V139: Supermodel, Superhero He Cong

Trailblazing supermodel He Cong discusses the evolving landscape of the modeling business, her unlikely journey that landed her the coveted spot of closing the Valentino show 9 years ago, and the importance of hard work

This cover story appears in V139, Supermodel, Superhero issue, now available for purchase. 

Draped in a translucent tulle gown and overcoat festooned with red-tone rosettes, He Cong marked the beginning of her spectacular career–opening and closing Valentino’s 2013 runway showcase in Shanghai. Can you imagine a more perfect way to make an entrance? It’s been over a decade since He Cong first burst onto the modeling scene, and while she has posed for the most coveted brands and walked at the most sought-after runways, it seems like no time has passed at all. These days, He Cong brings the same mindset of “hard work is everything,” which her father imbued in her from the start of her career, to every shoot, runway, and project. And as she rounds out her year with the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2023 runway, earlier that day, she shares how she’s looking forward to an even brighter 2023, characterized by exciting partnerships and greater calls for diversity.

He Cong wears all clothing and accessories DIOR

V MAGAZINE: Hi, He Cong. How are you doing?

HE CONG: I’m good, I’m in London right now.

V: You’re coming off from the Alexander McQueen show, right?

HC: Yes! It was so special.

V: How many hours of sleep would you say you get the day before a show?

HC: Eight hours, at least. Sleep is the most important for me.

V: Oh yeah, I saw pictures of it on your Instagram, so beautiful. How has the rest of fashion month been? I’m sure the last couple of weeks have been crazy.

HC: It was crazy–I think this is my fourteenth fashion week.

V: Fourteenth fashion week!

HC: Yeah, but I’m very appreciative of my job. I really like being a part of the shows, they’re so exciting.

V: Do you have any highlights from last month? Anything you’ll remember forever?

HC: Each show has its own experience, so it’s very hard to name one. But if I had to name one highlight from last month, I would say this V cover shoot. I’m feeling very appreciative and excited.

He Cong wears all clothing and accessories DIOR

V: Yeah, the photographs are beautiful! You crushed it.

HC: Thank you.

V: You got your start in the industry at such a young age, moving to Shanghai and walking in the Valentino show–and your star has only risen higher in the industry since. Can you take us to the beginning?

HC: For Valentino, I was actually in university at the time, and before this point, I didn’t think modeling was for me. But that year, Valentino did a show in Shanghai, and they were looking for girls to be in the show. My friend asked me if I wanted to come, and I said, “Yeah, why not?” And so I went there and got to close and open the show. It was a dream.

V: That sounds like a dream. But as it was your first show, were you nervous at all?

HC: I was really, really nervous. But as soon as it was my turn to go down the runway, the nerves went away, and I walked out there fully confident.

V: When you walked out, it was a moment. When you started pursuing modeling as a career, what did your parents think? Did they offer any advice?

HC: After I walked that show and decided to pursue modeling professionally, the first thing my father said to me was, “If you want to do something and if you’re passionate about it, you should just do it.” He was supportive, but also told me to be careful and, like all other jobs, I had to work hard and do my best. My family played an important part in who I am now, as they were the ones who taught me the importance of hard work.

V: And as you’ve been in the industry since you were in college, what’s one lesson you learned about the industry?

HC: I learned that there’s no shortcut to modeling. I’ve found that hard work is the only way to succeed in this industry. Also, confidence can’t be faked.

V: And how does one exude real confidence?

HC: I would encourage you to be yourself and do whatever makes you happy.

V: In your experience, how has the landscape of fashion and modeling changed since you started?

HC: The industry as a whole is much more diverse than it used to be. Now, anyone can be a model if they want to. And I think this is very good. It’s a very powerful message because it says anyone can wear these clothes and feel beautiful. Also, for me, it represents something even larger. I feel like we’re redefining beauty.

V: It’s inspiring to see how runways are getting more diverse and inclusive. Obviously, there’s still a ways to go, but it’s heading in the right direction.

HC: Yeah, definitely. I think there is still an opportunity to represent even more people through modeling.

He Cong wears all clothing and accessories DIOR

V: And as a Chinese model, how do you approach representation?

HC: I really care about representation, especially as a Chinese woman, I’m always looking to diversify our industry and make sure young girls who look like me feel seen and visible.

V: What do you love most about what you do?

HC: I love bringing a designer’s vision to life. Seeing a sketch come to life on the runway is so exciting, and I enjoy being a part of that creative process.

V: You’ve accomplished so much already in your career, what does the future look like for you?

HC: I like to take life step by step. I’ve been having a lot of fun traveling and working with brands.

V: I like that mentality, just go with the flow and see where life takes you. What advice would you give to people looking to pursue modeling as a career?

HC: Hard work is everything. You have to work hard, and be kind and appreciative to everyone.

V: Finally, how are you approaching the next stages of both your personal life and career? What mantra do you live by?

HC: Don’t give up on your dreams, continue persevering.

This cover story appears in V139, Supermodel, Superhero issue, now available for purchase. 

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