Written by Valerie Bevilacqua
As a model for music videos, fitness magazines, and Maxim, Vanessa Lai redefines the boundaries of versatility…
And how does she establish that variety? Well, she implements skills other than modelling, specifically as an awesome dancer! Vanessa began dancing at the tender age of 5, and has been taking chances with a wide selection of dance types ever since, from ballet to hip hop, and much more! “I think one of my biggest achievements, or the thing I am most proud of, is that I've been able to make my hobby into a career,” Vanessa exclaims. “I think the biggest reward is to have dance in so many aspects of my life.” This could explain how dancing can spill into her modeling, since both require inhibited movement and communication of the body in extreme moods and forms.
So, in 2002, Vanessa made her TV debut as a dancer on the MuchMusic techno-driven program Electric Circus. Even though the show has gone on another hiatus (it was cancelled in the late 90s), Vanessa wouldn’t be shocked, if the show returned: “Seeing as how the whole electronic music scene is getting so huge, it wouldn't surprise me to see them start the show again!“ With its classic old-school flashy outfits and crazy freestyle-influenced choreography, Electric Circus isn’t the only phenomenon that made its mark, with its unique style and music. “I do remember people in high school coming up to me the Monday after, telling me they saw me on TV, and asked me where I got my outfits,” outfits that she also believes will be revived someday.
However, her contribution and intrigue in this style differs from her laid-back yet excited attitude towards fashion. “Most of the time, I'm hanging out in sweat pants and a hoodie. I just wear what feels right for that day. My one and only fashion rule: if you love it, rock it.” Saying that, dressing for the inside reflects what is projected on the outside, and with her understanding of this concept, Vanessa makes sure she’s happy with what she’s wearing, so she looks and remains happy. This way, her confidence shines through, in the freedom to express her emotions and individuality through clothing and movement….
And so that confidence, her natural beauty, and a passion for fashion and dancing eventually opened another door to modeling. That same year, as a live window model for Missbehavn - a lingerie/fetish store on Queen Street - Vanessa was scouted by the son of the owner of a calendar company.
Ironically enough, in that same store, Vanessa’s talent was also recognized by a man involved with 2006’s Maxim Magazine Golf caddies. Again, Vanessa challenges another model stereotype, by participating in and explaining the personalities of her peers in this “adult” component of the industry. “All the girls are really sweet. People seem to think they'd all be air heads or full of themselves, but most of them are all your cute girl-next- door types. It was way more fun than being a regular caddie. You don't really have to know much about golf; you just have to know how to have a good time!” This suggests that models are normal people, and (almost) anyone can be one!
Returning to dancing and acting like a normal person on video in 2007, Vanessa also starred in rock music’s staples The Used's "Pretty Handsome Awkward." According to Vanessa, even famous musicians are normal. “The guys in The Used are all really cool; they didn't have any attitude at all. The only one they had used was a scene with me dancing on a stage. We had a bunch of us standing still like statues wearing masks. I shot a scene with the lead singer 'vomiting' on me; it was actually fruit juice! But I think they used those scenes in their DVD, not the video.”
…which brings us to this year, where 24-year-old Vanessa has tried her at fitness modeling for NAS Productions. Her secret to staying fit? Again, a variety of things. “I like playing sports. I'm up for anything, from horseback riding, to soccer to volleyball. I'm sure being waitress helps - it must be good cardio - as well as all the dancing I do.” Well, as long as Vanessa keeps on moving, I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more of her to come!
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