Jung Ho-yeon: From breakout 'Squid Game' star to Louis Vuitton global ambassador
Here's the story of the South Korean model, and how she went from magazine covers to Netflix and has now become the French fashion house's ambassador
French fashion house Louis Vuitton (LV) has a new global ambassador, and it's all thanks to Netflix. 'Squid Game' star Jung Ho-yeon has been revealed as LV's newest global ambassador, in a stunning Instagram photo. It comes just weeks after the actor began going viral for her role in the Korean drama series, her first major appearance on screen. The announcement was also preceded by Ho-yeon becoming Korea's most-followed actress on Instagram, with over 13 million followers now.
Ho-yeon has become the latest in the long line of Korean stars to find fame on the global stage. For a few years now, K-pop band BTS has been dominating pop music and even recently collaborated with Coldplay for 'My Universe'. The Paris Fashion Week in 2022 is also being dominated by Korean stars, from GOT7's Mark Turan to girl group Blackpink. It's clear Korean stars are now global superstars, and in that vein, LV divided to rope in Ho-yeon.
"Perfectly embodying the independent #LouisVuitton woman, the Netflix #SquidGame star embarks on this new journey with the Maison after first gracing the runway and being featured in a ready-to-wear campaign in 2017," the group wrote in their Instagram reveal. It's a massive step-up for the model, who was once crowned 'Korea's next top model'. If you are wondering how she got here, here's a look at her story.
Beginnings in Korea
Ho-yeon began her modeling career at the age of 16, a decision she took based on just her height. "I thought to myself, What should I do for a living so that I can keep feeding myself? And I thought, Oh, I’m tall, so why not give modeling a try?" she told Vogue in 2015. And with that, she set off on a career, with little help. Early on, Ho-yeon had no contacts or agency representation. She cold-called and attended castings entirely on her own.
Eventually, her persistence paid off. In 2012, she cold-called ESteem Models and was signed on the spot after an interview. Earlier, she dropped out of 'Korea's Next Top Model', but with ESteem on her side, she managed to break through and finish second on the show. The appearance managed to get Ho-yeon the exposure she needed, and after years of freelancing and knocking on doors, those doors opened pretty quickly for her.
From Elle to Vogue Girl Korea, and First Look Korea to Nylon Korea, Ho-yeon began to appear in multiple publications, which helped set the stage for her international work. In 2016, she made her US debut in an exclusive with Louis Vuitton and Opening Ceremony. That season, she also modeled for numerous major brands like Sephora, Chanel, GAP, and Dolce & Gabbana, amongst others.
International fame, and Netflix debut
In 2017, Ho-yeon was awarded nominations for 'Top Newcomer' and 'Model of the Year' by Models.com. That soon led to more modeling gigs, as well as appearances in London, Milan, and Paris, and a decision to move into acting. In January 2020, she signed with Korean agency Saram Entertainment, which called her a "gemstone with various charms and infinite possibilities."
Prior to the Saram Entertainment deal, Ho-yeon had appeared in four music videos but was yet to make a major appearance on TV/film. All that changed when she was signed on to play Kang Sae-byeok in the breakout Netflix show 'Squid Game'. The show became an instant hit the moment it hit the streaming service on September 17, 2021. Not only was the show a critical hit, but a commercial one as well. The big breakout for Netflix in Korea also helped propel Ho-yeon to international stardom.
Before the show debuted, she had just around 400,000 followers on Instagram. By October 5, that has jumped to over 13 million, making her Korea's most-followed actress. Now, she's taking her profile up a notch, with LV. "I immediately fell in love with Ho-yeon's great talent and fantastic personality, and I am looking forward to starting this new chapter of the journey we started at Louis Vuitton a few years ago," the brand's creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere said.