We live in a world that is perception based and, for better or worse, most of us have made a judgment about a person, or even a group of people built on a stereotype. The thoughts can be humor based and relatively harmless, such as all blonds are dumb, or they can take an uglier turn by involving race, creed, gender, sexual orientation or religion. When it comes to race and ethnic background, various groups have plenty of cause for complaint, but Asian stereotypes seem to move beyond personality and behavior and zero in on assumed physical inadequacies.
The biggest misconceptions paint a picture of small men with soft hairless bodies and feminine features. The emasculation digs deeper with the wide spread belief that all Asian men have small penises. And not just small in a “below average” sort of way, but small as in the tiniest phalluses of any other males on the planet. This is a very broad generalization that has made its way into comedy routines as well a feature films, usually accompanied by a visual that illuminates the other stereotype. We can ignore any evidence to the contrary, such as porn star Brandon Lee, who has a beautiful, well toned and muscular physique, or any number of the well hung males that appear in some Asian porn films because they are the exception, not the norm, much the same way as the black guy who isn’t well hung. I mean, all black men are hung, right?
The modeling industry has come to recognize that other races do have marketable beauty, and we have slowly begun to see more than just Caucasian representations on the runway, in commercials and print advertisement, yet the Asian male sex symbol still eludes us. Even the ones that do become famous, like Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan are still relegated to roles that we are comfortable seeing them in, which in this case is as martial arts experts. They may be the stars of the films, but they fall short of being viewed as romantic leads.
Off screen, they occupy a similar niche market which is evident just by reading the personals ads that are gay themed. “No fatties, fems, or Asians”, reads one, implying that the idea of hooking up with one is just as undesirable. On the flip side, you see the ads looking specifically for Asians, usually accompanied by the description of small and smooth bodied. It is a fetish market of sorts, and I have yet to see an ad that seeks the masculine and muscled Asian male. But they do exist, as do their fans.
In much the same way that Brandon Lee helped to change the perception in pornography, Peter Le (no relation) has made huge strides on the more artistic side. And he is not alone. We have the two Tangs – Guy and Jeremy (they are not brothers, which has been asked, but Jeremy has a beautiful brother named Ricky who also models), Jeffierce, Rob Trinh and Eric Rensburg. We also have photographers who have always been keenly aware of the beauty of Asian men such as Ron Reyes, Don Pollard, Ed Freeman, Jay Plogman and Desi Arnez of Zedneram.
And, of course, BLISS which has strived to showcase a variety of different types and illuminate the reality that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. This month, we are proud to present Eric Rensburg who offers yet another example of the fact that it is not a new breed of Asian males that we are looking at, but rather a new attitude about what has always been there.
BLISS: Eric, you are one of a group that consists of Guy Tang, Peter Le, Jeffery Tang, Jeffierce and a few others that I consider the elite of sensual Asian male models. We all agree that it is unfortunate that Asian males do not get the same type of exposure as other ethnicities. What is your view on this situation?
ERIC RENSBURG: Certainly in the western world in general, the image of Asians are either a non-sexual one (bookish, hardworking) or a negative one (effeminate, skinny, passive). There is almost no exposure of Asians in the general media, except in the UK we have the wonderful Gok Wan who is a wonderful fashion designer who fronts a TV show in the UK called ' How to look good naked'. There are very few strong sexy strong Asian out there in the media; in reality if you go to a bar in Asia, Taipei in particular, the Asian men you see there are invariably strong, good looking and upfront sexual. I want to bring some of that to the attention of the wider world.
B: Without any Asian males flooding the market, for inspiration, what made you decide that you wanted to try modeling?
ER: It is a bit of a long story. I reached a personal milestone 18 months ago and I didn't like what I see in myself; I trained all my life but at the time I was 15kg overweight and unhappy with my personal situation. I looked at some holiday snaps and decided something had to be done about that person in the picture. So I changed my diet and altered my workout, and within 8 months I managed to lose almost all the weight and I started getting comments from several people from the gym. One of them owns a supplement shop and he invited me to do a few photos for his shop. Separately someone I was chatting to online is a photographer and he told me about model mayhem.I opened an account on model mayhem and put a few of those photos on, that pretty much started me off modeling 11 months ago....
B: Has your ethnicity presented any boundaries for you, in terms of being a model?
ER: I think it has its upside and downsides. Some photographers have a preference for Asian men and that works in your favor. But there are so few Asian models around I think some photographers don't know what to make of me. I have also encountered a couple of photographers who categorically states that he/she will not shoot me because they can't sell the pictures.
B: What do you think the biggest misconception is that people have regarding Asian males?
ER: That we are effeminate, and all passive. I do find a lot of western men prefer their Asian men to be small, boyish and fem. And then you have someone like me!
B: Every race or ethnic group gets saddled with its share of stereotypes, but Black men and Asian men get the sexual ones. In this case, it involves penis size with each group being at the opposite end of the measuring stick. Do you have anything to say on the subject?
ER: I know and have encountered some horse hung Chinese men to know that the stereotype is not true! Not going to name them though, you know who you are :) .
B:You have an incredible physique! How much work goes into maintaining your look?
ER: I train 5 times a week, sometimes more if I want to concentrate on a particular area. I still work full time and pretty long hours, so the only way that I can fit all the training in is to train early morning. I usually get to the gym at for an hour's workout. I sometimes split my workout so I come to the gym during lunchtime as well. It takes a bit of effort planning your meals as I have to take two snacks and lunch into work. It’s all worthwhile however :) Being a model also gives you plenty of motivations to train and improve.
B: When we see men who look like you, the impulse is to assume that they must be personal trainers, but you are not. Can you let us know about your profession?
ER: I am a healthcare professional in primary care. I think it is relevant in my line of work to be fit and looking good, as you can empower your clients about the changes they need to make about their own journey to be healthier, and less reliant on medications. I have had lots of comments recently about my change in body shape from my clients, and it helps me to inspire them to make changes themselves on their road to healthier living.
B: Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
ER: I am born in Hong Kong of middle class parents; I have two brothers who are older than me. I have a pretty lonely childhood as they were sent to the UK for their studies when I was 6 years old. I actually had ambition to be a singer and at age 16 entered a local singing contest and was on the verge of signing a contract when my parents put a stop to it all and sent me over to the UK to study. The singing ambition still burns inside me however!
B: Many models say that their first time in front of the camera was a nervous experience. Do you remember your first shoot and how you felt?
ER: Yes I did! Its embarrassing looking at those pics, they were done with a friend for gaydar and I look so bad! They were nude and I remember feeling really stiff and un model like! Luckily that didn't put me off having more pictures taken and the first shoot as a model was with my friend Jon Eland out in a field in underwear with quite a few people whistling and looking on!
B: It would seem that you are not very shy about exposing your body. When did you decide to include nudity in your portfolio?
ER: I know a lot of the models have problems with nudity in general. My feeling about nudity is, to be a model you have to proud of your body, and I think it comes with the territory that nudity would come into it. I think I have a decent body and am not afraid to display it, the male form is beautiful and I am proud of displaying it. I also think its an age thing; we become less inhibited the older we are.
B: How do you feel about nudity in general, in terms of photographic images?
ER: The male nude is very beautiful; I used to look at photos of male nudes in awe; Tom Bianchi and Bruce Weber were the masters of their art and I still have some of their older books.
B: Some models will only do artistic nudes from the rear or the side, or they cover their genitals with their hand, arm, or by the use of creative angles. Do you do full frontal photos?
ER: Yes I do full frontal nudes. There is something challenging about full frontal nudes, challenging to society who are still in the dark ages in terms of seeing the male genitalia in a photo. It is difficult to pull off, but full frontal nudes done well are extremely powerful.
B: There is no denying the appeal of eroticism in art, even if some people are opposed to it. What do you classify as erotic?
ER: Erotic is something in the head, the arousal of feelings, a chemical change inside your brain. You don't have to be nude to be erotic.
B: What about pornography? Are you opposed to it? Do you feel it has a justifiable purpose?
ER: I am not opposed to pornography at all, it has a purpose in life, and the reality is that it is the most recession proof of businesses! The internet, however, has changed the face of pornography forever and in sites like dudes nude, we all can shoot a clip on our web cam or phone camera, upload them and be a porn star! The popularity of home made porn is testament to that.
B: What factors do you think push an erotic photo into the realms of pornography?
ER: Good question. I think when the picture stops you using your imagination then it is pornography. An erotic picture has to work inside your brain and take you to a different place with your imagination.
B: What about erections in artistic images? Have you or would you pose displaying your fully erect penis?
ER: I think erections are beautiful and when done well, its very erotic. Mark Henderson is a master of his art in male erotic photography with erections and one has to look at his work to fully appreciate the erotic potential of such work. I have and would display my erection yes, if its done well.
B: Have you ever been approached to do porn? Is this something you would consider?
ER: I have had a couple of approaches. I have no intention of doing pornography at this moment in time.
B: Let’s talk about some of your various photo shoots. Do you have one that stands out as being one of the best experiences?
ER: That is a difficult question. I have had lots of positive experience with photo shoots, with like minded people who share your vision and works with you to achieve the best you can. Mark Henderson stands out as we had lots of fun shooting and the results were amazing.
B: On the flip side, have you ever done a shoot that produced negative feelings? Obviously, you don't have to name names.
ER: I have been very lucky as I have had good photographers who work well together and I have had lots of positive experiences. Obviously some work out better than others and a couple of shoots are indifferent for whatsoever reason.
B: What was your most challenging photo shoot?
ER: The difficult shoot was done last December in freezing cold. It was -5c and I have to be topless in the snow. We shot for 2 hours and at the end I honestly cannot feel my fingers and toes!
B: What was the most erotic shoot you were involved in?
ER: Haha i am not telling you! ;) It’s for personal consumption :)
B: You have worked with some outstanding photographers. Can you name 3 who stood out the most for you and why?
ER: There are so many! I am going to incur the wrath for naming favorites :) I think Mark Henderson has to be one as he is a consummate professional, such a perfectionist and also such a nice guy as well. I love you Mark :)
Ron Reyes is also a sweetie and has such fantastic ideas and execution.
Of the UK photographers I have worked with so far, I love Keith (Raw-Images) as he is such a fantastic artist as well as photographer and a dear friend too.
Can I also mention Stephen Mckenna (Steviepics) we just did an awesome shoot last week, our second so far and hopefully much more to come.
B: Some models need to be coached through an entire shoot, but others come with quite a few of their own ideas. Which type of model are you?
ER: I usually do a shoot with several ideas in mind and would usually have discussed them with the photographer prior to starting the shoot. I like to be well prepared for shoots, the more you put in, the more you get out of it.
B: Can you think of an idea that you have always wanted to try but have yet been able to make happen?
ER: There are tons! but I am gradually realizing them one by one :) I love dressing up in leather and love to do more leather fetish stuff.
B: What advice do you have for young Asian guys who are considering the modeling field?
ER: I still consider myself pretty new on the modeling field really. I think you have to be true to yourself, and to your values. Do what you are comfortable with, and do it with pride. I would love to see many more Asian models, and I really love the work that Guy, Jeff and Peter are doing, they are pushing the envelope of what is being a sexy Asian male.
B: How about a shout out to your fellow models? Which ones stand out the most for you and why?
ER: A big shootout to Guy Tang! We had such fun walking the LA pride and shooting! He is also a big time Mariah Carey fan as well and such a sweetie.
B: What upcoming projects can we anticipate seeing from you?
ER: There are still plenty of shoots in the pipeline. In the near future I am planning to shoot in the East Coast in the USA, so any interested photographers please shout if you want to work with me! I am also going to be singing in November with Andrea Bocelli in London. It’s going to be difficult to fit everything together but I am going to try!
B: Any last words?
ER: I hope everyone enjoy my work and I really want to change people's perception of Asian men in the west, that we can be strong, masculine and sensual.