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.

 

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.

Casual Conversations with Jamie Bruce

Earlier this year, I hooked up with photographer, Jamie Bruce. This is our second collaboration. We decided to just turn my living room into a set, and my jeans, a tank top, and a jean shirt our wardrobe. All we did was discuss (the recent passing of) Prince, and talk about me coming to visit him in his hometown, of Nassau, Bahamas.

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.

ET Inspires

Last night, on June 23, 2015, I went to see Eric “The Hip-Hop Preacher” Thomas speak.

I’ve been a fan of E.T. for about 2 years now. I won’t take the time to explain who he is, because it wouldn’t do him or his messages any justice. Google him, YouTube his videos because in his words, “I’m not a motivator, I change lives”. And he has changed mine. In your life, if you allow it, you’ll have continuos paradigm shifts. Shifts in how you perceive the world and your place in it. You will discover adjustments and changes necessary to propel yourself to the next level.

One of his mottos are, “what would your life look like, if you went 120%?”

If you follow my blog, you’ve seen my posts, titled “Entries from My Golden Diary”. A few people think that those articles are real. Unfortunately, not yet, but thats what I envision my life looking like. I want to be a major philanthropist to African-American children. I want to use modeling to take me to a level of Legendary status. I’m not sure on what’s after modeling or what I will segway into but I know today, I love modeling. However, I find myself having days and weeks between jobs at times and I don’t understand it. But last night, E.T. said something that if his words were physical, it would’ve been a slap to my face,”They aren’t calling because you’re not great”. He wasn’t speaking to me directly, but man, I hung my head in shame.

So I started asking myself, what can I do to make myself better? As a model, how can I get better? I can take more pictures on my own. I can learn how angles work from a photographers point of view. I can study fashion. I can find out why in some pictures my face looks fat after eating clean the week before and in others even after eating bad, I look amazing. I feel like I’m giving 95% effort most of the time. I’ll pay for test shoot, I’m not afraid to empty my account on traveling to another city for work or investing in something I believe that can benefit me. Sometimes, I go 100% and at times, I max out at 120%. I feel the difference. I see the difference. I have the information, now what am I going to do?

I’m so inspired I feel like I’m wasting time writing this article. However, I implore you to check out his message and I’ll leave you with this. I’m paraphrasing but, If you’re chasing money you are a fool. If you’re chasing legendary status, you’ll bypass the rat race. What will be your legacy, once you’re dead and gone? Think about it. Not just kind words from people friends and family but what will the world say about you? For perspective, Martin Luther King Jr. has been dead for almost 50 years but he is so legendary that we has a nation celebrate his birthday. How many people celebrate your birthday?