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Vietnamese models use the Internet, nude photos to gain market share

Public sympathy for Vietnamese artists and models who have had nude photos of themselves placed on the Internet may not always be justified. Many now wonder if the "victims" have other motivations.

By William Sparrow
February 22, 2005

Vietnamese female artists are increasingly falling victim to the publication of their nude photos on the Internet. The problem is further exacerbated by the medium of the Internet itself that allows users to pass the knowledge of new nude photos of the model to others quickly and anonymously.

However, Asian Sex Gazette has learned that many are beginning to question the motivations of the artists and models involved. In a developing story that is reminiscent of the "Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee Sex Video" or the ongoing drama of the United States' newest media sex vixen, Paris Hilton, whose purportedly private sex videos have made her "Playboy's Sex Video Actress of the Year" for 2004, the Vietnamese are growing ever more suspicious of their young stars using sex in the media to capture fame.

Many victims have responded with indifference to the release of their nude photos and some have made statements supporting nude photography as art. This has raised suspicion and public debate that the "accidental" release of the nude pictures may have been intentional and motivated by the models' desire to achieve stardom.

In one case last year a steamy video emerged of the then-unknown model HP and her now ex-boyfriend. The video went on to monumental status in Vietnamese online media, capturing the title of "most terrific" event of the year by Internet users.

HP was an unknown dancing girl in the bars of Ho Chi Minh City until the Internet video clip propelled her into the limelight. The video clip features the model performing a striptease for the camera followed by various sex acts with her boyfriend.

Paul Nguyen, president of Vietnam's top modeling agency Elite Models Vietnam, told Asian Sex Gazette that competition in the industry may be driving women's actions. "There are hundreds of models fighting for a job and the chance to be a top model," Nguyen said.

"A top model with our agency can earn about US$12,000 a year after commissions," Nguyen stated. While that is not a lot of money by Western standards, it is an exceptional living in a country where the average per capita income is $483 a year, according to the US State Department.

Given the money at stake, then, some models will use just about any tactic to try to set themselves apart from the crowd. In some cases the models themselves have posted their own nude photos online to show off their bodies in hopes that viewers will consider them more beautiful than their colleagues.

Bao Hoa, one of the latest "victims", said there was nothing wrong with shooting nude photos as long as they were kept private. However, the photos, which feature Hoa in various positions and stages of undress, were first passed among members of the modeling and business community in Vietnam with no objection by Hoa, who was fully aware of the situation. She only became concerned and when the photos were published on the Internet, drawing significant sympathetic media attention for the "victimized" Hoa.

Pop singer Nguyen Hong Nhung also objected to nude photos that were taken by her ex-boyfriend and published on the Internet and said she would sue him, but Nhung never pushed the issue, apparently afraid it would ruin her reputation.

Vietnamese modeling has not yet come into it own as an industry as it has in regional neighbors such as Thailand. "The market is fragmented and small. Movie exposure helps for models but the movie industry in Vietnam is small, the models are underpaid for movie appearances and the work takes a lot longer," said Paul Nguyen, whose agency manages more than 20 exclusive contract models and 50-60 other part-time and freelance models. His agency does not produce any adult content.

"Vietnamese models have not yet really broken out into the international modeling scene," Nguyen said. "And foreign models often don't do well [or] are not paid enough in Vietnam." This leaves Vietnam's models struggling to grab what they can of the domestic modeling market.

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