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.

Push The Rock

I did this video three and half years ago. Things have change on the surface, but it’s still a grind. The struggle continues. However, to struggle isn’t a bad thing. To give up, is a bad thing. But to struggle, to press on in spite of your conditions, is an amazing thing. #anchordown

 

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. 3

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.

By the end of July, I had worked one job via my Miami agency, had one casting, rented a car, made the commute to LA a few times, but thats it – no bookings from Vision, no test shoots, nothing. At this point, if this was a basketball game, I’d be having a horrible shooting night heading into the 4th quarter, down by 15 points. But the only way to change a bad shooting night is to keep shooting, and thats what I planned to do.

I started reaching out via Instagram to several locally based photographers. I was sliding up in DM’s like I was Yo Gotti, hitting up whoever had dope pictures featured on their timeline. Only three replied – Mike Lerner, Storm Santos, and Maxwell Poth.

People always ask me, “Do you get to keep the clothes on your shoots?” Well, sort of. I book a lot of jobs, where Im paid well to do something I enjoy, but 90% of the time I’m not keeping the clothes.However, most of my portfolio consists of my own work. Shoots that I’ve paid for out of pocket, which include the styling, and honestly, I rarely return the clothes. Backtrack to my luggage dilemma on my journey out to LA, and know I was trying to pack as strategic as possible – which meant my clothing options mostly consisted of plain t-shirts, a few pair of jeans, and some sneakers. I definitely wasn’t prepared to style three collaborative shoots. So I went to South Coast Plaza in Coast Mesa, one of the highest grossing malls in America, and I got to pulling clothes for myself. After five hours, and spending way more than I wanted, I pulled some great pieces from John Varvatos, Zara, Scotch and Soda, and Adidas. And for the first time, I was going to try to do my own make-up, so I dropped some change in Sephora too. I only had two and half weeks left in Cali, so I was determined to make it count.

First up was Storm! Storm (@stormshoots) is an award winning musician, cinematographer, and producer. One of the dopest photographers I’ve ever worked with. We shot at his flat in downtown LA. I didn’t really have a clear inspiration, rather just a desire to create. We chatted for about 30 minutes about life. He took me on a tour of his eclectic collection of superheros and action figures, which included several of my son’s favorites like The Flash. We shot some in studio and on his rooftop, which I found out, is next door to the infamous Cecil Hotel.

 

Next up, was Mike Lerner. Mike is cool ass Republican, and history buff, who used to be Justin Bieber’s tour photographer.  Along with knocking out some great shots, we talked about why he’s a Trump supporter (he was actually pretty logical), talked about movies, and I was bombarding him with history questions. We shot around his place in Fullerton.

 

My last shoot, on my last week in Cali was with Maxwell Poth. Max was gracious enough to fit me in before he hit a surfing road trip down to Mexico. By this point, I was out of ideas, but once I saw his home, the place where we were going to shoot, I became inspired. We talked for about 25 minutes about our experiences, goals for the shoot, and went over wardrobe. I really wanted to knock out some solid body pictures since I was doing two-a-days (sometimes 3-a-days) and I was inspired by a few editorials from my contemporaries.

NYFW ’16: My First Time

This is my third season as a full-time model. However, I signed to Wilhelmina Miami as a model back in 2011- I was working retail full-time and modeling in my spare time. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but I remember asking one of my agents back in 2012, something a long the lines of, “How can I get into runway jobs?”. Her response, was something like, “You’re too old. It’ll be hard for you to do that type of work.”. Mind you, I was only 25 years old, but I’m already considered “too old”. I initially took that as that, and I accepted that I was “too old”. However, not too long after, I started studying the industry. I saw that “older” guys were walking runways, but I was still hesitant because they were mostly guys who were already established, the likes of Noah Mills, Tyson Beckford, Garret Neff, and Tyson Ballou. So despite my agent’s (she’s moved on to another agency) assessment, I made walking in a major fashion week a goal of mine.

It started out pretty rough. In order to overcome that condemnation, I had to practice. The first thing I did was record myself walking; that didn’t go over too well. I had my lady record me on her phone as I used our living room as a runway. As she was recording me, I could hear her snickering, then she just busted out laughing. I was in my feelings at the time, because I’m a former collegiate athlete and I can’t even walk, right? But then I watched the video playback, and it was pretty hilarious. That discouraged me, and I never again had her record me, but I continued practicing. Whenever I would take the trash out, I would use the hallway in our apartment as an imaginary runway. I would suck my stomach in, push my shoulders back and strut from the trash room and back. I would even play a little house music in my head. “Do I swing my arms?” “Should I walk faster?” “Am I walking too manly?” I had no clue how to walk like a model. So I started watching YouTube videos of runway shows. Videos of Sean O’Pry, Garret Neff, Jason Morgan, Alex Lundquvist, Tyson Beckford and others during various fashion shows from London to Paris to NYC.

I eventually started to have castings for runway jobs. I would usually be one of the bigger guys, and also older than most. I wasn’t too confident in my walk, and it showed. I remember feeling so self-conscious at times. A lot of times I was walking in front of a panel of casting directors, so I would try to read their face. Feedback was good, but a lot of times they either knew before I even walked if I was their type and other times I was just too much in my head. But slowly, I started to book runway jobs. My first one was at a charity event inside of this fancy furniture store. The next few ones were actually jobs where I would wear an outfit and walk around the mall, like a moving mannequin. I hated it. At the time, I did it mostly because I needed the money, but I also used it as time to practice walking, and being comfortable in front of people. Looking back those jobs were very valuable.

My first big runway break came last year. I walked the opening leg of The Cotton 24-hour Fashion Show. It was my first major runway experience. My next job was back in July for

<> on July 15, 2016 in Miami Beach, Florida.

From the first, Kyboe show in Miami

Miami Swim Week. This was my first runway job for a fashion week. I was elated. I was able to walk for the brand, Kyboe – an up and coming watch brand. I didn’t realize it, but 4 years after being told I was “too old”, I walked in a fashion show during a fashion week (and I got a free watch). I could’ve never imagined that opportunity would lead to what happened next. Kyboe asked me to be apart of their show they were putting on during New York Fashion Week.

This past Saturday, I walked in my very first show during New York Fashion Week. It was an exhilarating experience. As I sat there backstage chatting with everyone, taking pictures, and trying not eat all the snacks, I thought back to what that agent told me. I reflected on practicing in my living room, and in my hallway. I thought about walking around the mall and watching Youtube videos. It all led me to be where I was this past Saturday. Walking the runway was a breeze; it was just like taking out the trash.

 

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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