By Bonnie Chan
Angel Pai doesn’t deliberately seek to buck the stereotype of the dumb, one-dimensional model; with college degrees in three fields (theater, business, and medicine) under her belt, and a fierce, can-do attitude, Angel simply can’t help but do it at every turn. She was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and immigrated to New York City at the age of six, a background that contributes to her multilingualism. At the mere age of twelve, she was scouted by a model agent, while standing in the library line with an armful of books. Contrary to expectations, this wasn’t the start of her modeling career. In a response that would warm the hearts of Asian parents everywhere, Angel insisted on placing her education first. In fact, for the longest time, her childhood dream was to be a neurosurgeon, a goal she pursued during her years at New York’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School by interning at local hospitals.
Angel’s big break came when she was getting headshots in order to pursue acting interests and the photographer, inspired by her beauty, linked her up with fashion modeling opportunities. This ignited the start of her successful career. Since then, she has signed with numerous agencies worldwide, in New York, Los Angeles, Milan, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and Japan. Previous credits include Harper’s Bazaar HK, Elle HK, Cosmopolitan US/HK, to name a few. In addition, she has hosted segments on MTV, and shown up on various TV series, such as 30 Rock, Gossip Girl, Law & Order, and Ugly Betty.
Having grown up in Queens, Angel classifies herself as a proud New Yorker. The city’s multiculturalism, coupled with diverse traveling experiences, has helped to shape her open-mindedness. “Nothing shocks me,” Angel says. She is unwilling to resort to premature judgments and wholeheartedly accepts everyone she meets. Angel points out that it can be difficult to keep in mind people’s uniqueness and humanity in a capricious industry that shuffles thousands upon thousands of talents daily. Efforts to remember everyone’s multidimensionality is a two-way street: just as she doesn’t want to be perceived as merely a model or an actress, she tries her best as well to genuinely understand her bosses and clients, outside of their titles, as people.
For Angel, with her numerous talents, it is no difficult feat to be remembered as an individual. Outside of her modeling and acting career, she leads a rich, varied life, filled with compelling hobbies. Her athleticism is fueled by a dedicated martial arts regimen; she is an 8-time gold medalist in Tae Kwon Do. Her artistic side is represented by a background in oil painting, which she has practiced since the age of eight. She has elicited considerable recognition for her art, and has been featured in a number of exhibitions. When she was eighteen, one of her works was featured at MoMa’s affiliate, the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center.
Angel’s fashion style is a provocative contrast of feminine paired with rock n’ roll elements. Brands don’t matter to her; she buys based on the design, and has a sewing machine at home for any alterations. However, when asked about how she personally defines “sexiness,” she disagrees that it has to do with appearance. “You can be wearing a tank top and jeans, and that could be the sexiest thing, because you could be full of light,” she says. For her, sexiness means true confidence that is born out of self-knowledge, the passion to pursue one’s interests, and feeling comfortable and happy in one’s skin.