Francine dee import model

My definition of a “name” model is one that was or is a household name amongst Asian Americans in their teens and twenties. This is an extremely brief history (approx. twenty years) because I am not up to date on who the current Asian pin-up models are. This history starts in the 1990s because Sung Hi Lee was the first name Asian model. While I was growing up, there was only Sung-Hi Lee. I’m glad to see that there are many famous Asian faces in the pin-up/import world and in film/tv and fashion. I am disappointed to see that there are still currently not any household name Asian female singers. Maybe Nylon Pink or CL from 2NE1 can be the first!

What is an import model? – Basically it’s a model who models at car shows and in the automotive industry. Some say that any girl who poses next to a car is an import model. For me the definition of any kind of professional model is one who makes a living and pays her bills modeling and has numerous printed publication credits.

In 2017, import models have graduated to become fashion influencers and beauty bloggers and I am so glad to see Asian Women having a positive influence in society.

SUNG HI LEE

Although she was never an import model, Sung-Hi Lee must be mentioned. Sung-Hi Lee was the hugest pin-up Asian model in the world while I was in high school and college, I was obsessed with her! I still think that she has the most flawless look – it was my dream to be her. She later went on to pursue a pretty successful acting career

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PHOTO CREDIT: Pacific USA calendars/Adam Yurman AND PLAYBOY

Here’s a picture of us together! She featured me on her website early on in my career — I remember that she personally left me a voicemail after I submitted my photos to her website and I replayed it for my boyfriend at the time who was also a fan of hers. We were both super impressed, she was like an icon in those days and she was the only Asian model who mattered at all.

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Her webmaster, Misha – the best pin-up webmaster at the time took my website on and my career catapulted! Here’s a photo from one of my first sets shot for Sung-Hi’s site

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PHOTO CREDIT: MISHA
DAPHNE

The first import model that I was ever aware of was Daphne. To be honest I didn’t think that she was that pretty, mostly because she had short hair but all the guys at my college had her poster up on their walls. (If you have a photo of her please send it to me for posting!)

THE REMIX TWINS

The Remix Twins were the big Asian models in the scene, one was definitely prettier than the other! They were on the premiere issue of Import Tuner, debuting in 1998

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PHOTO CREDIT: IMPORT TUNER

 

First generation import models:

The first import models to really make a name in the Import World were Francine Dee and Sasha Singleton.

Back then everyone posed for Playboy which has changed a lot, the import models today don’t pose for Playboy as much but it seems that they all go go dance!

FRANCINE DEE

Francine Dee is probably my favorite import model of all time – her face is flawlessly beautiful on top of the her famed double Ds. On top of that she’s always been so sweet! She always made an effort to reach out to me and I always heard that she was kind to other models: one time while modeling for a show in Hawaii, she invited me down to her suite for breakfast. Another time she invited me over to spend the night and ride to the airport together

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PHOTO CREDIT: IMPORT TUNER

I labeled her photo THEN and NOW, because she looks EXACTLY the same is she did ten years ago!

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PHOTO CREDIT: FRANCINEDEE.COM

SASHA SINGLETON

Sasha Singleton was the first ever Miss Hot Import Nights – I remember that I went to my first car show and the line for her autographs was around the block. Sasha is one of the only first generation models who also go-go danced

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PHOTO CREDIT: IMPORT TUNER

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PHOTO CREDIT: KANSAI JIMMY and CAL HOT SHOTS

 

NATASHA YI

Natasha Yi first came out in Playboy and quickly became an icon in the Import World. She currently hosts a popular Youtube channel with her husband who is a famous radio disc jockey

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PHOTO CREDIT: IMPORT TUNER

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PHOTO CREDIT: SUPER STREET 

My Import Tuner Cover

This was my first magazine cover ever and it was SO exciting to be on the newsstands. Getting the Import Tuner cover back then was a big deal

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PHOTO CREDIT: IMPORT TUNER

AIKO TANAKA

Aiko was and still is my ultimate #1 import bestie

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PHOTO CREDIT: IMPORT TUNER

We had a cameo in Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift together

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PHOTO CREDIT: UNIVERSAL PICTURES

Now shes a super amazing comic and you need to go check her out ASAP! Aiko’s Official Website

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TILA TEQUILA

The import model to achieve the most mainstream level of success was Tila Tequila. Tila started the trend of all the blonde Asians, she was pretty much the first model to showcase this look, this look has now proliferated amongst all the currentlt blonde Asian Fashion Bloggers. She had great style but most importantly she had a personality and a huge amount of charisma, something most of the other models didnt have. She became the number one user on Myspace, went on to have her own dating show on MTV and was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. Not so nice though, although we’ve traveled together several times, after her Myspace fame she wouldn’t bother to say hello to me if I saw her out at events.

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PHOTO CREDIT: IMPORT TUNER

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PHOTO CREDIT: MAXIM MAGAZINE

 

Second generation import models:

LISA KIM FLEMING

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CHRISTINE MENDOZA

Definitely one of the first and top second generation Import Models, she recently stepped down from modeling to focus on her family life.

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PHOTO CREDIT: IMPORT TUNER

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CREDIT: DAVID YU PHOTOGRAPHY AND JOHN PHOTOGRAPHY

When my band Nylon Pink played our first show in Australia, Christine Mendoza was one of the go go dancers with the extremely beautiful Justine Jaro

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 JERI LEE

Lucky Jeri Lee! 2nd generation Import Tuner covers were 100% more awesome than those of my generation. She is a fan of the Harajuku Japanese style — (like me) and is actually really passionate about modeling – taking an extra effort to craft especially well-styled shoots! I would consider her the #1 second generation model – she also go-go dances all over the world.

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PHOTO CREDIT: IMPORT TUNER

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PHOTO CREDIT: REY TREJANO AND STEVE BITANGA

I haven’t been keeping up so I am not entirely sure who the top import models are currently. I do know that the Fast and Furious movies killed off the industry for a period of time, somehow the popularity of the movies killed the cult following of the car shows, making the scene way too mainstream. Was Import Tuner eventually killed for this reason also? I’m sad to see that Tuner is no longer in print! Hot Import Nights is back in business now taken over by the original maven of the scene Mike Munar so the scene should be making a big comeback!

What’s great to see is that Asian women are making a huge impact on the fashion industry these days. All over Instagram are huge social media influencers/models. The #1 Youtube beauty influencer is Michelle Phan with 7 million subscribers. I am fans of Asian Instagram stars: Feral Creature and Chriselle Lim– both with huge social media followings.  It’s less about the import models today because Asian females are influencers over many more platforms these days. Progress!