S.Tugs speaks about modeling, motherhood and more

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Last week, the UB Post reported that Mongolian supermodel Tugs Saruul will star in the upcoming season of “Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 4”.

The 24-year-old, who grew up in Ulaanbaatar and Germany, was scouted walking to McDonald’s in Berlin in 2010 and has since modeled for some of the world’s most well known clothing brands.

The mother-of-one spoke to the UB Post in-depth about her experiences in front of the cameras, her views on the modeling industry and what she misses when she is away from home.

The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

How did you first get into modeling? Was it something you had always dreamed of? Or was it by accident?

My childhood dream was to work in genetics or become a vet. Modeling was never in my thoughts because my family is not very fond of occupations like that. My mom is in politics, my grandpa was the director of the Power Plant No. 3, my grandma a university professor and their siblings were all writers and math teachers.

As I grew older, I developed a huge interest in makeup. So after I finished school in 2010, I applied and got into a school of make-up artistry and styling in Berlin.

Then one day, when I was on my way to McDonald’s I was scouted by a director from a modeling agency. From then on, modeling took over my life.

What do you like about modeling and where have you worked?

I first started in Germany, and since then I have been to Tokyo in Japan, New York and Singapore.

I love how it’s a challenge every day and that dancing and acting is always a part of what I do.

I love how people who work in the fashion industry have a different way of seeing this world, and that I get to experience and listen to how they see it and what they like.

I love how being in good shape is an important part of my job because working out relaxes me. And also travelling everywhere is nice too (laughs).

Which designers do you model for and what type of clothes and accessories do you model?

I model everything from watches and shoes to clothing lines. I work with whoever books me.

I’ve worked with Nike, Adidas, Diane von Furstenberg, Roberto Cavalli, DKNY, Shanghai Tang, Galai Lahav, and Bvlgari to name a few.

What is it like to see your face in magazines and on advertising campaigns?

For me it’s normal – it’s just like seeing myself on my phone album. But I’ve always wondered how other people feel and what they think when they see me on magazines and campaigns. 

Why did you enter “Asia’s Next Top Model”? Were you already a fan?

I entered because first, one of the staff approached me on Instagram and asked me if I was interested. I’m not a fan of competitions and I would rather just work, but at the same time I thought it would be an amazing experience so I decided to try out.

When do you start working on the show? And do you hope to win?

The filming of the show is already done. I was just super curious about how it feels to have a camera in your face 24/7 (laughs).

What do you hope to gain from appearing on the show?

To be honest, I am not thinking about gaining anything, maybe just the TV experience. To me, modeling is just a job just like a teacher, a cashier and etc.

I never started modeling to gain attention or publicity, and it’s exactly the same with this competition, I’m just doing it out of plain curiosity

Do you have any designers who you would like to work with in the future?

A model’s dream is to work with every designer on this earth (laughs) but one of my biggest dreams is to work with Versace and Alexander McQueen. I die for their designs!

How has your life changed since you started modeling?

My self confidence has got so much stronger – but not because I’ve become a model. It’s because I found something that I loved doing and am good at the same time. I have so much passion for what I do now.

Doing shoots makes me feel strong and being on stage is a very unique feeling. First, it’s the adrenaline rush, but after taking three steps on the runway, I feel my body relaxing and calming. It’s something I would start missing if I didn’t do it for a long time.

Also, the way I see beauty has become so different. I love my imperfections now, because those are the reasons I get booked by designers and fashion producers because they make me unique.

When you come home, do you get recognized in the street from your campaigns?

Mongolians are not the kind of people that would come straight up and stare at you and start taking pictures like Koreans or Italians do. We don’t like to show our emotions much I think.

But I do love it when people come up to me and ask for a picture. Because there is always a lot of positive energy that’s coming my way from those people, so I get a boost of energy. 

What does your family think about your career as a model? You said you come from a very academic family.

First, they were strictly against it because I went to a modeling agency in Mongolia before I went to Germany, but it was for acting classes. I had heard a big actress was teaching and I got very excited and just went there. Then the manager and the designer from that agency wanted to work with me and I wanted to a little bit, but my family were really against it.

But after I started to model in Germany and when my personality didn’t change at all, they started to be OK with it. Then after I walked at Berlin Fashion Week, they started being more supportive.

Now no one in my family feels the need to tell me what or what not to do, they know I will not make bad choices or change as a person. 

How do you find the modeling industry in Mongolia?

I like to work at home because it’s super chill and it’s developing every year. Pay-wise and picture quality-wise it is not exactly there yet but I’m positive that it will get better and better. 

Do Mongolian models have a good reputation abroad? Are there many models from the country?

I haven’t worked with many people that have worked with Mongolian models before but the few that did get so excited when they hear I’m Mongolian. So they do have a pretty good reputation (laughs). There are a few models working abroad but really not enough. But modeling takes a lot of travelling and being away from home and I think many girls are afraid of that.

Also, we don’t have a single agency that works with other agencies abroad, especially in Europe. We also don’t have magazines like Harpers Bazaar or Vogue. For Asian models, the demands are way higher than European models, and in our portfolio, we have to have pictures from those magazines to work in Europe.

So the Chinese and Korean models are working a lot there, and those are the countries that don’t like to work with Asian models other than their own models.

It’s sad how things like this are limiting us and how much harder we Mongolian models have to try. It’s really hard to get in contact with agencies unless you go there, but not everyone can afford to go to Europe and stay there just to see if it’s going to work out.

Are there any changes you would make to the modeling industry (in general, not just Mongolia)? 

Actually there is not much I would change. I think modeling is a choice and no one forces you to stay in the industry. I don’t think it should be an easy thing either, so personally, I don’t mind when they tell me to lose weight or work out more.

If I don’t want to diet, I can simply just stop modeling. I personally can’t stand people that complain too much and try to make everything too comfortable. Try harder yourself or just quit – that’s what I like to say.

Do you spend much time in Mongolia anymore? What do you miss when you are away from home?

I work away from home around two to three months and I come back home for the same amount of time.

I’m always home sick, and if I have a little more free time, I end up crying in bed because I miss my daughter – who is now three – so much, but it’s going to be like this forever.

Before I went on my trip, I told my mom I felt guilty and bad and that my girl will never be a baby again, but then my mom told me but you will never be this young again either.

That’s when I realized I don’t have much time left (to be a model) and that I need to do whatever I can do in these next few years. 

Has your view of life changed since you had your daughter?

It changed me as a person a lot. I was a wild child. I was not good at listening to people. I made decisions without thinking about the consequences. My heart spoke louder than my brain. I guess you can just call it being young (laughs).

But ever since I had my girl, I became so much more stable and mature. I don’t do anything unless its beneficial for the future, I have become more calm and realistic. And I’m really grateful for that.

What do your friends say when they see your photos? Are they proud?

I have amazingly supportive friends and they are all very proud of me. They always used to tell me to try modeling and I always said “no”. Now they all say: “See, we told you!”