At the beginning of her career as a model, Merille Raagas faced some challenges and learned valuable lessons that she continues to live by.
She began modeling in Australia where she became the face of numerous campaigns. She's seen on billboards and ads for Myer, Qantas, OPSM, Rationale, David Jones, Peter Alexander, Witchery, Veronika Maine, Becca Cosmetics, Coles, Target etc. She remains one of the most familiar faces in Australia but ventured to different countries all over Asia to attain further success. She is currently based in the United States where she continues to split her time modeling between Los Angeles and New York as one of the most sought-after models in America. Her success reached international heights as she became the face of campaigns for Google OS, Ulta, Sephora, Infiniti, David Yurman, and Google Pixel. She continues to work with notable brands and designers such as Pendelton, Faherty, Asics, Anine Bing, Vegamour, Rachel Comey, etc.
Merille, let's talk about your career in modeling. How and when did it start?
I started modeling about a decade ago and the predominant reason behind it was to pay my living costs and tuition for law school in Australia. Unlike other models, my “discovery” story was not as serendipitous and exciting. I have always deemed modeling as a potentially lucrative career, so I researched a lot about it. Luckily, a photographer found me and shot my first test shoot ever. The photos turned out well, so he included a few in his portfolio. He went to a meeting with one of Australia’s prestigious modeling agencies, Vivien’s Model Management. A model agent there saw my photos and wanted to sign me straight away. The rest, as many would say, is history!
What kind of challenges have you faced?
Modeling means multiple rejections. This is by far the most challenging part of this job. The bar for modeling was set really high back in the day. Looking for an agency that was willing to take a risk on me was the first challenge I had to face, and I got rejected a lot, especially, at the beginning of my career. There was a time when diversity was not a “thing” and so agencies would say “we cannot have another girl with the same look on our board”. They would then show me a photo of the model who had the “same look” and the only similarity we’d have is that we were both Asians. Most agencies back then would only have one or two Asian models on their board because they weren’t as marketable to clients. Looking back, it was a bumpy road to success but years later, trends have done a massive U-turn, and now more and more diverse faces are being introduced into the fashion world.
What have you learned from modeling?
Modeling is such a competitive career that it builds one’s character. It certainly built mine over time. I was faced with all my insecurities, constantly knowing that someone else could be better. However, fashion is a business and models are products. I have learned not to take rejections personally and instead to know that there are campaigns out there that I am better suited for.
What countries have you been to?
I am thankful and consider myself blessed because I was able to travel the world and live in different countries because of modeling. I have done modeling in countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Spain, and currently in the United States. I will be working in other parts of Europe soon as well and I am very excited about this.
What are the most interesting projects you've participated in?
Oh, I have a few favorites but the most recent one was when I flew to Barcelona, Spain to shoot Google Pixel’s newest campaign, which is out now. This was my first time in Europe, so it was such a special moment for me. I met great people in the industry and was able to tour around Barcelona during that time.
Another notable project was when I shot for David Yurman in New York and did not know I was going to be with an A-list actor. I kept guessing until the first shot of the day and it was such a surprise meeting Crazy Rich Asians’ actor Henry Golding!
Could you share your biggest dream?
I used to dream of becoming a lawyer and a model, but these dreams have already come true, and now I have set my sights on something bigger. I have always kept this to myself as I am concerned about what people would say, but we must start manifesting at some point, right? I would really love to become an actress one day. It would be such a dream to be in one of the series that I enjoy getting lost in and to be in movies as a character that viewers would root for.
Model: Merille Raagas @merilleraagas @statemgmt @priscillasmodels
Photographer: Justin Truong @justint.photos
Stylist & Creative Director: Tristan Magundayao @iam_tristan
Hair & Make Up: Yukari Obayashi Bush @yukari.makeup