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Jessica Minh Anh, Model & Fashion Show Producer

May 15, 2020 5:50 AM

BORN IN VIETNAM, Jessica Minh Anh graduated from the University of Birmingham just after the 2008 financial crisis. As a foreign graduate in the UK, her job prospects were very limited. So she rolled up her sleeves, started her own fashion show production company from scratch, and the rest is… well, if not history, then historical monuments. Many, many iconic and historical monuments.   

Ms Anh has made a successful career out of staging fashion shows at famous attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, London’s Tower Bridge, Grand Canyon Skywalk and One World Trade Centre. To raise awareness of renewable energy, she’s held catwalks at the Hoover Dam and GemaSOLAR power plant. Her last show before the Covid-19 crisis was on the runway of JFK International Airport.

While dozens of impresarios over the years struggle to obtain official permission to stage shows at crowded tourist attractions, Ms Anh seems to have, if not the Midas touch, then the Madonna moxie to persuade buttoned-down bureaucrats and business folk to help turn her madcap ideas into media-baiting, Instagram-inviting, talk-of-the-town realities.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted her firm JMA Paris as much as the next firm, she’s determined to turn crisis into opportunity, once again.

How did you get your first break as a catwalk producer, when you had no money and no sponsors?  

When I graduated in 2009, job opportunities were very limited in the recession. But I had a burning desire to transform my unique ideas into reality and didn’t want to give that up. Since I did not have any financial support, I selected a business model that had no setup cost and used my skills and experience in event management, PR consulting, and logistics production to generate revenues and pitch projects to big clients. My decision to become an entrepreneur during the global crisis received a lot of support from the UK media with headlines such as “Jessica Minh Anh focused on beauty, not recession”. The first show that put me in the global limelight was my London’s Tower Bridge catwalk which made history. I would never forget that feeling of a foreign student looking up on London’s Tower Bridge when I first arrived in the UK, not knowing one day I would be the first producer to transform it into the world’s newest catwalk.

How did you manage to turn your company, JMA Paris, into a global brand with shows around the world? Was it always the plan to export the catwalk concept to other major cities?

After the success of my show on London’s Tower Bridge, I realised there was no other venue in the UK that interested me. So I decided to spread my wings and go global. My thought process was quite straightforward. If I could produce such a show on England’s symbolic monument, I could do the same at the other wonders of the world. As my international portfolio grew through the years, I’ve become a lot more strategic in selecting venues and cities to host my unique catwalks. I believe in producing events that promote meaningful causes instead of only being visually breath-taking. So I continue to diversify my productions. For instance, I started my Fashion x Sustainability travel series where I highlight renewable energy, green initiatives, and technological advancement alongside fashion.

Before you, other event producers have also approached various city authorities to stage shows at iconic locations. But you manage to persuade authorities again and again to agree to the impossible. What’s the secret of your success?

Effectively pitching my ideas to the decision makers is definitely one of my strengths. I combine a bullet-proof plan, which includes A to Z logistics and global PR strategies, with a talented team of specialists and advisors. With my current proven track record of staging iconic catwalks, one would think I am more confident now about transforming dreams into reality. But I’ve always been that girl who’s sure enough of her abilities such that others in the room can see it too. You’ve got to believe in yourself for others to believe in you.

Why do you choose to also walk in your shows, alongside your other models?

It has always been part of the requests by designers in the shows who would like to see me in their signature pieces on the catwalk. I believe designers today trust models and brand ambassadors who inspire and empower a generation with personality, charisma, and purpose alongside their look. I am honoured to have been a source of inspiration for talents who value not only my look but also my ideas and advocacy for sustainability, innovation, and excellence.

What do you say to critics who think your Instagram-baiting catwalks are simply “gimmicky”?

I appreciate everyone who has an opinion about my shows. If they don’t understand the show’s beauty and purposes, they are not bad people. My main attention and focus are on making the shows better and more meaningful every time as I transform my ideas and dreams into reality. I want to get people excited and inspired. Each of my shows highlights art, architecture, culture, innovation, and sustainability alongside fashion. I believe you can promote important causes in a visually attractive way that can be globally embraced.

What is the one major obstacle most people face in chasing their dreams? And how can they overcome that?

I think self doubt is one of the major obstacles that entrepreneurs face when chasing their dreams. It can significantly limit their opportunities and success. Rejections are part of the game and the best thing we can do is to stay optimistic and trust our instinct. One strategy that has helped me overcome obstacles is to accept the fact that there may be failure – in  which case, I am ready to do it all over again.

What do you say to people who are struggling with their businesses in Covid-19? How can they and their businesses stay relevant in the current economic climate?

I would tell them that they are not alone. Businesses of all kinds, big and small, are struggling in all sorts of ways. I think it’s an opportunity to pause and take stock of what you’re doing and what your customers need right now. We are in a unique time right now where people are staying at home and you have the means of communicating with them in ways you couldn’t previously. It’s an environment where creativity and resourcefulness can be rewarded. There are great opportunities for those who are able to act quickly and reinvent their products and services accordingly. It feels almost like a fresh start.

As an Asian living and working in Paris, have you faced coronavirus-related anti-Asian discrimination?

I personally have not received racial discrimination throughout my career, including this time of the coronavirus in Europe and the US. I am aware that it is an existing problem on a global scale, and believe the attitude of Asian towards discrimination can make a difference. It is important to stay optimistic and lead with integrity, hard work, and compassion while treating everyone equally, as we all share the same planet earth.