Male models from the 80s: Where are they now?

Four male models popular in the 1980s and 1990s tell The Sunday Times how life has changed for them since then

Singaporean model-turned-photographer Chuando Tan was recently thrust into the limelight, when the 51-year-old bachelor set social media on fire with his buff physique and youthful good looks.

A popular model in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he is now a fashion photographer and the owner of modelling agency Ave.

What about his male model peers from back then?

The Sunday Times catches up with Helmie Ashiblie, Ibrahim Atan, Eugene Brosman and Collin Chee.


Founder of Sert, a developer and producer of tactical gear for law enforcement and the military

Fourteen years ago, Mr Ashiblie was featured in GQ magazine for British fashion label Paul Smith.

Mr Helmie Ashiblie, who develops and produces tactical gear for law enforcement agencies and the military, started modelling in the 1980s (above, with model Lynn Asisi). PHOTOS: ST FILE, HELMIE ASHIBLIE

The photo shoot also turned out to be his last as a professional model. He says: "During my career, I knew that if I got the chance to be in GQ, which at the time was the most popular men's magazine, I would quit after that. Because you can't get any better than that."

Mr Ashiblie, who is of Dutch and Arab heritage, started modelling while serving national service in the mid-1980s. Speaking to The Sunday Times over the telephone from the United States, where the father of two now lives, he says he went for a modelling class at a friend's urging and the teacher ended up recommending him to home- grown agency Carrie Models.

He signed with the agency and went on to model for Singapore magazines such as Her World and was in television commercials for brands such as American consumer healthcare company Johnson & Johnson and fashion brand Arrow.

In 1988, Mr Ashiblie, by then a fulltime model, was named Male Model Of The Year at the Glamour Awards, a prestigious modelling competition organised by Female magazine.

Shortly after winning, he took his career abroad. He lived and worked in Milan for almost a year, then moved to New York in 1989.

There, he continued to model, while also working in the fashion retail industry for various luxury department stores, including Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman.

After he quit modelling, he did product development for jewellery design and production studio Atelier Yozu. Then he became interested in military gear and thought he could design it better using what he learnt in the fashion industry.

In 2005, he founded Sert to develop and produce tactical gear for law enforcement agencies and the military.

His clients include the Singapore Police Force Special Tactics and Rescue unit and the US Air Force.His Korean-American wife Suzy Kim is the company president.

The couple live in Virginia and have two daughters - Gabriella, 13, and Chloe, 10.

On his modelling days and peers, Mr Ashiblie says: "We enjoyed life to the fullest and were like an extended family. We are older and slower now, but I still meet former models and stylists when I visit Singapore."


Mr Ibrahim Atan, a former fitness instructor, continued to model part-time well into his early 40s. PHOTO: COURTESY OF IBRAHIM ATAN, LAU FOOK KONG

Co-founder of F1 Recreation, a fitness equipment supplier

Although the former model says he is not as active as he used to be, he still does interval training two or three times a week.

"I also really love golf and play often," says the father of five. "I think I still have a young body for a 60-year-old. I've been able to maintain some of my shape."

Mr Ibrahim started modelling in 1985.

He was signed to Carrie Models and some of his big contracts included a television commercial for sports brand Puma and magazine shoots for local publications Her World and Signature.

Though the former heart-throb says he enjoyed modelling, he was never a full-time model.

He was also a fitness instructor at various companies, including Clark Hatch Fitness Centre.

He continued to model part-time well into his early 40s.

In 2006, he co-founded F1 Recreation, a fitness equipment supplier, with three business partners.

He has three children, aged 13 to 19, with his wife Cynthia, a personal assistant.

He has two older children from a previous marriage. His eldest son Zachary Ibrahim, 27, is an actor and is in Wonder Boy, the biopic of home-grown singer-songwriter Dick Lee that is showing in cinemas.

Mr Ibrahim says his children often tease him about his modelling days, asking him to show them how he walked down the runway.

"They always make fun of me. But they also sometimes show off my old pictures to their friends."


Mr Eugene Poh, who now goes by the surname Brosman, stopped modelling during the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s, when work dried up. PHOTO: COURTESY OF EUGENE BROSMAN, ERIC ER/ATTITUDE PHOTOGRAPHY

Regional manager for London-based bookmaker William Hill

Mr Brosman, who was previously known as Mr Eugene Poh, says that if it were not for the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, he might still be modelling today.

The 50-year-old, whose father is Chinese Singaporean and mother is English, started modelling in the late 1980s after finishing national service. A sales associate for insurance company Prudential at the time, he was scouted by local singer and former fashion designer Dick Lee to join Carrie Models.

In an e-mail interview with The Sunday Times, Mr Brosman says he still remembers how nervous he was during his first shoot, which was for a campaign by Isetan department store.

"I was shaky and I remember you could tell my lips were shaking when you looked at the photo."

But as he took on more jobs, his confidence increased. Nine months into modelling, he got so many assignments, he quit his sales job and went into it full time.

He modelled for magazines such as Her World, Female and Nu You, as well as in advertising campaigns for department stores, such as Metro and Tangs, and brands such as Bata, Giordano and Samsung.

But during the financial crisis, work became hard to come by. He stopped modelling and moved to London in 1999.

He changed his name to Brosman, a name he says he picked himself, because a Western name made it easier for him to find jobs.

He worked for telecommunications company Swiftcall as a product supervisor for four years before moving to another telecommunications company, Redstone. He was there for another four years as product manager.

In 2005, he joined William Hill. He is still with the company as a regional manager.

Mr Brosman, who has two daughters with his ex-wife, still keeps an active lifestyle. He cycles 48km a day and loves mountain climbing and trekking.

Asked if he does anything else to maintain his good looks, he says he does not believe in using expensive skincare products.

"I don't drink alcohol, I drink lots of water and I don't smoke. I also watch my diet and exercise regularly. I think health is wealth."


Mr Collin Chee, who now focuses on promoting social enterprises, modelled for department store catalogues and was a Star Search finalist. PHOTO: COURTESY OF COLLIN CHEE, LAU FOOK KONG

Founder of marketing company Collin's Network International

Mr Chee says he had always wanted to be a model.

"Growing up, when I saw models in TV commercials and magazines, I thought it was great and I wanted to give it a shot."

He joined Carrie Models while serving national service in the mid-1980s and started modelling full time afterwards.

Mr Chee recalls modelling for commercial campaigns and catalogues for department stores, including Tangs and OG, and Japanese chains Daimaru and Sogo, which have since closed in Singapore.

He also appeared in magazines such as Her World and Female, and shot a TV commercial for American stationery brand Parker Pen.

In 1993, he joined local talent show Star Search. He was a finalist and went on to join TV broadcasting company TCS (now called Mediacorp) as an actor for three years.

In 1996, the self-professed football nut left acting due to a lack of roles and joined the football industry. He worked with Singapore's national football team till 1999, first as assistant team manager of the national team and then as the Under-23 team manager.

In the next decade, he ran various football-related companies, including the now-defunct football pub Touchwood and magazine Football Update. He also started marketing company Collin's Network International in 2002.

In 2009, he moved to Indonesia and worked for food distribution company Alamjaya Wirasentosa for six years as head of marketing. Collin's was put on a hiatus.

He came back to Singapore in 2015 to spend more time with his four children and revived his marketing company. Mr Chee now runs it full time and focuses on promoting social enterprises.

He is married to administrative manager Irene and they have two sons and two daughters aged 15 to 20. He is also an ambassador for social football team Dad's for Life, which started in June last year.

Asked about his looks, he laughs and says that although he still plays badminton twice a week, he is now an "uncle". "At my age, I don't need people to tell me I look good. When I was younger, I wanted that, but now, I'd rather people say I am a good father and husband."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 20, 2017, with the headline 'Hey, good looking'. Print Edition | Subscribe