Ever since the 1960s with Naomi Sims, there has been a growth in diversities reaching the runway, appearing in front of fashion covers editorials internationally. Our latest series brings you mixes of all races around the world–the hottest new generation. Inspired by National Geographic’s Changing Faces article.
Lydia Graham – half Thai, half British
Photographer: Lauren Engel
Location: Hoxton Hotel
You were born in Thailand, at what age did you move to the UK?
I moved when I was two years old so I don’t remember growing up in Thailand at all. My dad went out to work in Thailand, met my mom, had my brother, me, and my younger sister and we moved to England. He was in his twenties when they said he has a job offer in Thailand. The job was to do with the sky train. Then he lived in Thailand for ten years and he loved it so much. My mom was the receptionist at his work. Apparently there was one story when they first met. He was coming up the elevator and the door opened. She saw him and gasped. My mom pretended she couldn’t speak English and was really shy. She was like mm hi! We still go back to Thailand every two years or so. My dad misses it. Thailand feels like it’s his home even though he’s English.
Tell me about your upbringing?
I have a older brother, sister whose 18 and sister whose 9, shes the baby. I live in East Sussex which is kind of between London and Brighton. I travel to London everyday. It’s only an hour so it’s not too bad and it’s quite cheap. We moved from Thailand to Hertfordshire which we lived for a couple of years then we moved to East Sussex when I was 8. Most of my childhood and teenage life was in East Sussex. I live in a place called Forest Row; it’s in a forest, empty woods but in a little village area. It’s nice but it’s a bit boring. That’s why I wanted to move to London.
What did you do growing up?
I went to the park with my friends every Friday night to hang out. There are these streams but they were really low down and there were boulder things we would just jump across. We would also go on bike rides… just outdoorsy kind of things.
How were you like in high school?
I think I was pretty boring (laughs.) I had two best friends who I used to hang out with. I think I was kind of a loser (laughs). In year 10 I was 15 years old playing catch. During the break time we would just throw to each other and eat our lunch. I don’t think I was weird or special I was just there with my best friends. I was really into photography and art.
Do you still do photography?
I did it at college and started assisting then I realized I enjoyed being in front of the camera. I just felt bored and I was lucky to shot my friends who were models. This was a couple of years ago when I was in college. I really liked photography but didn’t know if I wanted to do this. I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I’m really bad at maths, science and English; all the academic subjects I was bad at. But I like graphic design, art, photography and media studies.
Were your parents always supportive of you doing art?
Ya I think my parents are pretty chilled. They are more chilled to me because I’m the most sensible out of my brother and sisters. To them they’re like you have to do this, you have to do that because my siblings don’t know what they want to do. For me I knew I wanted to do art. My dad’s quite arts and my moms quite good at making stuff. She’s really good at maths but a bad teacher. I remember she used to make me do maths homework and make me cry (laughs) because I was so bad and she didn’t have the patience and explain. She was shouting at me and I was like ahhh! (laughs)
Have you changed since high school?
Yes and no. Yes in the since that I’m more confident. Being in London makes you more confident. Being in different situations, you have to make yourself comfortable. As a person, I don’t think I’ve changed at all, like looks and growth (laughs), I’m literally the same since I was in school (laughs)
“I would love to get into casting directing. I love keeping up with all the new faces and new models. I can probably name every single model in the magazines.”
How has having parents from different nationalities shaped you?
I love it. My mom being from Thailand is quite a good conversation starter. The other day, this guy at Pret asked me where I was from and I said Thailand. He was like ‘shut up! No you’re not’! And I was like I am! Only one person has guessed Thai. Most people guess Japanese, Malaysian, Middle Eastern, Spanish, Greek and everything else. People think Thailand is an exotic place and they’re jealous. My dad plays Thai music at home and my mom makes amazing Thai food. When I’m home I get a nice stir fry. Tonight we are having sticky rice and chicken.
How did you start modeling?
I entered a competition. When I was younger Sugar magazine used to be printed before they went online. I must have been googling how to be a model and I stumbled upon it. I sent in a photo and a paragraph of myself but I didn’t actually win. I wrote I think I should win cause my passion is modeling and fashion, something really cringe. I kind of always wanted to be a model but I didn’t know what modeling was. I wanted to be the people in the magazines but I never realized they’re models and didn’t know it was an actual job. The competition was linked through Models1. If you won you would get a contract with them. I didn’t win but I still got signed so I felt happy! That was four years ago. I did it two years full-time because I left college two years ago when I was 17. I love modeling.
Have they sent you to other places?
I have had jobs abroad. I think it’s difficult for me because I’m quite short. I’m only 5’6.5. That’s tiny for modeling so I think it’s hard to get booked in other places. London is quite open for shapes and heights. You can be any height as long as they like your look. You can be a bit bigger, not typical model shape. Everywhere else is quite strict. I actually got signed in New York, I was like what the fuck! I got signed to Marilyn last summer. I think they’re quite skeptical if I will work. I went to go visit them when I was on holiday with my boyfriend. I think I’ll play it by ear if I get work out there. They’re waiting for me to get a job to come out there, instead of coming there if things don’t work out. But I’m so happy being in London and doing London jobs.
Have you considered going to Asia? I feel like you would do really well there
Everyone says that but I’ve had meetings with Asian agencies and no one has wanted to send me to Asia. I don’t really want to go there for modeling, but I would like to go for a holiday. Loads of girls I know have been, some of them have the best times, some have the worst times. I’m kind of happy not going (laughs)
What are your future plans outside of modeling?
I would love to get into casting directing. I love keeping up with all the new faces and new models. I can probably name every single model in the magazines. I don’t feel like I’m a model when I look at the magazines. I would love to be in this industry. I don’t know how I would pursue that or when. I am happy doing modeling right now, just chilling. It’s easy to get stuck and happy with modeling because I get certain days off modeling, good money then it hits you that I actually have to do something with my life. It will hit me soon hopefully.
What do you do for fun?
I go to visit my boyfriend. We met at Isle of Wight festival and our agency gets free tickets because they scout there. We met there and that was nearly two years agonow. My hobbies are smoking, drinking coffee, drinking alcohol and eating (laughs) that’s what I like to do on weekends. I love eating Thai food, Indian food and pizza (laughs.) My favourite music is quite broad. I really like the Arctic Monkeys, Rihanna, Kanye West,Taylor Swift,etc. It depends on the mood I’m in. I don’t quite like electronic music with beats…
What does love mean to you?
Put someone before yourself.