Before and After… An Interview With Shanta Washington

Before and After… An Interview With Shanta Washington

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is being able to meet aspiring models and watch them grow in the industry. Together with my husband, we shoot many aspiring plus size models. I pay close attention to the aspiring models especially when they are shooting for the very first time.

I can remember my first shoot and not knowing what a models bag was, the proper shoes to bring, under garments and how to choose the right clothing combinations. By providing as much information as possible I believe that an aspiring models first shoot can be a successful one.

Keeping this in mind I decided to document our experience with an aspiring model in order to share her experience. For those just getting started in the industry, this interview may remove some of the anxiousness you might feel before your first shoot.

Our model was Shanta Washington from NY.

[Maddy] How long have you wanted to pursue a career in modeling?

[Shanta] I’ve been interested in modeling since I was a young teen.  However, it wasn’t until I became a mature adult that I really started looking into it.  I decided two years ago to really pursue it.

[Maddy] Tell me about how you researched the industry.

[Shanta] I’m an internet junkie!  I have always looked up plus size modeling on various search engines, but I was discouraged by what I would find.  As far as I could tell, there was no place for me.  I’m not 6 feet tall, so in my mind this meant that I could never make it.  However, one day on one of my public pages, I joined a group that focused on plus size modeling.  I came across the profile of a young lady who struck me as amazing.  The connection that I felt was that she too was not 6 feet tall woman, but she was a working model and quite successful I must add.  I sent her a message asking about her start at which time she directed me to PLUS Model Magazine.

[Maddy] When you thought about shooting for the very first time, what were your concerns?

[Shanta] Since this was my first shoot, I was very concerned with letting down the photographer.  I was told that a photographer wants to be inspired by the model that he’s shooting so the last thing that I wanted to do was to appear to be boring and inexperienced (even though I was).  The other concerns varied from clothing options to whether or not I could actually connect with the camera.

[Maddy] I was very detailed with you about the type of clothing to bring — tell me your honest opinion about my advice. Did you think the type of clothing I suggested was boring or would make you look old?

[Shanta] Not at all!  I never doubted your opinion for one moment Madeline.  The crazy thing is that what I thought would work was boring and dated; however, you didn’t make me feel bad in the least. You compromised with me, instructed me on what you though would work best, and I believe it worked out great.

[Maddy] Did you practice facial expressions and posing? How did you prepare for the shoot?

[Shanta] Yes I did practice facial expressions and posing.  If you let my mother have her say, she’ll say that I’ve been practicing since I was two!  What I feel helped me was studying other models and watching not just the models in the plus market, but also our skinny counterparts (believe it or not). I watch ANTM and the runway fashion shows that come on and I study them. Ultimately, attending two Plus Academy boot camps with Ms. Gwendolyn DeVoe helped me tremendously as far as body movement and facial expressions are concerned.

[Maddy] Looking back at the day of the shoot, how important is it to have a good makeup artist on set?

[Shanta] I cannot express the importance of having an excellent makeup artist on set!

I’m a woman who doesn’t wear makeup on a day-to-day basis outside of eyeliner and gloss so I was really skeptical when I saw the whole setup and how long it would take just for the application of makeup.

However, after my first “face” was completed…I WAS IN AWE!!  I look at my pictures, and I say wow.  My advice? Having someone who takes their time to get to know your features and who studies what features to accentuate truly makes a difference.  The makeup artist on set took her time to study my face, my clothing and the areas that we were shooting in to bring out the best in me which made for great photos.

[Maddy] What will you do different on your next shoot?

[Shanta] I plan to take more risks.  On my next shoot, I would like to practice more fluidity.  I was a little stiff due to nerves, but I would like to move beyond that, and let that inner being take over.

I will also pay even more attention to the stylist and bring additional figure flattering clothing.

[Maddy] What is your advice to aspiring models preparing for their first shoot?


1) Study! Study your facial expressions, and your body movement. Practice wherever there’s a mirror… in the mall, in your home or on the street. Wherever you see a reflection, try to do something new each time you see yourself. What I’ve learned is that if it feels wrong or awkward, it’s most likely right!

2) Pay attention and listen. I believe that it’s very important for there to be great chemistry between the model, the photographer, makeup artist and anyone else involved in the shoot. The most important thing is to be an inspiration to your photographer. Make them want to “shoot” you! Do not go in there thinking that you know everything that there is to know, because trust me it’s a whole new world once you step in front of that camera.

3) Bring more than enough clothing. Don’t bring only what you think is going to work, because the majority of the time it won’t. If you’re working with a stylist you should ask their opinion.

Photography: LucasPictures

Makeup: Tara Taylor