People will notice that successful models rarely look the same from shoot to shoot -- and it's not just their clothes that change; their whole demeanor changes too. Models assume characters based on what product they are modelling, the look for the campaign, the feel the client wants to achieve, the photographer, the styling, etc. Models are actors, we have to play a specific role for each job we take.
I've been so many characters in my 28-year modeling career. Just before I walk on set, I try to envision exactly who I'm going to be -- am I going to be sexy; am I going to be innocent; am I going to be tough? -- and I create a character. Depending on what kind of shoot it is, I'll even go so far as to create a backstory for myself. It's important because all these details help you with who you are trying to be. What you project from your mind is what people are going to see.
When you are doing a shoot with another model, it's the difference between delivering a monologue and being in a scene with someone. Although you are a bit more exposed when you're modelling on your own, you have more freedom to do what you want and go with what play is in your mind. Whereas when you're modelling with someone else, both characters have to be mindful of what the other person is doing and play off each other.
But what is most important is that what the client wants is at the core of any shoot, so that's where models should start their character development. The client and their appointed team is our director, so we have to work with them to deliver the scene they want to capture.
This week our girls had to do a three-part photo story for Elle.com... as men. We were lucky enough to have the one and only RuPaul on set who was able to offer his expert guidance on the art of being convincing as the opposite sex. I've often seen shoots that RuPaul has done and I've been sooo jealous -- absolutely gorgeous -- and he totally embodies a character like no one else. So with Ru on board, he was able to help our girls work.
What made this task even more challenging is that our girls were doing the shoot with their mentors. Shooting with seasoned models meant our girls had to up their game -- it was important we all looked natural in the same picture together. No one could either stand out or fade into the background; everyone had to hold their own, especially our girls who obviously don't have as much experience. We all had to look like we were acting in the same play.
We found quite a few natural actresses in our group this week, but it was a tough challenge because becoming a man is a complete departure from what we've been asking of our girls so far. Playing a male requires a masculinity, a toughness (but not too tough!) and we've been trying to get femininity and elegance from our girls so far. So it's a complete mind switch from what we've been doing.
I did a shoot as a man for Peter Lindbergh called "Style Gangster" (1991). I remember the backstory I created for myself: I was Leroy from the Bronx, I was going to collect money from people who owed me, because I needed to get that money to my boss. I just happened to be photographed while I was out hustling. It's this detailed scene that you have to create in your mind that conveys a reality in a picture or video. It doesn't matter who or what you are asked to portray -- no matter how far removed from who you actually are -- you have to be it.
I suppose this is why many models go on to acting, it is a seamless transition because it's what we are used to doing -- portraying different characters for an audience.
So to all those aspiring models out there -- explore your acting side, pretend, role play, create characters, imagine scenes -- expand your creative side and realize that modeling isn't just about looks.
Love and light,