The New Revolution

From a distance, it is difficult to know whether the new residence of the Whitney Museum of American Art is a ship, a factory or a hospital. Up close, the large windows that give the space a loft feel and open from east to west, offer a preview of what inhabits this interesting edification. The building created by Renzo Piano, one of the most celebrated architects of the moment, was received by differing opinions. Purist architectural critics with more negative views than others with a more open mind.

What everyone agrees, however, is that the new address of the celebrated museum follows the philosophy of its creation, of staying alive, interesting and involved with what is happening in the local culture. The arrival of the museum in the Meatpacking District helps to cement the idea that this region, next to Chelsea, is in fact the new mecca of art in New York.

In its fourth address since its creation in the 1930s, Whitney is used to controversy. In its conception, through the brilliant mind of the sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the organization faced difficulties. This artist, who found the need to create a fund dedicated exclusively to living American artists, saw her donation of more than 500 works rejected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was then that this visionary opened the museum’s first headquarters in the Greenwich Village. In the 1960s, after filling his second headquarters on West 54th Street, Marcel Breuer revealed the museum’s third headquarters and his masterpiece of brutalist architecture. Residents of the Upper East Side, Manhattan’s traditional neighborhood known for its art galleries and museums, reacted in horror. The architecture was then considered offensive and exclusive. The headquarters created by Breuer, however, quickly received cult status and remains today as one of the most important works of world architecture. 

In 1975 the entity’s collection had 2000 American works of art from all ages and its team employed around 100 employees. The museum’s total space was 3 thousand square meters, of which 715 were dedicated to its permanent collection. In 2014, Whitney needed to expand again. Today, this nationalist gem contains more than 21,000 works in its catalog and a team of more than 300 employees. The new space offers 2 thousand square meters for its permanent collection divided into two floors that are part of an impressive total of 6 thousand square meters of total space. Not to mention that the museum still intends to expand its domains to the quayside by the river, in front of its building and if necessary, it can still occupy its neighbor next door, a meat processing building built in the Shaker style, which in itself is an American icon.

This is not everything. What this museum created with a simple change of address was actually a revolution in the New York art scene. In the middle of a space crisis, the main museums of the city find themselves having to choose between historical and contemporary, new and old, dividing by categories and hiding from the public masterpieces that should be permanently accessible. The Metropolitan, historically more focused on classical art, has an impressive collection of contemporary art but does not have the space to display it. Moma, after two expansions, continues to face difficulties mainly due to the intense traffic of tourists in its tight corridors. What Whitney demonstrated with this change that cost 422 million dollars, and that art should not be exclusive. Its galleries offer American art, from all ages and artists alive and dead. If art is of quality, it has space in this museum without sacrifices in favor of space or obsolete theories.

With its vacant old building, Whitney made 3,000 square meters of space available for art in the city and the Metropolitan wasted no time and signed an eight-year contract with the organization. The Metropolitan’s contemporary art collection will now be transferred entirely to Whitney’s old address, keeping Breuer’s architectural work alive and inspiring new generations. Moma, on the other hand, took advantage of the unfortunate situation of its neighbor, the Folk Art Museum, inhabitant of another renowned building, and will expand. Moma will undergo a complicated expansion project that, when completed, will also house part of the collection of its neighbor that was less fortunate.

But back to Whitney, what happens at your new address? The museum now offers jaw-dropping views of the river and the entire city at its feet. The more airy environments also have an open air cafe, a restaurant, Untitled, by chef Michael Anthony (part of the group of renowned Danny Meyer) and all the works that inhabited dark deposits and can now see the light of day. 

The museum’s collection features more internationally recognizable pieces from artists such as Jackson Pollock, Edward Hopper, Willem DeKooning, Georgia O’Keefe, Andrew Wyeth and Jasper Johns to celebrity venues like Jacob Lawrence. Lawrence’s social realism portrayed on the panels of “The Great Migration” the shift of the American black population from farms in the south to urban areas in the north. His work of “dynamic cubism” continued to follow the daily battles that marked history, such as the civil revolution of the 1960s. The pop art of Warhol and Lichtenstein is an obvious and obligatory presence in this collection, as well as their contemporaries Jean Michel Basquiat, Cy Twombly and Donald Judd. 

The photographers Peter Hujar, David Wojnarovicz, Nan Goldin and Robert Mapplethorpe are also worth mentioning, having enough space to recall a moment in the history of this city where a sexual revolution was taking place surrounded by the AIDS epidemic. The photographic collection also includes works by Man Ray, ranging from Diane Arbus to Cindy Sherman, in addition to legendary names in world fashion photography such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Cecil Beaton and the contemporary Bruce Weber. It is also worth mentioning the work of social photographer Walker Evans, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Evans recorded the harsh reality of everyday life during the great depression and continued to ignore ideals of the “American Dream” and exposing life as it is until his death in 1975.

Contemporary art is present extensively. Paul McCarthy, Julian Schnabel, Chuck Close, Richard Serra and Francesco Clemente are some of the artists who deserve to be mentioned and continue to produce relevant works in the international arena. Another contemporary that stands out here is the renowned abstract Frank Stella who has his first complete retrospective on display at this museum.

The exterior of this building offers a visit to works by Alexander Calder and also the colorful and interactive art of Mary Heilmann, which invites the visitor to sit and relax in one of the several terraces. A stop for fresh air is more than necessary while visiting this extensive collection that is as creative and varied as the ethnic and geographical origin of its artists. 

The cultural representation here presents the same diversity that this country has. Artists of English, Latin, Irish, Chinese, German or Italian origins, to name a few and from different religious backgrounds and practices, demonstrate exactly what makes up this country’s cultural strength. Even with all the difficulties presented by these differences, the museum remains neutral and inclusive, telling stories and reminding the visitor that the world is much more than a picture painted in oil but rather the sum of all the creative expressions that result from the daily human experience.

Have We Met Before?

For those familiar with the British comedian Miranda Hart, tuning in to Call Me Kat this season (Fox) felt a little bit like déja-vu. That’s in great part because Call me Kat is executive-produced by Hart and inspired by the comedy show named after its creator, Miranda (all seasons available on Hulu). “Inspired” is not exactly the best word to describe it. From the opening to the closing credits, the show makes ample use of every successful joke and quirk of one of Britain’s biggest cult hits. From set design, to character development, show running, catch phrases, no stone was left unturned, which for fans of Miranda, can be a tad… disheartening (pun intended).

The biggest flaw this show has is possibly that of not utilizing Miranda Hart as one of the characters, if not as Kat herself. I don’t mean any disrespect towards Mayim Bialik, who’s a terrific actress, but there’s a certain je ne sais quais that only Ms. Hart can offer to her characters. The physicality, facial expressions, quick wit, pitch in voice and height, are to me some of the main points. As good as Bialik is, she cannot carry this show, which ends up relying heavily on the quirks of Leslie Jordan and the banal jokes that come along with most of everything that he does, including his Instagram account.

Bialik I feel, is capable of so much more, but is stuck in a rut. Perhaps it’s time for someone to whisk her out of this genre that is so comfortable to her and place her into something a little more intriguing and dramatic, that will display other challenges that she is surely capable of tackling.

As for Kat, well, it seems she will have a short life on-screen. If this show continues to rely so heavily on its pastiche jokes and fantastic content that appears nothing like reality, it will really not go very far. Call Me Kat doesn’t work, at least not in the way it’s being presented. That oversized cat cafe? Give me a break. The notion that Kat is a manly spinster? Just doesn’t fly. The relationship between mother and daughter? Not believable. The fourth wall? It’s feeling more like a plexiglass divider. This show needs to pick its lane and stick to it, right now it lacks identity and confidence and teeters on the edge of cataclysm.

If a reprise of Miranda is what they wanted to bring to America, then why not just go ahead and do it right? Don’t ever underestimate the wits of the American audience, or you may fall flat.

#HappyNewYear

Beverly Hills, December 31, 2018; 10PM.

To those who belong in my heart and who helped me build my soul.

I am not particularly fond of big celebrations, especially birthdays, Christmases, and above all, New Year’s Eve; those who know me well know that about me. The entire month of December is an intense struggle for me, it begins with my birthday on the 6th, and then it’s just full throttle until about mid-January when people finally stop sending well-wishes and all that good stuff that we are all happy to hear. It’s not that I am not pleased to get them, it’s that it makes me feel uncomfortable, insecure and awkward. Why? No clue; nor am I interested in finding out. I have grown accustomed to this part of myself, of all things that could be strange about me, I believe this is the least problematic. I have chosen in recent years that these special times are for me an opportunity to look within and reflect on the things I should improve on, and also congratulate myself on. I decided that meditation and space are necessary for me not to fall into the traps of the mind, which historically have taken control of me during these times.

With this note, I would like to take a moment to share with you my gratitude and eternal appreciation. I would like to share that none of the gestures went unnoticed. I would like to state for the record that if I failed to respond to a note or nudge in a timely manner, it’s because I am profoundly insecure in this moment of my life. Every little thing sets off the panic buttons inside me, and then I retreat. This is a lousy flaw to have, especially in a time when I need so much to get me off the ground, and especially when so many of you have shown up and riled up around me with love and support. I would probably not be writing this note right now if it wasn’t for you.

If I didn’t answer any birthday messages, its not you, it’s me. Don’t take it personally, I have not answered ANYBODY’s notes, because I am an equal opportunity non-answerer and because I made a conscious decision to write this letter, on this day. Please understand, I have a real irk about answering in a hurry to people and messages that should be answered with time, care and attention because they are supposed to be meaningful, honest and from the heart, not from obligation. I have birthday cards sitting on my desk that I haven’t even read, only because I don’t feel I would be doing them justice if I wasn’t to be entirely dedicated to their message.

I hope that this new year will bring me atonement, clarity, peace of mind and strength to keep going on. I hope that I am able to keep the things I learned at the top of my mind and that I am able to learn from the many mistakes I made. I wish, for those I’ve hurt, that they have nothing but joy, peace of mind, and good fortune; I hope they can be patient just a little more and trust that I will repair the mistakes that I have made.

I wish that this new year brings me back to me, I hope that I can understand myself a little bit better and treat myself with more respect and dignity. I have raped my soul and torn it apart in the hopes of finding who I really am, and I am still at a loss. Perhaps this is what it was meant to be like all along, and the next chapter will unfold in a less copacetic manner, but a much more purposeful and rewarding one? I leave this question to the air so that the Gods and Goddesses can answer at their convenience.

I love you, believe me, and we will meet again soon.

With much admiration and gratitude, yours,

Gabriel, Mano, Rocha, Pai, Gabe, Gabby, Gabri, Marlene, Pirua, Seu Piru, Guri, Gabi, Puta, Bil, Bee, Gurl, G.

“The best is yet to come.”

Vogue Spain, 2017

ANTI Management, the agency that defends all, but ALL, models

BY MARÍA CONTRERAS

JULY 10, 2017

Booker Gabriel Ruas Santos Rocha is convinced that there are many things to improve in the fashion industry, and he doesn’t bite his tongue when it comes to listing them

The Brazilian Gabriel Ruas Santos Rocha is a veteran in the world of modeling agencies; he has been a booker at Marilyn, Ford, Elite and Trump Models, and since last March he is CEO of his own agency, ANTI Management, with which he has set out to improve the working conditions of his clients. Santos Rocha believes that the treatment of models has worsened alarmingly in recent years, and the origin of the problem is very clear: “When I started in this business the big agencies still belonged to families or individuals: Marilyn was directed by Marilyn, Ford was directed by the Fords, Beatrice had Beatrice… By crossing the doors of each agency you knew what their values were, the type of work they did and, most importantly, you knew who directed the show. But when they began to withdraw, most of the agencies were sold, and now most of our industry is managed by large faceless corporations in a way that would never have been accepted then.” And what exactly has changed? “Before we promoted careers and supervised everything our models did, from clothing lines to movies. That strengthened the agencies, and generated deeper relationships and careers longer. Some models took 2 to 5 years to get an important contract or make a name for themselves, but we never left them aside after the first season. But today models are often treated as if they were disposable dishes, and I totally disagree with that. I think that by returning the business to its roots, but in an updated and fresh way, we will recover some of the allure that this industry had and strengthen it.”

Your agency’s motto, “our models are our customers,” is a good indicator of the code of ethics that will govern ANTI Management. “The trend now is the power booker. Most agencies today care more about the clients of the models than about them. They are willing to do whatever it takes to take advantage of the money, and that is why – or because of their fears, or their ego… – they often make bad decisions on behalf of their models. Every day a supplier lowers their rates a little more, or adds hours of work without paying extra, or removes breakfast from the set; they do what is necessary to save, but what they do not understand, and what the agencies that bow to it do not understand either, is that this short-sighted vision is killing our industry, and not precisely little by little, but with enough speed. In addition, there is a level of pressure on the agents that escapes reason. If the numbers generated by the team do not meet the forecasts, there are consequences within the agency, so these have tripled the number of models they represent and are operating basically with a production chain mentality. But many of my colleagues forget that our original clients are the models; they forget that it is a privilege and an honor to represent any of these girls; they forget that they have placed their hopes, their dreams and their trust in us, and they also forget that they are the ones who pay our salaries, which is a very important lesson that I learned in Marilyn.”

“Anything you can imagine has happened in this industry,”

Gabriel Ruas Santos Rocha

Over the years, Gabriel has witnessed abuses and injustices towards models, but prefers not to go into details. “Anything you can imagine has happened in this industry,” he limits himself to saying. His last stage in Trump Model Managament was especially hectic; several media echoed an alleged boycott against the agency in retaliation for Trump’s policies and statements as president, and numerous employees and models – Gabriel among them – left the ship. How much truth is there in what is told? “As they say, I refer to the tests,” he points out. What happened to that agency was truly unfortunate. But the past is there, we have all gone ahead and surely in time we will manage to get something positive out of that time. Although it wasn’t really easy at all.”

Headquartered in New York, ANTI already has more than 70 models – many of them, from Trump Models – including Shirley Mallmann or Milana Keller. The agency will not divide them by categories (that is, there will not be the typical tabs of Man, Woman, New Faces, Legends …) to multiply their possibilities and not limit their potential: “For the moment I call it the Anti-Division, but the name could change. I don’t believe in labels, and I think that no model should have to conform to a ‘table’ or a ‘division.‘” The agency also defends an inclusive philosophy that embraces diversity: “Among our models there are gays, lesbians, trans, blacks, Chinese, Jews or Christians. Our job is to represent the talent we believe in with our best abilities, and that begins by respecting who each of them is individually. If we erase labels, we eliminate stigmas, and we are able to see people for who they really are and, consequently, to do a much better job in promoting them.”

On his personal Instagram account, Santos Rocha defines himself as a “writer, model booker and shit shaker.” What else are you determined to shake? “Everything. Believe me, no one can stop me. I always say that all I have is a huge mouth and no shame. And it’s the truth.” We just checked it.

Link to the article here.

Nylon, 2017

HOW TWO NEW AGENCIES ARE CREATING A SAFE SPACE FOR YOUNG MODELS

Fashion might be all about glamour and beauty, but the world of modeling has a rather ugly side

MARGAUX MEISEL

Modeling is an industry built on perfection, beauty, and the never-ending chase for the next big face. So, naturally, it’s also an industry rife with corruption, mistreatment, and bad practices. Every so often, stories emerge that reveal the ugly underbelly of this supposedly glamorous business. And the details are far from chic.

“I was once shooting a lookbook where the stylist, helping me dress, used this chance to feel my body much more than necessary, and continued to do so throughout the entire shoot,” model Fernanda Ly revealed in March. And in another case, nearly 150 models were locked in a dark stairwell for hours at a time during a casting in February. There was also the time a Danish model was dropped from a show for having a “bloated stomach” and “bloated face” in May. Needless to say, mistreatment in the modeling industry is a tale as old as time. 

Even today, when it’s encouraged to be outspoken on social media about once-taboo topics, it’s difficult for models to expose the abuse they’ve weathered—especially if they want to continue to book profitable jobs. “Models, more than others, censor themselves in fear of losing critical jobs. As a result social media has become their soapbox, but many are still reluctant to voice their own frustrations,” Models.com wrote in an exposé that answered the question, “How Should a Model Be Treated?”

While there isn’t one simple answer to that complex question, there are a number of champions out there who have dedicated their careers to reforming the industry, one job at a time. There’s esteemed casting director James Scully, who uses his position to promote diversity and Sara Ziff, the founder of the Model Alliance, who fights for fair treatment and equal opportunity in the industry.  

Then there are agencies, the companies that models rely on as a point of communication between the fashion brands employing them—they handle money, negotiate contracts, and generally manage the careers of these runway regulars. One would assume that the business-minded agencies would have the best intentions for their clients, but that’s not always the case. Instead, agencies tend to focus on the financial interests of the agency itself.

“As the years passed and I learned more about the business, it became increasingly apparent that the scales were tipped,” explained Gabriel Ruas Santos Rocha, a former agent at the erstwhile Trump Model Management who left to start his own firm this spring. 

With years of experience on the management side, Rocha left the plagued agency founded by POTUS (which had become notorious for less than ideal treatment of its models, including illegal immigration practicesblatant financial exploitation, and cramped model apartments that were “like a sweatshop”) to start Anti Management. His intention was to overhaul the treatment of models, across the board, offering them a space where their careers could be fostered and their personalities could be preserved. That included addressing the way bookers treat models and improving the efficacy in which the men and women he represents get paid. 

Just a few months old, Anti Management is already garnering attention for not separating models into boards, the usual practice of dividing models into categories such as curvy, men’s, new faces, and so on. That means bookers at Anti work with all types of models, across all types of jobs, from commercial print to runway shows. Further, Anti doesn’t distinguish trans models from the rest; there’s no label signifying their change in gender, as they simply are who they are. As Rocha puts it, he wants all of his models to be treated equally.

He offered a simple example of how this organizational setup can benefit both his models and the fashion clients. “If Tommy Hilfiger calls in today needing 15 different types of models of all ages and races, they will only need to speak with one booker, and this one booker will offer them the whole set of possibilities.” 

Some of Anti’s biggest faces include two Brazilian top models Shirley Mallmann and Fabiana Saba, plus Madisin Bradley and the famously androgynous Elliott Sailors. The agency has also taken chances on models that don’t tick all the boxes of conventional beauty. Take Bice, for example. At only 5’8″, he’s far shorter than the average male model, but he also rocks an ethereal and otherworldly look, a result of alopecia universalis, an autoimmune disease which has left him entirely bald—including his eyelashes and eyebrows.

“[He] was turned away by every single modeling agency in and out of town, but Bice really showed us all how perseverance and talent stand out no matter how tall you are. InterviewHeroIris Covet Book, and Vogue are some of the editorials he’s booked since joining us at Anti,” Rocha boasted.

Rocha also encourages his talent to embrace their interests outside of modeling. Whether that’s honing a DJing skill, like Eric Chong, studying at Pratt Institute, like David Pesin, or chasing a passion for cooking with cannabis, like Fabio Nunes, he wants to make sure that the Anti Management models are a well-rounded bunch who can find fulfillment in all areas of their lives. 

But Anti Management isn’t the only agency making a difference. Across the pond, Linden Staubhas emerged as a mother agency (the firm that exclusively sponsors models and promotes them out to booking agencies) that takes the title of mother to heart. In fact, Tara Davies and Esther Kinnear Derungs have adopted a company-wide policy of empowering women, from their London office.

“In a nutshell, we see our models as human beings, not as a business commodity. We put our models’ welfare in front of our business targets, often investing in them financially and at the same time trying to keep their costs down because we do not feel it is right for a young woman to start her career with thousands of pounds’ worth of debt,” Kinnear Derungs told us. 

To maintain that promise, the models represented by Linden Staub are paid the day after a job is complete, regardless of when the client submits payment—which can often be months later. 

“Linden Staub models are empowered by financial independence. By knowing when they will be paid, they are able to lead more independent lives,” explained Kinnear Derungs. The two co-founders also make sure to educate their models with an accounting demo, teaching them how to navigate the world of payments, fees, and taxes, providing these young professionals with vital fiscal knowledge. 

The agency was started in March 2016 with just four girls; they now represent 11 international models, including Georgie Taylor and Lydia Atchison, and have 75 new faces in development. And though they’re small, the firm is mighty, having landed gigs for their girls at top brands such as Vivienne Westwood, Burberry, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana, and Michael Kors.

And similarly to Anti Management, they understand cultivating a model beyond her runway walk and her social media following. “Above all, we try to preach the importance of downtime, of doing things that feed your soul, not just your Instagram,” Davies said. 

Though there’s still plenty of reform to go, in terms of models being treated right, paid on time, and not discriminated against for their race or gender, at least a few members of the industry are stepping up. And that is one leap toward a healthier fashion industry that is pretty, inside and out. 

Check out the original post here.

Daily Mail, 2017

Agent at Trump’s modeling company leaves to form his own all-inclusive agency named ANTI, along with other former staffers – but insists it’s NOT a dig at his ex-employer

By CLEMENCE MICHALLON FOR DAILYMAIL.COM

PUBLISHED: 14:12 EST, 5 April 2017 | UPDATED: 19:45 EST, 5 April 2017

A former manager at Donald Trump‘s modelling company has launched his own inclusive agency, giving the new brand the intriguing name of Anti – but insists the name is not a dig at his former employer and current President.

Gabriel Ruas Santos Rocha, who worked at the New York-based Trump Model Management (also known as Trump Models) for five years, is one of several employees and models who have left the mogul’s venture in the wake of his political career.

Trump Models began in 1999 and eventually gained attention for its ‘legends’ section, which has included famous names such as Jerry Hall, Carol Alt and Ali Macgraw.

But some of the models signed by Trump’s agency began facing backlash last year, during the tycoon’s political campaign, Rocha told Refinery 29.

‘They’d arrive on set and people would say, “Oooh, you’re from Trump [Models]? How dare you,” or “Why are you still with them?” ‘ he told the website.

‘The girls would explain how hard we worked for them, how much they trusted us, and how we never made them feel unsafe: They were constantly harassed by employees on shoots, especially by other models.’

Anti, Rocha’s new agency, opened for business last week. It currently has four agents, some of whom used to work at Trump Models, Refinery 29 reported. The new agency’s models include Trump Models alums as well. 

The new company has recruited more than 20 models so far, including Brazilian beauty Shirley Mallmann, who used to be represented under Trump Models’ ‘legends’ section.

Anti announced last week the veteran model had joined its ranks.

Rocha, however, insisted that he doesn’t intend to take a stance against his former agency, and said the name Anti refers to another meaning of the word taken from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which defines it as ‘serving to prevent, cure, or alleviate’.

Anti has made its values known and advertises itself as a champion of diversity and integrity on its website. It intends to represent models of all races, abilities and sizes.

The company has also opted not to divide its models into traditional categories, such as ‘plus-size’ or ‘new faces’, so as not to limit their opportunities to one particular market.

Prior to Rocha’s departure, model Maggie Rizer left Trump’s agency just two days before the presidential election, explaining she didn’t want to be associated with the mogul’s name regardless of the outcome.

‘As a woman, a mother, an American and a human being, I cannot wake up Wednesday morning being the least bit related to the Trump brand; win or lose,’ she wrote in an Instagram post announcing her decision.

‘I owe it to myself and to my children to proudly stand up for what I believe in and that is a world where Donald Trump has no voice for the future of our country.’

Former Trump Models booker Patty Sicular has also left the company to create her own agency, IconicFocus. On its roster are two models who formerly graced the tycoon’s company’s ‘legends’ section: Carmen Dell’Orefice and Beverly Johnson.

Anti intends to have a complete office set up in New York City’s Soho neighborhood in September, and wants to have 150 models signed on by the next New York Fashion Week.

Link for the article here.

I-D, 2017

trump models are leaving to join an empowering new agency

‘Women of the world unite!’ reads Anti’s very first Instagram post.

NEWS|By Hannah Ongley|04 April 2017, 1:35pm

Along with frozen steak, bottled water, and the New Jersey Generals USFL team, one of the many things Donald Trump has stamped his name on is a modeling agency. And that, too, might soon be joining the internet’s many fascinating lists of defunct Trump brands, but not due to the quality of its talent — Trump Models currently represents Yasmin Le Bon, Ali McGraw, Carol Alt, and Pat Cleveland, alongside popular new faces like Amelia Rami and Katie Moore. Rather it’s the now-president himself who may be causing his business to suffer.

The Washington Post‘s Robin Givhan reports that Gabriel Ruas Santos-Rocha, a former manager at Trump, has left to start his own venture, Anti Management. And he’s taking many models with him. Anti recently launched Twitter and Instagram accounts announcing that they were open for business. “New models, for a new agency,” reads Anti’s website. “Stay tuned, while a new ANTIsite is being built.” The Instagram account reads, “Our Clients Are Our Models.”

In an email to the Post, Santos-Rocha said he wasn’t actively trying to sabotage Trump. “I want my models to be nurtured and treated fairly and that their talents are utilized as part of their career,” he said, adding that the industry was “undergoing massive changes.” But this is only the latest instance of Trump Models suffering election-related hardship.

In November, industry vet Maggie Rizer announced that she was leaving the agency, writing on Instagram just days before the election, “As a woman, a mother, an American, and a human being, I cannot wake up Wednesday morning being the least bit related to the Trump brand.” Top booker Patty Sicular left around six months ago to found IconicFocus, and reports circulated during a very political fall/winter 17 New York Fashion Week that industry insiders were boycotting Trump Models. According to Givhan, “industry insiders say the hemorrhaging is substantial.” 

I-D Magazine 2017

The Washington Post, 2017

Trump Models Might be Running Out of Models

By Robin Givhan

April 3, 2017 at 9:29 a.m. PDT

Trump Models appears to be slowly disappearing.

A former manager at the New York company founded by President Trump has left the company to launch a new agency called Anti Management — and is taking with him many of the women who were once on the Trump Models roster.

Its Twitter feed went live March 14, boasting the motto, “Our clients are our models.” And it debuted on Instagram wrapped in a message of women’s empowerment.

Founder Gabriel Ruas Santos-Rocha explained in an email that “the modeling industry is undergoing massive changes” and that he felt the time was right to execute his vision for a new firm. “I want my models to be nurtured and treated fairly and that their talents are utilized as part of their career.”

As for the exodus from Trump Models, he said, “I did not start an agency with the intent of taking someone out of business. Outside of that I have no comments.”

Defections from Trump Models began last year as Trump’s political rhetoric became ever more heated. About six months ago, another one of the agency’s top bookers, Patty Sicular, left. She had worked with the models in the agency’s “legends” division — older, high-profile women with established reputations in the industry — and several of them joined her at the new company she founded, Iconic Focus. They include former Halston model Karen Bjornson and Beverly Johnson, who in 1974 was the first African American model to appear on the cover of American Vogue. Sicular declined to comment on her departure.

Just before the November election, veteran model Maggie Rizer announced her departure from the agency in an Instagram post, directly linking her exit to concerns about Trump’s politics.

“As a woman, a mother, an American and a human being,” she wrote, “I cannot wake up Wednesday morning being the least bit related to the Trump brand.”

Trump Models was created in 1999. From the beginning, it was often overshadowed by the real estate mogul’s tabloid-fueled, larger-than-life image, noted James Scully, a veteran runway casting director. At one point, the company simply called itself T Models.

Trump Models never launched a new model into stardom, industry observers say. But its legends division — which once included Jerry Hall, Veronica Webb and Karen Alexander — was well respected, said longtime stylist Freddie Leiba, who often worked with Sicular.

Early this year, as designers turned their runway shows into political protests, shoppers boycotted the Ivanka Trump brand, and Seventh Avenue debated whether it would work with the new first lady, some in the fashion industry also discussed a snubbing of Trump Models.

Yet Trump Models still was able to boast that several models on its roster walked in high-profile runway shows during New York Fashion Week, according to its website and social media accounts, including the fall 2017 collections of Marc Jacobs and Thom Browne. (Amelia Rami, who was in Jacobs’ show and appears on the Trump Models website, was actually booked through her European agency, MP Management, according to a booker there.)

Exactly how many models have left Trump Models, and how many remain, is unclear. Santos-Rocha would not specify how many he had taken with him. But industry insiders say the hemorrhaging is substantial. While the Trump Models website remains active, a number of the models still listed on it are known to have jumped ship.

On Monday morning, the main telephone numbers for Trump Models were not accepting calls.

Link to the Article Here

Coffee and TV

This version of me smokes cigarettes with the depth of a film noir diva. This person drinks coffee as if it was a rare elixir, a fountain of youth. This version of me is a beautiful and perfectly calculated woman. She is sultry and her sex is a lethal weapon. She is Gigi from Casino, Cookie from Empire, Gloria from Gloria, Lauren Bacall and Jennifer Lawrence all rolled into one.

The truth is that this woman has been emulated over the years through my actions, my decision making, my diatribes and my behavior towards work, life and particularly sex. The power that she has is almighty but her heart is shattered. She maintains an approachable aura that in fact prevents her from being touched by anyone. Inside she’s frail, she is alone. The struggle between self-sufficiency and loneliness is ever present.

This woman is who I wish I was or could become. She is what I wish I had as a role model. I will never forget the first time I saw Sharon Stone on the screen, a bewitching being unlike any other I had seen before. In person, Stone is even more fascinating. She is loud, tall, has an arresting smile, and a contagious laughter. Her body is like a statue, even at the height of her fifties, she is still one of the most gorgeous women I have ever met.

As a kid I wanted to be Sharon Stone, or what I believed Sharon Stone was like. In Basic Instinct she had more power than any of the other characters – she dominated them with a look. When the doors to the world shut down and she found herself alone, she had the same effect on herself, drowning in her own seduction.

I always worshiped women. Women to me are untouchable. Growing up I listened to female singers pretty much 95% of the time, my friends were all girls, I spent most of my family time with my aunts, and my TV idols were also all women. I always envisioned myself as one of them, sashaying across a stage, dancing and trading energy with the crowd. I could see what the cover art of my CD would look like. I could hear the sound of my music. None of those things ever happened, perhaps because I am not a woman, or anything like the woman I believed I should be like. What could have prevented me from pursuing my goals? Could it have been fear of having to deal with the results of whatever endeavor I’d throw myself into? Could it have been fear of unraveling, like many of my idols have when they accomplished their dreams?

Inherently I feel that I am my happiest as a man, I love my body and the life I have created for myself. My life inspires me too. Still, when I close my eyes and daydream, my constant lady reappears, her who takes no shit from anyone and is adored by most. My hope for this girl however, is that she realizes she doesn’t need anyone else to feel less alone, no walls to protect her, she has herself and her dreams, that is the poetry she is meant to be living. The idea is to accept this woman as another part of myself. Having this other side protected within me is important because that is also what protects me. I will keep Cookie, Ginger, Gloria, and Lauren tucked away. I will continue to bring them out, as sometimes I do, for opportune appearances in my day to day life. I will incorporate Cookie when I need to serve a cold dish of revenge, or Gloria when I need to protect my people. Nothing defeats me, nobody messes with me, not even myself.

The Race

mind racing

too many faces and places

where I’ve been and where I don’t belong

the mind churning, the year’s turning

Life doesn’t play on like a song

mind scattered

thoughts shattered

memories lost

paths that have been crossed

Never to go back again

drugs to calm the pain

to alleviate the brain

time for restraint is time for complaints

time for complaints no time to feel vain

there is no measure

the extent of damage

far beyond the pleasure

held as a treasure

the drug is the drug is the drug

the weapon of choice is louder than my voice

The weapon  of our time is stronger than our minds

Will power

Maybe only to take a shower

Won’t cower

Not even when my life goes sour

Wasted 20 lbs of lazy

On a hazy daisy

Winning at being lazy

Try to fight

Make things right

But shit is stronger than my might

Racing but not facing

This is gonna be your last game.

C Train

9 am on the C train
Holding on, squeezing in

Trying to fit in
Grab the bag, hold the pole, take control
Holding on to what’s left
Holding on to the dream

Living the delusion
Feelings and confusion
It’s never what it once was
It’s never what it will be

Found a place for myself
In your arms no one else
How have I done wrong
How was I so wrong

Alone in my head
The chill in my bed
And my heart feeling sad
Breaking
Once again

Broken

Your shoes in the rack
Nothing but a token
Words unspoken
Left me with a wound open
Bleeding

Trying to face my feelings
Facing the ultimate rest
Uneasy
Facing the test

It’s all about you and none of the rest
It’s all for you for my life to relax
To keep actions in check
To stop words from causing distress

Silent All These Years

In the careful decision to peacefully sit in his living room with no music, no phone, no books or television, he hoped for the sweet comfort of silence. He listened to the white sounds in the background, like the hum from the neighbor’s air conditioners, the airplanes flying in and out of JFK, or the cars driving down Flatbush Avenue, at a safe distance. He carefully examined the brown sounds of the blue jays, hawks, canaries and a myriad of other birds he couldn’t name, but wish he did. He did not hear any pigeons and found that to be rather amusing. There were occasional dogs barking, a giggle from a child, or a door to a patio opening up. How lucky must these people be, to live in New York and be able to afford the outdoor space?

In this mix of delight and anxiety produced by the sounds of early morning he hoped to find clarity and direction. He hoped these moments of stillness would bring him closer to a solution to the many dilemmas that haunted him. He felt elated by the ability to be still and alone without wanting to rush to the left or the right. Sometimes he wondered if his life would’ve been easier had he been born an idiot, a complete clunk. He thought of those people who only own one sheet and one shoe and yet cherish them like gold, without desiring for anything other than what they have. Who are these people? Do they understand the world they live in? Have they always been this way or did life condition them into passiveness?

These are thoughts that go through his head. Certain times these thoughts can be perversive, and their simple occurrence frightens him. Would he really be able to act on any of them? Do other people also carry darkness within their bright spectrum?

In the silence he sat, trying to block out the white noises until he accepted them for lack of choice. He really did believe he was listening to the silence, but the silence was listening to him all along. Like a sponge, the muggy air of the late summer soaked in the thoughts that seeped through his soul, the air was drenched. Perhaps all that humidity he was feeling was in fact a product of his own thoughts?

The silence is quiet and pensive, it pushes you to arrive at your own conclusions. That’s how he felt then, as if he was making progress in his interval for sanity. The truth is that the silence fed the thoughts back to him, filtered, unscrambled, clear of pollution. He suddenly had the answers he needed. Only the ones he needed, not the ones he wanted.

Faces and gestures remained in the membrane that separates the body from the soul. He was pulled towards these faces of people he had known and not spoken to for more than ten years. At college, some of these people seemed as if they would last for an eternity, but they vanished faster than a sunset.

He thought of his friend who lived alone in an island and wondered about her well-being. He decided it was time to check in. He felt guilty but warm too, for having her in his thoughts was like having his old pal sitting next to him talking trivial talks, like the maintenance of a swimming pool or the life of a circus freak. He missed those talks and wondered how was it possible that they had now gone over three months without even exchanging a single text message. He pondered whether he had done her wrong in any way but decided none of that had anything to do with anything anyway.

He pushed the thought away to return to the silence but her face kept coming back as if it was magnetized and being pulled by his aura. Finally, a new thought came and the moment became a new minuscule obsession about interest rates on credit cards. He made an immediate financial decision and then realized he still hadn’t changed the mailing address for the cable bill. In the busying of his head he was still in silence.

This occupied silence spoke to him in intense waves. He shed a tear first, then two more, for no particular reason. His chest felt swollen and the only solution was an unconscious physical reaction. He took a deep breath and shed a laugh instead. He now felt blissful, in ecstasy. He felt ignorant. He felt irrelevant. How beautiful it is to be irrelevant, a human among humans, without titles or borders. He cursed on technology and then apologized for it. He realized how lucky he was. He realized how real he was. He felt valued, not by others, but himself. This was a novel thought, perhaps even an epiphany. The silence was talking to him, the silence was telling him things he never knew, things no friend, mentor or therapist had ever said. The silence told him to push through and be strong. The silence told him to come back, every day, and more would be revealed. It was now up to him, only up to him.

Reaper

“My mom said that I can’t sing and I was like: I can’t sing good, but I can sing mom, anyone can sing!” concluded the girl behind the counter at Starbucks.

For the first time that perspective had crossed my mind: anyone can do anything. How often do I hear singers who can barely carry a tune and somehow have huge careers? I don’t suppose it’s always only about the quality of the singing voice, it is also about having the balls to face the music.

I sat at Starbucks sipping my overpriced coffee and thinking about this girl, working hard behind the counter and still with great sense of humor and an interesting outlook on things. I was led down a path of wonderment: how many people prevent themselves from living their dreams for fear of not being accepted or talented? Furthermore, how many people with very little talent but huge balls and charisma follow through with their passion and to a fault, succeed? Could this woman have been a singer or a pop star had she had the proper encouragement and means to do so? Probably.

For me it happened like that, I had a dream and I pushed through against all odds. My parents didn’t seem to believe it was possible, in fact those all around me were skeptical. I dealt with rejection and disappointment but the more I struggled the harder I worked for my goals and dreams. I succeeded. I don’t know whether I am the talented one or the fraud who got away with murder, but I’m doing things today that I had dreamed about in childhood and never thought were possible.

There seems to be an ordinance in place that tells us that to do certain things in life we need to take pre-determined steps, as if we inhabited a board game. Got a raise? Advance five steps and buy a house. Bought a house? Advance three steps and get married. Got married? advance two steps and have a baby. Had twins? Go back two steps and borrow money from the bank for student loans.

But life is not “The Game of Life”. Life is fluid and full of surprises and new ways. I have always been a believer in the philosophy that everything works out if you put your mind to it and pair it with hard work and dedication. You wanna have a baby? Go for it! Who cares if your house doesn’t have enough rooms? There will be a solution and if this is what will bring happiness to your life, why not just do it? Now, do I think that some people who are having babies should actually have babies? No, absolutely not, but that’s none of my business; at least they’re not telling lies to themselves but instead simply living life.

I suppose the central factor here is the question of destiny. Can we be reapers of life, ceasing control of things that aren’t ours to begin with and make them our own? Can we bend destiny?

My experience tells me so. My experience tells me that even though the heavy weight pressuring my chest and generating anxiety is hard to overcome; it is not impossible. We put on our big boy shoes and go to the mattresses.

I’ve had my awards acceptance speech ready to go since I was about ten years old. I carry that speech in my wallet and update it from time to time. I keep it as a reminder to never stop pursuing my dreams and to work hard with focus and patience. Soon enough the day to actually use it might come.

I Am Not Writing Today

I didn’t write today. Not a word on the paper, not a tap for the keyboard. I woke up early as I always do, I reached for the phone and that was the kiss of death. The sexual drive of the early morning took over my mind and I scrolled through a few inappropriate pages on tumblr. I thought of a cute guy who poked me on Facebook and went on to check out his page. On Facebook the notifications overwhelmed me, so I took care of those first, so I forgot to look at that page. 

I moved on to Instagram: Jordan had a birthday party and didn’t invite me. Bianca got married and her dress was horrible. The other agency got the model that I thought I was getting. The picture of a vegan quiche makes my mouth water, I take a screenshot of the recipe but I know I’m never going to cook it. 

I remember I have to do groceries so I send myself an email as a reminder. I quickly look through my inbox and see there’s an update for snapchat so I do that. I am now officially sucked into the universe of newly released filters. My neck hurts, my back hurts; shouldn’t I feel refreshed after a full night of sleep? I stare at the phone screen for solid five minutes without moving a finger, in what can only be described as a near-catatonic state. An hour has passed and I haven’t even gotten to Twitter yet. My life is so sad right now. 

I finally get up, feed my (very) patient cat, prepare my super strange green shake and start getting organized for the day ahead. The time that was allocated for writing and meditation is gone. Maybe I’ll do 10 minutes of writing on my lunch break. I’ll meditate tomorrow (next month).

The morning goes by and suddenly it’s 2pm. There was no time for a lunch break, I’m moody, starving and pissed off at myself for not taking care of the things that truly matter to me. The phone rings again and I’m sucked back into the mess that my life has become. I lose my temper, I scream at people I should not be screaming at and I get lost in my self-pity all over again.

The day is done and I still have a full schedule ahead, so I cancel the coffee, the dinner and the drinks; I decide that my evening will be better spent writing and catching up on my finances. I visualize myself as the top executive in that movie from the 70’s, walking out the door carrying his briefcase, shouting at his secretary:

“clear my schedule for the rest of the day!”

“but…”

I’m gone before she can utter another word. She is left with my mess to take care of. That  thought makes me smile. 

On my way home I run a list of all the things I still need to do. I stop by CVS, Pet Central, the laundromat, the deli, and the grocery store. I spent way more money than I should’ve and I haven’t even been to the Vitamin Shop yet. 

At home I unpack, organize, feed the cat, play with the cat, look through the mail, remember that I forgot to pay the credit card bill, notice I need to take out the trash, and so I do it because it stinks. Another hour has gone by and I haven’t written a word. My brain is fried and I have to catch up on Game of Thrones, so I decide I’m too tired to produce anything relevant. I make up my mind: I’m not writing today.

The New York Times, 2016

Welcome Back, Chest Hair

Eric Shoemaker, who works in public relations in Los Angeles, has moved on from the waxed look.
Eric Shoemaker, who works in public relations in Los Angeles, has moved on from the waxed look. Credit…Brinson & Banks for The New York Times

By Max Berlinger

  • May 3, 2016

Shortly after he finished college, Eric Shoemaker, a 34-year-old Los Angeles-based public relations executive, allowed his chest hair to grow out. “I don’t know if it was my age or becoming comfortable with myself,” he said, “but the thought of getting waxed — which makes your hair follicles bleed and you get ingrown hairs — you have to ask who you’re doing it for.”

Mr. Shoemaker’s decision came more than a decade after those touchstone Calvin Klein ads, featuring a smooth-torsoed Mark Wahlberg (then known as Marky Mark), popularized the hairless look, which was further endorsed in the next decade by the hit TV show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

Similarly, Gabriel Santos-Rocha, a 31-year-old model manager, stopped depilating roughly eight years ago, in his early 20s. “I thought that the ideal body had no hair,” he said. But frustration with all the upkeep nudged him back to his natural state. “I hated dealing with the maintenance and the stubble and the itching that came with it,” Mr. Santos-Rocha said.

The response to his furry physique has been positive. “I’ve never noticed anyone not liking my body hair,” he said.

For a new generation, the overly groomed body appears to be falling out of favor. “We’re seeing a return to ’70s fashion,” said Tim Bess, an analyst at the trend forecasting agency the Doneger Group. “The late ’60s and early ’70s were about freedom, the hippie movement, having lots of hair.”

Mr. Shoemaker at the pool in his apartment complex in West Hollywood, Calif.
Mr. Shoemaker at the pool in his apartment complex in West Hollywood, Calif. Credit…Brinson & Banks for The New York Times

Mr. Bess cited Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac — with his unbuttoned shirts and thatch of chest hair — as a prototype, adding that the preened look seems dated. “It gets a little too perfect, too mannequin-looking,” Mr. Bess said.

Christopher Oldstone-Moore, the author of the 2015 book “Of Beards and Men” and a senior lecturer at Wright State University, in Ohio, believes that an increasingly urban and digitized life has left some men “disconnected from their masculinity.”

“There are different ways to connect to your organic masculinity,” Dr. Oldstone-Moore said. “Hair is one way to do it.”

An unkempt body is a perhaps unforeseen corollary of the lumberjack look that has long since peaked in certain Brooklyn circles. Even the brand 2(x)ist, known for its sleekly textured models, has opted to show its underwear on the hairy frame of Nyle DiMarco, a recent winner of “America’s Next Top Model.”

Tom Speight, the brand’s president, said, “We’ve seen everything from man-buns to full beards go mainstream in recent seasons, and we want to reflect that rugged, a tad unpolished, yet approachable look.”

As with most things, it is probably not a bad idea to be wary of extremes. “I think we’re going to have to walk slowly,” Mr. Bess said. “Because if you go too far with it, it can look a little Neanderthal-y.”

Continue following our fashion and lifestyle coverage on Facebook (Styles and Modern Love), Twitter (StylesFashion and Vows) and Instagram. A version of this article appears in print on May 6, 2016, Section D, Page 6 of the New York edition with the headline: A Trend That’s Altering the Manscape.

Becoming a Supermodel with the Help of a Supermodel

Yearly thousands of young kids reach out to modeling agencies in the hopes of becoming a model. They call, send pictures and letters in the mail, show up unannounced at the agency’s doorsteps, and call relentlessly to follow up, hoping to find a place in the spotlight. These girls and boys have no guidance or frame of reference. With that in mind, supermodel Claudia Mason, one of the members of that elite group of girls who made a name for themselves in the 90’s (alongside Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington); decided to lend a hand. With the new book “Finding the Supermodel in You – An Insider’s Guide to Teen Modeling”, Mason draws from her experiences as a model, breaking down the entire profession bit by bit.

Other than articles found online briefly describing the inner works of an agency, a model’s career, or modeling schools, there’s very little objective and helpful information that can be obtained to help in a model’s pursuit. Not only that, but modeling schools who are supposed to guide and manage aspiring models, many times are no more than a very expensive source of useless advice. These companies seem to be more concerned with padding their bank accounts rather than honestly selecting talent that has potential for a career in a very selective industry.

Claudia speaks from experience, from many years of trial and errors in which she navigated pretty much every scenario a model wannabe can dream of. Mason’s tips range from what type of clothing to wear when meeting agents and clients, to what foods to eat and which beauty products to pick at the drugstore.

Claudia’s career started when she was only fifteen years old. This native New Yorker was a dance student and professionally trained by some of the best the Big Apple had to offer. After her health prevented her from moving forward with her dream of being a professional dancer, fate took her for a spin. One afternoon after school, Claudia was approached by a model agent who saw potential in the young girl. Claudia’s first modeling job was with the legendary photographer Richard Avedon, who repeatedly brought her back for other shoots throughout the years. Mr. Avedon shot Claudia for multiple Vogue covers and editorials, various campaigns for Versace, among others. Claudia was “One of the Most Beautiful Women in the World“ according to her Revlon ad. This was the late eighties. Concerned with her studies, Claudia’s parents put a break on her career until she finished school.

By the time she returned to the scene at age 18, the nineties were in full swing and Claudia fit right in the middle of that famous supermodel group. The credits attached to her name speak for themselves: campaigns for brands like Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Christian Lacroix, Gianfranco Ferre, Gianni Versace and Versace Jeans; magazine covers for titles such as Vogue, W, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Elle and Mademoiselle and an enviable list of photographers which includes Steven Meisel, Steven Klein, Helmuth Newton, Irving Penn, Bruce Weber, Patrick Demarchelier and Mario Testino to name a few. Her list of runway shows would be far too extensive to mention, but it’s no less iconic. Claudia Mason had arrived!

As this girl’s career progressed from model to supermodel, Claudia started integrating some of her other passions into her bookings. Mason dove into acting as well as TV hosting, which landed her the top position on Mtv’s “Fashionably Loud“, a cross between fashion and music in one TV show. Her acting brought her awards in theater and many positive reviews by top critics. Upon her return to New York in 2010, amidst bookings with Katie Grand for Love Magazine and Vogue Russia, Claudia began to refocus her energy and work on a plan for her next career phase.

The tireless supermodel decided this was the time to give back to the world some of the good things she earned. She turned a negative health scare into a positive action and joined the American Stroke Association as a spokesperson, bringing awareness to an issue that affects men and women of all ages around the globe. On that same year she also began developing a TV show, which is currently in pre-production. Somehow, in the middle of all this, she still found time to work in movies and write a book – this, her biggest passion project.

In her guide to teen modeling, Claudia hopes to shed some light on matters that have been obscure to most people. She has no problems speaking out about health issues and drugs, topics that have always surrounded the modeling profession in the eye of the media. The model considers herself lucky for being able to work and still be close to home and her family, a luxury that most girls can’t afford. She also found a team that supported and protected her every step of the way.

With this book, Claudia is a part of her reader’s team. The author keeps things simple, the goal is not to pontificate, but to maintain an open dialog. Mason created check lists for the young girls and approached the industry’s top professionals to make sure that her reader would receive the best information available from every area of the business.

Claudia’s career is a brilliant example of fortitude and creativity. Here is a woman who was never afraid to brake boundaries and try new approaches. Because of that Claudia was able to live out all her dreams. Now Claudia enters a new phase, one that is more mature but not less exciting, one that aims to bring the dreams of many aspiring models to reality too.

Article originally published in The Huffington Post Books, April 2016

500 Answers – Purpose in Life

What do you believe is your purpose in life?

When I turned 15 my stepmom’s gift was an astrological birth map. There were beautifully drawn charts filled with codes and symbols I could not understand. The package included two cassette tapes. We sat together on her bed and put the tapes on, carefully listening to the soothing voice of the astrologer, who along with my stepmom explained every piece of that delicate puzzle. This recording revealed, bit by bit, my entire life’s plan and journey according to the stars. I was impressed.

A lot of it rang true and sounded like I was on my way to making my dreams come true. There was one thing however that sounded odd. The astrologer told me I would have a successful career taking care of people and/or managing businesses.

    “This makes no sense, I would never do something like that, I wanna make movies

Well, making movies might have been what I wanted, but it wasn’t my path. At age 17 I was approached by a modeling agency to join their staff and hired on the spot. Lo and behold, I ended up managing careers, making them into businesses and looking after people for a living.

Truth be told, I had been doing that all my life, I just didn’t know it. I looked out for my friends in school and helped out anyone who needed assistance. That is still true for me today. Whether I am at work or not, I’m always looking out for my people. To me, there is no greater pleasure than lending someone a hand. Friends and strangers benefit from this quality – to different degrees, but they all do.

Michelle Alves for Vogue Italia shot by Steven Meisel

I will never forget when Michelle Alves, one of the first models I ever worked with, sent me a note right before Christmas. She thanked me for what I had done for her, and that was it. All I had done was to send her flight details via fax and pick her up at a fashion show. I was a young assistant then and this was the first time any model had ever thanked me for my work. That day I felt for the first time that I had a purpose; I felt for the first time that I could make a difference in someone else’s life.

500 Answers – Message in a Bottle

While at the beach you decide to write a message in a bottle. What would it say? Who would you like to find it?

Dear Gabriel,

You were once young, much younger than you are now, which was far younger than I am today. You didn’t know, no one knew. We launch into life empty, some hopeful (as you were), some not. Some are barely alive, they can hardly be called vessels; but you were.

A shining example of endurance, fueled by dreams and passion. You lacked in pedigree but made up for it in the way you made those around you feel important. You made friends and brought them along with you. For every new victory you looked back to hug and acknowledge all those in your path. You would not have won without them: the nay-sayers, the cheerleaders, the silent companions; they were all there for you. You knew it and you shared it.

You inherently knew it, joy when shared multiplies. Through your suffering you gave joy, through your malaise you gave joy, through your losses you gave joy. You gave joy when there was none left. Where did you find it? I tell you, some questions go unanswered. Certain troubles not even God can reconcile, but that doesn’t stop him from inquiring, as it never stopped you from seeking.

Don’t stop now, don’t stop ever, that’s what makes you who you are. Believe in yourself, hold on to your friends and never stop asking the questions. This will make you a winner.

With love,

Gabriel.

The Hopeless State of Brazil

During a recent visit to Porto Alegre, my hometown in Brazil, I went to the supermarket for groceries. As my turn at the checkout approached my phone rang and I launched into an animated conversation, in English, with my American boyfriend. Suddenly I felt a presence around me. As I looked up from the groceries I was placing on the belt I saw eyes peering at me. The bagging boy whispered something inaudible to the neighboring check out girl and I decided it would be best to end the call. I said hello, in Portuguese, to the cashier who had her eyes wide staring at me. She answered with a murmur. After she finished checking my items she did not give me the final amount aloud, as they usually do, but pointed to the screen while staring back at me, as if her life was in danger. I gave her exact change and all of a sudden the woman behind me in line tapped my shoulder.

“I’m sorry to bother, but why are there so many Americans in town?” She asked in good english, as I anticipated.

The three surrounding registers and the bagging boys all stared at us, anxiously waiting for an answer. I told her I am in fact a local who lives abroad, visiting my family. That did not suffice.

“Why on earth would you come here?” Asked the checkout girl.

“Where do you live?” Inquired the next one.

“Are you really spending the holidays HERE!?” questioned the boy.

The general consensus was that I had lost my mind.

“Why would you come back here?” The question lingered with me several days after that.

I had not been to Brazil in several years. The recent developments of my country’s political and economic state frightened me, not to mention a spike in violence that has not been witnessed in nearly twenty years. The type of violence that affects all layers of the population from housekeepers, taxi drivers and waiters to CEO’s, TV personalities and everyone in between is a petty violence. They steal because they want your Tupperware with food, to feed their hunger; or your cellphone to trade for crack. Sometimes, more regularly than not, they’ll kill for a chunk of change, they don’t know any other way. It’s a lawless state.

National magazines print stories covering a mass exodus of Brazil nationals attempting to build their lives on solid ground in North America or Australia. Hell, anywhere but there. It’s a hopeless state.

The population revolts and takes to the streets. The government, corrupt all the way to the top, buys votes, steals money and rips to shreds an economy built strong over the course of two decades. There is no education, no healthcare and no public safety to speak of. Brazil is today a country with no infrastructure, but it’s still a beautiful country. Brazil has insurmountable beauty, incredible fun and joy to offer. Tourism may very well be it’s last threshold and hope.

I left Brazil in the pursuit of a dream, several years ago at the height of its economic boom. Americans would look at me in shock wondering why would I ever want to abandon such a paradise especially when the country was performing so well. Truth be told, I had serious doubts that the mentality of the population and its politicians had changed so rapidly. Unfortunately, I was right.

Today from where I stand, I see several people I know plotting an escape plan. I see several people I don’t know having to sell homes they never actually moved into because they aren’t able to keep up with inflation and interest rates. Brazil has in less than a decade created a real estate bubble of gargantuan proportions, similar to the one that took the United States half a century to build up. Brazil’s bubble is bursting, what’s worse, the little hope Brazilian citizens had in the future of its country is gone. The population stopped believing in the system, more than that, the population stopped believing in the population. The citizens of Brazil stopped believing they are in fact the decision makers, they stopped believing that they are in fact capable of affecting change.

The people of Brazil are so afraid of losing the bread crumbs the government throws at them, that they keep quiet. No one sues the government because they already know the judiciary will not push their suit forward. One alone, may be weak, but what about the hundreds of thousands of people who suffered together at the hand of President Collor and still have not received a penny back since 1992? Why aren’t all these people banding together to fight the country for the money that is rightfully theirs? Because the people lost faith in the people. The people are afraid of the people. It’s a snowball effect that allows for the Brazilian government to stay its course of thievery and impunity.

The impoverished population who had no access to decent homes, or any credit for that matter, all of a sudden saw the hands of bankers and lenders opening up. Suddenly families of six who shared a one-room home had flat-screens, laptops and nicer clothes. These families were immediately elevated to the status of middle class. But elevated by whom? The government, who saw fit to show the world how rapid change was possible in Brazil. It was all an illusion.

When the government believes it’s more important for the people to have material possessions (and debt) instead of education and access to healthcare, there is definitely a strong misconception. When the population becomes so desperate that they have to steal food from their fellows standing at bus stops in order to feed themselves, the country enters a dark age. My feeling upon returning to Brazil was of anguish, and this feeling was shared with every person I came in contact with during my trip. The disappointment of seeing firsthand what it’s like for people to turn against each other because their government is busy spending the people’s money on better homes and vacations for themselves is painful, it’s revolting.

I wish I could pose a solution to these issues, but I can hardly wrap my head around the problems of Brazil. For the moment I offer my thoughts and hope for better days. This country has stood in the dark for much longer than it’s seen the light. It’s time to change.

Originally published in The Huffington Post / WorldPost, Feb 2016

How Models Taught Me it is OK to Miss Home

One of my assignments on fourth grade was to read a book about a girl who traveled abroad on an exchange student program. This was a thoroughly engaging tale of chasing independence, dealing with language barrier, new cultures and experiencing feeling homesick for the first time. After the class had read the book and turned in the essays, the school arranged for the author to come in to give a lecture. The girl was probably no more than ten years our senior and had attended our school. I had a transcendental experience, it was the first time I had met someone who had actually left home and gone some place else. Everything started to make sense to me. Everything, but the idea of feeling homesick.

“Why would she be crying just because she wasn’t home?” I didn’t get it. To me, getting out should feel more like a blessing than a curse. There was nothing wrong with my family or my upbringing, but I felt a longing for life abroad ever since I can remember. It made no sense and I could not explain it, I only knew how I felt.

A few years later, when I was eighteen, I finally got my first opportunity to go somewhere. I didn’t exactly make it out of Brazil but I was moving from Porto Alegre to São Paulo, which was significant. I was the first in my family to take such a big step and one of my first friends to go anywhere, for good. Think of it as moving from Charleston to New York. It was huge!

I remember dealing with models who were very young (but not much younger than I was), most of them between 14 and 16 years old. Many girls adjusted well to the life in the biggest metropolis of Brazil, pounding the pavement trying to make it in the world of modeling. A few others however, had terrible bouts of depression and loneliness and broke down quickly. Every now and then a girl would come into the office crying and desperate to get on the phone with her mother, just because she missed her parents or felt overwhelmed by the size of the city. I couldn’t relate with that feeling. I never cried, I never felt separated, I never felt distant. I was happy. What could be better than pursuing a career in one of the best modeling agencies in the world?

The first few months in my new city went by smoothly. I had to travel down south a couple of times to gather more of my belongings, so I still maintained a fairly close connection with my family. I didn’t have a place of my own, I was couch surfing with a friend of a friend until I figured things out. The distance from where I was staying to work was enormous. I had to take two buses and the journey could last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, and that’s not counting the late nights. The neighborhood was not only dangerous but the buses took longer than usual, as they ran more infrequently. As the challenges grew I began to understand, to a small degree, what some of those girls might have felt too.

Many years have passed since those first months in Sao Paulo. I now live in New York and find myself experiencing unique layers of emotional pain. It’s been three years since the last time I’ve been home. A series of events kept me from making the trip back from New York, including a break up, a green card and a new apartment. Life happened and before I knew it I found myself feeling anxious and irritable. I became an emotional wreck. I watch cartoons and I cry, the Lipitor commercials come on TV and I cry, I listen to music and I cry, heck, even Homeland has been making me cry. I have become a running joke among the people who know me.

I send Christmas cards with corny pictures of me and my cat, I write letters, I FaceTime. I used to denounce the holidays; now I love them. These days I celebrate tradition, and all I long for is a home of my own. For this person, who always believed in being independent and in belonging to the world, it’s quite a change. Could I be homesick?

Through a very painful process of shedding layers of pride and old resentments I believe I finally got to a point where I am able to accept my roots for what they are. I can finally admit that indeed I do miss home and all the drama that can be attached to it. My life may not be in the south of Brazil, but that doesn’t mean I have to abandon it all behind.

I’ve grown to admire and enjoy some of the traditions from my home country and state. I am proud of our beautiful sunsets, the tree-lined streets, the quality of life, the cultural vain that beats stronger than in most parts of that country. I celebrate the gaucho culture, our funny musical accent and even our orange (or is it red?) taxi cabs.

Being home is an opportunity to remember, recharge and reconnect. Going back gives me the chance to look at how far I’ve come and how capable I am of chasing dreams and goals that sometimes feel unsurmountable. When I’m homesick I realize that all those things were possible because of where I came from. The fact that I came from a reality so distant from the goals I was looking to achieve made me even more resilient. Home may be difficult, but it’s unlike any other place I’ve been to. Home is provincial, but it’s where some of my most special memories and connections are. As I age and experience life on life’s terms, I also realize that home is always going to be the place I turn to for reference and support, no matter where I end up.

Originally published in THE HUFFINGTON POST on Novemeber, 2015

The Fashion Photographer Who Became Prince Charming

This is one of those cases of which came first – the chicken or the egg? For Alexi Lubomirski the answer will be different to that of most people. You may have been acquainted with his charming persona for the last decade, as the photographer who shoots celebrities and top models for publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, GQ and Allure. But the famed photographer with good looks of a male model, or even perhaps Prince Charming, is in fact a real prince. More specifically, His Serene Highness Prince Alexi Lubomirski of Poland. So which came first, the photographer or the Prince?

As hard to picture as it is, His Serene Highness’ current address is not a castle, but a New York city apartment and his story is nothing close to a fairy tale. Lubomirski has been familiar with his title since the tender age of 11, but only recently made it public. The revelation of his heritage came to him as a surprise and a shock, as the young child was coming to terms with his nobility, his mother was also responsible for explaining that other than the title, there was not much left to show for a royal life. No castles, no crown and no pomp, but in fact, there was a lesson to be learned. “If you are to be a prince in today’s world, you have to be a prince in your heart and in your actions.” That was the advice his mother passed on to him, when the family lived in Africa.

Alexi was born in London to his Peruvian mother and Polish father. At the age of seven, he moved to Botswana with his birth mother and English stepfather. Perhaps it was this eclectic mix that transformed Lubomirski into the creative force that he is today. His mother wanted him to become an international lawyer, but she never stopped him from pursuing his artistic endeavors, which earlier in his life included painting.

It was his stepfather who gave him his first camera at the age of 11. During his teenage years at school in Oxford, Lubomirski spent his free weekends doing odd jobs waiting tables, gardening and bartending in order to save up money to travel. His serious interest in photography developed whilst traveling in Peru during a gap year at college.

His interest later shifted from social commentary to narrative based photography during his studies at University of Brighton in the UK. It was shortly after finishing his studies that he was introduced to Mario Testino, whom he assisted for the next four years whilst living between Paris and London. Towards the end of his time with Testing, Katie Grand, a British fashion journalist and stylist, approached Lubomirski to shoot for The Face, and later for Harper’s Bazaar US.

Since then Lubomirski has become an established name within the fashion industry with an impressive client list, shooting for such publications as Harper’s Bazaar UK, Vogue Germany, Vogue Russia, Vogue Spain, Vogue China, Vogue Nippon and Wonderland.

He has also become a firm favorite with celebrities and has shot cover stars such as Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Scarlett Johansson to name but a few. In 2008, Lubomirski had his first exhibition, ‘Transit’, a mixed media commentary on television culture, comprised of pre-conceived film stills, at Milk Gallery in New York.

For his recent book ‘Princely Advice for a Happy Life’, Alexi’s goal was to put down in paper concepts that are passed on from generation to generation, encompassing anything from good manners and chivalry to courage, honor and romance. The book was a personal project which would serve as a gift to his firstborn son. It was an illustrator friend of the photographer who encouraged Lubomirski to get it published. The illustrator was charmed by the advice contained in the pages and saw necessity for the youth of today to have a tool to learn from. After two years of insistence on the part of his friend, Alexi finally agreed and thus was published a very princely (and personal) book of etiquette. The book itself is evidence of Alexi’s own advice; all proceeds from the sales are donated to the charity Concern Worldwide, proving that the line “show appreciation for your blessings in life, by blessing others with gifts of kindness” is not just something to fill a page in a book, but something to be lived by.

Decade by Alexi Lubomirski

The Prince was well taught and by living the principles passed on to him as a young man, he was able to become this larger-than-life photographer, whose career seems much greater than the ten years documented in his other book “Decade”. This, a collection of highlights of the photographer’s work, goes far beyond the 250 images contained in the tome. The photography book was conceived during hurricane Sandy, while Lubomirski was stranded at home without much else to do, and later on with the help of Alex Gonzalez, who fine tuned a theme which focused on the elegance of women, showing them in the way this photographer knows best – classic, happy and confident.

The images range from actresses like Lupita Nyongo, Kate Winslet and Cate Blanchett to supermodels including Karolina Kurkova. When asked about the difference between shooting actresses and models, the photographer states that “a model will shoot in whatever direction you want, while celebrities impose more boundaries as they are not hiding behind a character.”

So one could assume that shooting celebrities would be a challenge, but not for Lubomirski. “I learned to give actresses a story line and let them act it out. Kate Winslet for instance, uses her body as a tool and has such a mastery of it, it was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. The way she moves her ankle and her shoulder and the entire body conveys an emotion, it’s remarkable. Models and actresses are both special in their own way.”

Having had such a wide range and so many experiences it’s difficult not to ask the obvious question of who has been his favorite subject to shoot? The answer is the most charming and unexpected: “My wife, for sure, when I take pictures of her I feel like I’m writing poetry. Perhaps this will be an entirely different book in the future.”

Article originally published in The Peninsula Magazine, Fall 2015

Huffington Post, 2015

Gabriel Ruas Santos Rocha Spills What its Really Like to be a Model Agent

By Shawn Reinoehl, Contributor

Fashion Photographer With A New Approach To Fashion/Editorial Blogging.

10/20/2015 11:21am EDT 

New York, London, Milan and Paris; what do these cities have in common? They are the epicenter where fashion comes to life on the runways. Designers, models, editors, influencers, all come together to make it happen twice a year for fashion week. One of the key players that sets trends and pushes boundaries in the modeling business is the agent that represents models at top modeling agencies around the world.

Gabriel Ruas Santos Rocha is a senior agent at Trump Models and he has graced the fashion industry with his creative eye, sharp mind, and tenacity in the way he envisions what a model should envelop. If that means whether they’re tall, thin, curvy, or has that editorial look that hasn’t been seen before, Gabriel and other agents around the world have an influence on what is in, or out. I had the opportunity to ask Gabriel questions about fashion, modeling, trends, and what this whole process of fashion means to him and everyone else that can’t get enough of fashion.

Shawn Reinoehl What does fashion mean to you?
Gabriel Rocha Fashion is an art form, it is more than making clothes, it’s a way of expressing oneself, telling stories, showing personalities. Creating fashion is not just about putting out a dress on a runway.

SR How did you get involved with modeling agencies? 
GR A girlfriend of mine who was asked to meet with Marilyn Agency to be a model didn’t want to go by herself, so she asked me to tag along. I met the director of the agency and after that meeting we would occasionally run into each other. One day I got a call from her asking if I wanted to join their team; she said she felt my personality would be a good fit for the agency. I was intrigued, so I went for that meeting and 13 years later, I’m still in the business.

SR Of the models you’ve worked with, who are some of your favorites?
GR I have represented many great ones but I have to say some of the most inspiring models are probably Michelle Alves, Maggie Rizer, Julia Nobis, Shirley Mallmann and Caroline Ribeiro. Those girls are real muses to me.

SR Your favorite fashion era and why? 
GR Aesthetically I love the 70’s, there was so much going on at that time, from disco to glam rock and the looks were so elaborate and bold, it was a totally exciting time period for fashion in general. I also love where we are today, because it’s sort of a “best of” generation. We’ve been borrowing the best things from each previous decade and tweaking it to make it a little more modern and I like that. I like that pretty much everything is accepted, it’s all about embracing a look with confidence.

SR Who are your top three designers? 
GR At the moment Dries Van Noten, Givenchy and Celine. Ever, I would include McQueen, when he was still around and also John Galliano, he is an absolute genius!

SR How long have you been in the fashion industry? 
GR Thirteen years, but it feels like nothing!

SR In the fashion world, fresh is a must, what trends have you seen with the way models look?
GR when I started, the trend in beauty was between Brazilian and Russian models, very beautiful and sexy girls. Slowly after that the trend shifted a little bit more towards girls who looked a little bit like birds, meaning, big eyes, pointy nose, little chin, more of a round face, you know… Then it became a little bit more all American and pretty, like, the girl next door, reminding me a little bit of the 90’s when girls were just stunning and appeared more like someone you would want to be friends with. I particularly loved the grunge period in the late 90’s, I think fashion was very exciting at that time.

SR Are there super models today, or was that a product of the 90’s?
GR Yes, there are definitely supermodels today. The industry went through a period when there weren’t any, perhaps Gisele Bundchen was the only one around, for nearly a decade, but slowly they came back. I think at the moment some of the girls who could be compared with the original supermodels are Joan Smalls and Karlie Kloss.

SR Is skinny still in? 
GR Skinny is still in, very much so – but healthy too; skinny and healthy.

SR If a girl wanted to become a model what are some requirements she must meet in order to become one? 
GR 5’9 height, hips below 35 inches, good skin and good genes, self-confidence and patience, lots of patience.

SR What’s next in your career? 
GR I’d like to make bigger contributions to the industry and perhaps guide aspiring models and agents in a broader spectrum, away from the booking table and out in the universe.

SR If you could be on a TV show or reality show which show would it be? 
GR Oh, anything that Nigella Lawson could be involved in, I think she is absolutely fabulous!

SR What inspires you? 
GR Creativity and open-mindedness in others, that always gives me desire to do more and create new things.

SR Top three fashion photographers you adore?
GR I will stick with ones who are alive: Steven Meisel, Daniel Jackson, Lachlan Bailey and Ryan McGinley.

SR Where do you see fashion going in the next few years? 
GR Oh I haven’t a clue!

SR What projects are you working on?
GR At the moment I am working on a project that tells stories from the industry with a fresh perspective, should be out by next year.

SR When are you the busiest at your job? 
GR For me the most stressful times are the ones preceding the fashion season, when we have to make sure everything is organized for what’s about to take place, in line with strategy and brand development. 

SR What’s your favorite season?
GR Autumn, no doubt!

SR Do you see plus models replacing the thin girls on the runways? 
GR No, but I like that they’re more present each day.

You will find the original Huffington Post interview here.

On Beating the Taboo of Spirituality and Creating a Better Life

Spirituality is taboo. No matter how open minded we are, there’s a glimpse of a thought that prevents us from launching into the topic as we would about a TV show or a play. Whether we hold back to assess the situation and those around us, there is always that voice that whispers “proceed with caution” in the back of our heads.

Over the years I’ve seen spirituality expressed around me in many different ways. It was this flora of beliefs and practices that helped me find my own expression. I’ve found that people make their connection through religion, meditation, music, dance, support groups and study, to name a few. All of the aforementioned fascinate me for the way that each person builds their own individual relationship with something that is greater and more powerful than themselves. The sum of these examples have touched me in different ways.

I have never considered myself a religious person. I grew up in the south of Brazil, an area predominantly Catholic. My grandmother enrolled me in Sunday school, I was confirmed, joined the Boy Scouts and all that stuff that most kids don’t like to be associated with. I didn’t love those obligations, but I didn’t hate them either. The stories from the bible fascinated me. It was such a different world from the one I lived in. The 10 commandments baffled me. Not stealing? I get it, but some of that stuff just didn’t seem realistic to the 10-year-old version of myself.

Around that same time I met Berenice, my first English teacher. Berenice was Jewish, something completely new to me. I asked her questions, poked around and soon discovered that many of my classmates (in the Catholic school I attended) were Jewish too. I grew fascinated by their rituals and culture; moreover, I was fascinated by the sense of community they possessed. I immediately wanted to be one of them.

One of our religion class teachers, Pedro, was the epitome of cool, and the precise opposite of all other religion teachers, who were middle-aged nuns. Pedro brought his guitar to class, sang songs and created a stimulating environment in which we were invited to ask questions. In his classes we learned more not only about Catholicism, but all religions: Buddhism, Judaism, Islamism, the Amish and everything in between. Suddenly, all of us were engaged

Some 20 years later I ran into Pedro at my younger brother’s school, during soccer practice. My former teacher was still the same, dreadlocks and guitar included. I was surprised, he recognized me immediately. We caught up briefly and he told me he was let go from that job not long after I left that school. Polite, funny and sensitive as always, he didn’t go into details but I can speculate that perhaps his open minded beliefs and creative methods were a bit much for a traditional institution.

From those classes I remember becoming very aware about a sense of “destiny” and how life is full of coincidences. I also recollect not exactly understanding those feelings. I didn’t understand the purpose of prayer either. I didn’t get what sacrifice of one’s will for that of others meant. All I know is I always believed there was a force in charge of everything, making sure things happened according to a master plan. The problem was I never felt at ease. At one point I felt as if my life was spinning so fast that I was going to fall.

Around 2010, when I was in fact very close to falling, something clicked. My health had deteriorated and my career was collapsing. I had an immense sense of loneliness in New York and was completely afraid. I was then introduced to meditation. My friend told me about his spiritual practice and we launched into discussions about religion. To my surprise he had none, he was agnostic. My friend however, believed that he was in a spiritual path, and that all humans had a connection of the soul. Although agnostic he got on his knees to pray, daily. He did not pray to God, his prayers consisted of words of gratitude for his blessings, but also for all the negative experiences in his life. Those experiences taught him to push through, be stronger, and learn from mistakes.

It was from a simple conversation that the spark lit up a flame and I found myself no longer in the dark. There was hope. I started reading about different spiritual practices and learned to say more yes than no. Begrudgingly I started praying (not knowing what to, but I did it anyway), on my knees, as taught by my grandmother. I would then sit in silence and meditate; or at least I tried to. First for two minutes, than for five, and now sometimes I go for twenty.

Everything has changed and my practice has not remained linear. I’ve said prayers that belong to different religions, merely because I admired the meaning behind the words. I’ve studied different spiritual beliefs, like the Kabbalah, and I found a way back to myself through yoga, which if you had asked me before, I would have told you it was but a fashion trend.

I found that in the stillness of when I am alone I’m granted the answers I didn’t even know I was looking for. I discovered that there can be many different paths that lead to the same destiny, and I can get there a lot more peacefully if I have a spiritual connection. Whether my pursuit is in religion, meditation, or yoga, that’s all irrelevant. We all can connect within when we need answers or even if we simply want to feel re-energized. Millions of people on this planet can’t be wrong, if they have a spiritual practice that works for them then who am I to argue? Exploring different spiritual paths doesn’t take much time, it shouldn’t really cost any money and no one’s ever died from having too much spirituality and serenity in their lives.

Originally published in The Huffington Post – GPS for the Soul, October, 2015

Meet the Man who Changed the Face of Advertising in America

When you hear the name William Helburn, it will probably not mean anything to you. Unless you were part of the advertising industry in the Mad Men era, or a fashion insider, Bill (as he’s called by friends and colleagues) would have flown under your radar. Contemporary to other greats like Richard Avedon, Lilian Bassman and Irving Penn, Mr. Helburn’s career started right after the war. Mr. Helburn shot faces like Dovima, Dorian Leigh and Jean Patchett for various publications including Harper’s Bazaar and Time Magazine. In the book Seventh and Madison (Thames & Hudson) the reader is introduced to this key character of a long gone era, in which the United States lived what was probably the most exciting and innovative time in advertising.

This photographer never spent much time building an editorial brand. “I never made a point to put my name under my pictures; I was working mainly in advertising and unlike magazine editorials, you never get credit for that work,” Bill explains with no regrets. “I worked a lot, I was successful, people liked me and I made a lot of money.”

Mr. Helburn didn’t really care about branding himself, so why suddenly have a retrospective of his work at the peak of his 90 years of age? “I have no idea, this is such a nuisance!” he laughs, “these people who followed my work, approached me and said they were interested in what I created and said they felt the world should know who I am.” Bill agreed with the proposition but was skeptical they would be able to put a book together with the little material he had saved over the years. “I threw away three quarters of the work I did, anything that wasn’t approved [to run] went to the trash, I didn’t know people were gonna come back and make a book about me.”

What Robert and Lois Lilly (authors of the tome) saw, was the indelible mark this photographer had left in the advertising industry. Helburn was making images that were outside the box and popped from the pages of the magazines and billboards, bringing new excitement to the ads he was hired to shoot. He was the only advertising photographer who was as trendy as the fashion photographers, roaming the world with top models and celebrities and putting them in new and unexpected situations for the sake of selling a product in a different way.

Never before would a fashion photographer shoot a car advertisement, and that’s exactly what Bill did. “I made it more interesting. I wasn’t showing the engine like most ads were. I had a model in the picture and I made that car sexy.” And Bill gets excited every time he is invited to talk about his work. “I made advertising a little more fashionable. They would give me layouts and I’d shoot that, but then I’d also do what I wanted to do and more often than not they’d pick my idea over the layout.” That was how models ended up with cruise ships in their hair, standing atop street signs or naked in the middle of a snow storm. Shock value was something this artist knew all about.

In times when the world talks endlessly about new medias and the end of the printed matter, it’s valid to wonder what made such a successful photographer change from shooting stills to moving image. Eventually Mr. Helburn saw the expansion of the television as a new media and moved on to shoot commercials. “That was the way the world was going, advertising was spending more money on TV, so I started doing that,” explains Bill. And he did that from the 80s up until the early 90s when he finally retired to enjoy his success and spend time with the family.

For someone who seemed so passionate about his work, one is left wondering if he keeps up with new advertising campaigns and magazines. The answer comes as quickly as the click of a shutter. “I couldn’t care less, I don’t keep track of it at all, I just want to enjoy life!”. And that he does, with no regrets, only happy memories. “Doing this book… it’s rewarding, they rediscovered me,” concludes the master.

Article originally appeared in The Huffington Post and VVV Magazine.

The Legends Interview

legend |ˈlejənd| noun

an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field.

Picture this: between Pat Cleveland (who’s career started in the 1970’s) and Hannah Ferguson (who started in 2012), there are five decades of legendary careers in the modeling industry. One would think that for some of these women, things would have slowed down, but they don’t ever stop working. Frederique Van der Wal runs the most successful floral business in the world, Carol Alt hosts a daily show on Fox News, Claudia Mason is about to embark on a book tour and Pat Cleveland is also writing a book of her own in between photoshoots and runway shows. Hannah Ferguson, while young in the business, had hardly any days off since she broke the internet in the infamous Carl’s Jr. commercial, alongside Paris Hilton.

The irony is that neither of these women seem to see themselves as legends. “I don’t know what a legend is” says Carol Alt while the makeup artist works on final touches before the shoot. Strangely, Ms. Alt is one of the models for which the term “supermodel” was created to describe. “To me, if the image stays long after the person is gone, that is legendary” she completes.

The aforementioned women may not be “gone”, but their images will forever linger. These careers surpassed the runways and magazine covers, occupying the movie screens, televisions and even theater stages around the world. Additionally, each of them has a hand in some sort of humanitarian work, paying all the good they received forward. Whether they care to admit it or not, they have all created a legacy of their own.

Coffee Shop Ghosts

Who are these lonely crusaders of the keyboard? Who are these people who venture out into the unknown epicenter of words and numbers, in the middle of the afternoon, at quirky cafes or massive chains? Where did these beings come from and where do they belong? Do they not feel perturbed by the clinks and clanks of espresso machines and registers? Are they not phased by the screech of the milk frothers and the baby sitters shoving their strollers in whatever way they please?

Perhaps Benjamin woke up angry at his wife. He decided he needed to go write a letter to his high school sweetheart, the only person who ever really understood him, even in the silence. Gloria’s internet connection, on the other hand, was disrupted by the latest UFO to fly into town for the alien convention and she really could not wait another minute to wrap up her thesis on cloud anomalies. Actual clouds, not digital clouds. Could it be that Daniel has no place to call an office now that he is unemployed (staying at home creates an aura of depression and purposelessness)?

These people are magical beings, they populate areas which would likely go unused. These are creatures resented by some of the coffee enthusiasts, who would like to think they would go coffee tasting, if they had the space and the peace of mind to do so. What about the lovers who would like to sit at a table for a date and cannot, because there are ten computer rats crowding the environment? More intriguing are those who sit at the coffee shops and restaurants to watch movies or play video games. Is there really no better place to do it at than a crowded coffee shop? What is it about a busy restaurant that inspires someone to tune out the world and jump into the universe of Zelda?

I remember when I waited tables at a little cafe in Soho, a few moons ago, there was a girl who would always come in, order a regular coffee (which cost no more than two dollars) and sit there, on her laptop, working for hours. At the time I depended on tips and she never left any. She also took the space away from the good tippers, I thought. I couldn’t stand her, but at the same time I envied her. That woman had a purpose, she had things she needed done. For whatever reason, the non-tipper felt that our little cafe was welcoming enough that she could sit there for hours, entire afternoons! The owners of the cafe didn’t seem to mind, they probably felt she was good advertising, making the place look busy. The entire time I worked there I never saw her order anything other than her regular coffee. Not even a cookie! I bet that if I were to ask her, she would probably say she didn’t even like our coffee. I also bet she has a big career in astrophysics today, or something important like that. That girl had places to get to in life, she was tireless.

Cafes provide, perhaps, a sheltering environment away from loneliness but protected from interruptions. People most likely feel less inclined to talking to someone who’s on their computer, working. Nothing upsets me more than the person who feels comfortable enough to chit-chat with a perfect stranger. Call it social awkwardness but it’s at that moment when I really wish I’d have a computer to protect me.

A conclusion to this matter is still miles away but the endless amount of possibilities hidden behind each and everyone of these people is a thrill. The stories that run through my head during each trip to the local cafe are fabulous. The simple fact that they’re there, focused, makes me feel like they’re ten steps ahead of me. They’re the brave ones, facing the crowds, unafraid to explore their creative and professional needs, from full caf to decaf.

Originally published on MEDIUM.

Bright Lights, Big City

The city of lights, romance and pastry, Paris is one of the world’s most effervescent cultural centers. The French capital sizzles and yet remains gentle in a beautiful paradox that allows you to live fast and party hard, while simultaneously inviting you to sit at one of its many immaculate parks to listen to music or read your afternoon away. The beauty of Paris is not in the bustling tourist attractions, but in the hidden corners and intimate settings. True, some of the most notable spots, such as the Louvre or the Trocadero still remain breathtaking, although somewhat impersonal. It was in the peaceful gardens of the Jardin des Plantes that I found my footing. After I realized that privacy was possible, even in the most public of places, I decided I’d take my time, soaking it all in.

No city in Europe makes me feel more comfortable and at home than I do in Paris. I understand this may seem odd, given the unfortunate fame the French have for their unpleasantness. I don’t find that to be true. Yes, they are ‘to the point’ and, yes, they can sometimes be honest to a fault, but I’ve learned over the years that part of what makes them so wonderful, are those exact things. They know everything; they are the best at everything; they have the best taste in everything. So what? No wonder they have some of the best food and wine in the world, not to mention art, literature, film and music. The French really got it all right – if it wasn’t for all the dog poo splattered around the city sidewalks and the occasional strikes, it would be the perfect place.
Whether in the seediness fun of the Pigalle or at the top of the hill at the Sacre Coeur – my favorite church in the world, which says a lot for someone who’s not religiously inclined – there was always an opportunity to stop at a hidden store, buy inconspicuous art and chat with the locals about what could be a great spot for dinner in the area, away from the extreme prices of the known locales.

L’Entrecote remains one of my favorite restaurants within Paris. Introduced to me during my first trip, it’s a French gem and normally my first stop whenever I’m in town. After standing in a long line out in the street (yes, it’s that popular), you’re invited to sit down in a busy room, filled with vibrant chatter and delicious smells. However, no menu is ever presented; for a flat rate, you’re served L’Entrecote’s famous cut of meat with the secret mouth watering sauce, accompanied by fries and a salad. At the end of your meal, you’re given the choice of a dessert and the check. Just like that, in and out, no time is wasted, and it’s a fascinating thing to watch. This restaurant is such a big hit that it currently has three locations in Paris and even one in New York.

If my mood for dinner, however, is for a scene, I will most likely be seen at Cafe Ruc or Ginger. These two restaurants attract the core of the fashion industry. During Fashion Week, it’s an invitation to encounter some of the biggest top models dining alongside their agents and fashion editors from magazines from all around the world. For lunch, another restaurant favorite of mine that never disappoints is L’Avenue. Steps away from the Hotel Plaza Athene and smacked in between stores like Dior, Chanel, Ferragamo, Celine and the headquarters of Givenchy, this is the spot to have lunch in between fashion shows. The tables on the sidewalk are the most sought after and certain ‘fashionistas’ have been known to spend north of four hours there sipping champagne and nibbling on strawberries. For a quick and very traditional French lunch, I adore Le Castiglione, also one of Grace Coddington’s favorites. The overall environment of Le Castiglione is lovely and the food cooked to perfection. Only a few steps away from Place Vendome, the jewelry central of Europe, where one of the most infamous jewelry heists took place a few years ago, thus turning this location into one of the most well guarded on the planet. Also located at this square is the famed Hotel Ritz — where the gliteratti gather and serves as temporary home to everyone from Anna Wintour to Beyonce.

Not all, however, needs to shine to be incredible. The fabulous burger joint, Ferdi, prepares what to me is one of the best burgers in the world. This cozy restaurant is a locally, well-known institution where patrons are hosted (or turned away) by the colorfully temperamental owner, which to me is the entire charm of the place. The Olsen twins, as well as the Delevigne sisters, have been spotted at Ferdi on several occasions and given their stamp of approval. After finishing the burger, it’s always a good idea to make a quick stop at Colette to pick up some of their exciting limited edition items. The store is design-heaven; just the right size and packed with all that matters in the fashion world – here, you can’t go wrong. If your appetite in turn, is for something a little more mainstream do not skip the classic Printemps, Le Bon Marche or Galleries Lafayette, which are the most famous and large scale French department stores. In the afternoon, a visit to the Hotel de Crillon for coffee proves to be a wise and regal choice. If that’s not appealing, head to the Madeleine square and pick up some delicious tea at the iconic teahouse, Mariage Freres – my personal favorite is the Marco Polo blend.

Shopping may not be your focus (if you’re anything like me), and, in that case, my top suggestion is the museum of the Orangeries at the edge of the Tuilleries Garden. More intimate than some of its counterparts, this museum holds masterpieces like Monet’s Waterlilies among many other impressionists and post-impressionists masters like Cezanne, Matisse, Modigliani, Sisley and Renoir. In case there’s time (and patience) for the mainstream, do not skip the Dorsay and the Pompidou. A very important addition to Paris’ cultural portfolio is the incredible Louis Vuitton Foundation. Designed by Frank Gehry, this new icon of modern architecture and the arts sits in the Bois de Boulogne, known for its mansions and leafy streets. It’s in this very neighborhood that the musician Lenny Kravitz lives and is known to host the occasional intimate party in which the pantheon of the fashion, music and film industry gather.

While in the subject of parties, the Paris nightlife is not to be missed, some of the most exciting times I’ve had at night were there. It was at the club L’Arc that for several years the designer Riccardo Tisci hosted names like Liv Tyler, Gisele Bundchen and Mariacarla Boscono at parties for Givenchy. The most recent and exciting club to open its doors was David Lynch’s Club Silencio. Hidden deep underground, Club Silencio has a variety of rooms and hallways, while also playing host to the an exciting group of characters in the most extreme outfits seen anywhere.

While in Paris, a wild night is not always a requirement for a good time, as can be experienced at the ever-classic Hotel Costes, where a toast to a glass of champagne is mandatory. For a cooler, and more relaxed environment, my all time favorite evening appointment is at the restaurant Derriere, which is fashioned as a house. You may sit for dinner at a bedroom or in a living room, you may even end up in the dining room! If all else fails, you can hang out at the bar or in the patio and play some ping-pong with the iconic and irreverent fashion editor Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, a fan of this spot who is always up for a good time and some laughter.

Of the more traditional touristic spots, I try to never skip visits to the Notre Dame cathedral during mass hours; the smell of incense and the echoing of the words in french are ever inspiring. The Luxembourg Garden always takes my breath away and just before I head back to the hotel to change for the evening, a quick drink or a cup of coffee at Cafe de Flore is essential. Before you leave Paris, whether you go to their cafe at Champs Elysees or to a kiosk at the airport, don’t forget to pick up a box of macaroons from Laduree to gift to some of your favorite people back home. These colorful delicacies are a French institution.

Allow yourself to be immersed in the local culture, stroll through the bridges and the streets observing every detail and every sign. Look for the markings on buildings that might show you the former homes of luminaries like Proust, Balzac or Victor Hugo. Take all of its essence and history in and maybe then you will fall in love just as much as I did. In the classic words of Cole Porter; “I love Paris, every moment of the year”.

Column featured in ONNE MAGAZINE – May 2015

Saudade

Saudade is a word without translation, not without meaning. Nothing prepares you for it. It sweeps you off your feet and lands you flat on the ground. It’s a theory and a paradox, it hurts so much, but oh, it feels so good! It washes you like a tall wave, it tackles you to only then lift you up again, out to fresh air where your lungs feel free and your heart relief. 

Saudade misses homes and pets, fast friends and long term partners. Saudade takes care of all, above and below. This is a feeling that reminds you of who you wanted to be when you grew up and who you were, just a week ago. Saudade craves food and green pastures, it craves smells and flowers. It inhabits your childhood bedroom, your baseball cards, your knick knacks and mementos.

Saudade feels like the first kiss – stolen. Saudade hums tunes in your ears, recites lines from old movies, and plays long forgotten. This feeling longs for attention, this feeling longs for your heart. Saudade makes you tight and then it expands you all over again. A sensation which awakens you to your truths, it’s not dark nor is it light, it just is – magic.

Love that remains, happiness that stays, long after it’s gone. Saudade. 

Temporary Rooms

I observe with the human lens. I watch them from the dimly lit corner of a room. They parade around with importance, tidying it all up for the honorable guests. They believe this is important. They believe this matters. I observe as the mechanical lenses line up at the edge of the room, always ecstatic and a bit hectic. They take position, a square each. A square, denoted by the neon tape that feels nothing, that says nothing, that breathes nothing. This tape somehow, the unliving tape, holds more power than some of the living things.

I observe in silence, as the lights briefly dim up bringing to center stage an army of long-limbed tall exquisite creatures. They walk in poetic march, built to inspire, built to promote, built for desire. 

I track the movement of guests as the doors bust open. I track them as they observe their ticket, longing for better seating. I observe as the better-seated glance at other better-seated, in awe and admiration, in anger and envy. I glance as they smile and hug and laugh and throw their hair back. They never stop. This is the cafeteria of high school and everyone has their place. Except for me, I am displaced.

I look, I point my humanity, I shoot. Heavenly creatures reappear on the suddenly bright room. I record moments, I share them with the world, I document it, in the way I’m told. Told by my lenses, the human lenses, creating unique perspectives, developing plots, but never deciding on an end. This story has no end, but the room does.

This room has an end, the room has a time. The room will live in glory, every once in a while. The room will be light and dark, the room will be structure and de-structure. The room will come, the room will go, but I’ll stay. I’ll stay. I’ll stay.

La La Land

The plane touched down and excitement filled the air. This was my first trip to Los Angeles, a place that existed in my dreams and was about to become a reality. The fast pace of the freeways, the palm trees – everywhere, just like the movies. My first experiences there were fun – but underwhelming. The excessive time in traffic really brought me down. I am the type of person who’s really a sucker for human connection, so to be in a place where people basically don’t utilize sidewalks unless they’re getting to their car or from the car to a building, was really jarring. Not only that, but where were all the celebrities that allegedly lived here? I mean, if people are constantly in their cars, how do you ever see them? 

My friend, who was married to a paparazzo suggested that he’d take me on a tour to show me all the houses, where all the celebs lived. Off we went, and I got to see wall after wall, gate after gate, door after door, and still, no celebrities. And no houses either. It was the most disheartening process. My dreams were being crushed. Even the paparazzi chase after James Marsden I got to witness seemed boring. Where was Julia Roberts when you needed her? 

And then, there was the nightlife, or should I say, there wasn’t. A place where clubs are required by law to close at 2a.m.? Seems excessive, but it’s the truth. I was simply not having any of it. Granted, during the day, the parks, the mountains, the beaches, all wonderful, really – the quality of life, I imagined, top of the line. If you disregard the gray fog of pollution that covers the city, of course. But all good, isn’t there pollution everywhere? Who knows, you tell yourself the fattest lies when you want to believe in certain things.

I had not given up, I was certain that LA had to be that magical place from the movies, with all the cheap glamour and phenomenal black-tie parties, packed with celebrities pretending to have a good time. That’s the place I longed for, a place of make belief.

On the following year, I was invited to attend an Oscar party, perhaps the most sought after invitation of awards season. This was a private affair, at the house of a major pop icon, no press (or cameras and social media) were allowed and the guest list was tight, only 200 of the biggest and hottest talent in the world were invited, along with some key Hollywood players. I could not believe that I was in, this was an honor. I felt as if my opportunity had finally arrived, to truly experience LA at its best, on its most important night of the year, Oscar night.

The city buzzed, all along Sunset Boulevard and wherever else there was a key party taking place, traffic was intense. None of it mattered, because the party I was attending would only really get packed after everyone was done posing for pictures at Elton John’s or Vanity Fair, this was the party where they came to throw their hair back and really have fun.

Fun was had. Oprah Winfrey grabbed me by the arm on a twirl, most likely thinking I was someone else, and very quickly moved on to pay attention to Tom Cruise. Sharon Stone, probably the most magnificent creature I had ever laid eyes on seemed bored at the music, until Puff Daddy took over the pick ups. In an attempt to actually socialize, I bummed a cigarette from Penelope Cruz, who’s dress was all ripped to shreds at this point, from all the dancing that was taking place. More than half of the women were trotting around barefooted, without a care in the world. We were all sweaty and we were all having the time of our lives. A momentary bond was created between me and Renee Zellweger, who kept trying to hit on my friend, but with no luck – he was engaged to be married. That would not be a problem, Renee and I still had the dance floor. The bathroom line was dispersed by a housekeeper who informed us the toilet was clogged. So it was true, celebrities are just like everyone else, they even clog toilets the same way.

The follow up to this brilliant night was a brunch at the iconic Fred Segal, where me and my friends would rehash stories from the night before. Sitting next to me on the curb, waiting for a table just like everybody else, was J.Lo with her BFF Leah Remini. And there it was, the moment I had been waiting for all along, the LA of my dreams had concretized.

I did not stop going back to LA ever since, two or three times every year at the very least, and I just keep on falling in love with it more and more. Over time I learned to love waking up early in the morning for a walk on the hills of Hollywood, by the iconic Hollywood sign, all the way to the stunning Griffith Observatory. Sometimes if I’m feeling adventurous, I will get in my car and go to Runyon Canyon, probably the most popular of the hikes in town. There, the occasional celebrity sighting is inevitable, my favorite being a fresh faced Kathy Griffin walking her dog up and down the rocky pathways.

With time I also learned to get over my traffic resentment. I now zip all around the city in my little rental cars. It was in LA where I had my first car crash, not in New York, the place famously known for its horrid traffic and crazy drivers. As I was parking for brunch at Laurel’s Hardware, one of the hottest brunch spots in town, a bus took half of my car along with it. Of course, this being West Hollywood, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian arrived just as I was giving my statement to the police. A very glitzy car crash indeed!

In the evening, dinner at Soho House among the likes of Al Pacino or Madeleine Stowe seems like a great choice, followed by drinks at the historic Chateau Marmont, location picked for the movie ‘Somewhere’ by Sofia Coppola and of many incredible parties, like the night where many gathered around the pool to celebrate Valentino on his last collection as the designer of his own label. And speaking of parties, it was at LACMA – Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art, where Rodarte threw their pre-Oscar bash a few years back. Now, I am not saying that’s the reason why you should visit, but it is definitely a place to be seen. Their art collection is exquisite and the place itself is definitely not to be missed, much like the Ghery designed Disney Auditorium, with it’s incredible architecture. Speaking of art, a visit to Prism Gallery is also essential. This gallery co-owned by the brothers xxxx is one of the hottest in the country, continually launching new talent into the top echelons of the art world. Next door is the restaurant Eveleigh, one of LA’s trendy spots where top models Carolyn Murphy, Irina Shayk and Gisele Bundchen can be seen dining alongside Mario Testino, Adam Levine or Leonardo DiCaprio.

One of my favorite places for dinner though is Pace, on Laurel Canyon – not only for its delicious menu but for the history that’s present in that area. A few doors down from the restaurant is the house that used to belong to Jim Morrison, and that street was what he used to call “love street” – made famous by the song of same name. From the balcony of his house, Jim used to watch his girlfriend coming home from work every day. The country store next door to the restaurant is where Jim, and many of his rock star friends used to go for their groceries. The basement of this store served as Mama Cass’s first apartment when she arrived, broke, in Los Angeles. What Morrison and Cass didn’t know, is that they had gone to school together, years prior to that and had never met until then. That store is “the place where creatures meet” that Jim mentions in his song because of this accidental high-school reunion. After this walk down memory lane, a trip up to Mulholland Drive is mandatory. Its winding roads took the lives of xxx and were made globally famous by David Lynch’s homonymous film. Make sure to stop at one of the overlooks to take some of the most stunning night shots of the City of Angels.

Rodeo Drive, once made famous by Julia Roberts is just another shopping spot like any other in any large metropolis, and if that’s the focal point of your trip, then you won’t be disappointed as luxury is not spared here. Don’t forget to make a stop for lunch at Ceconi’s to recharge the batteries or later on at the cafe at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, where the pretty woman and Richard Gere were staying in, in that movie. This is a magical city, infinite opportunities for entertainment, from the Walk of Fame to the seedy Venice Beach where Arnold Schwarzenegger was once made Mr. World to the Santa Monica Pier, with its traditional funnel cake and amusement park – days can be spent discovering new things in Los Angeles and the more I discover, the more I want to return. You will too.

Hat Hair

The waiter will not leave us alone, it’s like he wants us to keep ordering shit. I mean, really? What more could we order – appetizers, main courses beverages and desserts have all been pushed down our throats (basically). Does he expect us to start from the beginning again? And why would we do that? It’s not like things aren’t already bad enough. What is the deal with this silence? The staring… oy! What else can I do? He is good in the eyes, but not a lot of content behind them. 

Conversations remain in the air, floating in space, like those three bouncing balls in the text-message field when someone is allegedly typing an answer…except the answer never comes. By the way, why is that? What happened to my answer? Did it mistakenly end up in someone else’s phone and now they’re really confused wondering if they had dinner plans at 8pm that they completely forgot about? Let’s hope they didn’t, because they’re NOT in for a treat. Anyway. Back to this thing… where to go from here? 

This is that turning point, where I basically know what’s gonna happen, and there are only two options, with one outcome. Option A is that I will go home with the boy, screw his eyeballs out and then never see him again, or option B; in which he plays the prude, goes home and I never see him again. Either way, the ultimate outcome is: I never see him again. That’s totally fine, after all, can you imagine raising kids with a non-talking being? That would be complicated. “Honey, did you feed the baby?”. Text-message bouncing balls. The horror! 

He is good to look at though. Those eyes just won’t stop staring, they’re big and translucent and bright, and I really wish they could talk to me. Those eyes actually feel very much alive, they feel as if they have so much to say. They could fill two slots of the David Letterman show. Not just one of those tiny in-between interviews he does with boring physicists who are releasing some boring book about saving the planet. No one cares about saving the planet, Al Gore knows all about that. Ask him! I mean, I care about saving the planet, but I just try not to be too scandalous about it. 

Oh my God, I just realized I think I left the stove on this morning! Shit I hope the cat didn’t burn to death! Oh my God, what does that mean in terms of killing the planet? Wait… gas doesn’t kill the planet… does it? Oh I should bail on this botched date and go turn the stove off, can you imagine the electric bill? I mean gas bill. Oh, who cares it’s al the same, it comes in a bundle and no one looks at that damn thing, it’s all in auto-pay. “oh, put it in auto-pay and we will give you a discount.”. Bullshit! I don’t think anyone has ever gotten anything from putting anything in auto-pay. I certainly didn’t. I haven’t checked either, but I am sure I haven’t. 

This is one of those cases, like when I go to the supermarket and I buy plums that look really pretty and purple and shiny and big. I imagine they’ll taste like a little piece of heaven, and I don’t check the price because, well, they’re plums! How expensive can fruit be, right? And then I get to the register and the lady rings up the plums and my six purple pieces of heaven add up to somewhere north of 40 dollars. For plums! I go crazy on her, it’s absurd! “Are these plums made of Gold?” I say – she just stares at me and says “I don’t know, you’re the one who put the plums in a bag and then in your shopping cart” all while raising those big fat eyebrows in a uniform motion with the shrug. Oh these people! And who reads signs anyways? Also, you should be able to just throw shit in a bag, scan everything with your phone and walk away, check out lines are the worst!

Oh my Godddd – he’s staring at me again. And the waiter is waiting. For WHAT? Oh, thank God, it’s the check, he is waiting for my signature! Somehow the check had magically been filled out with tip and everything, God bless. He went with option B, I can’t blame him, I had a bad case of hat hair tonight anyway, that’s what happens in the winter, you get hat hair and your dates are ruined by it. No one gets lucky in the winter, because of hat hair.

Try

6:15
wake up and it feels strange
on the wrong side of the bed
coffee spill denotes nothing will change

time to try something different
wear clothes inside out

9:15
underestimated
undervalued
unapreciated
work sucks

time to try something different
put a smile on that frown

12:15
lunch is cold
scream for silence
turn the table 
make a fuss

time to try something different
burn the past
open the door to the future

time to try something different
forget insecurity

2:15
the clown is pursuing drama
that train left the station

time to try something different
time to make it new

4:15
fire the boss
yell at a deaf man
just to make sure

time to try something different
pack the bags with air
go on a mission

7:15
cat’s out the window
let him go

time to try something different
wake up
shake up the world

Model by Day, Rocker by Night

SAINT LAURENT MODEL BY DAY, SUNFLOWER BEAN BAND MEMBER BY NIGHT, MODEL/MUSICIAN JULIA CUMMING IS ONE TO WATCH.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY HEDI SLIMANE DURING THE FITTING IN SEPTEMBER 2014 IN PARIS

INTERVIEW BY GABRIEL RUAS SANTOS-ROCHA

Despite having just graduated from high school, model Julia Cumming already has two seasons as a Saint Laurent exclusive under her belt. As if that wasn’t already a success story on its own, her Brooklyn-based band, Sunflower Bean, is a beacon of hope for old-fashioned rock-’n’-roll. Music has always come naturally to Cumming (her parents met in a band and her father taught her how to play bass), which is likely why Hedi Slimane was prompted to tear her away from the stages of Brooklyn to walk in his Paris runway shows. “It has been pretty amazing working with Saint Laurent,” Julia reported. “Hedi Slimane’s interest in supporting musicians who are starting out is really cool, and brings a different kind of genuine energy into the world of fashion.”

We talked with Cumming about rock in the digital era, her perceptive views regarding the state of the music industry—and why she might like to travel back in time to the mid ‘70s.

What’s your band’s creative process like? Do you start writing new songs while you’re touring or is there a special time for that?

“For me and Nick and Jacob, playing is our favorite thing in the world to do. So we play together every day—rehearsing and writing when we find parts we want to expand on. Nick usually brings in some riffs and we all work with them, turning it into a collaborative thing.”

The internet has been a great vehicle for your music. Do you intend to move into more traditional formats in the future? Shall we expect an “album”? Maybe even Vinyl?
“The Internet is a gift and a curse (I could talk for years about that), but there is something really special about a physical release. We intend to release our first EP in the beginning 2015, hopefully on vinyl.”

As a young artist in the music scene, how do you view the industry today?
“The music industry has changed so much in the age of online piracy, and I think it’s trying to figure out how to survive in a world where it’s almost impossible to profit off of record sales. It just means that if you’re trying to be a musician now. you really have to do it for the love of it, because the days of huge advances and tour buses are just gone. But everything moves in cycles, and you have to be thankful and excited for the moment you’re in. As long as I’m surviving and making art that I’m excited about, it’s all good.”

Did you have an idea of what the music industry would be like—how was your perception different from the reality of the job?
“Everything seems more glamorous than it is. The music industry is a business, and a business is a business is a business!”

The video clip for “2013” was shot entirely with iPhones—we’re interested in the concept!
“My friend Kyle Hiedacavage is a totally amazing artist who I’ve always admired, and we basically sent him the song and he came back to us with the concept for the video. He wanted to shoot it all on iPhone cameras, which was perfect because we had no budget. I bought a fog machine for 100 bucks, and we just went for it. I think Kyle’s interpretation was spot on. It captures the moment, the year, how we were feeling at the time, all while kind of speculating about the future.”

The thought behind “2013”, of science expanding life and changing things at a fast pace, is a bit daunting. Would you want to be able to extend your life to be 1,000 years old?
“I don’t think I would want to extend my life to be 1,ooo years old. I guess it depends on what the quality of life would be like. It’s also nice that you have this kind of short moment where you are alive, you know? It forces you to make the most of it, and to take chances.”

One of our favorite Sunflower Bean tracks is, “I want you to give me enough time.” We’re curious to know what it’s about!
“This song means something different to me than it does to my bandmates. I feel like it’s talking about audience members in Brooklyn that go to shows and make up their minds really quickly about bands without really listening long enough to form opinions.”

 Does music influence your sense of style, fashion-wise? What is the connection between the two, in your opinion?
“I’ve always loved glam rock… Acts like Gary Glitter and T-Rex have been my favorite since I was a little kid. I used to have a tape with Alice Cooper music videos that I watched over and over again until it broke. So those images are burned into my brain and have affected my whole life—my style included. I love going a little overboard and trying to find where elegance and over-the-top meet, especially on stage. I feel centered when I’m wearing an outfit that I love and one that represents myself.”

Is there a period in fashion that you’re more interested in?
“I don’t know if I could name just one period, but I obviously love the early-mid seventies. I used to say that if I could exist at any time I would like to be 16 in 1973, living in London.”

How did modeling come about for you? Had it always been a desire of yours?
“I think modeling is a kind of performance and a form of expression in a way. When I became interested in clothes as an early teenager, fashion imagery started to mean more to me. But I never really thought it was something I could end up actually being involved in.”

Can you compare the experiences of being on stage performing with your band versus walking in runway shows?
“Playing in a band on stage and walking in a runway show are very different. Fashion and music are definitely intertwined, but an art form like rock-’n’-roll offers total freedom, asking you to dress up the parts of you that are ugly and weird and you put them on display.”

Judging by the different avenues that you’ve pursued throughout the years, it seems that you’re not afraid to try new things.
“I love to try new things. You only get one chance in this world (at least until we find out if we can live to be 1,000). I just really enjoy making art and want to try to explore it all the ways I can.”

Interview originally published on CR Fashionbook on Nov, 17th 2014 

Top Agent

The visionary Eileen Ford created in 1947 the concept of the modeling agency as we know it today. Tough and workaholic, the businesswoman, who passed away this past July at the age of 92, had only one regret: not signing Grace Kelly to her agency

By Gabriel Ruas Santos Rocha

The designer Yves Saint Laurent once said that “a good model can advance fashion ten years”, but a good modeling agency and managing skills have proven to advance an entire industry. Eileen Ford, who passed away, last July at the height of well lived 92 years was the sole creator of the modern day modeling agency. Mrs. Ford’s modeling agency went on to become the biggest modeling agency in the world, representing a roster populated by some of the most famous and recognizable women in the world. Cheryl Tiegs, Christy Turlington, Jerry Hall, Verushka, Naomi Campbell, Twiggy and Christie Brinkley were only a few in that lucky list.

It all began when Eileen was Pregnant and unable to find someone who would hire her. Mrs. Ford began assisting some of her friends who were models in the mid-40’s as their secretary. Eileen organized their schedules, negotiated jobs, chased after payments and by word of mouth became an agency, at a time when modeling agencies weren’t really established. Modeling wasn’t viewed as a serious profession and Eileen Ford helped evolve modeling from a mostly part-time, poorly paid hobby into one of the world’s most glamorous occupations, turning girls next door into multimillionaire celebrity supermodels. When Eileen’s husband, Jerry Ford, returned from war and resume his studies for business at Columbia University he found great potential in what his wife was doing. Jerry cemented the business and took care of the business while Eileen managed and scouted the girls. They were a perfect fit and became an instant hit.

In their first year, the Ford’s accumulated over 250 thousand dollars and by 1966 Forbes reported they were making an average of 100 thousand dollars per week, becoming the most successful agency in the business. That did not happen by chance. Ford had introduced the voucher system, which would guarantee models their earnings even if the client hadn’t yet paid the agency. Models at that time were paid by the hour, at very low fees. Eileen argued that models should earn their paychecks per day, type of work and according to the extent their images were exploited by the clients. This new practice was the page turner, influencing the way advertising works and remains today the lifeline of the business.

The typical Ford model was tall, thin and predominantly blond, with wide-set eyes, beautiful eyebrows and long neck. Very rarely her girls were shorter than 5’7 a cut-off height which luckily included the gap-toothed Lauren Hutton. Ms. Hutton became the highest paid model in the 70’s and alongside Evelyn Kuhn, one of the first two Revlon contract models. In a recent interview with Eileen, she corrected me: “That was not the first contract”! She was firm, and sharp, referring to Yardley’s of London. That was the first ever exclusive contract, designed by Eileen and Jerry so that a model, in this case the iconic Jean Shrimpton, would exclusively represent and endorse a specific brand, securing higher fees and better exposure.

Beauty however, was not everything. Ford demanded the highest level of professionalism from her models, putting them on strict diets and firing those with a taste for partying. Eileen famously used to say “Models are a business, and they have to treat themselves as a business.” Mrs. Ford took models in to live with her and her family, in her home and was adamant about having all the girls sit with the family at the dining table. Models were required to do chores around the house and go to bed at specific times in order to learn about professionalism and respect. “It was my first experience with a dishwasher” Monique adds, “I had no idea how much soap to use, it ended up in disaster, the foam reached all the way to the dining room” she completes with giggles. Anne Anka, then known Anne de Zogheb, recalls how disapproving Eileen was of her relationship with the singer Paul Anka, who she was married with for 38 years. “She thought, ‘Show business, that’s trouble’, but I think she eventually came around.”

Eileen’s hospitality was the first sign of model housing, now largely established for every agency across the world. At the time however, it was a way for her to keep a closer watch at her girls and make sure they were behaving according to good moral standards and staying away from harms way. Supermodel Renee Simonsen recalls “They took me in and made me a part of their family, and I know that the protection of Eileen saved me a lot of [bad] experiences in the modeling business, she was a tough lady with high moral standards, but she had a big heart”.

Ford reigned the industry alone until the late seventies, when the ‘model wars’ ensued with the insurgence of John Casablanca’s Elite and Wilhelmina Models. These were some of the agencies that came on strong, attacking and luring away some of Ford’s top talents. Eileen would not stand and let her business be taken from her. To her defectors, Mrs. Ford would send copies of the bible with passages about Judas highlighted in red.

It was again, time to innovate. She opened offices across the globe, from Europe to Brazil and soon enough established the first worldwide model search. The ‘Ford Supermodel of the World’, became the largest scouting network and modeling competition, making Ford the biggest agency on the planet.

With that, the supermodel factor was born and many successful models owe their careers to this model search. Victoria’s Secret Angels Adriana Lima and Chanel Iman as well as the actress Malin Ackerman and top models Elsa Benitez and Liliane Ferrarezi are probably the most recognizable names from that group. This vast scouting network helped Ford to branch out and establish a more global look.

Mrs. Ford might have been tough as nails, as some will say, but all who worked for her share their memories with fondness. “They were so nice and decent, like a big family; we shared our good times and also went through difficult times together” explains Patty Sicular, who worked for the Fords as an agent for over three decades and currently runs the Legends board at Trump Models, current agency to most of those iconic Ford models who left with Patty after Eileen departed the business for retirement in 1995. “If you worked with Eileen and Jerry you were on your toes, and as hard as we worked, Eileen and Jerry always worked harder, they were in the office when we arrived and still there when we left.” Concludes Mrs. Sicular. “Eileen wielded her power towards the electrician that came in to repair a light switch to the CEO of General Motors” recalls Ms. Beverly Johnson, “I had never seen a woman with that much power and it was intoxicating to my young mind. Eileen is responsible for shaping me into the celebrated fashion model and savvy business woman I am today.” Concludes Ms. Johnson, the first African American model to appear on the cover of American Vogue, in 1974, and today owner of a hair care line.

Ms. Johnson’s first interview with Eileen did not go well. “’Too fat’, those were the two first words Mrs. Ford said to me.” But Ms. Johnson was determined to join the most powerful modeling agency of the time and came back two weeks later, this time she was in. Eileen however didn’t always made the right choices. Among names that were rejected throughout the years, Marisa Berenson and Grace Kelly stand out – she admitted publicly later that not signing the future Princess of Monaco was her biggest professional failure.

This article appeared originally in Vogue Brazil, September 2014

According to Law & Order

All I knew about Brooklyn when I moved to New York from Brazil six years ago was that Brooklyn was, according to “Law & Order”, a dangerous part of town with shootings and bodies dumped in the river. I also knew that Miranda (yes, from Sex and the City) once had to make the painful decision to move there in order to afford a better lifestyle for her child. Apparently, real estate was booming, she could buy an entire house for the price of a Manhattan shoe box and the neighborhood was really blossoming. That was what I knew, the little information that television had fed me.

That was certainly not what I found when I actually crossed the river for the first time. Let’s face it, Brooklyn could be a scary place if you don’t know your way around. “Could” being the operative word. What many people fail to realize is that Brooklyn is not a neighborhood, it’s a borough, and it’s an enormous one. Williamsburg alone is the most densely populated neighborhood in New York city, with over 135 thousand people. And that is only a small part of Brooklyn. This borough didn’t used to be a part of New York City, Brooklyn was its own entity up until a century or so ago. If Brooklyn was still an independent city, it would most likely be one of the largest in the United States. 

The most gentrified portions of this borough look like Anywhere-Else, Manhattan; if you ask me, except with a very, very young and artsy crowd. This is not to set anyone apart, it’s just a fact. After SoHo and the East Village kicked out their young artists due to rising real estate prices (lofts turned into luxurious apartments, among other things), this is where they came to rest. So yes, Brooklyn, or at least parts of it, became a refuge for New York newcomers, young families and artists of all different cultural walks of life.

And so it is, Williamsburg, being the closest neighborhood, right off the first stop of the L train, becomes expensive and gentrified and people once again flee further. Dumbo, Bed-Stuy, Park Slope, Greenpoint, Carroll Gardens are all other names that have become as regular as SoHo and Chelsea in day to day conversations. It’s the nature of the beast, the never ending evolution of the city that never sleeps. All along Bedford Avenue, Havemeyer, Metropolitan and Roebling you see the signs of change. From one month to the next, the store front that was empty gives place to a 16 Handles, a Walgreens or a bespoke tailor shop. The thing about Brooklyn though, is that somehow years later, it still retains some of it’s original character. Whether it’s the old cobble stone streets in which Truman Capote used to take walks on, in Brooklyn Heights or the ever changing skyline of Manhattan, once depicted so brilliantly in “Moonstruck”; it’s all still there.

The place in which Barbra Streisand was born now may be the home for Winona Ryder, Mary Louise Parker or Maggie Gylenhall. The same streets in which Woody Allen have walked on have evolved and are now home to fancy restaurants which attract Manhattanites who would normally never be caught in another borough unless it was to go to the airport. The latest in a string of many, is the Italian nuveau cousine Antica Pesa, which has been known to attract Madonna and Harvey Weinstein. Roebling Tea Room is however, still one of the gems of the area; great food, proper portions, fair price and all of it in a very chilled out setting. But don’t be fooled, there are many other restaurants to explore. 

If your taste is for farm to table, organic, gluten free (very specific) pizza, then Wild is your spot, and it does not disappoint. If all you need is a sandwich to kick starvation, then run to the newly opened The Sandwich Shop; there, the Tokyo Breakfast Sandwich or The Mexican are quite popular. At Reynard, the fabulous food is hosted in a great room that includes an indoor/outdoor garden with an option for a communal table. If you thought this proposition could not be cooler, think again. Reynard is a part of the super hip Whythe Hotel, with rooms that have some of the most beautiful views of New York City and a rooftop bar that really lights up at dusk.

The lively local scene is not only on swanky hotel rooftops. Not too far from the edge of the neighborhood is Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn’s own beer brand, and a very popular too. Easy to find in almost any tap all across New York. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not take a tour of their facilities and drink a pint with your friends at the end? From there, a great way to continue the night exploration is to head to one of the local music venues. Williamsburg Music Hall, Union Hall and The Rock Shop are some of the main venues in Brooklyn that have launched many bands into stardom, including Grizzly Bear, Tanlines and Sleigh Bells.

The Nitehawk Cinema is the place I look for when I am craving a midnight session of classics like Scarface or Trainspotting on the big screen. All that movie action takes place while chomping down some food and drinks, served by a friendly wait staff. That’s cool, and you can only find it in Brooklyn. What’s also cool is going to Brooklyn Bowl, to bowl and drink and listen to quality live music, which depending on the day, could be salsa, or classical; you take your pick.

Another local specialty gem is the Mast Brothers Chocolate factory. This local staple makes delicious dark chocolate unlike anything you’ve tasted before. Exported to hundreds of Manhattan retailers who crave their beautifully wrapped delicacies, some of the most popular flavors include Sea Salt Chocolate and Spicy Chocolate.

It was also in Brooklyn that I rediscovered one of my favorite daytime activities: the flea market. That’s one thing I “knew” before I moved here; I knew Brooklyn had great flea markets. But where to find them? Well, my favorite outdoor choices are the Fort Greene Flea, or once the spring hits, I like to head over to the Williamsburg Waterfront to enjoy the Williamsburg Flea Market on Sundays. At that same spot however, you can enjoy the taste-bud tantalizing “open air restaurant” concept of the Smorgasburg on Saturdays, which honestly, is a top weekend choice.

My idea of Brooklyn thankfully has evolved. Since I moved here I have come to see Brooklyn as it really is. Here is a place filled with diversity and options for entertainment. And if the Central Park is the lung of Manhattan, then here you will find the breathtaking lusciousness of Prospect Park. The island of Manhattan exists gigantic in its microcosmos, while Brooklyn vibrates in constant and unexpected evolution. My vision of Brooklyn is no longer that limited idea created by television. My source of information today comes from my own experiences, in which every corner, every week, equals the opportunity to encounter a world of new possibilities.

Article appeared in Onne Magazine, October 2014

Pioneering an Industry

Many things have been said about modeling agencies over the years, but what most people don’t know is that it took one woman to create an entire industry. Eileen Ford, who passed away last July at the height of well lived 92 years, created along with her husband, the late Jerry Ford, the modern day modeling agency. Mrs. Ford’s modeling agency went on to become the biggest modeling agency in the world, representing a roster populated by some of the most famous and recognizable women in the world. Cheryl Tiegs, Christy Turlington, Kristen McMenamy, Jerry Hall, Verushka, Naomi Campbell, Twiggy and Christie Brinkley were only a few in that lucky list. Many of Eileen’s creations, whether they were models, beauty standards or forms of conducting business, remain in practice today. “Eileen Ford always made me think of the Queen of England… The fashion business was her Royal Court.” Shares Veronica Webb, one of Ford’s most successful models; who adds “She was a great businesswoman who created a dynasty.”

And the dynasty commenced when Eileen was Pregnant and unable to find employmemt. Mrs. Ford began assisting some of her friends who were models in the mid-40’s as their secretary. Eileen organized their schedules, negotiated jobs, chased after payments and by word of mouth became an agency, at a time when modeling agencies weren’t really established. “There were model agencies, but one of the owners would go to jail, and I thought a different kind of agency was needed – one you could trust” She told an interviewer in 1988. In the 40’s modeling wasn’t viewed as a serious profession and Eileen Ford helped evolve modeling from a mostly part-time, poorly paid hobby into one of the world’s most glamorous occupations, turning girls-next-door into celebrity supermodels. When Eileen’s husband, Jerry Ford, returned from war and resume his studies for business at Columbia University he found great potential in what his wife was doing. Jerry formalized the agency and took care of the business while Eileen managed and scouted the girls.

By 1966 Forbes reported they were making an average of 100 thousand dollars per week, becoming the most successful agency in the business. Ford introduced the voucher system, which would guarantee models their earnings even if the client hadn’t yet paid the agency. Girls were getting paid within sixty days after their jobs now, when before, they would not see their money until sometimes a year later, if they were lucky.

At that time girls were paid by the hour, at very low fees. Eileen argued that models should earn their paychecks per day, type of work and according to the extent their images were exploited by the clients. This new practice was the page turner, influencing the way advertising works and remains today the lifeline of the business.

Eileen Ford had an eye for what the industry clamored for. Ford Model Sheila Finn explains “When I walked in the [Ford] office for the first time, Eileen told me that in six months I would make enough money to pay for a Jaguar in cash”. And Mrs. Ford was right, as Ms. Finn went to become one of the most successful models in the 60’s. Eileen had the uncanny ability to see beyond the pretty girl who stood in front her and envision a star, it was her part to turn the plain girl into that phenomenon she envisioned. And she always did. She defined what the standards of beauty should be like based on what she believed to be the best form for a model. The typical Ford model was tall, thin and predominantly blond, with wide-set eyes, beautiful eyebrows and long neck. Evelyn Kuhn, one of the first two exclusive Revlon contract models, alongside Lauren Hutton is proof of that vision. “This contract changed and educated the whole industry” claims Ms. Kuhn. However, Revlon was not the first contract ever created; that was Yardley’s of London, created so that a model could exclusively represent and endorse a specific brand, securing higher fees and better exposure. Those contracts, created by the Fords, became and remain the most sought after deals in the industry by any model. The Revlon’s of today can be found in established brands such as Estee Lauder, Lancome, L’Oreal and most famously, the lingerie behemoth Victoria’s Secret. If you are a model and have a contract, you know you made it.

Eileen Ford demanded the highest level of professionalism from her models, putting them on strict diets and firing those with a taste for partying. Mrs. Ford took models in to live with her and her family at her home and was adamant about having all the girls sit with the family at the dining table. Models were required to do chores around the house and go to bed at specific times in order to learn about professionalism and respect. “It was my first experience with a dishwasher” Monique Chevallier explains, “I had no idea how much soap to use, it ended up in disaster, the foam reached all the way to the dining room” she completes with giggles.

Eileen’s hospitality was the first sign of model housing, now largely established for every agency across the world. At the time however, it was a way for her to keep a closer watch at her girls and make sure they were behaving according to good moral standards and staying away from harms way. Supermodel Renee Simonsen recalls “They took me in and made me a part of their family, and I know that the protection of Eileen saved me a lot of [bad] experiences in the modeling business, she was a tough lady with high moral standards, but she had a big heart”.

For several decades Eileen Ford represented the world’s most prominent models and raised the profile of the business, which also became a recruiting ground for Hollywood. Since the 50’s with Suzy Parker all the way through the 90’s, Ford launched the careers of some of the most successful actresses of today. Kim Basinger, Rene Russo, Brooke Shields, Sharon Stone and Ali MacGraw are some of the most successful cases, in which high profile modeling careers leveraged an even greater acting career.

Ford reigned the industry alone until the late seventies, when the ‘model wars’ ensued with the insurgence of John Casablanca’s Elite and Wilhelmina Models. These were some of the agencies that came on strong, attacking and luring away some of Ford’s top talents. Eileen would not stand and let her business be taken from her. It was again, time to innovate. She opened offices across the globe, from Europe to Brazil and soon enough established the first worldwide model search. The ‘Ford Supermodel of the World’, became the largest scouting network and modeling competition, making Ford the biggest agency on the planet.

With that, the supermodel factor was born and many successful models owe their careers to this model search. Victoria’s Secret Angels Adriana Lima and Chanel Iman as well as the actress Malin Ackerman are probably the most recognizable names from that group. This vast scouting network helped Ford to branch out and establish a more global look. Before that time there were only a shy few models that stood out, including Naomi Sims, Dalma Callado and Beverly Johnson, who became the first African American on the cover of Vogue. Ms. Johnson used to spend most of her time in between castings at the Ford office, observing everything. “I had never seen a woman with that much power and it was intoxicating to my young mind. Eileen is responsible for shaping me into the celebrated fashion model and savy business woman I am today” Ms. Johnson explains.

All who worked for Eileen share their memories with fondness. “They were so nice and decent, like a big family; we shared our good times and also went through difficult times together” explains Patty Sicular, who worked for the Fords as an agent for over three decades and currently runs the Legends board at Trump Models, current agency to most of those iconic Ford models who left with Patty after Eileen departed the business for retirement in 1995. “If you worked with Eileen and Jerry you were on your toes, and as hard as we worked, Eileen and Jerry always worked harder, they were in the office when we arrived and still there when we left.” Concludes Mrs. Sicular.

“They always say, ‘How did you make it as a woman?’” Eileen shared in an interview to the newspaper Women’s Wear Daily in 2010. “I never had any trouble doing anything as a woman. I did it because I had to, and it worked.”

Originally published in Harper’s Bazaar Thailand, September 2014

8 Teenage Films Inspired by Literature Classics

If you’re a film buff like me and an enthusiast of your teenage decade (like most people are), what do you do on a rainy weekend? Do you pull out a Shakespeare classic for a light read or do you dust off that old DVD from your collection for an afternoon on the couch with some snacks? If you went with the latter, you’re probably part of the 85% (totally made this percentage up, but seems about right) who would do the same. Here’s your perfect excuse (if you needed one) for some guilty-pleasure teen movie watching: films inspired by literature classics. This is a great way to get the best of both worlds. I took the liberty to expand a bit and included not only films from the 90’s – my decade – but some other gems that spilled out into the early 2000’s. Enjoy!

 

1. “Cruel Intentions” (Roger Kumble, 1999)

Inspired by: Dangerous Liaisons, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

 

By far, my favorite film in this list. Sarah Michelle Gellar – a.k.a. “Buffy” (to me, at least), stars in this adaptation of the French classic alongside Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillippe (swoon) and Selma Blair. The plot of the movie revolves around two stepsiblings who get a kick out of manipulating people and toying with their feelings. In the original piece, it’s a couple of ex-lovers who heat up the French aristocracy. If you want to take a step further, also watch the 1988 film “Dangerous Liaisons” which remains one of my favorite films of all time.

 

Side note: The soundtrack of “Cruel Intentions” also remains a staple in my music library, definitely worth a trip to iTunes in case you never listened to it. In my opinion, it’s a landmark of that time.

 

2. “She’s All That” (Robert Iscove, 1999)

Inspired by: Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw

 

There was a time in which the definitive teen heartthrob was Freddie Prinze Jr. Girls wanted to date him and boys wanted to copycat him (to get the girls). The plot here is simple: Zack, your average jock, places a bet with his friends that he can turn Loney – the school nerd – into a hot dateable chick. Of course he ends up falling victim to his own tricks, much like Henry Higgins, in ‘Pygmalion’. This play was also the inspiration for the movie “My Fair Lady”, starring Audrey Hepburn

 

3. “Easy A” (Will Gluck, 2010)

Inspired by: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

Not only is this awesome movie inspired by The Scarlet Letter, but it also makes use of it in the plot: the book is part of the school’s syllabus. In the movie, as in the book, our lead character is humiliated and accused of being too… open minded.

 

4. “10 Things I Hate About You” (Gil Junger, 1999)

Inspired by: The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare

 

This movie single handedly elevated Heath Ledger to superstardom. Here, Ledger brings life to Patrick, the rebellious school kid who’s every girl’s crush. In this loose interpretation of “The Taming of the Shrew” the heart of the story remains the same. Bianca is in love and wants to start dating, but is not allowed until her temperamental older sister kicks her love life into gear. A fun film to watch on any lazy day, and it never gets old.

 

5. “Clueless” (Amy Heckerling, 1995)

Inspired by: Emma, Jane Austen

 

I bet you didn’t see this one coming. Believe it or not, “Clueless” came straight from the pages of a Jane Austen book into the streets of Beverly Hills. There were some serious adaptations to make the story fit the 90’s, but the basic plot remains the same: a rich spoiled girl who loves to get involved in match making. Many names of the original Jane Austen book were used in this classic 90’s movie.

 

6. “She’s The Man” (Andy Fickman, 2006)

Inspired by: Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare

 

When Sebastian goes to London, his twin sister Viola takes the opportunity to dress like her brother and replace him in their new school, all of that in order to fulfill her dream of playing soccer with the boys. In Shakespeare’s original story, Viola loses her brother when their ship sinks and pretends to be a man in order to get help. The Duke asks for her (his) assistance to confess his love to Olivia, but it all goes wrong. Olivia falls in love with Viola (dressed as a man, obviously), and Viola falls in love with the Duke. Sounds like something I’d get myself into.

 

7. “Romeo + Juliet” (Baz Luhrmann, 1996)

Inspired by: Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare

 

This is the most literal adaptation in this list. The only difference is that even though the film retains the original dialogs and a lot of the poetic language, here the story is given a much more vibrant setting, in the streets of the 90’s; ridden with gangs, guns, drugs and wild parties. The chemistry between Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes is effervescent and remarkable and made us all dream of having a love affair as intense theirs was.

 

8. “Get Over It” (Tommy O’Haver, 2001)

Inspired by: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare

 

In the classic Shakespeare play, four teenagers get wrapped up in a love ‘square’, thanks to the magical works of faeries and elves. Here the magical beings are set aside and the film focuses on one of the parallel plots from the original play. The reference becomes more evident when all four leads, including Kirsten Dunst’s character, take part in their school’s play, which is, roll drums… “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

 

Ladies & Gents: Interview with Leilani Bishop

Leilani Bishop is a household name in the modeling industry. In the nineties she became known as that healthy, smiley, surfer girl that had the all American look which the all American designers had been looking for, for so long. She became a hit in campaigns for brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and graced the pages and covers of magazines such as Vogue and Allure. The model broke boundaries and even graced the cover of the top selling record Live Through This, by the grunge band Hole, fronted by none other than Courtney Love.

After enjoying years in the spotlight, traveling around the world and collecting experiences as a model, Leilani moved back home, to her native Hawaii, where she had the bright and unique idea of starting her own line of fragrances. Unlike most famed models, Leilani took the longer route, built the company from scratch, over much work and investigation.

Leilani Bishop Fragrances is now an established and unique business in a somewhat overcrowded industry. But that doesn’t seem to worry the model turned fragrance “designer”, she’s as calm about her business as she’s always been about her career as a model. Bishop tackles one task at a time, with an ease that can only be credited to a Hawaiian upbringing. Here, the entrepreneur shares a little of her story with us.

What brought you to the idea of creating your own fragrance line, versus putting your name on a mass-produced product, like most top models and celebrities have been doing lately?

I wanted to own and create something, I love to be involved and like being able to have a say in every aspect; control freak or entrepreneur, it is a fine line! I also wanted to capitalize on my own image and persona instead of yet again representing someone else’s company, and wanted to do it on my terms so if it worked I could build a company around the line.

How complicated was it to get from the idea to the actual development of a product? 

    It took longer then I thought it would. I also learned a lot about myself and the way I operate. I have streamlined myself quite a lot from the minute I started this project 8 years ago. I am much more efficient, but still was not easy breaking into a world that is very traditional in the way it operates.

I did some research on oil fragrances and it doesn’t seem like there are many, if any, of known brand options available, most known brands opt for alcohol based, spray fragrances. The companies that do make oil scents don’t have an appealing image and seem to try to mimic other known brand scents. Even though the idea to use oil as a fragrance is not a new concept; your entire concept is certainly innovative. From the bottle, to the roll-on, to the idea of making oil fragrances a more appealing and elegant item. Did you feel that lacking I mentioned and did those factors contribute in your decision making?

     Yes! All of those aspects were a huge part of what motivated me in my decision-making. I am slightly obsessed with the Victorian age, every little thing they used down to toothpicks were elegant and made of beautiful materials. I wanted a woman to have an experience not only with the scent but with the entire image the item represents, from the beauty of the package to the sensation of rolling it on and the clean light scent of the oil.

How extensive was your research when putting together the concepts for your company and about how much time did it take you from the first time you had the idea to your actual first bottle of your own fragrance?

    It was an extensive process that spanned from start to launch seven years. I was living in Hawaii when I conceptualized the idea and so that was probably why it had a slow start. It took a while to break into the trade side of everything as it is a small industry and not many cater to small companies. I did not do much research as to what was wanted or needed though; only research on how things were executed.

In your website you teach the customer how to apply your fragrance. One would think that wearing perfume would not require instructions, but after reading the points you make in the website we wonder how could we have gone all these years without that knowledge. Where did you learn such information and was this an important differential fact you wanted to offer your customers?

    It was a conversation that came about between me and a girl that was working with me, Piper. We were discussing the differences of oil versus spray, pros and cons, and the act of rubbing your wrist together came up. Piper has extensive perfume background and has worked at big perfume houses and she enlightened me on that myth; “rubbing it in” is really destroying the fragrance. It got me interested and so we thought the consumer should be enlightened as well have a sensibility about the elegance of wearing fragrance and how, if applied incorrectly can ruin the experience entirely!  Also if applied correctly can provide fun and intrigue from start to finish!

I know you took inspiration from sensorial memory to create these three scents. Are you interested in releasing more scents in the future and perhaps even expand to men’s fragrances too?

    Yes, I will be releasing more scents, these too will have sensorial memory but of a different vein, and yes I would love to develop a men’s scent. My husband keeps bugging me so it will happen for sure, I’m just not sure when.

Being a top model I am sure you are always aware of the latest fashion trends and how those ebb and flow over the years. Are there “fragrance trends”? And if so, would you be influenced by them in your business?

    Yes, there are definitely fragrance trends and since I am always reading and curious about other businesses and want to know what is working, I am sure I am probably influenced. Yet, I have in my mind several ideas for future products and do not really care if they are “on trend” as I am confident in my Brand.

You are currently working with single note scents; have you given thought to adding elements to those or combining new ingredients for future products? Or is the single note an important part of your company’s mission statement?  

    Single not scents are not part of my mission statement, yet they are the foundation of the company, I believe. I will definitely be mixing scents though and actually am doing a project that will be out next fall, which will combine a couple of my favorite scents.

Can you give us a hint of what that project entails?

This is a candle/scent project I am doing for a new boutique hotel in South Beach, which will be opening in the Fall of 2014.

What do you feel, differentiates you the most from the other major fragrance lines? What makes you proud about your product?

    It is a niche product that feels more like a high end fragrance brand, I love that it stands on it’s own and does not feel mass produced, it has a unique quality that intrigues people before they even get to the scent as well as being Made in America. I could go on…I am so proud of my product.

How did your modeling career influence your business?

    Do you mean did the contacts I made help??  For sure, I love being able to work within my industry and be supported by those I admire. [It is] such an amazing feeling. Also being self-employed all my life gave me the hustle I needed to start my own business.

Would you consider “designing” a fragrance for a big name brand in your own standards of making perfume?

    Absolutely…would be great to have those resources to work with!

Where would you like to see your company in ten years from now?

    I would like to have expanded my fragrance line to include more oils and high-end fragrances that include special projects and collaborations with artists as well as adding a line of skin/beauty products including candles and perhaps even a small capsule collection to go with each season. Ten percent of the net will go towards supporting women and special projects.

The Cultural Omnivore, 2014

IN CONVERSATION WITH MODEL MANAGER GABRIEL RUAS SANTOS ROCHA

A journalist by trade, Gabriel Santos-Rocha’s foray into the world of fashion was fortuitous. From his hometown in Brazil to New York City, Gabriel’s path to being a model manager at Trump Model Management was long but incredibly rewarding. I caught up with him as he talked about his journey, what it takes to make it as a model and his continued passion for writing.

You studied journalism in your hometown of Porte Alegre, Brazil. How did you transition into scouting models for Marilyn?

That’s actually a funny story. One of my best girl friends was approached by Simone Lopes, who was a director at Marilyn in Brazil when we were out one night at a Madonna themed party. My friend asked me to come with her to the appointment. I knew nothing about the modeling industry. I was really into movies and music at that time, so I came, not thinking anything of it. A couple of weeks later my friend called me to say that Simone had asked her for my number, which we both thought was strange. It turned out that Simone had seen me around at parties and social functions and decided, for whatever reason, that I could be a good scout for them. So, I went in and realized that Marilyn was a fabulous opportunity and Simone and Zeca de Abreu, their President at the time in Sao Paulo, were unbelievably great people. We had a great time working together, they taught me so much, and still do. My girl-friend though, you might wonder, decided modeling wasn’t for her and is now a successful lawyer. She just visited me in New York last week.

After a successful run at Marilyn your talents caught the attention of Ford Models which eventually led to your position as Model Manager at Trump. Tell us about that journey.

You know, moving from Marilyn to Ford was one of the hardest things I ever did. I really felt like a part of a family at Marilyn, but making that move also meant growing up and taking actions toward building a career. At Ford I was given freedom to build something really cool with a very talented group of individuals, some of which ended up at other New York agencies like me and remain close friends and others have become very successful artists, like Andre Azevedo, etc. After a long run in Brazil, I owned my own company and was very successful in what I did there and that reflected a lot in my relationships in New York and Paris particularly, so it was only natural for me to make that move. I always wanted to live in New York, so I came here, and I had three very good offers, but the one I really wanted, which was Elite, was taking forever to get back to me. I went through a lot of my savings because I wanted to wait for them and had to pay the bills and I am glad I did. Elite was a phenomenal experience; I was able to work with some of the top agents in my field and learn many important lessons. Trump is an established company with a very experienced team of agents and somehow manages to maintain a family feel to it, which I love. We work hard here to build and nourish long-term careers and we are very selective with who we represent because we are smaller and we like it that way; we love that the girls walk in and feel like this can be an extension of their home.

What does a typical day look like for you?

There are many phone and email conversations and negotiations all day long. A typical day at the office is not nearly as exciting as one would imagine. We have a lot of interaction with the models who are constantly in and out of the office. Sometimes we go to their photo shoots. Many times we take clients or models out for lunches and dinners. If we’re lucky we get to go to a fun industry event after work every now and then, but trust me, we have a desk job like most people, it only involves a much more animated crowd with music playing in the background. And snacks, lots of snacks.

Modeling requires a certain physicality but beyond that what makes a great model?

A great model has to have a great personality, there’s no way around it. Some of the most successful models in the world are the ones who are playful, who understand fashion, art, etc. The girls who understand that they are a part of the creative process and make the best of their ability to collaborate in that process are the ones who succeed.

Tell us about the process of scouting a model to developing them to launching them.

Generally the scouting is all done by a specific team of people, in our case at Trump, Duane Gazi spearheads that team. Once he finds talent that he believes in and understands would be a great addition to our roster there is a process of development in which we work with the assets the girl already has from physicality to personality, to create a career plan and a path for each girl individually. Everyone is different and careers evolve according to each individual’s journey, that’s the fun part of the process. Sometimes girls need assistance in putting together their wardrobe, need a change in haircut or need English lessons, etc. Many times they don’t and it’s only a matter of tweaking their personal style to meet what the market is asking for at that particular moment. The team works together diligently to make sure that it all comes together for the time when the girl is put in front of the client; sometimes one chance is all they get.

How do you feel about criticism leveled at the fashion industry that there’s a lack of diversity?

I believe there could be more diversity, but I don’t believe that is only for the fashion industry, it happens across the board in the entertainment industry. Look at what just happened recently at Saturday Night Live. Yes, there needs to be more diversity in the fashion industry, but let’s not be mistaken, all ethnicities are represented and hopefully that won’t diminish and only grow; our fashion campaigns, runways and editorials should reflect the world we live in.

What advice would you offer someone thinking of embarking on a modeling career?

I would advise them to be patient and to not give up easily. I’ve seen some of the biggest careers happen after years of struggle and rejection; it happens when the time is right. Oh, and always listen to your agents, of course!

​The Internet has contributed to the democratization of fashion and helped demystify the industry.  Do you feel this has helped or hindered fashion?

It has made fashion more accessible to the masses and it has helped build bigger stars faster with the use of social media, but it has also played a negative role. Printed material is becoming extinct, and with that those types of rates and usages. The industry hasn’t evolved quickly enough to keep up with the velocity of the Internet unfortunately and it’s a fight we have to pick daily in every agency. We understand the value behind the work that is shot for the Internet and it has been a struggle to convey that message to clients. That’s how models make a living, from their image. Internet used to be an afterthought years ago and today is a major part of our business.

What are your short-term and long-term plans?

God, what does that even mean? My short-term plans are getting girls ready for the next season. My long-term plans include a home on a beach somewhere and feet in the sand, but I don’t think I will ever be able to stop working, my mind is restless and needs a good outlet.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Probably that one of my biggest passions in life is to write and that I love movies more than I love fashion (sorry!).

Follow him at @GabrielRSRocha and on Instagram

You can read the original post here.

Unusual Names and Number One Hits

Madonna and Lady Gaga occupy colossal space in the cultural spectrum.  One is named after a saint, the other after a Queens song.  Few would question the impact these artists have had on pop music and, frankly, like Prince and others before them, their high-octane names can’t hurt their evolutionary power.  So, why can’t these women get along?   

Both of them have been the topic of a much discussed feud.  The first one, a staple in pop culture for over 30 years.  The second one, a more ambiguous but equally explosive presence in the pop scene.  But let’s face it: Madonna is a tough act to follow.  While Madge is the reigning Queen of Pop, there seems to be a general consensus that Lady Gaga is after her throne.  Whether a dethroning is underway or not is not the point. Their unique and explosive impact on our lives makes them kindred artistic spirits.

Madonna is a tough act to follow because she ignited conversations many moons ago, and has continued to do so year after year. Raising awareness to hot topics like women’s rights, gay rights, political and religious freedom, and among many other things, above all, freedom to express yourself, in any way you’d like; Madonna pushed buttons.  From the start, Madonna climbed to the top of pop culture’s Pantheon and there was no argument, she was a phenomenon, she was the Queen of Pop.

Decades later, when Lady Gaga came on the scene, she was too admittedly greatly influenced by the works of the pop diva.  But there hadn’t been anything as fresh and groundbreaking as Madonna in all that time. There hadn’t been anyone willing to expose their creative insanity in order to ignite controversy, bust open taboos, and once again challenge tired social mores. 

And even though Madonna’s fan base is huge, there are new kids on the block (no pun intended) who have no concept of what the material girl has done for them, kids who don’t understand the difficult fights she was instigating.  Somehow, she made it unscathed.  But she was the first one, and perhaps that is why she was able to push the envelope every time and still come out a winner on the other side.  She was selling records and concerts, but she was also changing lives along the way.

Like Madonna, Lady Gaga aims to reach a wider audience, even though it doesn’t seem like her work translates as well.  Her approach at times too far out and on the verge of desperation, she seems to be stuck within her “monsters”, the majority of them members of the LGBT community, like me.  But she is, unquestionably, breaking new ground, blowing apart boundaries and educating an entirely new generation.  Let’s hope her monster base expands along with her message.  

Elton John greatly criticized Madonna, instigating brawls in the media.  But why?  What is the goal of this man, who did too, revolutionized thoughts and invited discussions.  Shouldn’t he know better and just let artists do what they do best, and let them continue to create thought provoking work in whatever way they please?  And I will go even further now.  If there is a feud between Madonna and Lady Gaga, shouldn’t the two of them also know better?  It’s not about who came first or who is the Queen of Pop, but it’s about their work and the message they are trying to convey.

Even though many will argue that we should not have to deal with a “message” and just be able to enjoy the music and have fun, there is still a message. The goal of these women is in great part to affect change, to make people think in a broader spectrum and to open their minds to different possibilities; each of these women in essence have proclaimed these same goals.  They talk about inclusion and acceptance of others, so why aren’t they more accepting of each other, since they are both working towards the same objectives?

Madonna will not lose her throne. Lady Gaga will eventually have to refresh and find new ways, because the regurgitation of ideas passed will get tired. Madonna has remained a staple in the cultural consciousness because she so cleverly reinvented herself and addressed topics from different perspectives.  She has kept it fresh.  Along the way, she made it possible for me and many other people I know to be who we are and to be proud and vocal about it, with no fear of consequences.  Lady Gaga’s staying power remains to be seen.  Each generation needs its muse and it is in this spirit of cultural evolution that I sincerely hope Lady Gaga has the same lasting impact on the new kids that Madonna has had on me.

There is still a long way to go in this world, but it’s greatly because of people like Madonna and Lady Gaga that we are able to evolve openly and accept each other as beautiful and flawed human beings that we are.

Master Class

It is pure delight to listen to someone very accomplished share their life experiences. That is why an old episode of Oprah’s Master Class really interests me. The other night I was struck by something that was said on that show. It was not a novel idea or something that I didn’t already know, but something I hadn’t really heard so clearly said by someone so successful, like Goldie Hawn. The main point was that we should always pay it forward, no matter how much or how little we have in life. We each have our blessings, in different shapes and forms. That was it. Simple concept, right?

What went on to be discussed, and what I pondered extensively, was that most people in the world today are obsessed with their own lives. It’s all about “will I get a promotion? Where can I park my car? How can I cross the street faster? How can I make more money?” So on, and so forth. People spend a great deal of time obsessing about how to get ahead, rather then actually doing something that’s good for the person standing next to them or to the world as a whole.

In the movie Pay It Forward (Warner Bros. 2000), a young boy comes up with a concept that for every generous act done to him, he must pay forward with three generous acts to three different people, and tell each one of them, to do the same for three others. A simple concept that could make peoples lives that much better and as a ripple effect create a psychic change in entire communities and then possibly in the world. Somehow that concept did not catch on.

Most people make lame excuses instead of paying forward. “I don’t make enough money to make donations, why should I give money to this cause when it’s the government’s job to take care of this issue?” And it goes on, one after the next. But the point here is not how much money can you give back, or how much time you have to dedicate to doing volunteer work; it’s how do you behave in society, in your daily life? How do your daily actions affect the world that surrounds you? And then maybe, depending on who you are, what job you have and how much money you make, what type of bigger contributions can you make to the betterment of the world?

I have worked with many successful models and artists in the entertainment industry. Over the years I have come across many generous souls who have contributed to a plethora of causes. I have also met many who simply go through life as if it was a party, with no consequences and no interest in doing anything for anyone else. One of my most inspiring muses is one of my most loyal clients, a successful model who has always worked extremely hard for obtaining success. Proportionally at the same time, this girl has always taken a portion of her time (and her earnings) to apply towards charity, volunteer work and political lobbying to change the roots of the problems. Her goal, from the very start, when nobody knew her name, was to achieve fame so that she could leverage change. She had made a conscious decision that if she was going to give up university to a life of globetrotting under the spotlight, then it better be worth it. She has, to some extent, accomplished all that.

The story illustrates that we must always give back. We must always pay it forward, in any scale that we can. It’s from those little acts, of holding the elevator to the person who is running a little behind to making a five dollar donation to a homeless shelter (or whatever else interests you) or giving a lecture on what you’re an expert on to those who wish to learn. A little help goes a long way in our world today. 

People who give something back and share their fortunes with the world, generally live a much happier and fuller life. What I didn’t know when I was younger and I know now, is that by giving myself to others I find real fortune. Happiness lives in honest altruism. The idea that I could go through life not giving anything in return for all the good that came to me is daunting. 

My dreams truly blossomed and concretized after I started giving myself away to others and also discovered I could learn and let my life be enriched by each and every one of these encounters. There is so much we can learn from day to day life, but it takes an open mind to see it and an open heart to understand it.

The real master class is not on Oprah Winfrey’s network, it is all around us.

From Grit to Glam

Not that long ago the Meatpacking District, a web of cobble stoned streets, was the sole source of meat products for New York businesses – whole skinned cows and other animals literally hung from hooks on the streets.  Fueled by crack, in the evening the area became a lurid labyrinth of pathways and hiding places for transsexual prostitutes seeking an extra buck or two.  The merchandise of the morning wasn’t that different from what was available in the evening; meat in large quantities for a low rate.   Around that same time West Chelsea, a sea of empty warehouses and abandoned industrial businesses, had little but the Roxy, a drug-fueled gay disco, and dirty streets.  Then came the art galleries and real estate developers.  Then came Films, fashion shoots and TV shows, like Sex and the City, which made a walk through hookers and junkies to get to a lofty apartment seem rather glamorous.  Once again, fashion and film forge the founding of the latest hot neighborhoods.  

Since the early development of the High Line, the now famous park that occupies abandoned railroad tracks and that cuts through these two now visually striking neighborhoods, these   Summoning the expertise of the word-famous designers and architects; fancy hotels, galleries, residences and restaurants sprouted deep roots in the area. One after the other, block-by-block, cleaning up what was once a secluded and blighted area – a true real estate metamorphosis has occurred.    

The focal point of the area is the The Standard.  From the top of this sleek and sexy hotel, New York City looks like a playground.  You can sip drinks among Marc Jacobs, Alessandra Ambrosio, Lorenzo Martone and Anna Wintour, while gazing down at Diane Von Furstenberg’s glass-encased loft apartment – one that has become a New York landmark, much like the designer has become a fashion legend.  Rumor has it that in the morning you can spot Ms. Furstenberg having breakfast while still in her nightgown, sitting in her dining room, which stands underneath an impressive diamond shaped glass dome.   The Standard however, is not only famous for it’s penthouse bar, but also for its pool parties, which are now a second club, known as Le Bain.  There, you can simply undress and enjoy the evening while sipping drinks in the pool in the company of local luminaires like Terry Richardson and Paz de la Huerta.  

The seductive nightlife of the big apple is not complete however without two of the most popular nightclubs in town: Avenue and 1 Oak.  It was at Avenue that Lindsay Lohan allegedly got in a fight with the blonde Tiffanny Mitchell over The Wanted’s Max George. The brawl resulted in yet another arrest for Lindsay, who once again denied everything.  Lohan somehow managed to get herself back in that club even after being banned after some indiscreet tweets about Justin Timberlake.  At 1 Oak, the scene is less dramatic, but never less flashy.  Rihanna has been known to celebrate a couple of her album launches at the spot alongside fellow musicians like Jay-Z. It was also at 1 Oak that Donald Trump held a bash to celebrate his modeling agency’s fashion week success.  

With the rich and famous, fashion comes hand in hand, and the area does not disappoint.  From the Meatpacking District all the way up among the galleries, a cadre of some of the most exclusive designers in the world have set up shop in the vicinity. 

Balenciaga, Comme des Garcons, Alexander McQueen, Yigal Azrouel, Moschino, Helmuth Lang, Tory Burch, Christian Louboutin, Maison Martin Margiela and Carlos Miele are only a few of the shops worth visiting. For a unique experience, why not try the department store Jeffrey’s, which has one of the most renowned shoe departments in town.  Stop by a Scoop sale for fancy jeans and hip t-shirts.  After all, a good designer bargain is never a bad idea!  

Since most of the shopping is done by foot, a stop to refuel the energies seems more than called for.  Whether it’s for a lunch, a mid-day snack or a celebratory dinner, some of New York’s most celebrated restaurants are in the area; the menus here no doubt indulge any palate.  From a good steak at the biergarten of The Standard Grill to the innovative Thai Cuisine of Sea you can find it all.  At Pastis you can have French and at Buddakan you can have Chinese.  But if the mood is for some American contemporary all you got to do is take a walk up 10th Avenue to try the tasteful delights of The Cookshop. If a simple slice of pizza is what’s called for, don’t you worry, because Artichoke Pizza is right around the corner with its award winning pies.    

The most important part of this area remain – sometimes secreted – within the giant warehouse spaces, which once used to host heavy machinery, grains and pieces of meat and now have given room for multi-million dollar pieces of art.   The art galleries of the area remain the heart of the cultural trading life in this city. The Gagosian Gallery, David Zwirner and Pace Gallery are among some of the most important outposts for art in the world.  Representing artists like Jeff
Koons, Cindy Sherman, Cy Twombly, Francis Bacon, Julian Schnabel, Roe Ethridge, Dan Flavin, Chuck Close, Willem De Kooning, Pablo Picasso and Ed Ruscha, these galleries are an international force.  Put on your walking boots and allow yourself to go from door to door in every block between 9th and 11th avenues from 19th street all the way up to 27th and experience contemporary art, free of charge, like nowhere else.    

Even though this may not be the most celebrated neighborhood for its residences, some of the most famous people you know now reside here.  Whether it’s in the classic London Terrace or in the ultra modern glass buildings by Richard Meier, Jean Nouvel or Shigeru Ban; a fascinating residential occupation took place over the last decade. This neighborhood currently hosts names like Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Hugh Jackman, Olivia Wilde and Katie Holmes, all of which can be seen calmly strolling around at any given time during the day or the night.  

The most remarkable and breathtaking feature this area still holds true – the Hudson River, which bathes the west side of Manhattan in full splendor.  To sit at a bench on the Highline and watch the sunset from above is one of the most rewarding and relaxing activities one can choose to do at the end of a day.  And believe me, many New Yorkers do, why don’t you give it a try too?

A Bite off the Big Apple

New York is a glamorous and gritty maze of dichotomy: from the Chanel-suit-wearing ladies of Park Avenue to the leather-wearing divas of downtown, there is huge gap.  The cultural (and financial) divide between the creative caldron that resides in Brooklyn and the refined and established richness of the West Village is increasingly apparent.  From Harlem to the Upper West Side, the distance is not long, but the differences are vast.  

This complex labyrinth of opposites actually propels the machinery of the city and is in fact, what makes New York City great.  New Yorkers remain creative, independent and powerful as always, continuously imbibed with the alchemy generated from its diverse population. This population, unlike any other I’ve seen, exudes camaraderie, compassion and colossal creativity.   Most New Yorkers have their favorite neighborhood and mine is SoHo. From my abode I can observe all the greatness of this cosmic collection of counter culture.

Thousands of tourists walk these streets daily, searching for bargains on products not found in their native land.  Locals, who vie for sidewalk space, have learned to live in the midst of chaos.  Adding to the mix, are street vendors, paparazzi and hundreds of celebrities who aim to remain incognito.   Before moving here, I always thought SoHo was an unbearably messy and pretentious neighborhood.  Over time, I began to realize the charm hidden in its cobblestone streets and the historic cast iron buildings, which once were the homes and studios of virtuosos like Keith Haring, Maripol, Andy Warhol, Donald Judd and Basquiat. These same buildings have evolved into something a little more mainstream and now house every major fashion brand. Prada, Chanel, Alexander Wang and Catherine Malandrino are only some of fashion giants that make of this neighborhood an economic gem of the fashion world.

Over time I have learned to navigate the side streets, away from the crowds, and to discover hidden treasures of the locals.  From restaurants to spas, from local brands to obscure cafes, everything here has a special feel and a unique story to tell.  Once again, opposites sit side by side, smiling – the tiny, family-owned Italian café is around the corner from the home of $1800 shoes and $6000 handbags.  I prefer the café – espresso anyone?  

Sadly, but no less exciting, my neighbors are no longer famous modern artists (most of whom are no longer with us), but young models, actors and singers.  Claire Danes, Justin Timberlake, Tyra Banks and Adam Sandler are just some of the people with whom I share my favorite spots.  At Café Café I make my daily stops in the morning to grab some iced tea.  At Ground Support I can’t pass on a grilled ham & cheese and a soy latte made to perfection.  At night, a stop by Butter or Indochine for a meal remains a sure bet.  There, an encounter with Anna Wintour, Madonna or Fran Leibovitz is a strong possibility.  

A recent addition to the neighborhood is the beauty clinic Erno Laszlo, named after the legendary dermatologist who is known for his miraculous lotions and potions. Dr. Laszlo had royal treatment during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s – for it was in that time that he looked after the beauty of the queens of Hollywood’s silver screen.  Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner and Katherine Hepburn were part of a very select group to receive his attention.  For each of them he developed individual and secret formulas.  After nearly twenty years away from the public eye, the same team responsible for the celebrated Molton Brown has acquired the Erno Laszlo brand.  Inspired by Laszlo’s principles, this team hopes to restore the brand to what it used to be, a place in which its clients can expect the most exclusive treatment available anywhere, just like Marilyn did.  

Perhaps one of the most talked about and sought after shops in the area is Treasure & Bond, part of the portfolio of Nordstrom. The appeal is its luxury items available for affordable prices in two gigantic floors.  Selling furniture, housewares, books and clothes for all ages, this store reserves all its profit for charity.  To make sure the wealth is distributed equally to those who in need, the charities change every six months  

A stop for lunch is a must.  Along with 100 Acres and others, The Dutch is another new arrival and its American Cuisine doesn’t disappoint.  Starting with its freshly baked corn bread and onto fried chicken, every bite here feels like a little piece of heaven.   SoHo is also home to one of the cities most renowned and successful Japanese restaurants.  After more than twenty years, Blue Ribbon Sushi remains a favorite.  The absolute freshest fish make this highbrow restaurant one of the best.  Don’t be fooled by its discreet setting however, its permanence in this city is proof that the food is impeccable.  

From dusk till dawn, breakfast to dinner, SoHo is imbued with so many magical qualities.  I have grown to adore this neighborhood.  Everything I need is only a few steps away and the word “subway” has vanished from my vocabulary.  SoHo proves to be one of the most perfectly evolved areas in town, maintaining its original character and charm, even as masses of tourists and wealthy developers make their way through the historic cobblestone streets.    

This article was originally published in Portuguese in Parochi Magazine, in Brazil.

Deviled Eggs with Heather Graham

Perhaps it was the abundant steak tartare or the ever-flowing Grey Goose; regardless, the scene at the Clarkson in the West Village was very fun and social, sheer joy and camaraderie abounded. The crowd gathered to celebrate the New York premiere for the gut-wrenching film At Any Price, directed by the talented Ramin Bahrani.    

As intense as this film is however, after the credits rolled in there was no somberness to these celebrants. The model Leigh Hoby walked in to a swarm of photographers who treated her like this film’s featured star; which she is not. The real star in this picture is the unforgettable Heather Graham. Even though one was wearing white and the other one black, the similarities were rather compelling. Without skipping a beat, a group of photographers made sure to put the two together for a portrait. Perhaps a friendship will blossom? Zac Efron, Adrian Grenier and Dennis Quaid observed from a safe distance and chuckled cheerfully with delight. Nat Wolff was the life of the party, flanked by his pals Heather Matarazzo and Josh Radnor. Andie Arthur exuded sweetness in her long black gown and leather jacket, a look that seemed effortless but not many could pull off.  

The night resumed smoothly and soon enough a dance-floor was requested – no Cinderellas in sight here! An expert was called into action. Amy Sacco gathered a crew in a swift wave of her nocturnal magic wand and in two heartbeats they were all at No. 8. The heat in the mezzanine went up as the group could not stop the dancing. From disco to rock n’ roll, it all seemed to fit in the impeccable repertoire.  

Peter Beard surfaced from a dark corner escorted by a tall and impressive man. “Where is Amy!?” – he interrogated. “I’m alive, and look at who I have with me!”. Amy appears with the statuesque Native American model Jade Tenholder – a rarity in this world – who just broke into the scene. After much back and forth on whether Peter could take pictures of his new muse upstairs, it was finally decided: “I wanna shoot you in Mozambique, you are the best thing that happened to me this year!”.  

On that note the night came to a closing, after all, who needs any more than that?

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Oz may be great and powerful, but does this Disney remix of the classic really need four premieres in one city!? Probably not. But perhaps when you have a variety of sponsors ranging from luxury fashion labels to shopping networks, you should. Since in New York anything is a good reason to party, I decided to follow the yellow brick road leading to one of these gatherings to see what the fuss was all about.  


It was another cold winter night and what I found was a very warm and friendly room. Among beautiful Sports Illustrated swimsuit models of every height and ethnicity, I made my way through the crowd. And what a cheerful, star-studded crowd this was. Emmy Rossum seemed to have drawn most of the attention to herself, and that’s understandable. The actress looked ravishing in a floral Oscar de la Renta number, which will hopefully be good omen for an early spring. Our leading man – and every person’s favorite Swiss Army knife – James Franco, had to make a quick appearance as he dashed from one screening to another..  


Some of the attendees made of this a family affair and brought along their children to witness all the magic that only3Dseems to bring to the screen these days. Richard Kind couldn’t hide his excitement when leaving the venue with his girls; it was all very endearing to look at. Cynthia Rowley followed suit and was just another one in a group of fashion designers which also included John Varvatos.    Now, this is not just another Disney affair, for when Salman Rushdie and Marina Abramovic show up, you know it is serious business. Disney delivered a great prologue to the fable we all came to know since we were children. They have updated a literature classic and still did justice to the unforgettable movie from 1939. This seemed to make Dick Cavett confused as he wondered if Judy Garland would also be making an appearance on-screen that evening. The comment was nothing but a good ol’ joke, I’m sure.  

But who needs one leading lady, when you can have three of the most ravishing Hollywood stars of our time? Rachel Weiss, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis not only look great on screen, but they know exactly how to deliver entertaining performances. And that’s what this movie is all about, an entertaining piece to be watched with a lot of pop corn on a Saturday afternoon. No need to over analyze it.   If you ask me, however, whether this digital extravaganza will stand the test of time, I would be inclined to say it will not. I doubt anyone will ever be able to produce another Oz movie that is as timeless as The Wizard of Oz.  

Stayin’ Alive with John Travolta

Every once in a while this humble writer is invited to join in on the fun with the Hollywood big league. “why?” you may ask, and the answer to that is very simple. My mother always said: “Honey, it’s not about how much money you make but the friends you have”. So, with some very important friends under my belt I move into the Hollywood party scene during awards season for some networking and some fun. But let’s be honest, mostly for the fun.

In a place in which orange trees grow out of living rooms and diamonds are as big as a baby’s head no excess is considered excessive. So what if I stepped on Penelope Cruz’s vitage Balmain dress and it ripped? It will most likely be in the trash bin tomorrow morning, along with the gift bags filled with all sorts of things you don’t really need.

The scene when you walk into this room is of camaraderie, there are no cameras in sight, some of the actresses aren’t even wearing their shoes anymore, they’re lounging in big white couches with their dates or their managers, always on the lookout for the funnest crowd to dance with. Could it be the comedy crowd, spearheaded by Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, along with Aziz Ansari, Elizabeth Banks, Judd Apatow and Mindy Kalling? Or perhaps it’s the fashion crowd, in which old glam Valentino mixes in with nuveau luminaires Daniella Helayel and Zac Posen, who seem to love being sandwiched between Madonna, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi. Madonna by the way has her make up artist within reach, a luxury that only the very top echelon can afford.  Every now and then she rushes to the edge of the dance floor where this handsome and happy latin man awaits with pads to dry her skin and retouch her lips. Now, that’s what I call luxury!

On the other side of the room things are getting interesting as Donna Karan walks in with Kelly Preston and John Travolta. They join in the fun with Bono and that heavenly creature that is Victoria’s Secret Angel Alessandra Ambrosio, now in a completely different outfit than she was wearing just a couple of hours ago. Her costume changes would put Cher to shame. With Bono and Alessandra deep in conversation, John does what he knows best and takes on the dance floor. Kelly and Donna, who seem to be best buds, follow suit. Laura Dern and Kate Walsh occasionally pop in but don’t linger, instead gliding  from one group to the next,  looking lovely with  curls which never seem to be out of place.

John and Kelly are like a young teenage couple, never losing sight of one another, until… “Stayin’ Alive” begins to blast from the speakers. Now, you may ask yourself, “was this arranged just because John Travolta was there?”. The verdict is still out per that issue but as if on cue, John and Kelly took center stage, repeating the dance that defined the disco era. I, along with the rest of the crowd, turned as fast as I could and copied the moves, the entire mass a perfect line of incredulous denizens. John seemed a bit bashful at the response, but was clearly loving every minute of it. Octavia Spencer was beside herself, was she really witnessing this? Selena Gomez, Taylor Lautner and some other teenage star which will go unnamed (At thirty I am far too old in Hollywood years to keep up with all these kids names)  seemed befuddled by the entire affair, disco is clearly a memory too distant for their young minds–“what is the commotion all about?” They took in a second or two and went back to chatting about their Instagram feeds — of course. Homework is in order for these kids. 

The temperature rose and I needed to take a break for air, out through the orange trees and the piano and on to the patio, to join in the laughter of Ryan Seacrest and surprisingly, Macauly Culkin. Yes, remember him? That kid from “Home Alone” who went through all that stuff that no one cares about anymore? Yes, he was there too, along with Juliette Lewis and Jennifer Jason Leigh, which if you ask me, are pretty bad ass. A couple of Oscars walk by me heading towards the buffet, which reminds me: I haven’t eaten in hours!

 I took a seat at the communal table next to Princess Mia Thermopolis Herself, Anne Hathaway. Congratulations are in order, for her, and the stunning Natalie Portman, who sat beside her. Unsure of why I was congratulating Natalie so late in the game I just went with it, I’m pretty sure she did something of merit just that morning. She gets me.

 It’s nearly 4 AM and people have been dancing all night long;  cute couples — both that came together and those that found each other on the dance floor — are beginning to make  their fashionable exits one by one. Naomi Watts remains effortlessly chic, even when barefoot, accompanied by her gentleman of a husband Liev Shreiber who politely carries her shoes in one hand as the other proudly holds the hand of his wife. Another Naomi heads to the exit, this time Campbell, who remains very supermodel looking, without many smiles, perhaps only a few grins. No one cares, she’s Naomi Campbell.

People wait patiently in line for cars,  already laughing over the ghosts of dance-floor’s past underneath heaters and sipping hot cocoa. It is just as lively out here as it is on the dance floor and  as I look around I realize: this evening was the ultimate episode of “Dancing with the Stars” except in this short instance of my life, they are all real stars.

Art is Sacred

 

 

Interview by: Gabriel Ruas Santos-Rocha

As the Tunisian youth rebelled against the system to fight for their
rights and reclaim their country, one of their most beautiful and
recognizable young faces was about to step into a public whirlwind of
her own. Kenza Fourati would become the first Arab model to ever be
featured in the best selling Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. The
significance was immediately established by the magazine, which added a
political quote to Kenza’s introductory page. The response from the
media around the world, and especially from her own country, was
immediate. In the process, Kenza was to become one of the faces of that
young revolution.
Already an active participant in her country’s political struggles,
Kenza now had enough influence with the media to spread the word and
make more room for Tunisian issues across the planet. Very bold and
outspoken, the model was never discouraged by her critics, who often
created negative facebook groups or used Internet forums that spoke out
against her and her message. Kenza’s goal was clear – the model was
going to use her success and public persona to benefit her country and
raise awareness to what it has to offer the world, and to bring
attention to the arts and fashion.
While working relentlessly on putting together her fashion line
called By Kenz, (which will be launched in Tunisia during Tunis Fashion
Week in 2013) the model discovered other ways to connect the dots and
kill two birds with one stone. With a degree in French literature from
Sorbonne as well as lengthy studies in filmmaking, Kenza has a lot more
to share with the world than just her looks.
Gabriel Ruas Santos-Rocha: What lead you to the idea of bringing Tunisian artists to America?
Kenza Fourati: Pride probably. No one ever talks about my tiny country.
Yet it is shaking the face of the world. And I’m not talking only about
the Arab spring. When I walked around the Occupy Wall Street movements
I noticed several slogans inspired by the Tunisian uprising. After
revoking censorship, when the word became suddenly free, creativity
erupted. New York is the conjuncture for artists. I have the duty to
help building the bridge and exposing both of my worlds.
How do you expect to start bridging the gap between the East and the West?
The strongest weapon ever created is the Internet. There is no real
geography anymore, just cultures to share. So I decided to launch a
fashion blog this month that will also promote art and culture here and
there.
How do you think Tunisia can benefit from the work you’re doing?
Tunisia is at an edge, it’s sculpting its destiny, its history; with the
fundamentalists trying to establish dogmas everywhere. I want to expose
people to new cultures, photography, etc.
Who are some of the artists who inspired you to start this work?
There are so many, but recently I met this young Graffiti artist called
MeenOne, who is truly fascinating. First by the way he looks; he has
dreadlocks. In Tunisia it is really rare to allow yourself to look
“marginal”. People aren’t used to it and you are confronted constantly
with harsh comments. Authorities will arrest you for questioning and so
on. The irony is that it used to be people with long beards who looked
suspicious. Then there is also the fact that he (MeenOne) grew up in a
poor region of the country ruled by the extremists. Actually, his
brother is a Salafist (Jihadist movement). MeenOne used to tag all over
the country wearing a mask and after the revolution he showed his face,
then he showed his work in an exhibit last June. The exhibit was
considered an insult to the sacred. Some fundamentalists called for his
death and it was his Salafist brother and the neighborhood he grew up in
that ended up protecting him. I didn’t know him personally at that
time, but I was stunned by what happened. For me, freedom is sacred
above everything, and so is art. So, I started looking for an artist to
work on an “Art is Sacred” theme for my website and my clothing line and
came across MeenOne, and I found him to be extremely talented. I had no
idea he was involved in the exhibit scandal at the time. I had already
become obsessed with Graffiti when I went to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil
and discovered Pamela Castro’s work.
And how will you bring that work over to the west?
First through my online platform, and later on I hope to bring it to
another level and allow some awesome art to be physically shown here.
How involved were you during the Tunisian revolution?
When the turmoil intensified I asked my family for their permission to
start publishing articles and videos connected to the subject and they
allowed me to do it. They really are the brave ones because the danger
was really for them. I got even more involved when my friend, who is an
activist, got arrested and disappeared. His wife reached out to me and
it was right at the beginning, on January 6th, 2011. I decided to stop
everything that I was doing and only focus on the history that was being
made in my country.
What about the revolution made you happy?
I felt infinitely proud. But I felt a kind of pride I had never felt
before. Pride is a very individualist feeling, but back then it was a
completely selfless collectively shared feeling of pride. I am quite
moved and amazed by it. This revolution belongs to all of us. We are the
revolution.
Were you ever afraid of any negative religious or political backlash due to your participation in these movements?
At the time, yes I was afraid of the political backlash my family could
suffer. There was no question of religion at the time, but that problem
came later and is actually very current today.
What do you still expect to see happening for your country?
Democracy is still unfolding. We are navigating through what is accepted
and what is not, and having fundamentalists in power doesn’t help.
Do you feel that being a model was or still could be a problem for you in your country?
Yes, it sure is now, but it never used to be. I am extremely
controversial in the country as its been getting more and more
conservative.
Is there anything you think you would do differently in your career?
Last year I shot a cover for a magazine wearing a bikini and my body was
covered by a Victor Hugo poem. I loved the idea and the poem preaching
love and tolerance, but the magazine edited it in an aggressively
provocative way and it delivered the wrong message. So yes, that would
be the only thing I would do differently. I was too naive back then.
How about your clothing line? What are the links with Tunisia there?
First of all I am manufacturing my entire collection locally. People may
not know that, but many of the great fashion houses like Giorgio Armani
and Zadig & Voltaire make their products in Tunisia. So I will be
using those same factories. The quality of my product is very important
and my main concern. I will also be launching my first collection during
Tunis Fashion Week in April of 2013.
Originally published on VAGA magazine.

Designing Woman

For my last Model Musing column with Look Books I had the opportunity to speak to one of China’s rising stars, Tian Yi. A smart girl, Tian studied fashion and hopes to take full advantage of her modeling career to eventually go into creating designs of her own.

Have a read and enjoy getting to know this lovely girl by clicking HERE or simply read below.

Model Musing: Tian Yi

  Tian Yi is one of those girls who seem to have luck on her side. She was discovered by her agency on the modeling website models.com by pictures she submitted. Since then her career path was paved with bookings for top fashion magazines and designers. 
From the established brand names, Vogue and Bazaar to the edgy i-D and 10 magazine; the editorial goes hand in hand with the work Tian has been showing on the runway. Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada and Marc by Marc Jacobs are counterbalanced by rising stars like Alexis Mabille, Phillip Lim, Dries Van Noten and Rad Hourani. Graced this season with the campaigns for Vera Wang and Sephora, Tian’s path in this industry seems to be heading in the right direction and one that will keep her in the center of what she loves the most: fashion. 
Tian has been given the opportunity to see from the inside how it is to create an entire collection and bring it to the runway, an experience that will surely be helpful since she would like to soon start focusing on launching a collection of her own.
Here Tian picks her favorite modeling image and tells us why it’s so special.
Why do you love this picture?
Because I was happy to be able to work with a great team and these fabulous girls!
Who were the other models in this shoot?
It was me and five other girls: Liu Wen, Xiao Wen, Lindsey, Marie and Daria. They were so nice to me and I has really happy to be able to work with them.
Who took it? Were you excited to work with this photographer?
Inez and Vinoodh . Of course, so excited and I had the opportunity to learn a lot from this shoot!
How long was this shoot?
A day and a half, because i had to leave early on the second day to finish my school exams.
What direction did the photographer give you?
They just let me be myself and were very nice.
What was it for?
It was for the cover of Vogue China’s September issue.
What were you wearing?
I was wearing Louis Vuitton and a huge hat on the cover. I also wore a beautiful skirt for the editorial inside the magazine, I loved it!
What about this profession makes you the happiest?
The opportunity to travel around world and see a lots of different cities and also I really enjoy the opportunities to make new friends, eat some delicious food that I never tried before, that’s the most fun and cool part!
What have you learned from your career that you consider truly valuable?
I learned to be patient. Sometimes you have to wait a long time for things to happen, but you have to be patient and you will have an opportunity to show yourself. You have to be patient about your career.
What advice would you give to aspiring models?
I would tell them to just be themselves and be confident, that is it; and welcome to fashion!
Do you see yourself doing something else in the future?
I love dressing up for the big fashion houses and I love fashion; in the future I would love to be a designer for one of those great brands. 
What were some of the challenges you conquered as a model? 
I’m more confident when I talk to people, I’ve also learned to be comfortable outside of my comfort zone. I actually love when I have challenges to face.
Tian Yi is represented by Fusion Model Management

From Tunisia, with Love.

This week find out more about the Tunisian model who is planning on turning the tables for some Tunisian artists in the New York art scene.

Follow the link or read below.

Model Musing: Kenza Fourati

A product of the world famous Elite Model Look competition, Kenza Fourati was the first Tunisian to enter the competition. Even though she comes from a very progressive family, Kenza’s parents had a hard time understanding how modeling could be an actual job and were afraid of what the future of her daughter could turn out like being in such a different cultural environment. After long hours of discussion it was finally agreed that Kenza would go to Paris to give it a try. 
From fashion publications like Vogue, L’Officiel, Elle and GQ to the top selling pages of Sports Illustrated, Kenza has climbed to the top echelons of the industry and has embraced the world with an open mind.
Currently living in New York city, Kenza is working on launching her own fashion label while working on her most bold and heartwarming project; an online community to bridge the cultural gap between the Middle East and the Western world through art.
Was modeling a dream for you or did it just happened by chance?
Well, it was so uncommon (in Tunisia) that I really never thought of it for half a second, it was all a happy accident.
What were your most remarkable experiences as a model?
All my “first times”; my first show, my first fashion week, my first casting, my first time in front of the camera, with the responsibility of a crew working around you. Then you understand it’s more than fun, it’s a job and you have to be the best you can.
Is there anything that bothers you in this business?
The lack of control; I’m a control freak, but this job is really like George Berkeley’s quote, “To be is to be perceived”, and that s very frustrating!
What have you learned from your career that you consider truly valuable?
At a young age I understood you have to be your very own knight in shining armor. I can be in an alien place alone and I can handle it with no fear. Thanks to modeling, I know now that I am a capable person.
What advice would you give to aspiring models?
Don’t loose sight of who you are. You will meet tons of people who will judge you and project all kinds of fantasies on you but at the end, you are the only one who truly knows who you are.
What were your biggest challenges as a model?
Coming from an Arab Muslim country with no real visibility of the future and as a model to keep it true to who I am.
What is you favorite modeling image?
A portrait taken by Cedric Buchet for Vogue Paris, I find it to be very powerful.
Were you excited to work with him?
I have always loved his work and I loved how he perceived me. Not only is he an awesome photographer but he is also a great guy.
Where was it taken?
We shot in the middle of the road in Chinatown in New York. I’m 5’11 and was wearing sky-high heels and a see-through top; let me tell you, there was a lot of staring happening!
Who was the stylist?
Julia Von Boehm. I work very often with her, she has the most incredible energy and speaks (what seems to be) two thousands languages.
Any wardrobe malfunctions in that shoot?
I was freezing, so that’s a malfunction to me!!
What was the theme of the shoot?
The diversity of faces in France: Black, White, Beur (North African origins), …

Illustrated Legacy

Great voyeur of the creative effervescence of fashion in the 20th century, the illustrator Antonio Lopez now has a posthumous book and exhibition which displays his trajectory and puts him back at the top of the fashion pyramid.

Written by Gabriel Ruas Santos Rocha

There is no doubt that there are many important and talented fashion illustrators throughout the history of art. Unfortunately, many of them forgotten with time. The Puerto-Rican Antonio Lopez is one of them. Left in the shadows for years, the time has arrived for his name to be brought back to the limelight. The homage is made by the publisher Rizzoli, which releases this month “Antonio – Fashion, Art, Sex & Disco” and invites us, by way of the book, to embark the world of fantasy and glamour of the greatest voyeur of the creative bacchanal that took place between the 1960’s and 1980’s.

In his drawings and photographs, seductive creatures and brilliant minds which walked the fashion world: from the designer Roy Halston and the pope of Pop Art Andy Warhol, to the top model Pat Cleveland. All of them, at some point hit by the innovative look of the duo of artists. Yes, duo, because behind Antonio’s name, we highlight his partner in crime, Juan Ramos. He was the one who kept the creative forces on track and made sure that their ouvre was seen by the audience and caused the desired impact.

The aforementioned impact is the epicenter of this 304 page tome, edited by the brothers Mauricio and Roger Padilha – the same who created “The Stephen Sprouse Book”, the best-selling art book of 2009. “Us both were very inspired by the work of Antonio and we hope the future generations can witness the magic of his art” says Mauricio.

The illustrations of Antonio, who died in 1987, were made into cover of magazines, fashion editorials, advertising campaigns and even runway shows. His visionary imagination influenced, for instance, designers like Anna Sui, Norma Kamali and his personal friend Karl Lagerfeld. It was in Lopez that the now fashion Kaiser found the necessary strength to step away from under the shadow of the then rival Yves Saint Laurent and shine as a fashion designer in Paris.

What the book does now is not only tell the complete story of Antonio, but it also places us in the center of the work of the duo. Lopez and Ramos lived surrounded by their posse, day and night, and the fame of some of these characters, along with these two artists made a cabaret out of life. Among their friends were Jerry Hall, Jessica Lange and Grace Jones.

During three decades the work of the duo transcended all medias and no longer only existed in paper but in the collective consciousness and daily life of fashionistas worldwide. “I don’t believe there will be another person capable of surpassing his talent as an illustrator and use it to translate the social climate of his time” affirms Roger Padilha.

There will also not be another person who will influence the masculine wardrobe like Antonio. The introduction of colors, fur and shine into men’s wardrobes can be credited, in great part, to this genius of fashion. Always dressed like a peacock, he used to catch the attention of the media and made the color fever one of the reasons why men’s magazines were created. After all, it was necessary to supply for the demand from the battalion of men who were being inspired by the singular visual of the illustrator.

“He still influences the fashion industry. In fact, he influences us too. Antonio lived his work, and to him, there was no separation between professional and personal life. We try to behave the same way”, say the authors, who for over 20 years have run the PR agency MAO, in New York.

It’s in this same city that, until October 6th, the greater audience will come to know the legacy of Antonio Lopez. The exhibition “Antonio’s World” will take place at the hyped The Suzanne Geiss Company, in Soho. The exhibition spans three decades of the illustrator’s work, transformed in an installation as impressive as his work.

Article originally featured in Harper’s Bazaar Brazil, September 2012