Yesterday I was shooting new looks for my press kit with my good friend and photographer Chris Rank. The whole idea behind the shoot was to basically show me for who I really am in my own environment, an environment of Motorcycles, skateboards and silliness. It was suppose to be nothing to formal, just me, my bike, long board and a camera to catch whatever magic happens.
I’ve known Chris for a couple of years now and over that time I’ve developed a close enough relationship that he and I can be honest with each other. While we were shooting Chris stopped to tell me that I was being too model-like and not natural enough. This kind of took me by surprise, not in offensive kind of way but it got me to thinking about something that I had never thought of before. I had been modeling for so long that I don’t know how to NOT pose. 23 years and hundreds of thousands of photos later, have I forgot how to relax? Or is my relaxed state one of me posing?
Throughout the years I have always had to be camera ready. I use to study images of models in magazines and then practice those very same poses in front of the mirror for hours until it became second nature. I never wanted to be on set and not be able to pose or worse, move but you can see in my face that I’m thinking about what my next movement would be. I wanted modeling to appear second nature. Now, I fear I’ve focused so much on making modeling instinctive that my real life comes across as unnatural.
In thinking about this further I wondered if I treat everyday life as if it’s the set of a movie? I picture myself perusing down grocery store isles, opening the icebox as a gust of cool wind blows my perfectly brushed hair (snap-commercial shot). Or walking my dog down the street smiling and laughing casually as the sun backlights my golden strands (snap-stock photo). Or when I take a sip of a coffee at some off the beaten path café, staring into the distance out the window (snap-advertisement).
What’s even more surprising is that I don’t even think about posing at the time, instead I only wish that those moment would be shot because they would either be a good ad or great for my book.
You see, as models we are always thinking of work, when we travel we’re location scouts, stylist when we shop, makeup artist when we get ready, Creative directors when we look in magazines, basically if your good at what you do then you are always thinking of your next photo shoot. If your busy at what you do then this life consumes you and it’s hard not to get lost in a world of allure.
It’s not like I walk around all day with a model pout or commercial smiling face, I can be ridiculous, make silly faces, not wear makeup or dress like I just got of the bed (probably because I just did). But what I recognize is that I have taken those real moments and made them into shoots. I think if I had not done anything in my life other then modeling I would have been upset at this recent self-realization but I’m fine with it. Why do we have to chose only one thing to be? I don’t and never have let modeling stop me from living and doing the things I love; I guess I’ve just melted the two sides of me together. Like crayons left out on a hot summers day, I am a vibrant blend of many colorful layers that could be considered art to some and madness to others but to me it’s just plan childlike fun and I enjoy every animated minute of it. And isn’t that what we’re suppose to do with our lives anyway?
Recently I opened my instagram to find the comment on one of my videos “Stick to photoshop and make up, you have to be in your late 40’s”. (For the record I wasn’t wearing makeup and my hair was not fixed but pulled back instead…. And I’m 35)
Normally comments like this would never offend me, at this point in my life and career I have grown accustom to criticisms. However this one rubbed me the wrong way. It wasn’t the fact that she was calling me old that got me heated, what upset me was that instead of congratulating me for showing my natural side on a page where I have only posted made up and altered modeling photos, she instead felt women are better when they are altered in some form or fashion enough to voice an opinion about it.
Is this really where our society has gone? Where we only think that a woman is beautiful if she is modified in some way? Have we become so accustom to the mask that people wear that when someone is natural it’s alien to us?
We are hard enough on ourselves and now there is access for so many others to be judgmental and critical to us as well. Exposing yourself online is a lot of pressure. Everyday we are judged and compared to others. Sadly most people post actually looking for acceptance, or to get an opinion on how they should dress, wear their hair, makeup, etc. Do we ever stop to wonder whom it is judging us and giving an opinion? It’s as if we don’t know how to live our lives without enough likes on Instagram and FB or how many times our tweets got favored. We doubt our worth if others don’t deem us socially worthy to follow. We look at the post of others and compare our lives to theirs, feeling like we don’t stack up or that we are some how better.
"Social Media has infected the world with a sickening virus called vanity"
I posted the video wanting to share a piece of my personal life and prove that I am a real person, not just a model with a lot of professional photos and selfies. I want people to know who I actually am and maybe inspire others to be the same, to realize that beauty really does lie within and not just on the skin and that you don’t always have to be flawless. It’s okay to want to look your best and be proud of it enough to show it but it’s equally okay to be someone others can identify with and you can only achieve that by simply being real.
None of us are perfect; in fact even the most beautiful feel they have more flaws then most. True story and I’ve seen it first hand.
I have sunspots and freckles; laugh lines, crows’ feet, scars and uneven skin tone. But I would never trade those marks for the world. It means I have lived. I earned every imperfection. Summer days playing in the sprinklers with my sister; late night chats laughing at my hysterical friends; squinting at a Caribbean sunset, swimming in deep ocean waters, falling in and out of love and simply just being born. These are just a few of the moments that I wear on my face, kind of like a cover to a book and if more people took the time to get past the cover they would discover the beautiful story that lies within. We all have these stories. We all have these imperfections and to me, that is what makes us beautiful. Embrace them all. Congratulate and not criticize others on their stories.
So next time you meet a stranger, talk to them, ask where they got that scar. I promise you, what may have seemed ugly at first glance will become intriguing and enduring because you can’t Photoshop real life or mask inner ugliness.
To me, I don’t want to end this life in a perfectly put together flawless body but instead bruised, scared, worn and tattered. It may not be the most glamorous of endings but I can promise you my story will be better then yours. Why? Because beauty by definition is a combination of qualities present in a thing or person that pleases the senses or brings about deep satisfaction; and my satisfaction is life and all the perfect imperfections that are within it. True beauty is seen with the heart and not with the eyes. It doesn’t have anything to do with how the world perceives you. What matter’s is what you see.
She paints the world with temperance and grace
using steadiness of hand. With great care
she goes to work. Her vision will not wait.
A hummingbird, gliding from place to place,
clever to choose each bud in her bouquet
wielding her gift of temperance and grace.
Soft, blonde hair flecked…
These days, everything is on line. From Dating to groceries you don’t really have to leave your house to find the perfect mate or make freshest salad. And though I think Social Media really disconnects us as “real live thinking and reacting” humans it is the best platform to boost your modeling career. I used it to start mine back in the days of Myspace by posting the most amazing photos I could and making my life look like it was the life everyone wanted to be apart of!
Since then there have been so many other platforms to launch your modeling debut. Almost too many to choose from!!! To understand how to get the most out of all of them would take days to explain however there are a few basic rules that will get you going. And since it’s so much to cover I will have to do it in a couple of post.
****Warning, if your only shooting and wanting to be a model more for the Facebook photos or to be Insta-Famous then your endeavors will more then likely fall short. Please don’t mistake this as a way to become “on-line famous”. Modeling is still a real job and it takes more then 100k followers to get you money, jobs and respect.
Before we start understand the Pros and Cons of using Social Media:
1) You will able to reach a larger more diverse audience and for free.
2) You can target agencies, clients and other relatable people by finding their sites and shouting them out until they notice you. Much harder to ignore a hundred tweets then it is an email.
3) You will get swag. Start shouting out brands (in a creative way) and before long you will see gifts on your doorstep. This is cheep marketing for companies since they can reach more people faster through its followers instead of buying commercials and ads. But be sure to really be genuine with your post. Swag will come easier with the more followers you have. BUT…Don’t make this your end Goal. You want to model for the companies and get paid more then you want to wear their stuff for free.
1) Your relationship may suffer. It’s often hard for who your dating to understand that what your posting isn’t personal and more for work especially when not a lot of people see modeling as work in the first place. Plus, they have to read all the creepy comments people will leave on your pics and that’s never easy. You’ll hear things from your partner like “ Why don’t you post pics of us” or “That photo is to sexy to post up”
2) Your life will start to revolve around social media. You have to keep up with what’s going on and things change by the second. Being on top of what’s trending is important. Posting at right times and with the right content is important as well. This is why PR and Marketing firms cost so much because it’s a 24 hour job. Get ready to not sleep!
3) Not all your friends will appreciate it or accept it. To keep up with the social world you will more then likely be on your phone when your hanging with your friends. You will post more photos of yourself instead of you all together because that’s what your fans want.. Believe me, this isn’t easy because I have the craziest friends and we do some pretty awesome things and I want to post them but it just doesn’t fit into my brand image so I can’t. It’s one of the many sacrifices that comes with the climb to the top.
Step by Step……Now let’s get started!
1) Decide what your brand image is. Fashion, commercial, editorial, Glamour, Swim, etc. and then be sure to stay true to your brand. It’s best if you make an outline of the things you will post about, when and where you will post them. There are sites that help you with this where you can pre write your post and schedule your times when they will go up so you don’t have to always be posting content on your sites.. Hoot Suite is the one I use.
2) Buy your website! And please make it your name, no “the only” or “miss model” before/after your name, it’s too confusing. You will thank me later. The reason why it is so important to do it before you get published in anything is because there are people who sit and look for sites to buy and sell to you at a higher price. A good example of this is when I was in Maxim Magazine Hometown Hotties. I already had my website but the other girls did not and I was contacted from a guy who had bought all of their names and wanted to know if I could contact them to so he could sell the sites. Even if you don’t do anything with it for a while just owning it (something as cheep as 10 bucks a year) if beyond valuable.
3) Make all you social media sites the same name, twitter, facebook, Instagram, Vine, etc. They all connect and it makes it easier for people to find you. Plus when others post to you it will go to the right accounts. Not to mention being consistent is the best marketing… you don’t see Nike with different names on Facebook and twitter..
4) Post but don’t bleed the feed. Couple photos on instagram a day, 4 to 5 post on Twitter and a couple on Facebook. Don’t ramble and talk about too many personal things. DO NOT POST: political views, religious views (to a certain extent, thanking God is okay) and do not put down others in the industry (no matter how bad they suck). Keep in mind that you are using this to book work and you may upset some pretty big clients and miss a major opportunity because you disagreed with their views.
5) A few personal photos are okay. People want to know your real. However, if you’re a glamour model and you start putting up photos of your boyfriend or nieces and nephews then you just killed your fans fantasies and more then likely they will unfollow you.
6) Big fan of selfies here. I have done my fair share, however don’t make all your post consist of them or else people will start to think you love yourself more then you like interacting with them.
7) If someone comments, write back. These are your fans and once you start interacting with them then they will be beyond loyal to you. This is easy at first but once you become too popular it may be hard. In that case just take a couple days a month and replay at random to fans.
Remember, the balance is to have fun but to also use it as a marketing platform. Instead of buying add space your getting your name and image in front people, companies and agencies online.
Now that you have this all done check my next posting about how to get the likes and following.
Now get off this blog…there’s too many selfies to take and not enough time to post!!
Recently while talking to a good friend of mine who happens to also be a very talented photographer it was brought to my attention that there is a misconception about what makes a model a model. While shooting the past few weeks he had the pleasure of working with a model who made a statement that not only rub him the wrong way but completely offended me when I heard the story even though it wasn’t directly intended for my ears. The statement was that she only works with photographers who shoot agency models and that anyone who is not with an agency can’t call themselves a model.
While I am a big supporter of having an agency to represent you, I know better then most that just because you don’t have one does’t mean you are not professional. I have worked over 20 years without an agent and have been on over 15 covers of magazines and worked with some of the top people this industry has to offer. Is this big time?, No. But just making a point that I have worked hard and made a good living as a unrepresented model and there are others out there who have done the same and deserve the title of being called a model more then some of those who are agency represented.
On the photographer side of things, shooting for agencies doesn’t pay. Test shoots allow you to work with beautiful people but they are not about creativity, they are about simplicity and booking the model paid work. Agencies have hundreds of photographers asking them to shoot why would they offer up any form of financial compensation?! Plus that’s not the only kind of photography. What about calendar, swim, catalogues, Advertising campaigns, etc.? Do you think that they only include agency models? This is how you make money as a photographer, by shooting products and advertising. If you were offered $20,000 to shoot an Ad but it didn’t include an agency rep’d model would you turn it down? You’d be an idiot if you said yes because only shooting agency models makes the models money while your left with great images but empty pockets. The only way to advance in your career as a photographer is to not limit yourself. Agency models are great for starting out and building your book but once you’ve advanced to a certian level of talent it’s time to move on and start getting paid for it.
The definition of a model as referred to by Merriam-Webster is : “One who is employed to display clothes or other merchandise.” Nothing about being signed with an agency.
I think its a wonderful thing when models are fortunate enough to be signed with a high-end agency. But I also think it’s a beautiful thing when a model doesn’t have someone doing a lot of the work and can make it happen on their own too because being a model doesn’t mean your just pretty or that you look good on camera it also means that people look up to you and aspire to be like you and want to buy the things you model and wear. Being a model is being a role model not only to those people but also to the little girls and boys who read magazines and dream of walking runways themselves one day. And if I had stopped when the first agency I went too said no to representing me then my dream would have ended there. But instead I took it and ran and haven’t looked back and hopefully because of it I inspire others who dream of things that seem impossible and keep pushing through, never slowing down when the world tells you no. To me, it’s more then a title. Being a model is a way of life.
I’m a believer in Plastic Surgery, having had work done myself (breast augmentation), but only to a certain extent. Because of this I feel I can weigh in on both sides of the argument. We all have things about us we hate… There is much truth to what they say “We are our own worst critic”. But it’s not your looks that’s the problem and it will never be the answer and it’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think your not. Plastic surgery can’t fix insecurities that lay within us.
With that said the contrary can be true and some work can help boost your career. Take me for instance, my breast is what got me noticed. But at the same time it also limited me into a world of Maxim, Playboy and Swimwear. Would I do it all over again? Not sure…I love all of those things and I am incredibly grateful for them but once you get type casted its hard to do something else. My point is be careful in your choices. It’s an important decision and you need to figure out if it works into your longterm goals and plans. Think about where you want to be and what type of model you want to become and THEN what it will take to get you there.
I think the real problem with Plastic surgery is that it can be addicting, it teaches us to live under a microscope where we notice every tiny detail and learn to doubt them enough to change them. And the modeling industry only feeds the monster. Everyday we put ourselves out their for the world to pick apart, how could it not effect our egos?! This is why being just a pretty face isn’t enough, you have to also be strong. A successful model is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at them. Remember that and you might just learn to love yourself just the way you are.
Being able to move in front of the camera is critical in building a diverse strong portfolio. Learning and being in tune with your body will help achieve better photos. Their are many ways you can practice this, one of the most popular is studding poses in magazines. Just make sure you study the right magazine for your look your trying to achieve. If you want to shoot High Fashion or editorial then W or Vogue magazine is best to look at. If it’s a more commercial look you seek then studding Marie Claire or even the adds in magazines will work. Once you found things you like study those poses in front of a mirror. Watch yourself and how you move. Is your face turned to much to the side? Did you lose one of your arms in the pose (positioned behind your back)? Do you hands look natural or stiff? There are many things you have to keep in mind all while hold a beautiful effortless face. The more you study the more natural it will become and before long you’ll notice that you do it just not in front of the camera but in everyday life as well. Now that you think you have your poses down take it to the camera. Shoot. Shoot as much as you can. Then study the photos. Is their pattern? Do you have enough variety? What works and what habits do you need to lose? Being able to compare your photos with the ones you studied and knowing the difference is half the battle, practice is the key and if done right you will look more like a model then a barbie doll in front of a lens. Always remember to have fun and don’t be afraid to try new things…. it’s a photo, if it doesn’t work you don’t have to use it just make a note not to do it the next time. On the other side…if it does work then you just set yourself apart form the other photos and may have a winning pic that can shoot you into stardom.
Photo by Maxine Helfman