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UCLA student uses platform to cast authentic image of self, modeling industry

Fourth-year political science student Natalie Lim utilizes social media to share humorous stories and behind-the-scenes glances at her life and modeling career. (Courtesy of Sebastian Keefe/Flanelle Magazine)

By Laura Carter

April 4, 2022 11:27 a.m.

This post was updated April 4 at 4:05 p.m.

Natalie Lim creates comedic content both on and off set.

With a combined 337,000 followers across Instagram and TikTok, the fourth-year political science student and influencer said she uses her platform as a way to showcase her personality and dry humor. Lim said she draws inspiration from her personal life and work with Ford Models, for which she models in photo shoots for various clients. In addition, Lim posts some of her modeling content on Instagram and said she enjoys having a space where she can talk about modeling and the issues within the industry from an insider’s perspective.

“Having social media content out there that showed who I am ended up being to my benefit because the industry is looking for people who can help convey emotions in art,” Lim said.

After gaining some traction on Instagram, Lim said a team member from Ford Models reached out to set up an interview and signed her. She said prior to meeting with the agency, she was already interested in fashion, and being presented with the opportunity to model has broadened her horizons. Additionally, the ability to attend high-profile fashion events and network with others in the industry has solidified her interest in the fashion world, she said.

(Courtesy of Miansai)
Natalie Lim said her interviewing process with Ford Models was more holistic than she initially imagined, with the company asking her questions about her interests and humor on social media. (Courtesy of Miansai)

[Related: Bruin utilizes platform to inspire accessible, holistic approach to healthy living]

Though modeling jobs do have gratifying elements, Lim said the perception surrounding models can sometimes be damaging to people in the industry. She said because the jobs models book rely heavily on their appearance, they are occasionally treated like mannequins on set. Other professionals, she added, can also sometimes make critical comments without taking into consideration the fact that the models are around and listening. While working on different jobs, Lim said she has to exercise self-control when she hears comments she is uncomfortable with.

“Sometimes people will treat models like they’re in a glass box,” Lim said. “I hear them say things about other people on set … and I still have to stay contained.”

Due to the demands of her modeling job, she said balancing her academics and career can be difficult as some jobs are only available during her classes. However, since this is her last year of school, Lim said she often prioritizes developing her modeling portfolio because she wants to continue modeling after she graduates.

Part of Lim’s appeal on social media, fellow influencer and friend Emily Lu said, comes from her eye for aesthetics. Her Instagram feed showcases bright colors and pictures that highlight an artistic outlook on her life, Lu said. Additionally, some of Lim’s TikTok videos, such as her series on misogyny in her encounters with various men, bring humor to real issues that many people face, Lu said.

“She is really authentic,” Lu said. “Her social media self really represents her actual self really well. When you follow her, you feel like, ‘Oh, I really know this person.'”

(Courtesy of Sebastian Keefe/Flanelle Magazine)
Although modeling can be rewarding, Natalie Lim said she sometimes has to hold back when she hears people on rudely discussing models on set as if they are not even there. (Courtesy of Sebastian Keefe/Flanelle Magazine)

[Related: Student cultivates online brand, focuses on authentic college experience]

For Benjamin Mendoza, another one of Lim’s friends from her time at Santa Monica College, Lim’s appeal on social media comes from her honesty and genuine attitude. He said watching Lim as she figures out her niche has been gratifying, and after becoming more comfortable with her social media presence, he is anticipating how she continues to grow her account.

“I’m proud that she’s really taking this on,” Mendoza said. “At first, trying anything new is always going to be rocky (and) can be uncertain … but she’s getting used to modeling and posting on social media.”

With less agency than social media, modeling is a job that requires mental toughness, Lim said. Models need a thick skin and the ability to work well under pressure, she said, but the opportunities she has experienced through her career make it a worthwhile pursuit. Especially as a political science student, Lim said she assigns events in her life political importance and she strives to use her social media platform as a place to shed light on problems in the modeling industry.

“I plan on growing my social media presence by putting everything and anything out there,” Lim said. “I’m hoping not only (to) make more comedy content and more about my modeling life, but hopefully also partnering with other production companies to help make nicer content.”

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Laura Carter
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