This American fashion model-turned-photographer-and-Instagram-influencer has come a long way – both literally and figuratively – since she first hit the catwalk. SABRINA SIKORA DOMMENGE has led a charmed life. When she wasn’t gracing the runways or pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, she was hanging out of helicopters over Italian cliffs and making appearances on shows such as Sex and the City for work.
However, the fashion industry also had its downsides. “I was taught to hate my butt, and it’s so funny because now that’s what everyone is after and emphasising in photos,” she says. Today, this self-professed local label enthusiast and 37-year-old mother of two kids – Adam (7) and Eivor (4) – has mellowed down somewhat and forged a new path with photography.
Here, Sabrina Sikora talks about her life and how it has changed.
Tell us about yourself and what you do as an Instagram influencer.
It all started in Macon, Georgia, when I was 10 years old and decided I wanted to be a model. Luckily, I had tall genes and a very dedicated single mom. Every step since then has been in that direction. I got signed at age 14 with Elite and started travelling around the world for work. Since then, I’ve been involved in modelling, photography, styling, owning and operating a modelling agency, and runway production. Today, I try to help spread the word about independent brands and women-led local labels to encourage others to think local first when shopping.
What brought you to Singapore?
After spending nine years in Hong Kong, we relocated to Singapore with our two year-old son for my husband’s work. The weekend we arrived, I found out I was pregnant with our daughter! We’ve now been here for more than five years.
What are some of your favourite hangouts here?
Ha! Home nowadays. Otherwise, you can usually find me in Tanglin Mall or Design Orchard for window-shopping, Merci Marcel on Orchard for coffee meet-ups, Margarita’s for family dinner, or Luke’s for date night. I miss the local label events like Boutiques and Glamorous Giving and am looking forward to those safely returning.
We also try to take the kids to as many events and parks and play areas as possible.
Describe your style in five words.
Relaxed glam. Apply jewels liberally.
What’s the coolest job you’ve done so far?
My favourite job ever was working for Tom Ford. I was the hands and lips model for the booking so I rolled around in the satin sheets, directed by Mr Tom Ford himself. The photos never ran and this was before documenting everything was the norm (only new models took photos on set) so I only have the memories… and the pay stub. I also did the Cointreau campaign and was named the “Highest Paid Lip Model in the World” on CNBC.
I started my photography business, First Wife Studios, in Hong Kong. Seeing my work gives me the same rush that I used to get finding my own face. I really enjoy shooting with new faces as well and seeing the surprise and joy when they see themselves and what they are capable of reflected back at them. Many people don’t realise just how truly beautiful they already are.
How’s your relationship with your body?
When I first started out, it was perfectly healthy and normal. I was naturally very thin and very active so I didn’t even think about my body, other than the fact that I was taller than all the boys my age.
Then, at age 17, and 6-feet tall and 124 pounds (56kg), I was told that I needed to lose a few pounds because my thighs touched. I wanted to make it so badly that I let it get the best of me. That – combined with agents pinching my soft spots, the weekly hip measurements, trying to fit in tiny sample sizes, the polaroids where the agents circled what was “wrong with you”, the comments from clients, and the constant comparisons to the other girls at castings – eventually crushed me.
In the end, I learned I was beautiful without a client having to tell me. I also discovered Kenzai fitness programmes, which are easy to do anywhere.
Now I feel beautiful – not in a conceited way, but in an accepting way. My body is healthy and strong; it has made two kids and carried me around the world. I’ve earned the marks, scars and lines on it. And I’ve vowed to spread joy to everyone I meet because there is enough hurt and judgement out there.
What’s your beauty routine like?
I’m pretty laid back when it comes to beauty routines. Sunscreen is a must here, though I don’t mind a tan or freckles. I get monthly facials at Epion in Tanglin because the constant sweat plus mask wearing is rough on my chin and nose. At night, I cleanse, exfoliate and moisturise with my favourite local products like Elysian 5, Bareskin and Dr.TWL. I rarely retouch my skin anymore because I’m so tired of having to be perfect and things being so overly filtered. A friend gave me this amazing coconut body oil from Badger & Fox that smells incredible and gives the best glow!
Who are three Instagram influencers we should be following?
I would say @sabrinasikora (always back yourself!), @bjonesstyle (the way she puts together a look is an art) and @fayedelanty (I always learn new ways to work out my existing wardrobe from her).
For more information on Sabrina Sikora, visit her website at firstwifestudios.com.
This article first appeared in the September 2021 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!