Modeling looks like such an easy, glamorous, cushy job, and the fashion reality shows would have you think just that. True, it can be glamorous and exciting, but it is a far cry from a day at the beach. Though some models live a luxury life and make a lot of money, most working models have a sporadic income while waiting for that one big break. No matter how beautiful or handsome these lovelies look in our favorite glossies, it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to build a successful career. Still, most models will say it is worth all the rejection and hard work. And instead of living lives of quiet desperation, these courageous beings forge ahead, go after their dreams and live their passion.
Fashion Reverie gives its readers an inside look into the world of models by posting interviews and profiles of models from top agencies. Enjoy!!
Fashion Reverie: How did you get started in the industry?
Laura O’Neall: My mom signed me up for a back-to-school fashion show for JC Penny’s when I was 6 years old and I just loved it. I thought it was like dance and ballet and just pirouetted down the runway. Later on I was signed to an agency in Houston, but there really wasn’t a whole lot of work. Then I later moved to NYC and signed with AIM Model Management.
FR: How long have you been with AIM and has modeling lived up to your expectations?
Laura O’Neall: I have been with AIM over a year and it’s been really good. Every day is different. I have lots of work and I have been working with really wonderful designers. Everyone has been a joy to work and there has been very little angst and drama.
FR: Which designers have you worked with so far?
Laura O’Neall: I worked for Three as Four, Doo Re Mi, Erin Fetherston, M. Patmos, Concept Korea, which I have walked for three times. I have also worked for EMU Australia.
FR: What are some of the designers that you would like to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?
Laura O’Neall: I would love to work with Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, Rick Owen, Alexander McQueen, and Stella McCarthy.
FR: What would you say is your signature look and what about your look is appealing to certain designers?
Laura O’Neil: Designers usually see me as a Tilda Swinton type or as a very edgy, editorial model. I love that designers see me as an edgy, romantic type and that I project a very strong personality that goes beyond standard beauty. This point of view and my dramatic red hair keeps separates me from a lot of the other models.
FR: What do you like more, runway or editorial modeling, and why?
Laura O’Neall: I started out on runways which in my mind when I was young was a form of dance, so that initially was the appeal. Runway is very fast and there is the performance element. But, now that I am older I also love photo editorials because I get to become a character and I can see that character develop in photographs.
FR: What has been your most interesting experience as a model?
Laura O’Neall: I would say my most interesting was the scuba diving shoot in China. Though I had been swimming my whole life, scuba diving and modeling under water is another thing. I had to look like I was not holding breathe underwater in a massive bridal gown. And it was shot in a public pool, so there other people in the other part of pool looking bewildered and amused as I was struggling to pull it off. But, I pulled it off and it turned into a beautiful editorial.
FR: You were a classically trained dancer and we know that some agencies shy away from models with extensive dance training because sometimes the training can make a model look too much like a dancer. How have you gotten around that?
Laura O’Neall: Dance can be a really good basis for posing and modeling. But, you have to find a way not to look like a dancer and move more naturally. Dance has not been an impediment for me because it taught me to be more aware of my body and move my arms and hands gracefully.
FR: I don’t know if you watch fashion reality shows, but if you do, how is working in the industry dissimilar from those types of shows?
Laura O’Neall: It is completely different. On those shows they are trying to show the extremes of the fashion industry. Now, I have had those extremes, like learning how to scuba dive in three hours because I had to shoot an editorial under water, but those extremes don’t happen very often. You don’t have crazy challenges like that every week as presented on fashion reality shows.
FR: Unfortunately, there is a stereotype that models are not intelligent, and that they are just walking coat hangers that use their great looks to make a lot of money. How do you feel about that perception?
Laura O’Neall: Every one stereotypes or prejudges another person for a variety of reasons and you cannot control that. I don’t let a lot people, until I get to know them well, know that I am model because people have mixed feelings about modeling as a career choice. I would rather people get accustomed to my personality first and realize that I am not the negative model stereotype. I am not modeling to have a fast, glamorous life; if that is why someone enters the industry they won’t last very long. I love fashion and I want to have a long career.
FR: What would you be doing if you weren’t modeling?
Laura O’Neall: That is hard to say because I have been modeling since I was a child. Modeling has been a great exercise in cultural studies because I have traveled to so many interesting countries and met people from so many diverse cultures that perhaps I would not have met if I were not in this industry. So, may be I will become an anthropologist after modeling.
FR: Do friends and family assume that because you are a fashion model you can get them free product, introduce them to celebrities or get them into fashion events?
Laura O’Neall: People assume that because I get to wear these amazing clothes that my wardrobe is full of very, high-end luxury items. Occasionally I do get free clothes from designers but often enough it garments from previous seasons, or product that is not selling well.
FR: What’s next for you?
Laura O’Neall: Well, of course Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is next and I am now preparing to go on castings.
—William S. Gooch