Rousseau's Discourse

Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued that the arts and sciences emerged not from authentic human needs, but rather as an outcome of pride and vanity.

For me, modeling is a little Rousseau. I don't need to do it. I can make money through other outlets like working at a retail store or writing freelance for a magazine, because trust me, the market for petite modeling is just that: small.

My life as a mannequin started in February last year, but I never took it seriously. It was a way to meet motivated individuals and collaborate on interesting projects. I discovered a casting call for a fashion show at a small boutique store in the city, a show that would showcase new designs for prospective clients. I went to the casting, booked it, and walked 8 times down the hardwood floors of the tiny shop. Tyson Beckford's mother, Hilory, was there and told me she was interested in being my manager. This opened a door to acting, commercial gigs, and print advertisements.

But still, I never took modeling seriously because I didn't want to invest money for professional photos or composite cards for a career with no future. I continued testing with various photographers in New York for kicks, some good, one or two very talented, but most terrible. It wasn't until I found Nicolas where things really turned around and instead of focusing on the Colgate-esque photos in hopes of selling myself to clients, I discovered true beauty in good photography. I discovered I could hear melodies when looking at a good image, whether it be a portrait or landscape or nude piece. I found the difference between a good picture and a picture where someone merely looks good.

I browse through photographers' and model agencies' websites to study images, and learn what makes a particular photo better than the rest. Is it the model's pose, is it her expression, is it the lighting, is it the angle, is it the styling... what is it that makes a photo so good, my mind flutters and my lungs fill with air? I've learned that a photo has to evoke some sort of emotion, tell some kind of story, communicate some type of passion.

Seeing where I've come from February 2009 to February 2010, I'd say I've grown quite a bit in my understanding of a beautiful photograph. I've been incredibly blessed to work with the talented Oliver Mark, the lovely Gilles Berquet, and the incredible David Bellemere. I don't work with these photographers to gain star appeal or to expand my portfolio. I work with them to create something new and to narrate the story that is happening in my life right now. And who really gets the chance to shoot with photographers whose work has appeared in cinematic films, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Italian Marie Claire? Okay, that's Rousseau's pride talking.

I guess what I'm saying is that modeling began from a source of vanity, and it transformed into a method of expanding a social network of truly skilled people with insight into an industry I love. I don't really like to post my model photos on Facebook because I always feared the stereotype "models are stupid, they're coke addicts, they can't do anything else." And I don't want people to only know me as someone in a photograph. In fact, the other day I bumped into an old classmate from Hong Kong, a girl whom I haven't seen in over a year. The first thing she said to me was, "I love all your photos." That's exactly what I don't want to be remembered for. I want to be remembered for my mind and what I have to say, not what I looked like when I was 20. But the only way to add photographers or talented hair stylists as friends on Facebook is when then know you're someone in the industry by looking at your profile picture. How can I add William Lords as a friend if my profile photo displays me in a baseball cap, eating a hot dog with my father?

All of these experiences are shaping what I want to do in the long run. I want to do something related to photography, to fashion, to organizing and meeting people, to directing shows... and of course to something that includes good writing. I know money is hard to come by in an artist's world, especially when first starting out, but I hope that someday I'll be doing something I love and not working a 9am - 5pm job.

If you want to be happy in life, find something you love to do so much you'd do it for free, then find somebody to pay you for it. Nicely said, AM's mama.



  1. I've always admired your involvement in what you take interest in and your dedication to modeling, and how you still remain so grounded and watchful of yourself. This was so interesting to read and especially how you look back a year from now and everything was just starting. I've only read Rousseau here and there for class and things but I absolutely LOVE how you mention him in this so personally.

    The self-honesty you have is so hard to come by in many people--it's truly inspiring :) :) I also wish you the best of luck in finding something you truly love to do and hope that day comes soon!


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