Are you curious about the modeling industry? Or skeptical even? Here are some honest answers from some of our own JEA Models and one mother of a model. They provided us with this advice to give our new faces. We could not resist sharing it with the world! Hope you enjoy! In order of Photos: Mallory Abraham, Bri Hocutt, Rick Kumazawa, Julia Bhansali, Laya Wyatt, and Rose Daniels.
1) How did you get started in modeling?
Mallory Abraham - It started for me when Jamie commented on one of my Instagram pictures when I was a freshman in high school and told me to contact her.
Bri Hocutt - When I was round 11 years old I went to a modeling and acting showcase. My agent at the time pushed me to do both competitions even tho my interest at the time was only in acting. The results were that I was a terrible actor, but a great model. A few years and hair colors later I applied for JEA. I was turned down for my height, but was told I had a great face. I did some freelance modeling around Mississippi over a year before I applied for JEA again. With experience and confidence under my belt, I was accepted!
Rick Kumazawa - Always wanted to act so I started to model as a gate way for the industry
Julia Bhansali - My hairdresser suggested that I should model and encouraged me to submit pictures to JEA so I did and here I am!
Laya Wyatt - I was an assistant for Sharon Coker and came in one day without make up and Jamie signed me.
Rose Daniels - I'd heard over and over that I should be a model & I didn't take any of it seriously and then I lost all my baby fat and became insanely vain. And then Jamie appeared to me in a dream on a flaming pie and said "you need to grow up." And then I did and now here we are.
2) How did you know you wanted to pursue modeling?
Mallory Abraham - When I was younger, I remember watching America’s Next Top Model and fawning over Tyra Banks. I wanted to “smize” like her. I wanted to be fierce like her. I just wanted to be like her. When I was around 6 or 7, my mom told me that I would beg her to take pictures of me out in the backyard. Little did I know that this is where my career started. I signed with Sharon Booker Talent Agency in Jackson when I was around 13 years old. I knew that I was not going to get any work or jobs from it because it was strictly a talent agency, but I just wanted so desperately to be on an agency website. I went and took pictures for the website and vividly remember the photographer being impressed with my “modeling” skills at the time. Around 2 years later when I was 15, Jamie commented on my Instagram picture and told me to contact her. I was skeptical at first because I have never heard of JEA before. However, I still emailed her, and she told me to come to her casting. When I looked at the requirements for the casting, I laughed and immediately told myself I was not going because the height requirement was 5’7”, and I was around 5’3” at the time. A few days had passed, and I emailed Jamie again saying that I could not make the casting because I was studying for exams (big lie), but still wanted to meet with her. She so kindly set up a meeting, and that is where I signed.
So, I guess I knew I wanted to truly pursue modeling when the opportunities started presenting themselves. Right after I signed with JEA, I believe I only had 3 lessons, and then my portfolio shoot. I would go home and practice (yes, it’s embarrassing but I did) because I just thought it was the coolest thing to be signed with a different agency that was actually hands-on and cared about my progress. My mom would tell me, “Mallory, don’t get your hopes up,” because she knew my height was a limitation, and we live in Jackson, MS – the demand for models was not high at all during that time. She didn’t want me to set myself up for failure, and for that, I am greatly appreciative. But however, it did not take long for me to start getting some jobs. At first, these jobs were all free, and then some began to pay – which was something I never thought I was ever going to be able to attain. Then I started getting exposure, like being in a few magazines and modeling weekly for a local store – which was also something I never thought I’d be able to do.
A few years after I signed with JEA, a group of us traveled to ATL and we all had the opportunity to sign with an agency there called BMG. I did get a couple of quality jobs that were worth my while and gave me exposure. Again, I never once thought I would have signed with another agency, much less attained a few jobs. After A LOT of convincing on Jamie’s part, and proving to myself and everyone around me that I actually could model and defied the odds of the typical model height, I decided it was time to move to the big, bad city of Los Angeles, California.
Bri Hocutt - Being in front of the camera has always felt natural. Even if I was awkward and silly, I was comfortable.
Julia Bhansali - I didn’t really know I wanted to pursue it until I actually started modeling and growing and experiencing things.
Laya Wyatt - I don’t think I really knew that I wanted to pursue it. It was a childhood dream and I really just wanted the experience for my photography.
Rose Daniels - I was in tenth grade and I'd just written on my photography teacher's desk drawer: "Arresting, repossessing and disarming / oh what a stroke of luck that I am charming." And I thought to myself "this is a prophecy" and "I am gorgeous." (Actually no, Jamie rejected me because I went to go meet with her and she asked me to smile and I was too shy, so I became confident out of spite). (No the honest truth is modeling is a form of art that you can produce and star in, so it's an extension of myself, in a way).
3) How did you overcome the "scary" side of moving out of Mississippi and moving away from your family?
Mallory Abraham - Honestly, I was just so excited to go to LA, there was no scary side to the move. I have always wanted to live in a big city, so when I moved to LA in the summer, I absolutely fell in love with the city and everything that it had to offer.
Bri Hocutt - Model housing is the best way to find new friends. I met great people that I am still friends with even tho they are in places like Boston, LA, and Tulsa. NY is a big city, but there's a place for everyone in terms of finding your "group"
Rick Kumazawa - I grew up living all over the place so it was never hard for me to be living on my own in a new place for doing what I love.
Julia Bhansali - Making the decision to move to LA is one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. I went back and forth for a while and was filled with anxiety. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this, but I prayed about it a lot and I am surrounded with the most encouraging , loving people that support me so much and encourage me to pursue my dreams. My final thought process was if I get out there and fail, no harm, no foul. I will have gained so much experience and grown and lived and learned. But if I don’t even try, I will never know what could have happened. While it is scary, I am excited to get to do what I love and experience the world.
Laya Wyatt - I’ve always wanted to travel away from Mississippi. Life is about experience and growing. So I just thought of being uncomfortable as a growing expirence. I wanted to know that I can be on my own and be okay.
Rose Daniels - To repeat my mom, I didn't, and you don't. At least not at first. You'll be fine for months before you go and then suddenly it's two weeks before you leave and you tell yourself you have no understanding of the subway system or, like, financial independence. The truth is, you have to be okay with messing up. And you have to know that your screw ups are not you as a person or a model. You are not your missed train, your botched casting. Spend lots of time with yourself. It does wonders.
4) How do you think modeling has benefited you and helped you grow as a person?
Mallory Abraham - Modeling has made me accept me for who I am. I have always been on the shy side, so, thankfully, it made me come out of my shell. Modeling allows you to be accepting of how you look and who you are, because clients have chosen you based on your looks, which is always comforting. I’ve grown as a person by actually growing up and moving to a different state that is the complete opposite of what I have lived in all of my life. In addition to growing as a person, modeling has benefited me by compensation, experience, and also opportunity. Not many people get the chance to model, so people like us should take full advantage of it and thrive while we can and while we are still young.
Bri Hocutt - Modeling has really taught me to embrace who I am. Even if that is awkward and quirky, there is no one else out there like me, but me.
Rick Kumazawa - it definitely gave me a wider perspective. Getting to work with people from all over the world that has different values and different views is very refreshing and you learn so much from it.
Julia Bhansali - It has definitely helped me to come out of my shell and gain so much confidence. I have gained so much self-awareness and learned so much about myself, the industry, and life in general.
Laya Wyatt - It’s helped me find my voice, and my confidence.
Rose Daniels - Modeling has pulled me out of my shell in a way I never thought was possible. So much of the job is being able to "pull it out of the bag", and you're constantly comfortable with being slightly uncomfortable. I know for a solid, certain, fact that I would be worse at small talk, meeting people, and responsibility in general if I'd never been made to learn how to handle myself. Because when your job is basically existing, you have to be able to maintain respectability and authenticity. (Suffice it to say, authenticity in this industry is oftentimes in woefully short supply. Your homework is to generate more of it).
5) How do you deal with rejection?
Mallory Abraham - It was obvious from the beginning that I would be told “no” numerous times due to my height. I accept the fact that I will never be able to do runway, and I am completely compliant with that. However, while I was still in Los Angeles, some of the castings I went to would also not accept me for the job as a result of my height. I will always have a good mindset about it though, because I know my limitations and my strengths. I do not let my height inconvenience me, because, quite frankly, there is absolutely nothing I can do to change it, but rather focus on my strengths in the modeling world. Life is full of rejection; so, once you have come to the conclusion that you are not going to get everything you want, then you’ll become more accepting of life itself and the rejection that may follow.
Bri Hocutt - Test shoots are always a way to build your confidence, especially after tons of rejection during fashion week. These photographers are your support system and want to help build on your career as well as their own. Also, don't forget to take time for yourself. Never underestimate the power of a bubble bath!
Rick Kumazawa - I like getting rejected haha it only motivates me to work harder and harder. But don’t ever take rejection personally, in most of the cases it’s not your fault, the client has specific image of a talent they want to hire before going in to the casting so if you don’t fit then that’s fine. On to the next!
Julia Bhansali - Rejection is never easy. Hearing no is never fun. It’s easy to get down on yourself and feel like you aren’t good enough when you face rejection, but learning to grow from these rejections is the best thing you can do. You have to remind yourself that there are so many other models competing for the same jobs as you and just because you didn’t get this one, doesn’t mean that you are less of a model in any way. You might not have had the right look for this certain job, it could have been the type of day the casting director was having, it could have been some super small detail that you have no control over. There will be plenty other opportunities and sometimes you just have to trust that there was a reason that God didn’t give you the job, because there always is! Rejection also makes me want to focus and work harder and better myself. Learning from failure is the best way to learn!
Laya Wyatt - In the moment I try to just keep my composure and then if I want to get upset I wait until it’s a nice time to let my emotions out and try to not let it effect me for to long. I validate my feelings then move on. Most of the time I just tell myself it’s not gods plan for me to have this job and something else will work out with his plan.
Rose Daniels - My last day in Paris, I waited and waited and waited in my hotel room to get a call to go to a fitting for Miu Miu. Miu Miu had been my first show, back in July, and the stylist, Katie Grand, and the casting director, Anita Bitton, had cast my first two jobs as a model: a two page spread in love magazine and the miu miu campaign. My agency called me and told me the option was off, and I'd been released, and a car would take me to the airport tomorrow at promptly five in the morning. It stung, of course, because I knew them. But I had to separate personal relationships with business. It was a business decision, I was too short, my look didn't fit the clothes, etc. Even though you're branding yourself as a person, 10/10 times, the rejection is never personal.
6) Have you ever been in a scary situation? If so, how did you handle it?
Mallory Abraham - Yes, unfortunately I have been in a scary situation before. One photographer urged me to take my top off the entire photoshoot. I continued to tell him that I was not comfortable with that, and that I am a 19-year-old girl that did not want to exploit my body like that yet. He would call me a chicken and somewhat “make fun” of me for not doing “what every other model does,” in his words. We were on a beach, and there were a few families around as well. So even if I was uncomfortable in the first place with taking my top off, what made him think I was just going to rip it off in front of little children? No. I just shrugged my shoulders and played it off, knowing that I would never shoot with him again. Most photographers are understanding and respecting of a model’s decision to not take his or her clothes off. If a photographer is not, then tell your agent!!!! He or she needs to know that a creepy photographer should not be used again by that agency.
Bri Hocutt - My scariest encounter was when I was when I was freelancing. I had a photographer who was shooting me in the woods for a "angel/ fairy" type shoot. He kept insisting that him, my friend, and me take only his vehicle to the location since he drove a jeep and it was a tough road. Turns out the road was literally a highway, so I put my guard up. I also had one shoot where I was only in my nude thong for. There was a stylist and MUA there, but this photographer kept insisting, for art, that I take my thong off. Even tho I was of age, I told him no because 1) I was not comfortable doing it and 2) this was not agreed upon between me and my booker. The same photographer did the same thing to a fellow model of mine, but she was under 18. Very sketchy. In this case I would call my agent immediately.
Rick Kumazawa - Not really a scary situation but sadly some people in this industry are sketchy so it’s essential to have an eye for looking out for yourself.
Julia Bhansali - In the Jackson area I have never really encountered a situation where I felt I was in danger, except for maybe the times where I was shooting late at night down town or driving home in bad weather. When I was in LA this summer there was a few times where I did feel a little uncomfortable or just had a weird feeling about situations, but I never felt in danger per say. But I know that if I ever do feel in danger then I can just call my agents right away.
Laya Wyatt - I had a stylist touch me weird and I immediately told the photographer. Then I proceeded to tell the stylist and stick up for myself.
Rose Daniels - Yes! I had a test shoot with a photographer that got way, way, way too personal with the questions he was asking me. (Literally, "are you a virgin?", "Have you ever been with a guy?", etc. etc.). I left and promptly called my agent and told her what happened, and that no other DNA girls should be sent to him again. They have since dropped him form the lineup of test shoot photographers.
7) What is the benefit of having a mother agent once you're placed in other markets?
Mallory Abraham - Well the most obvious advantage is that I would have never been placed in ATL or LA if it weren’t for the best mother agent ever :P. Now that I am placed, I am lucky that Jamie and I are close enough for me to call her and ask questions that I normally wouldn’t know the answer to. It helps having someone that knows what he or she is doing, because when I first moved out to LA, the market is a lot different than in MS. There were things I did not understand about how it all worked, but thankfully I could call or text Jamie and she would help guide me in the right direction or tell me what I needed to do.
Bri Hocutt - Your mother agent is basically your emergency button. Having a mental breakdown? Call Jamie. Agent is rude and unsupportive? Call Jamie. Booked a job that pays $10,000? Call Jamie. Want to try another market? Call Jamie. Having someone to have your back in this industry in a necessity, because sometimes there might not be anyone else.
Rick Kumazawa - If your mother agent is Jamie Ainsworth then you don’t even need a local agent. Haha She works harder than anyone I know in the industry and one of the only person I can truly trust. So I would say the benefit would be the close relationship where you can ask anything, the agency in big cities usually don’t have time for little questions.
Julia Bhansali - Mother agents are the best thing ever!! Going to a new place with new people can be super scary so it’s always nice to have someone who you can trust, get advice from, and is always looking for your best interest. Mother agents are always looking out for you and working as hard as they can do get you opportunities and developing you and helping you grow. I can’t imagine not having a mother agent. Especially one as awesome as mama Jamie:-)
Laya Wyatt - Because she saves your butt when your in a sticky situation and makes sure you’re protected.
Rose Daniels - Mother agents are literally a portable version of home. They are always there for the personal things, and everything filters through them. Getting meetings with other agencies is usually mostly possible if you have a mother agent to begin with. Mother agencies are a crucial step, and I am not being paid to say this. If I hadn't signed with Jamie and let her pull me along to Nashville, I wouldn't be here.
8) What are some tips to improving and preparing yourself in this industry? (ex. working out, practicing your craft, being dependable, etc.)
Mallory Abraham - One way to improve yourself is to mentally prepare yourself for the criticism you’ll get from your peers and/or your agency and clients. There can sometimes be a lot of negative feedback and backlash from this industry, but knowing who you are and what you want to accomplish should always overpower any negativity that comes your way. I’ve come to learn that people in the South are more inclined to judge and slander than that of the people in the West. Southerners just don’t quite understand the modeling world works, so they are not as accepting as we all wish. I had to overcome that – a lot of people thought they could tell my mom their opinions and what to do about me being in LA, and it was extremely frustrating.
In order to get to the top, you have to work for it. For some, it may come more natural than to others. I would say that when I first started modeling, it came very natural to me. I knew what I was doing and enjoyed it. Like I said previously, I would beg my mom to take pictures of me in our backyard. I always wanted to be in front of the camera. I loved it. But did that mean that everything else came easy for me? Absolutely not. There are always thousands of other models competing for the same job you want. You have to work on your body. You have to prepare yourself for rejection. You also have to ready yourself for those castings that you have absolutely no idea what to do. You have to make yourself stand out. This industry is tough. Not many people can do it, but anyone that has had the guts to sign with an agency in Jackson, MS can accomplish any other agency anywhere in the world if you put your mind to it. If Jamie signed you, she sees something in you. She sees the potential to place you in other parts of the country. Life is too short to accept the answer of “no,” but rather take that “no,” accomplish it, and try your talents elsewhere. Prove to your peers and other agencies and clients that you can do it. This is exactly what I did that. I had agencies tell me “No, your height is a problem” constantly. Likewise, I had clients tell me the same thing, but then I found that agency that wanted to sign me. I found those jobs that wanted me for other aspects. I’m 5’5”. A “short” height for a model is considered around 5’6”-5’7”. I tried it out. I was nervous, because I thought I wouldn’t have any success. Nevertheless, if you put your heart into it, you’ll get exactly what you deserve in return.
Any advice that Jamie tells you to work on, work on it. It is not about being self-critical, but rather self- improving. Do not wait until the last minute to start working on these aspects. If you really want it, like I do, then you’ll strive to achieve that goal. Jamie said that if I ever wanted to work on anything, that I should tone my legs and arms. So that I did. Never having gone to a gym in my life, I tried it out, and it paid off. It is worth it if you really want it, I promise.
Lastly: Parents – If you ever have any concerns about sending your son or daughter off to another state to pursue his or her modeling career, you can always talk to my mom about it. She had a very hard time at first with dropping me, her first child, off in a big, unknown city for the summer. She will gladly talk to any of you about her experience with that and how she dealt with it. Models: I proved my mom and myself wrong by getting jobs this summer, and being more successful than her and I thought I ever would be. Not that my mom did not think I could do it, but instead we were both not anticipating much because of the competition rate in California as opposed to Mississippi, along with my height. Never in a million years did I think I would be sitting here today typing out the answer to these questions about my experience as a model in California. Never did I think that I would be going back either to continue to pursue this dream. If I could do it, then you all can too!!!!
Bri Hocutt - Time management. That has been the biggest factor for me. Luckily I grew up with a military dad, so I am compulsively early. During fashion week you will having 3 castings all back to back within the same hour, a two hour time gap, and then another round of castings again. Learning which ones are priorities, or have the longest line, or have the longest travel time are essential. NEVER be late.
Rick Kumazawa - just working out and be ready for whatever that comes up. Since bookings are usually last minute.
Julia Bhansali - My advice would be to focus on your diet and nutrition, find an exercise routine that you enjoy and that works for you, and to make the decision to fully commit to modeling. (You’re ether all in or not in at all) I cleaned up my eating a while ago and it has helped me so much not only with my body but also just how I feel. I’ve incorporated lots of good fats (avocado, nuts, nut butter, eggs, salmon, cottage cheese, etc) and lots of fruit (berries like raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are great because they are very low in sugar and calories, and I have recently become addicted to grapes hahah) and I make sure to have a protein with every meal (some good lean proteins are grilled chicken, tuna, salmon, shrimp, etc. and cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, nut butter, jerky, and eggs are great). Exercise can be a little tricky because most workout programs do not have the model aesthetic in mind. Lots of times they build up muscles that models do not necessarily want to build up. (Excessive squats can increase leg size, heavy weights can develop bigger arm muscles, etc.) Yoga, pilates, Zumba, and walking are some great low impact things I like to do. I have struggled for so long to find a program that created the desired effect and finally I found a British trainer that created a program specifically designed for models. It costs a little money, but it is worth it in my opinion and I have not been disappointed so far. It is called Methodology X and it is great! If you truly want to pursue modeling my advice would be to stick with it and commit to modeling as not only a hobby, but a lifestyle.
Laya Wyatt - Practicing facials in the mirror, staying current on trends and poses by utilizing social media, YouTube videos really help, I get myself to work out by telling myself it’s about my health not what I look like and try to give up controlling what my body looks like. I don’t like to obsess about it so I really try to just do yoga for my health not my looks. I always make sure when I book a job if I commit I go, unless I have a health concern. Bc the most important thing is taking care of me and what I need. Bc if I don’t do that then I’ll neger be able to go to jobs anyway.
Rose Daniels - Honestly you can't try too hard to be exactly anything. The KEY, I mean literally--the KEY is to not ever take yourself too seriously. Like I said before, befriend yourself, get to know yourself, and know that this industry isn't everything. It's mostly confetti. Put yourself first, be happy with that, and the rest follows suit.
9) What is the funniest story that has happened to you so far? We need some laughs to lighten up the nervousness of the newbies. ;)
Mallory Abraham - This isn’t necessarily that funny, but more along the lines of “Oh Dear God here goes nothing.” One day I was at a shoot, and got a notification on my phone that I had a casting. When I looked at the details, I notice that the casting was in a couple of hours, and it was a speaking role for a movie. Well, if you know me, you know I am nowhere near an actress, and have never prepared for something like that in my life. I somewhat freaked out to myself, because I was about to go into an audition that I have never done before. I had to suck it up, accept the audition, and go do it. Well, it turned out that while you are reading lines to the producers, you’re not only being filmed, but the walls are glass – so everyone that is trying out for your same part gets to watch you. I was terrified. I was sweating. I was panicking. I guess all the nerves paid off, because I got a callback for the part. I knew I was never going to actually get the part, because I am nowhere near caught up to the skills of a true actress, but it was a good/funny experience to audition for a speaking role, never having done that in my life and completely winging it.
Julia Bhansali - Oh my haha most of my funny stories involve my inevitable clumsiness. One of them though is in particularly noteworthy. I was modeling wedding dresses for Elle James ($3000 gowns I might add), and we were at a greenhouse so, naturally, the floors were basically just mud. I was wearing these really tall wedges and she told me to spin and as I was spinning my shoe broke and when I say I busted it, I BUSTED it. I fell face first in the dirt and got mud on the dress. I was absolutely mortified because when you first start modeling you are always being told to take such good care of the clothes you model and here I was lying the the dirt in a $3000 designer wedding dress. Good times. It ended up being totally fine and they were all asking if I was okay and whatnot and I was like THE DRESS THE DRESS WHO CARES ABOUT ME WHAT ABOUT THE DRESS. They told me it was no big deal and that they were going to have to get them cleaned anyways. I was relieved to say the least.
Rose Daniels - I was recently invited to the adweek Brand Genius awards by Coach. I was sandwiched between the stylist for Coach and Dior, Karl Templar, and Stephen somebody, who cast me for their show. I was nervous because I knew I had to try and win them over and get them to like me, but they ended up being so ridiculously chill. Several times Karl Templar leaned over and said to me "I don't know what any of this means." The host called the event "The oscars of advertising" and he snorted. The funniest things happen when you realize they're just people, too. (They did like me. I got to keep the leather jacket).
… AND from a mothers perspective…
Monica Daniels, mother to Rose Daniels.
1) How did your daughter get started in modeling? Not very gently....Rose was not interested at all at first...BUT then person after person after person would tell her that she should model..Rose's take on it was that modeling was art and she is very artsy and creative so she saw modeling as an extension of art - she is a creative writer, plays multiple instruments, and was in her high school marching band
2) How did you, as her mother, know she wanted to pursue modeling? She agreed to do a photo shoot with Josh Hailey and from that moment on she fell in love with it...he was so great to work with her...he really helped pull her out of her shell...she is quite androgynous and that photo shoot really helped her see that she was beautiful in a very different way...she was herself as art, I think...that was the beginning then she worked with JEA and learned so much and felt as though she really could do this
3) How did you overcome the "scary" side of your daughter moving out of Mississippi and moving away from home? I didn't and you don't...I mean c'mon she is only 18 and living in NYC and travelling abroad and the world can be a scary place...But I trust my daughter...she's solid...she's grounded...we text almost everyday...talk a good bit...I love and support her and believe she will be incredibly successful
4) How do you think modeling has benefited your daughter and helped her grow as a person? Rose has only been modeling since May, BUT I have seen such growth in her...it's like WOW!!! She is seeing the world...she is working very hard...she is meeting the expectations of her agents and her clients...she is so mature...the best part to me though is that now people all over the world are getting to know Rose, and she is truly such an amazing human being...she helps others around her grow...she makes the world a better place, I truly believe this
5) How do you deal with rejection of your daughter? to be honest, not very well...I stress more than she does and I get my feelings hurt on her behalf...I will go watch runway shows that she was rejected and say things to myself like "that girl is short" , "that girl is boring" "Rose could've done this show"....that kind of stuff...I am very interested to see how Rose answers this question....I know there have been times where she was okay with not being chosen and other times when she REALLY wanted it and didn't get it and it stung
6) What is the benefit of having a mother agent once your placed in other markets? I can only speak as a mother, but having a mother agent feels like an incredibly warm blanket...knowing that there is someone that I can call and ask questions of is incredibly comforting....knowing that there is someone looking out for Rose in ways that I cannot means the world to me and knowing that Rose has one more person of support is so important
7) What is the funniest story that has happened to you so far? We need some laughs to lighten up the nervousness of the newbies. ;)
Rose knows when I'm stressed so she sends me pictures and videos of her being absurdly funny...I love her