Country living, cabin loving, travel seeking, adventurer with a knack for fashion, modeling.
My name is Jamie Elyse Ainsworth, and I own JEA Model Management. Before I even begin to explain what that is and what I do, lets back up and start from the beginning.
I was born in Magee, Mississippi, a small country town about an hour south of Jackson. Now there is redneck and there is country and let’s just say I’m somewhere between. I grew up on farmland owned by my family. I absolutely love the outdoors! I blame my parents for that…instead of allowing TV, they made us go outside and play. I remember playing in tree houses, forts, cow pastures, chicken houses, and way out yonder on the back 40! Yes, I hunt, fish, and I even eat what I kill! I do wear shoes most days and when the pipes aren’t frozen our toilets even flush too. Whew! Had to clear the air on those common myths. ;)
Ok Wait, you’re wondering what you’re reading right? Have I lost all you fashionistas so far? Don’t worry there is a point to this country girls up bringing and how it relates to my work now.
Back to the story. When I was 13, my dad took me to a modeling audition. Yes, my southern Baptist preacher daddy took me! Say Whatttt?? He really started it then. I got a call back and got the bug to model and be in the fashion industry ever since. We girls can always blame our daddies for the bad and the good right? ;)
After this, I began my modeling career. Really things were local until I was about 16. Then I had opportunities to travel a bit. I had agency representations and got to be involved in photo-shoots and fashion shows. I had a huge problem though and didn’t know at the time how huge it was. Are we ready? Those who know me now will never believe it! I was SUPER SHY! I would hide behind my mom and let her talk and answer all the questions. I did not know how to have an opinion or if I did, I certainly didn’t know how to share it. My mom and I would get into huge arguments about who was going to go up and talk to someone or who would make the phone call. So badly, I would even be in tears at this point. She said it was hard, but she was a good mom and stood her ground. She would always make me call and once I finally caved and did it, I then felt so silly for arguing. I realized it wasn’t so bad after all. What a painful time though!
I know being shy held me back, a lot, from going after something I really wanted. I knew how to release my inner “Beyonce” on the runway but afterwards when interest was shown or at all the call backs, I could never carry on a real conversation with anyone. It took me years to realize that was a major red flag. This mixed with not having a mother agent to guide me properly and give my family knowledge about the industry really made it hard to pursue a modeling career. What was this country girl to do?
So I modeled every now and then, but nothing full time. I finished high school and went to college. I started focusing my attention on other things in fashion. Starting in high school, I became a personal stylist for clients (women in my hometown). Organizing their closets, shopping for them, piecing outfits together, etc. Yes, I was paid and I loved it! I thought I was big time! I mean I still don’t know why Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock never called. They missed out on some major closet organizational skills. (for a cheap high schooler rate I might add)
This even led to styling for photo-shoots, fashion shows, and then working full time for a clothing company called Libby Story. I modeled for them and was even in charge of helping other young models learn. I was the regional manager but I much more enjoyed the behind the scenes of the shoots, shows, etc. Everything was going great and seemed as if I might even have a career and plant some roots in Jackson, MS.
However, the dream of that little 13 year old country girl still lived. I remember I was working with an agency out of ATL when I was 24. This is actually old for most models to get a start, but as I ate some cornbread and buttermilk I looked at my dad and said, I would just love to go to NY one more time and do fashion week. That very same day, I got a call that said they had castings for me in NY. I didn’t hesitate. I talked to Libby Story and they were nice enough to allow me to pursue some dreams. I had a flight the very next day and went straight to castings.
Here we go! I finally got my big chance and was ready! I wasn’t shy! I knew how to talk to strangers, make friends, phone calls, and OMG even order through a drive through! (which is important when traveling) I honestly had a great time! I booked many shows of which I will always appreciate their kindness. Raul Paneranda, Korto Momolu, Coco & Breezy just to name a few. They were so fun and I could now cross that off my list!
I was ready to hit the ground running! It felt right, it felt good, and it was ahhhhmazing!!! Then bad news hit…the kind that you hear about in the industry and think it’ll never happen to you or those others models are just exaggerating about. Well, they weren’t! I unfortunately, could not get paid by my agency. It was so sad to think I had put in work, time, effort, trust, etc. in this. I was a business woman at this point and if I couldn’t make money then how was this supposed to be a career?
I came back to Mississippi and with open arms Libby Story let me back in. I loved working with them and always appreciate everything they did for me but that bug was still itching for more. I didn’t know what more was, but I knew I had to keep searching.
I started staying late after work helping the Libby Story models with their runway walks and giving tips about the industry. I had a call from a friend wanting to pay me to be in a music video. Not to sound all high and mighty but the pay wasn’t so great and you reach an age where time is money right?. However, pretty instinctively, I said, “but I have another girl I can send you.” Booked! Next thing I know I booked my high school friend model for a shoot. Wheels started turning… There are so many pretty girls in the south that want to model, there is no longer an agency in Mississippi, there is no one to tell them how to get to NY or bigger markets,…hmmmm (picks up phone). “Daddy, I have an idea!”
I quit my job at Libby Story and had a meeting with a lawyer the next day to start JEA Model Management. OOOOOhhhh boy was I scared. I was only 25 at the time and never had experience working for a modeling agency. I had only been an unsuccessful model for 12 years! ;) I started putting all my knowledge together though (that mixed with daddy’s business side) I was forming a plan.
To be honest, I thought it was going to be just a side job in the beginning, something local for girls to do and maybe find one or two to send to NY. NBD right? I started reaching out to local clients to book jobs. The first year was slow but somehow we have turned that into our own little Mississippi market! Now we have consistent clients and I’m so thankful for each of them. I also started submitting models out of state for placement. Of course, it starts with one, but soon it snowballed into 5-10- 20! This is placement for Atl, Dallas, Nashville, LA, NY, and even overseas, Tokyo, Korea, London, Paris, Milan, and more! I could not believe what this business had turned into.
So I’m going to take this time to wish a Happy Birthday to JEA! This year in February 2018 was 5 years in business! I cannot believe it has been five years! It is true, Time flies when you’re having fun!
After the 2nd year it became my full time job and I realized that there is so much potential with a company like this. I still can manage doing freelance work as a stylist, shoot or show producer, etc. Which I love to incorporate, but JEA is my full time baby! Actually 50 babies! Whew! I absolutely love what I do now and wouldnt trade it for the world. Witnessing each and every one of my models grow and become a confident unique individual is the most rewarding part.
There are always ups and downs with business for sure, but what I’ve learned through all this and how it relates to my country life:
If you get stuck in the mud you’re not gonna lay down and quit. You might have a mud fight first. ;)
When you see that big 10 point buck, don’t hesitate… just shoot. Your aim is better when you don’t overthink.
Don’t ever be afraid to be who you are, have your own opinion, and to be proud of where you came from.
Don’t take things personally when that fish doesn’t bite, you’re not gonna catch every fish in the pond.
My final advice is, don’t let work define you, but let your passions and love for others overshadow. Yes, this was advice from my daddy, but it has helped me through my life and business. I pray every day that this is the reason I’m in this business and that I can guide my models to grow to be confident, independent, strong, loving role models. If that doesn’t work then its time to find a country job! I am passionate about my job and absolutely love what I do. I cannot wait to see what happens in 2018!
But if you want to know more about what defines me, here ya go…Hey there! My name is Jamie Elyse Ainsworth, my friends call me James, my models call me Momma Jamie. I dance more than any of your friends, I live in a cabin in the woods with two cats and guns, and I love the outdoors! I’m super sarcastic, always looking for someone to be goofy with, and I never meet a stranger! My favorite music is Michael Jackson with a second to blues/jazz and third ill give to country! The best thing about my life is hands down my family. They mean everything to me and are my best friends! Without them I would not be where I am today. If you want to get to know my personality come hang out with me!
Thanks for taking time to read about me and some of my life journey! Remember that social media is only the highlight reel. Take time to get to know someone…you could be pleasantly surprised!
Check out ours and feel free to reach out! @jeamodelmgmt @jamie_elyse_a
Have an amazing week and even if it’s not your birthday still order champagne to celebrate how amazing you are! Happy Birthday JEA! Happy 2018 Friends!!