by the way they walked so slowly, how they trailed behind their husbands - and decided that she should show them another way.
At Sapor's School of Modelling, in Phnom Penh, students pay around US$100 for a five-week full-time course in make-up. …