Most people know Vanessa Hong from her Instagram account; but she’s more than a social media platform—even a big one.
Hong first found her love of fashion while growing up in Canada, but it was the explosion of her platform, formerly known as The Haute Pursuit, that catapulted her full-throttle into that world. In the almost decade since she started to become a voice in fashion, she’s worked as a model, stylist, designer of a faux fur coat line (embraced by Lady Gaga and more) and a collaborator with lines like Jimmy Choo.
Most recently, she’s made a foray into yet another world, launching her podcast, Vanessa Wants to Know, to a hungry audience.
Here, she talks about the importance of separating herself from her work and finding peace amidst the chaos:
Live The Process: How did you fall in love with fashion?
Vanessa Hong: I grew up in Vancouver, which really is one of the most beautiful places in the world—very multicultural, very openminded. That being said, I always felt out of sorts because I loved fashion and dreamed of living abroad. My mom, who I reference a lot of the time, is fashion-obsessed and imbued me with that same passion. I got into modeling through my blog, which was how a lot of brands found me; now, I’m signed with an agency here in NYC.
LTP: What’s been the most surprising thing about your life in that world?
VH: Hmmm—that, one day, I could potentially stop loving it. It’s been something I’ve been grappling with in the last three or four years. I have immensely mixed and often confusing feelings about it. On the one hand, I see the transformative power of fashion and expressing oneself through clothing; on the other, I cannot ignore the consequences of the industry on this planet and citizens.
LTP: How do you stay healthy and sane with the fast pace of it all?
VH: Fashion is a very fascinating industry. The glitz, glam, flashy part of it is just one very small element of the whole thing. Fashion is a business and operates like one. I suppose, when I started, I was wide-eyed and thought that the flashy part (editorials, runway, campaigns) was all of it, but in reality it makes up maybe only 5% of the work.
I stay healthy by creating boundaries with my work. I understand that my instagram account is not “me”—something I’ve learned the hard way after too long attaching my worth to my work (which is dangerous for anyone from any industry).
I do yoga every day, eat plant-based, cook all of my own meals and surround myself with people who genuinely love and see me. I think that’s really important.
LTP: You were a pioneer in creating a true digital platform on IG. Why do you think that people are attracted to what you do?
VH: I think my approach to Instagram—and even my blog back in the day—has always been the same: to really use these platforms as a way to express myself creatively. That is why I’ve never been too keen on sharing all the intimate details of my life; I’m not seeking to become a personality. I always felt like I was the Oz behind the proverbial screen.
When I started using IG, I immediately saw it as a way to color-code my inspirations, outfits, food, etc. It was a challenge and I really liked that; it also set my page apart from others. Now, it’s become so status quo, I’m recalibrating again.
What most people tell me is that they sense something genuine behind the content I create, which is such a compliment! Whether it’s my own personal stuff or branded content, I always feel the need to do something different— special, I suppose.
LTP: You recently launched a new podcast. What’s it all about?
VH: We launched season one of Vanessa Wants to Know (VWTK) earlier this year, which I dedicated to Asian excellence. I felt, for our opening season, it had to be a topic extremely important to me. Growing up first generation Chinese-Canadian, I never had an example of what an Asian in mainstream media, killing it, would look or sound like. VWTK gave me that opportunity. Many of the guests I spoke with are not only stars in their respective fields, but true visionaries—whether it be Phillip Lim, redefining what it means to be a designer today in 2019, or Michelle Lee, editor-in-chief of Allure magazine, using beauty as a vehicle for deeper cultural conversations. You’ll just have to tune in to hear more and spoiler alert: I’m also one of the guests!
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
VH: I prefer the idea of joy over happiness—and joy, for me, is peace. Peace-of-mind. Quiet. Stillness. Non-attachment.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
VH: I love the word, “process.” It suggests a continual growing, reinvention, progression.