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.

 

Summer in Cali Pt. 2

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.

I finally arrive in Los Angeles, on July 4th. Unlike last summer, this time my family will be with me for a couple of weeks during my work-cation. Along with celebrating the holiday, we will also celebrate my son, Kekoah’s 3rd birthday (which is on July 5th), along with trying to get in some quality family time. My lady is from Huntington Beach, which is about 55 minutes (if you could drive down the 405 without 405 traffic) outside of LA. So, we plan on setting up camp at her mom’s house. My goal this past summer, was to stay in the market for at least 30 days; book 4-5 jobs, and get some creative visuals via test shoots.

When I was considering markets for the summer, I listed three potential cities: Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. I chose LA because I signed with Vision three years ago, when I first started modeling full time, but a huge reason why, was because my family would be there. Last summer in NYC was difficult. My son had just turned two, and Kadie is a teacher, summer is her free time. Unfortunately, summer also coincides with down-time in the Miami market. On top of that, I was geeked up after signing with my first NY agency last year. Usually, K heads back to her hometown whenever she has her breaks, so I decided this time I could do more with heading out west this year. The first few weeks, I made them and the “vacation” part, priority.

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Happy 4th from the HB Parade

During that first week, we went to the famous, 4th of July Celebration, Hungtington Beach Parade. Its an awesome family experience, filled with floats, bands, and culture-specific showings. Later that week, we celebrated Koah’s birthday. He had a Superhero themed pool party. This is the first year, where I think he’s aware of whats going on – as far as asking for toys and getting shy when people sing “Happy Birthday” to him. His birthday celebration lasted about a week. Kadie has a big family and they love showering each other with affection. Kadie and I must’ve been filled with a spirit of youthfulness, because we decided to also get our noses pierced.

In the midst of celebrating, I made my way into the agency to check in. I reacquainted myself with everyone- Micheal, Marco, Pam, and the rest of the Vision family. I took some fresh digitals, and set out a plan for the next few weeks. The staff at Vision is some welcoming. I always felt appreciated when I walked through their doors. Throughout my time there, I would drive “55 minutes” just to stop by. Mostly, to bug them and make sure they don’t forget me but mainly because it was such a warm environment.

It didn’t take me long to book a job, but it wasn’t through Vision. Ironically, it was actually in Miami, through, my mother agency, Wilhelmina-Miami. I returned a couple of days later, and went on my first LA casting, which was for Nordstroms and its subsidiaries (Hautelook &Nordstroms Rack). That was pretty much it, as far as work, for the first few weeks. Just that casting, some digitals, and random pop-ins. It was a little discouraging, but I took that time, and started working out 2 times a day, reading more, and looking for photographers to collaborate with.

On the family side, we decided it was time to take Koah to his first movie. We went to go see the 3-D version of The Secret Life of Pets. A great movie, at least the hour we were able to get him to sit through. We also hit up the amazing, Getty Musuem and spent a lot of time at the pool, the beach and spending time with their cousins. Eventually, my “vacation” portion of the trip ended, and my loved ones headed back to Miami. The universe must’ve wanted me to focus on family, because not even 24 hours after they left, things started to pick up.

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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.

 

 

Black as Night, Hard as Steel

Recently, I collaborated with the amazing Miss Robin (@missrobinv) for a quick photoshoot. We just went in and shot. No inspirations. Just a camera and a duffel bag of clothes. Throw in some trespassing on people’s property, and we were able to create some beautiful images.

Pushing The Rock

There is this story I like to tell myself when times feel stagnant, or I just don’t see the results from my efforts.

The story goes something like this,

There was a man on a journey to find a treasure. He traveled many, many miles through all type of terrain. About halfway through his journey he comes across a giant rock. A behemoth of a rock, twice his size and weighed much more than him. After already going through so much he couldn’t understand why it seemed that God was punishing him – making his journey impossible to complete. He fell to his knees from exhaustion, crying out to the heavens, when he heard a voice say, “Push the rock”. He never thought to push the rock because of its size, but he followed the voice’s instructions. 

He began to push, and push the rock. No movement. Push, and push. Leaning in with his shoulder, digging his feet deep in the ground, pushing with all his might. Everytime he felt like giving up the voice would whisper, “keep pushing.” For days, he pushed, and pushed, and pushed. Nothing. Finally, after some time, he looked to the heavens and cursed God. He turned around on his path and started back to look for another way. On his way back he caught a glimpse of himself in a pond. To his surprise he couldn’t believe his reflection. His shoulders were broader, his biceps and triceps were bigger, back wider. He had become stronger! So excited about his new body he grew more confident, determined to overcome the rock. So determined he sprinted back to where the rock was, to only find it was gone.

For me, that story represents perseverance, patience, and understanding that the universal law of putting in work and trusting the process will never fail. I’ve been pushing the rock a lot lately! Most recently I collaborated with Chicago based photographer, Clay Boutte.

 

Black Steel: The Genesis

Recently, I got up with my boy, @thphoto_ , and collaborated on an idea I had. I’ve taken Black Steel this year and I’ve created a small series on him. As I continue to let Black Steel evolve, I continue to pull back layers and find different origins of him. This time I tried to convey his beginnings – his genesis. This is a raw interpretation of that.