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.

 

#ReadingtoLive

In the last two and half years, I’ve read more books than my previous two decades combined. I’ve developed an insatiable appetite for information and a desire to learn; learn more about love, happiness, success, classicism, racism, acting, music, and myself.

In order to awaken that desire in others, I started sharing my books on Facebook with the #readingtolive . I believe knowledge is our new currency, and I want everyone to be wealthy. Prior to this year, I would read mostly fictional novels, my favorite writers being David Baldacci and James Patterson. However, this year, I gravitated toward spiritual guidance, and African-American based authors. I even read my first Harry Potter book. My favorites this year have been The New Jim Crow, Assata, The Seat of the Soul, and the previously mentioned Harry Potter – and The Sorcerers’s Stone. I’ve also gotten into audio books. I listened to The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles, and the Richest Man in Babylon.

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I must admit- I started a few others, as well. I started reading Ghandi’s Autobiography, and A Message to the Black Man by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. I promise I will finish because these are great men, but let’s just say they aren’t J.K Rowling.

I’m always down for some new books. Please feel free to share your favorites, or ask about any of the books I’ve mentioned. If you post what you read on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter #readingtolive, and help spread the wealth.

 

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.

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Such disdain for

Nights with no rain

No pain to put on display

No one can tell the difference

Its interference talking about your pain

Such disdain for your pain

I’m avoiding the rain but it hasn’t

Rained in 30 days

My umbrella is on a vendetta

Such disdain for

Sunny days with no greys

Put your smiley face away

That’s how they tell the difference

Save yourself from the rain and the greys

Save your disdain

Tuck away your pain

Its interference talking about your pain

Keep a straight face and a rain coat

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…

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.