Fashion Icon: Sapor Rendall
Posted by Meas Raksmey on October 20, 2008
How could a poor daughter end up growing to be a respected model and a successful businesswoman? Sapor Rendall narrates her life as an adopted child and her career as a modeling agency manager.
She is now a manager of her sole-owned modeling school. Her name is heard and seen on the media. Yonn Sapor, widely known as Mrs. Sapor Rendall, is the pioneer of catwalking and many other skills involving style and fashion in Cambodia. But looking back into her dark childhood, it would be hard to imagine how she can stand where she stands today.
Born into a middle-class family, Sapor did not expect much about her future. But that became much worse for her when the whole country was transformed into a working camp and killing field during the Khmer Rouge regime. Her father survived the brutal regime only to die later when she was about ten years old. With another three siblings and a widow mother, she knew she had to do something.
“I asked my mother to go and find job to help feed the hungry family,” Sapor recalls, “My mother firmly disagreed with me and said ‘I won’t let you do anything.’”
However, the scant money earned by her mother who worked in the rice mill factory could not sustain the family; thus, she had to be disobedient and secretly worked as a babysitter for her neighbor while she herself was only 12.
Luck started to smile at Sapor since then. “My neighbor was a rich Chinese Cambodian woman with many businesses. She was so kind; she let me work in the morning and go to school in the afternoon so that my mother wouldn’t know.”
It was the turning point in Sapor’s life when the generous neighbor adopted her as a foster daughter and took her to Australia when she reached 16.
“The ship I boarded nearly sank,” she recounts her first-and-nearly-last journey to a new country, “I was completely terrified then; I will not travel by ship again.”
Despite the hair-raising experience, she landed safely on the new land. She spent four years in the refugee camp before meeting her handsome present husband Matthew Rendall, who is now working as a lawyer in Cambodia. She also discovered modeling, a skill that has brought her fame and fortune.
“I went to a modeling class sort of by accident, because I didn’t like the way I looked. I didn’t like my posture. My teacher taught me how to walk and I found I really liked it. It felt nice, gentle and beautiful,” she was quoted as saying.
Born and spent her childhood in Cambodia, Sapor felt that she did not belong in Australia; therefore, in 1994, she and her family returned to her war-torn homeland bringing with her the knowledge and taste of modeling.
However, when she first stepped on her birthplace again, it became clear that she could not find the job of her favorite, so she unhappily worked as receptionist just to wait for her time.
Her luck struck again when a Singaporean woman came to establish a modeling agency in Cambodia. After working as a model there for awhile, she finally took her own chance and crafted a modeling school bearing her own name.
“I saw many Khmer women losing their self-confidence and ignoring their natural beauty,” she says “that reminded me of my past, but as I could be different then I also wanted to help them become what they were meant to be.”
No matter how committed she was, her greenhorn business tackled the same obscurity as many other business at that time. “Only three students enrolled when I first started the school, but after marketing myself using my previous photographs, people started to feel like it and more came to me.”
Besides that challenge of small opportunity, this ambitious avant-garde woman also had to face the unwelcome attitude of most conservative Cambodians.
“The very first thing I found hard to do was to convince everyone that this is the real training centre just like any other school,” she says “ Many people were afraid that I recruited these cool boys and hot girls for other dirty purpose.”
But her every hard work does pay her back. Now her Sapor’s Modeling Agency and Training School is the largest and most-known of its kind. With about 20 fulltime working staff and more than 100 hundred students learning, this is the place where potential Cambodian models are born.
Other than modeling, she also offers courses in make-up artistry, hair styling, facials, manicure, pedicure, massage, cooking and dining etiquette.
“The client for our modeling agency rages from nightclubs to the NGOs, and for the students of my school, mostly they are middle-class teenagers and adults, also some local and international commercial businesses,” she says.
The students in Sapor’s school do not finish this modeling school and then go back to start a grocery store at their hometowns. As the Cambodian economy is booming with the average 10 percent growth rate for the last few years, the opportunity for them seems very promising.
In an interview with one magazine Sapor claimed that all of her students got the job after leaving school. “About 40 percent of our students go overseas to work or to continue their education,” Sapor estimates. “Thirty percent go on to set up their own small businesses, and the other 30 percent work for spas, salons and beauty shops throughout the city,” she was quoted. A few years ago, one of her modeling student, Sun Srey Mom, was the first woman to vie for the coveted title of Miss World. Although she did not win, Srey Mom, with help from Sapor’s school, did draw the international audiences’ attention to the beauty of Cambodian women.
Sapor Rendall is among the top role model, who has paved the way for many young Cambodian to the world of fashion and style. Her success now is not achieved without blood and sweat, but what actually is her advice for the young? Simple: “Follow your heart, but be prepared to accept the truth.”
“When we want to do something, we need to try our best with commitment and confidence to do it, but if with our utmost effort and we still cannot achieve it, stop and do something else,” Sapor explains.
Sapor admits that the business of modeling is blossoming in Cambodia though in a slower pace than the neighboring countries. She says that only four or five years more, Cambodia will enjoy the same taste of modern and fashionable world. So will there be a “Cambodia’s Next Top Model” competition? “Yes. Of course, it is just the matter of time and my money,” promises Sapor.
This entry was posted on October 20, 2008 at 8:47 am and is filed under Features. Tagged: Cambodian model, fashion icon in cambodia, modeling agency in cambodia, modelling school, Sapor, sapor rendall. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.