Podcast Special People con Whitney Blackmon

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Una chiacchierata con una modella internazionale.
Whitney ci parlerà della sua carriera, dei suoi progetti anche nella charity e di come bisogna approcciarsi al lavoro.

Speaker 1: How are you? How are you, Marco?

Speaker 1: I’m fine, thanks. Today is also Whitney birthday. So happy birthday to you.

Speaker 1: Thank you for that.

Speaker 1: You’re welcome. So how are you doing?

Speaker 2: I’m healthy and happy. How are you?

Speaker 1: I’m good. Healthy to a little bit tired because this morning I went to a gym at 6:00 No gym but  training at six o’clock in the morning.

Speaker 1: So I’m a little bit tired.

Speaker 1: Yes, now. A little bit tired at my age.

Speaker 1: So I want to speak about modeling because you are a model. You work with me last year.

Speaker 1: And I want to know, what are you doing now?

Speaker 2: Now I’m still modeling, but I’m back in the US, so I’m in New York and I’m still modeling. I mean, things are a little bit slow because of coronavirus, but I’m still busy, so I’m always happy to be working.

Speaker 1: That’s good. Also, here the market is is low. Yes, because also it’s a really, really low. Depends from the moment we had a good summer, but now everything is off. So I don’t know. How is the situation in New York now with coronavirus?

Speaker 2: You know, we still have to be very careful and we have a lot of cases right now. New York is doing very well compared to a lot of the United States. But there are still infections. There are still limits on gathering’s and the doors are closed. So we still have to be very safe, but very busy working because, as you know, I do all the modelling. So not just one way, but I to show even hands and be so grateful for this, because that means then I usually have work and some of my friends who do run away, they have not worked really at all because coronavirus everything has changed with the shows and the schedules.

Speaker 1: Yeah. So lucky you.

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Speaker 1: Lucky you then.So I want to know, when did you start your modeling career and why.

Speaker 2: So I started modeling in 2014 so I just come back to the US from university. So I went to university in London to Central St. Martin’s. I wanted to be a designer, so I went to school there. I did a program and then I came back to the US, back to New York, and I just didn’t have any money. So my girlfriend, I had a girlfriend named Sandy and she was a model and she introduced me to her agent. And I just started modeling really because I needed money. And I didn’t want like an office job or anything like that because I knew it would not make me happy. Even if it just was for money, I would be unhappy. The money wouldn’t even be worth it. So I decided to give modeling a try and I loved it.

Speaker 2: And I just kept doing it. And it turned into my career. I kind of just drifted into it.

Speaker 1: OK, how does it starts?

Speaker 1: You sent your pictures to someone or someone stop you. Someone told you that you can do the model?

Speaker 2: Actually, funnily enough, when I was really young, about ten or twelve, a friend of my father asked me to model because he was a clothing designer. But I said no, because I never wanted to be a model. And it was only after university. And I just I needed to work, but I didn’t I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew what I did not want to do, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So my friend, who was a model, she thought that I could make money modeling. So she introduced me to her agent and her agency signed me. And so I started working with them. So some of my first modeling work was that modeling. So I was working with the designers and because I went to school for fashion, I understood how to make a garment. So I’m actually a trained patternmaker. So it was very easy to me, easy for me to use. Those skills to be a fit model and work with the designers and tell them, OK, this does not fit, you should rearrange the armhole, you should change the way.

Speaker 2: So you should do something with the draping, not telling them how to design, but telling them how I know which is this because I know how to put together a garment. I can tell them what they need to do just to fix the fit. So I was very successful with that and that’s how I started. And then I got into print modeling and hands and feet in showroom and everything else.

Speaker 1: That’s great. But then you also did this designer school. Another question about why did you go to London to do the school?

Speaker 2: Well, Central St. Martin’s is one of the best fashion universities in the world. And I was fortunate enough to have the resources to do it, to move and to go to school. And so I just did it. I don’t really think about these things so much. I do a little bit of research. And if I wanted to do it and I can do it, I do it.

Speaker 1: How was your life in London? Because I, I also lived in London when I was young for some months and it was great. How was your experience?

Speaker 2: I loved it. I lived in East London for like Hackney and it was kind of like the Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Anyone knows it. It was nothing like what it is now.

Speaker 2: It would be coming in the transition. And so that’s how I knew what it was. I feel very kind of in transition and up and coming.

Speaker 2: So I lived there and loved it. I mean, I really did love I love London. I go back often. I still have friends from university there. And I love the culture. I mean, I love living in Europe. It’s always easy to travel around Europe and you can do it. You don’t have to have a lot of money to do it, which is nice. I mean, I love everything and I love the school, the resources. We had an amazing library. My teachers were amazing, the professors at Central State, and they all work in the business. So my my patrimony professor, he actually was the costume designer from Broadway and he was working. Yeah. So after when he wasn’t on Broadway, he was teaching us at school. So it was so amazing.

Speaker 1: Yeah. So a very good experience, which kind of experience you had abroad as a model in which country do you went?

Speaker 2: I’ve done like jobs. So living in New York, you know, sometimes I would have a shoot in Spain or have a shoot in Paris, but living and working in Europe was in Italy, actually. With you? Yeah, at my agency. And I mean, I love living in Italy.

Speaker 2: I still talk to all of my friends who are there and I’ll come back once coronaviruses is over. But I really love Italy.

Speaker 2: I was busy all the time when I first got to Italy and I came in May and I worked all throughout the summer, even into August, a little bit during showroom. And then I took a holiday like everyone else, and I was going to go back to the U.S., but I was just living my life in Italy so much. And I was working with really cool designers and I just met so many friends.

Speaker 2: So I stayed in the thing for another year.

Speaker 1: Which kind of difference you saw between the modeling in the US and in Italy?

Speaker 2: You know, it’s interesting because the success I had in Italy, I didn’t have the same success with the same job in the US. So in the US, I usually when I booked the job, we shot it somewhere else. And most of my success in modeling in the US was in modeling. And it wasn’t until I came back after being in Italy where I started to become more successful. And, um, so now I just shot the Revlon and I did a Grey Goose campaign and a sex campaign with Benlolo Blahnik. So now I’m getting much more work and much better jobs than I did before. But I was successful first in Italy.

Speaker 1: So it was a good school for you. Yeah.

Speaker 1: As you said, the you you did a lot of different. Jobs, so you have more possibilities than other models that are more sectorial, so they have only one sector they can get.

Speaker 1: So you are I don’t know how to say in English … versatile..

Speaker 2: I mean, it is so helpful, especially I see the benefit of it now with covid because there are so many and less opportunities for models. So the more you can do, the better your chances of working.

Speaker 1: OK, OK, and then which kind of suggestion you can give to some girls that want to start this kind of career, which kind of suggestions you can give to them, I would say I mean, it’s super fun and you get so many opportunities.

Speaker 2: You can travel the world, meet interesting people, but you have to remember that it is work and you have to really build your skill and build your craft and you have to do your best every day. So it’s not enough to be pretty. It’s not enough to know people. It’s not enough to be tall. You still have to work even when there’s no camera. You know, even when no one is watching, you still have to work hard.

Speaker 1: Yeah, yeah. Because sometimes girls when they started this kind of job, they don’t know what to do. And some of them think that this only is a simple job, but it isn’t because you need to be professional. You need to be always focus and clients remember if a girl is a professional or not. So they going to call you again if you if you were good at the job. So.. and you did a great job. I know, but you are really professional. So I wanna know which is the funny moment that you had a job, something strange might happen during the job.

Speaker 2: God, it’s always something. I mean now because of covid and when we are on set that, you know, so many restrictions, then you have to be tested and you have on a mask.

Speaker 2: And now it’s just so strange. Yeah.

Speaker 2: You know, I have it I think I’m very lucky because I haven’t had any crazy strange things happen on set always. Sometimes things happen. But, you know, it’s just it’s just the work I do really lucky. To just work with really great people in great places and we just always have fun.

Speaker 2: So even when I was doing a program in Italy with Gianvito Rossi and my birthday last year, everybody brought me cake and we sing Happy Birthday and we had champagne and fun.

Speaker 2: It was amazing. So, you know, those moments always just you realize that you’re just so lucky. But of course, like in the beginning when when I just started doing on camera modeling, I didn’t understand how to really take a photograph. I thought it was simple. You know, you just you just stand there, you smile, you don’t smile, and you just take a picture and it’s supposed to come out beautiful and it doesn’t.

Speaker 2: I had to learn about the lighting. I had to learn about taking feedback from the photographer. I had to I had to learn about angles and different ways that you move and how the camera picks up your motion and all of these things. So, yeah, it took me some time to really learn what I was doing. And I think that’s something else, too. You have to learn how to model. Anyone can be beautiful and anyone can be beautiful on camera with makeup.

Speaker 1: But, you know, every year, not this year for covid, I go usually to New York for some modeling contest.

Speaker 1: And the approach is different because in us, from what I what I saw they love model school.

Speaker 1:, but for me it’s different because I see that girls learned from experience. So if you’re OK for doing the model, the only thing you have to do is to try, because with experience you improve, you understand how to move, how to talk with the clients. So I don’t think that schools are really important for this kind of career because, I mean, maybe schools can help you to know how to walk and  these kind of things, but you can also learn from video, from experience. So I don’t know if it’s a good model, this model of schools.

Speaker 2: What do you think about you know, I never I don’t know anything about model school.

Speaker 2: I never do this.

Speaker 2: My school was, like you say, experience for me is the best way to work. I learn the best when I’m doing. And I’m really good at listening so I can take direction. And if the direction is good for me, then I take it and I take it seriously. And I know when something does not work for me.

Speaker 2: So I think you have to know yourself and you have to be willing to learn and willing to listen and make the changes you need to make.

Speaker 2: But for me, experience was the best class.

Speaker 2: Now I know that no, I’m going to invite me again to this contest, so I’m not so smart about it anyway.

Speaker 1: Is the thing  I want to say because also for beginners will want to start. So it’s better to try but don’t go to the schools so.

Speaker 2: OK, yeah. And you know to, to I think sometimes when the girls and they start out and sometimes they want to you know, so they have some images to send to the agency.

Speaker 2: They have these big photo shoot, the makeup and the outfits.

Speaker 2: And it’s really a waste, I think, in the beginning, because I think it’s really about who you are without the makeup, because you can put on makeup and become anything but without the makeup, you’re the same person underneath. So I would not care so much about trying to be who you think the agencies want you to be and just be yourself, because at the end of the day, that’s the only thing you can be.

Speaker 2: So you’re going to be judged on anything you want to be judged on just who you are, naturally.

Speaker 1: So the suggestion that usually we give to the girls that want to start this kind of career is to send snapshots without any makeup because it’s the agency that is going to organize for you after some good shootings. This kind of things cause  at the beginning, we want to see we want to know the person and to see natural pictures of the girl or  boy.

Speaker 1: So really, it doesn’t matter to do some expensive shoots, because it doesn’t work like this.

Speaker 1: Yeah, so you said a lot of girls waisting their money, but you need also to be also strong from your mind just to be strong, because I think that when you go to castings and there are maybe hundreds of girls and maybe you had to wait for hours and after in one second, let’s say you OK, you can go I there.

Speaker 2: And it really is terrible that one thing I’m so happy with my cast, you do have to be very, very strong.

Speaker 2: But this is what I mean when I say you have to know who you are, you have to know who you are without the world of modeling and you have to love who you are without any validation from a casting director or photographer or an agency. You have to love yourself first because people’s opinion is just that is their opinion. And it’s OK because this is the business, really. And so it’s easy to take rejection personally because someone is saying no to you and it can feel personal, but it’s really not. But of when you are the one being rejected, it feels personal. So you have to love yourself first. You have to know who you are so that no matter what happens, nothing changes in your own heart. And, yeah, you know, it it is it’s tough. You do have to be strong because it’s so many things we work from sometimes, you know, you don’t work at all. I remember one year it was maybe three years ago, three or four years ago. And the whole year I only got the one job. The whole year I only worked once. It was brutal, so painful.

Speaker 2: And it was also the same year where I started a business like I started a charity. And so I was putting so much of my time and my money into that and I wasn’t making any money modeling. So it was so hard. It was just terrible.

Speaker 2: But I knew that things would work out. It just may take more time than I thought. You have to be honest with yourself about what you can do. You definitely shouldn’t starve. You have to have the things that you need and you may not have them when you want it to. But if you if it’s something you really want to do, then you never give up. But you know who you are. You know what you what you need. And you have to just make sure that you have what you need.

Speaker 1: you have to know who you are. This is really important. And you have to love yourself because you will have a lot of rejection. But you as you said, you as you say, you don’t have to take the rejection personally because this is not like this. And in the same time, you have also to know your possibilities, because sometimes we have some girls that want to do worldwid campaign, but they can’t they are not good for the market. So they start to go crazy for it. But it’s important to know what you can really do when you know it. You will be ready also for that if someone refuse you, because you know that you can do it.

Speaker 2: Because I saw a lot of times some girls, but maybe for two months, three months they didn’t get any kind of job.

Speaker 1: And then in one time from the first job, they start to have a lot, a lot, a lot of jobs. It works like this. So never give up. And the most important thing is not only modeling is to believe in yourself. No.

Speaker 2: Yes, I think so, too, and, you know, of course, when you are not working and you are not making any money and you keep getting rejected, you are frustrated, you are angry, and it can be very hard to believe in yourself. But I think when it’s this moment, these times when you do choose to believe in yourself and you do choose to keep going, it makes you so strong and you need that.

Speaker 2: If you if this is really going to be your career, you have to be strong.

Speaker 1: I mean, I totally agree with you. I want to make you also another kinda of question. So how is the situation now in the United States after your elections ?

Speaker 1: I read a lot about US election and in the newspapers is full of articles, but I never speak with a real American person that lives in the US.

Speaker 2: It’s an interesting time in the U.S. So I was very happy that Biden won and Kamala won in New York.

Speaker 2: We were all dancing in the street, really. We were there was music everywhere. People were proud and so happy.

Speaker 2: So me like I know a lot of the people I know are ready for a change and we are getting it. So I’m just very happy. I’m excited for change. And that’s pretty much it. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can only speak for me and people that I know who feel the same way. We are happy for this change and we’re ready to just live in a different way than it has been. But just like everywhere else, America has a lot of work to do. Yes. So we just have to, again, be strong and know who we are and not be afraid to listen and to make changes when we need to.

Speaker 1: Yeah, from Europe, from Italy. When we speak about the United States, we really don’t know how different his life from how our way of life really is. Really different, depends also from the states.

Speaker 2: And because it really depends on where you are. And my life I grew up on the East Coast and I’m from Washington, DC. And Washington, DC is an amazing place. It’s very liberal. People protest. People are great neighbors to each other. It’s a very special place. And what I love about D.C., especially growing up, they are successful people, happy people of all colors. So my I am black, my family is black and everyone is happy. Everyone works well. We have doctors, lawyers. Everyone in DC almost works for government, the CIA, the FBI and things. And my family is always involved in politics and everything. So I’ve always been around, have been successful black people. And I think I’m very grateful for this because this is how I see black people. And I’ve always lived in places where it’s been different races and ethnicities and everyone’s doing interesting things. So I like DC and I move to New York, which is just full of so many different kind of people doing so many interesting things. Then I went to school in London and then came back. And again, I work in all over Europe. Now I’m actually going to California to stay through the winter to work and just live life.

Speaker 2: So again, New York and California is huge and it’s so many different kind of people and creative people doing interesting things. So I’ve been very fortunate to be in places where I see the best of people just reflected in society.

Speaker 1: I have an experience. I have more of an experience in California because when I was really young, like nineteen. I went in the summer for studying in San Diego.

Speaker 1: I saw that is really different from my life. Everything is very different from New York. I went there like three times in California and  last time It was five years ago I was arrested because I was too tired. I was driving in the evening after dinner and the police made me all the tests like alcohol test, drug test, this kind of test. And at the end they said, OK, you are too tired, so you have to come with us and you’ll be jailed for three hours and  and after you will be free. So at the moment, I was like, really excited because it was like for me, like a movie, so I thought, oh wow, it’s incredible. After I thought that  these kind of things can’t happen here in Italy, in Europe, because they can’t stop you only because you are tired or this kind of things.

Speaker 2: So it’s very different. In the US, the systems are very different than I think anywhere else in the world.

Speaker 1: Depends also from the state cause in New York we are not so strict, but in California they are really st-. They stop also old people that don’t. The first time when we have to quickly, go quickly, go quickly, but until they are rude also we have old people but is totally different. And from our point of view from Europe, we can understand this kind of difference. So we we think that the United States is like only one country. But it’s more like a lot of states and in the different states, people live also in a different way. So we have also to understand this.

Speaker 2: Exactly. Very different. I mean, it’s completely different. I mean and honestly, I think you can you can understand this because in Italy, you know, the way some people, Italians in the south, very differently from the Italians in Milan, I don’t think it’s very hard to understand.

Speaker 1: Us are huge compared to Italy. So the difference are more we need to understand what people from, I don’t know, from South Carolina or from Texas.

Speaker 2: Very different. Yeah. They feel different from people from your own world. Yeah.

Speaker 1: Like totally different and the reading our newspapers, it’s like we simplify things, but things are never simple. No.

Speaker 2: So, yeah, but we all do this for human beings. And I think maybe one thing that we can all do better is to be careful about the assumptions we make with a little bit of information we have, because I think about it and getting to know a person, it takes a long time to get to know someone, just like it takes a long time to get to know a place, you know, a neighborhood or a community. So if you’re not there, then you cannot trust always the information that you get from others until you see it for yourself. You know, you just have to assume that, you know, very little and that’s OK. It’s not a bad thing.

Speaker 1: I’m totally agree with you. Now, last question. But an important question.. what are you going to do? Which kind of dreams do you have now and what you want to do in your future?

Speaker 2: Like I had my charity and we provide the feminine products, superior products, tampons, pads and cups. So we make sure that we can get them to the people who need them in the US. And so we work with like food pantries and shelters and these types of places to make sure that the people who need them. And so I love this work and I work with other charities and the US and also in Europe. So this is my purpose in life. I feel and I love I love modeling because it allows me to do these things, do with the time and everything, and then travel I can do you know, I can live both of my dreams at the same time. So for me to continue modeling and do even more campaigns and meet more interesting people and work on amazing projects, travel the world, and to do the same with my with my charity, you know, to really grow it and meet more interesting people than just to see all the amazing things that we can do together with charity program.

Speaker 1: You organize by yourself or you have someone that is helping you?

Speaker 2: Yes. So I have it’s my co-founder. She’s actually one of my best friends. Her name is Kirsten. And we started it together almost three years ago and we’ve been doing it ever since. And we have a boy and we have a somewhat big community now and we have so many people who support us and help us. Give us money and just are there with us doing the work, and it’s really beautiful to see, you know, I think some people really just want to do their very best for their selves and other people. And so we’re so happy to be able to do what we can just to help other people.

Speaker 1: Oh, this is amazing. You did a really good job. We thank you so much for your time. Thank you for everything. Hope to see you soon. In Milano or so.

Speaker 2: And I think so. Yeah. I cannot wait to come back and get to work.

Speaker 1: So we hope we can do it soon. So thank you so much and take care ..

Speaker 2: Down I go. Thank you. Bye bye.