Groovy x Black Steel

My motto when it comes to modeling is, “I work to create.”

What I mean is, whenever I book a job – and get to work for the amazing clients I’ve been able to work with- afterwards I’m looking into ways to create my own content. If you take a look at my portfolio Wilhelmina Portfolio, a majority of it features shoots I paid for myself, fueled by inspirations I came across. I love working , but I’m usually under the directives of a creative director. I can create with them, but only in a vacuum.

With this post, I’m going to give you a peek into my inspirations and thoughts for my latest shoot.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been really into Stevie Wonder’s album, “Hotter Than July”. Even though it came out 36 years ago, it’s brand new to me. Rocket Love and Lately, along with Master Jammin’ are my favorites. What struck me the most was the album cover.

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But the mood of the whole album, led me on a journey to find my groove. It led me in the direction of other artist like Teddy Pendergrass, and Prince. Listening to their music and researching their style during the period of the songs I was listening to weighed on me heavily going into this shoot.

With this shoot, I really wanted to find my lighting. Some models have such prominent features that lighting is not a problem for them, but for me, I found that some lighting makes me look they way I see myself in the mirror, and some is not so flattering, and others can over exaggerate. I wanted to really focus on that with this project. I looked up other models with my skin tone, and size, and I looked through as many pictures of them I could find and see how different lighting worked on them. I was inspired by supermodels, Orraine Barrett, Adonis Bosu, Armando Cabral, and Claudio Montiero.

 

As I looked over my book (which I do several times a week), I started to question, do I look expensive? Am I worth a $15k or $20k campaign? In my opinion, not from the pictures. So again, I did my research and figured who does book those campaigns, and whats the difference in their portfolio. (Now, before I go further, I don’t dictate my creations on the hopes it’ll land me a massive campaign. I’m realizing that comes through opportunities and mostly digitals. With that being said, campaigns do give me inspirations i.e. styling, lighting, props, etc.) I came across Lono Brazil’s book. His pictures just look expensive. Styling, locations, grooming, everything just looks awesome. He was a heavy influence on how I wanted to move and present myself with this shoot.

Finally, for styling, I wanted to keep it in-line with feeling expensive. Simple styling. Clean. Not a lot of colors, nothing contemporary. Classic pieces, that a five year old and a 55 year old could wear, and they would both look handsome. I was inspired by J. Crew, GAP and Todd Snyder’s respective campaigns. I love the styling from J. Crew. Head stylist, Gayle Spannaus does a great job for them. Then, I recently discovered, Todd Snyder. I love his simple pieces and the way he presents them in his latest campaign.

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After weeks of digesting, researching, reading, and listening to music, I was able to set up a shoot with Miami based photographers, Erick & Elliott. This is my third time collaborating with them, but only the first time on my own with own ideas (the first two times were test shoot through my agency, which I still paid for, but had very little creative control *rolls eyes*) I had the help of another person I’ve worked with before, Waina Chancy, as my stylist. We came together and created my latest creation, Groovy Black Steel.

 

Mr. Pro Player

A few weeks ago, I talked about my amazing experience with Pro Player. This week, the website launched – http://www.proplayer.com . Even though this isn’t my company, and most likely, my dealings with the company as a model will end sooner than later, I feel very invested in this brand. Pro Player believes you are a pro in real life – whether you’re a carpenter, a banker, or a chef. So you should dress like the pros when you go to workout or after work.

Thanks to Rita, and Jeff Staple, and all of the great people at Pro Player. Also, I’d like to thank We Are Not Pilgrims, and the good folks of the New York Mets and Citi Field.

Practice

My third season of modeling full-time is coming to an end. I still feel brand new; like a rookie. However, with so much access to people these days, there are new aspiring models every second it seems. I’m also getting asked, “How do I get started?” “How do I build a portfolio?” “Who do I shoot with?”. Among my solicited advice, I always suggest “Just shoot as much as possible.”

For every aspiring model, there seems to be an aspiring photographer. They may not be Bruce Webber, or Herb Ritts, but most likely, you aren’t Naomi Campbell – yet. Like one of my favorite motivational speakers, ET, says, “Start where you are with what you have because what you have is plenty.”

I’m always trying to create. I’m always looking to get better. Like Kobe Bryant taking 2 hours after a game to work on jumpers from the right key- there’s always room to grow. This time I hooked up with @piecesofakid right before Halloween. We shot in simple jeans (AG Jeans), and a plain t-shirt (Zara). I threw in a my Herschel backpack, and an overcoat (Zara), as pieces I wanted to work with on camera. My goal was to play with lighting. With my skin tone, a lot of times I will look at pictures and cringe because the lighting doesn’t bring out my features.

Becoming a PRO

One of the goals I set in modeling a while back, was to work closely with a sports brand. As a former college football player (We Are P.S.U.), I thought it would be an easy fit, between an athletic brand and I. However, with my first few years of modeling, I’ve only worked sparingly with brands like Nike, Reebok, and Adidas. I’ve done catalog pieces for Under Armour and Nike, but never really nothing extensive, like exclusive content.

That all changed earlier this year, once I started working with Pro Player.

Anyone who grew up as a sports fan during the 90’s remembers Pro Player. They are the company who brought you all of those cool team merchandise -thats actually regained popularity as “retro” gear. The Miami Dolphins and Florida Marlins, also played in Pro Player Stadium for nine years.

The brand was recently purchased by Perry Ellis, and is currently being re-branded, re-packaged, and hitting shelves in 2017. And I’m apart of the team thats helping the comeback.

Since, January, I’ve shot with the brand three times. Each time, getting more in-depth, with better products, and more momentum. It’s been awesome to be apart of a brand from the beginning. Even though Pro Player has been around for 30 years, its new and improved with a new motto, “In order to be a Pro, You have to train like a Pro”. Working alongside, the amazing creatives Rita O’brien and the “God” himself, Jeff Staple (he’s known for the Pigeon collaborations with Nike, Fila, and Puma, among other things), we have been able to bring a new image to a classic brand.

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“G’s in the house!” Jeff Staple & I at S10 Gym in NYC

Showcasing slick designs, and fly patterns, Pro Player is looking to make its mark through athletic gear at affordable prices, making it easier for you to look good while you train, without going broke trying to do so.

The first shoot we did was in a studio, in Brooklyn.

The second shoot we did, we moved to it to the famous, S10 gym. The latest installment, soon to be released, we filmed at Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets.

I would’ve loved to get in on some of my favorite brands, like Nike or Under Armour, but I would’ve been another face, in a gear that everyone knows and will sell no matter what. It’s pretty epic to be apart of a brand new process, as the face of the brand! Besides, none of those companies would have 10 foot posters of me hanging around their headquarters.

Summer In Cali: Pt. 1

For anyone who follows my page, or knows me, knows that ever since I started modeling I try to work in different markets whenever I can. Miami slows down in the summer, and I like to travel to experience other cities and possibly work with my other agencies. Hopefully, I can work a few jobs, I try to set up a few shoots to create in between time, and ideally, my family can come visit me. Last summer, I spent a little over 8 weeks in New York City through my agency, Fusion. This summer, I chose Los Angeles to work with my agency, Vision.

My journey to get to LA was a story in itself. In order to prepare for this west coast stretch, I had to pack for a month – which isn’t that difficult, if only I had to pack for one destination. Before I could get into LAX, I would have to travel to DC and NYC. I had a couple days of work in upstate New York, and a wedding anniversary party in DC. If I was only going to LA, I would pack maybe two pair of sneakers, one pair of workout shoes, but now, I had to pack shoes for a party and my “NY-walking around-castings” shoes. And when you wear a size 12, extra shoes take up a lot of space. Throw in my workout clothes, and outfits to satisfy every area code, I had a full backpack, a full carry-on, and full luggage with my first stop being the Big Apple.

This is how my schedule was set up, I got into the city on a Saturday, my job was on that Sunday, then I had four days off, with my next job that Friday, then my flight to LA Saturday, and the anniversary party, in-between, on Wednesday. My plan was to just get my luggage to my mom’s place in DC. I knocked out my first gig, then hopped on the 10:30pm bus on Sunday to DC with all of my luggage (lied and said I was with a friend because MegaBus only allows two pieces including a carry-on). Arrived in DC, around  3:30 am. Went shopping, because the anniversary party was an all-white party (and I always could use an excuse to go to Zara). Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I met my father for lunch – for the first time ever. Just met him for the first time in my life!

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My father & I, meeting for the first time in the city that raised us -Washington, D.C.

Made it to Wednesday- great party. Then hopped back on MegaBus (this time with only my backpack), but not before missing the 4pm bus, that would’ve landed me in the city by 8:30pm. Instead, I had to wait standby for two hours. Finally, I catch the 6:45 and get in by 11. I make my 6am call time, ride an hour upstate. Finish up, get back to the city, catch the 7:30 back to DC, and got in close to midnight. The next day, chilled with my mom, texted and called everyone I missed on this trip back home, then hopped on a 3:30pm flight to LAX!

Arrived in LA by 6 pm, west coast time. Just in time to prepare to celebrate my son’s birthday, which was the next day…

Not My Timeline

Lately, my thinking has caused conflict in my life- allowing my thoughts to lead to other thoughts, and, continuously, thinking about what I’m thinking about. Its caused me to question it all, and has me reevaluating everything. As soon as I figure “it” out, I then figure out I still haven’t figured it out.

In a typical -American- upbringing, you will live with your parents for the first 17 years of your life. By 18, you’re considered an adult, and expected to either contribute to society or continue your schooling. A few years later, you’re expected to be married or in the midst of a serious relationship. Between, 25-35 you should be settled down – married, with children, solid job, home, etc. This is the quintessential American coming of age timeline. I have no problem with this archetype. Except, in a democratic society, in a country where free speech is law, under the “theory” that we were made in the image of the CREATOR, we are usually ridiculed for just about any deviation from this archetypal life.

For the first 18 years of your life, you are being taught how to think, how to feel, how to speak, who to worship, what to eat, who to like, and what to aspire to be; you are told whats good for you, and whats bad for you. There are periods of pure thought, in my opinion, from birth til you start school and then those “smelling yourself” teenage years. Maybe you don’t want to go to church, maybe you don’t want to go to college, maybe you’re a guy who likes braiding hair and not sports, or a girl who enjoys the opposite. Under this archetypal upbringing, thoughts, creativity,  gets thwarted. So you assimilate to avoid friction, and or punishment for not following the “rules”. But what happens when you finally are let free on society, when you are finally asked, “what do YOU think?”.

By the time you’re 18, what do you really know about yourself? You know your age, weight, full name, birthday, and a few other things about yourself that are factual, but what thoughts have you originated thus far? You may believe Christ is the light and your salvation, your favorite football team is the Washington Redskins, and McDonald’s has the best chicken nuggets. But is this what YOU think? Do you believe in christianity, or have your parents just been forcing you to go every Sunday? You might like Redskins, until you’re decked out in the team’s gear, only to have your Native American Economics professor give you a lecture on why that is one of the most offensive terms in American history. Your parents never took you to a Japenese restaurant because they don’t like sushi, but you done found a Benihana’s, and they don’t sell California Rolls at Mickey D’s.  After a few years, on campus or in the workplace, you’re whole world is flipped upside down. By the age off 22, you’ve only had about four to five years to think for yourself, but by the age of 25, you’re expected to know what you want for the rest of your life. You’re expected to know who you’d want to spend the next 50 or so years with, what kind of work you’d like to do until you retire, all the while, you just figured out your favorite color isn’t royal blue anymore.

“There is no labor from which most people shrink as they do from that of sustained and consecutive thought. It is the hardest work in the world.” said Wallace D. Wattles. Our society is a strange place. It has been created by the unrealistic and the “stupid ideas”, but somehow we still call those who think different than the norm “unrealistic” with their “stupid ideas”. We have to continue to challenge it all. Every notion, every rule, every theory can not go unchecked. Notice, I didn’t say change it all, but check it out. Some of the framework in our country hasn’t been questioned in decades, and its antiquated. We have to think for ourselves, and continuously challenge the “Well, thats what they say…”, when we can rarely point to who THEY are.

How can we possibly know who we are going to be for the rest of lives by the time we’ve only experienced about a quarter of it? Growth, learning, evolving, it never stops. We are living creatures. Just like a tree we shall continue to bear. Whether its fruits, or leaves, we will continue to grow until we are turned into notebook paper. So don’t feel bad for not falling in love by the time your 25, finishing college til your 30, or trying sushi for the first time in your 40’s (I love sushi, can’t you tell). It’s all growth, and we all don’t grow on the same timeline.

 

 

Still Learning …

Education does not stop when you no longer have to enter a classroom. Over the last five years I’ve learned more about life than I did the 20+ previous years. When I say life, I don’t mean algebraic expressions or the skills I was taught to pass government mandated testing, but rather things like how to file taxes or how to gauge tire pressure or reading books from Deepak Chopra. I feel like one should always seek information; always be learning. With every shoot I do, I try to incorporate all of the new information I receive. As a matter of fact, I believe its impossible to unlearn something, so I have no choice but to incorporate it.

I linked up with one of my favorite photographers, T’Laniece, and we did a sports themed shoot. With the recent passing of boxing great, Muhammad Ali, I’ve been reminded of how great he was in and out of the ring. As I was watching footage of him training, something sparked dawned on me – I have that sweatsuit. I have a sweatsuit from Anatomy Projects (whose motto happens to be Still Learning), and its similar to vintage boxing training gear.

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With that in mind, some new Nike gear Ive been wanting to shoot, and the creativity between T and I, we present “Still Learning…” by Black Steel x T’Laniece.

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