From PLUS Directory Shoot to Being Signed… Meet Plus Model Monica

From PLUS Directory Shoot to Being Signed… Suzette Banzo Interviews Plus Model Monica

by Suzette Banzo

If you are an aspiring model or thinking about becoming a model then this interview is for you. Meet Monica, a model who took her time at researching the industry, finished getting her degree in order to have something to fall back on and followed her dreams and is now a signed and working model.

Suzette:  Hi Monica!  While snooping around your Myspace page, and your Model Mayhem I noticed a new exciting addition…. A COMP CARD from FLAUNT MODELS!

Monica: Yes I know, I’m really excited about being a model who “Flaunt’s” it!  It took a LOT of hard work to get there.

Suzette:  LOL —  too cute! Let’s talk about how you achieved your aspirations since your last Plus Model Magazine interview a year ago.  In the last interview you were determined to finish college and get signed with a NY based agency.  Did you finish school?

Monica: That’s exactly what I did! I graduated from St. John’s University with a B.S in Computer Science – Media Graphics in May. I then took time to shoot, travel, build myself up with confidence (and not to mention a good portfolio) and then began contacting over 25 agencies in NYC.

Suzette:  WOW!  You have been busy young lady!  Let’s talk about some of those things and how they helped get you to “Flaunt” it.  First, as a refresher take us back to how you started modeling and your influences along the way.

Monica: I started modeling at the age of 15, pretty much on my own. My mother was a model back in the 1960’s and 1970’s in Poland, so she offered her love and support, but told me I had to do my homework before I jumped into an industry that can emotionally rip you apart if you’re not strong enough.

I was a straight sized model until I was about 18 years old, but I was always the “big straight sized” model. I was a size 8/10 at 18 years old and still growing,  I soon realized there was no way I could do straight sized modeling anymore, so I started looking into commercial print work. While in college, I stumbled upon a few sites that talked about plus-size modeling, and was immediately intrigued. I had finally found my niche and wanted to learn all I could about it.

Suzette:  You mean you found out about Venus Diva Magazine and PLUS Model Magazine on a web search?

Monica: I found the Venus Diva Mag site and Plus Model Mag through links on a forum on dedicated to “specialty modeling”. Aside from online sources, I also read: “The Insider’s Guide to Plus-Size Modeling” by Darrianne Donnelly, “The Ultimate Plus-Size Modeling Guide” by Catherine Schuller, and “True Beauty” by Emme

Suzette:  Your mom must be very proud, she told you to do your homework and it sounds like you definitely used your resources to do that!   Did someone coach you on your portfolio or just your mom with her own modeling experience?

Monica: I made the decision to join Myspace in order to publicly market myself as a plus model. Through Myspace I contacted Madeline Jones and other plus models, Fluvia and Mia Amber who helped me to assess my portfolio, recommend photographers, etc. However, I credit Madeline as being my mentor in the Plus modeling industry. My mother being a thin woman, kept encouraging me to stay strong, and to not let the word “plus” make me feel like I can’t be as successful as any another “skinny” model out there.

Suzette:  I’m in awe, Monica! Models must dream about receiving coaching from names like Maddy, Fluvia and Mia Amber it’s no wonder that you accomplished your goal since PMM last spoke to you.  Another wonderful thing is that you have your mother in your corner, particularly since she was a straight size model. You’re very fortunate.

Monica: Thank you. Yes, I definitely feel blessed that such successful women would give an aspiring model the time of day by giving advice on the industry. I did my homework first then with confidence (and without being too bold) I asked these women for help.

Suzette:  Did you ever take any modeling classes?  What kinds of things did you do to develop your facial expressions and your posing?

Monica: I never took modeling classes because my mother offered to be my personal teacher. My mom would walk around the house with a camera in her hand just constantly taking pictures of me when I played “dress up”. Eventually I started posing, and as a teen, I started really having “mirror-time”.  One thing I have to mention is that I had to “re-learn” and consistently practice my angles and facial expressions, especially once I transitioned from straight sized to plus. The angles that work for a skinny girl may not work for a plus girl, so I just had to keep practicing.

Monica: I remember I was on a shoot (for Lucas pictures) and Mia Amber actually helped coach me on the shoot. It was an experience I’ll never forget and she absolutely helped me tremendously.

Suzette:  WOW!  She just happened to be there that day?

Monica: Yes, well, she was there in Maddy’s place that day (I was a bit star-struck but also very happy to meet her). Maddy is usually the cheerleader, coach, director, “Jane-of-all-trades” at shoots with Luke. She helps other models work their angles, and also helps them feel more confident and relaxed.

Suzette:  Can you remember one tip that Mia gave you that day that made a big difference and you still use?

Monica: They are the common but true phrases, “Be confident”, “Never stop pursuing your dreams” etc, but she told me that being natural and being yourself is what really shines in a photograph. Models role play, but what matters is what shows through your eyes, your expression and body language. If you look like you are being yourself (or at least what you believe you are), a sexy, confident, strong woman, it will shine through in your work. Confidence equals success in this business.

Suzette:  Would you say it was more of a motivational coaching, not a “stand like this”….or “twist here” style of coaching?

Monica: Oh it was both…she is a motivational speaker too, so there was definitely that element, but she also helped pose me in a number of shots; while I was shooting, she was posing, and I would mirror her movements.

Suzette:  Oooh!  I can visualize it in my mind, thanks.

You mentioned doing some traveling…is it within the states?

Monica:  Yes, I recently flew to LA where I met and tested with Hips and Curves owner, Rebecca Jennings and Creative Director Marcy Ito. They said they are excited about working with me in the future. Then the next day, I did a four look shoot with Inez Lewis and Artemis.

Suzette:  That’s what I call a productive trip!  Inez has incredible work in last months PMM and I saw your stunning lingerie photos

Monica: Oh ABSOLUTELY!  I love Inez, she really puts a great deal of effort to make a shot perfect and not just look like a standard studio shot.

Suzette:  (Chenese…if you are reading this…and I hope you are…are you thinking what I’m thinking….”Flawless 2010″?) 😉

Monica: LOL

Suzette:  Ok, let me stop.  I think you’ve got the right hips and curves for Hips and Curves.  Lydia Fixel sure represents Latina’s well on that website, and I know you would too.

Monica: Ay, muchas gracias

Suzette:   Speaking of hips and curves, many women your age with your curves might consider shooting  “risqué”…  it’s obvious that your parents are a strong influence in your life and so you’ve opted not to go in that direction.

Monica: LOL– Thank you. I can’t even begin to tell you how many offers I’ve gotten (since I was 17) for everything of adult nature.  That’s actually a HUGE issue. A lot of aspiring models who contact me through Myspace usually have “personal” pics posted all over the place, and I tell them that Plus modeling is conservative to a degree and lingerie is supposed to be sexy not sleazy. If they want to be an adult model, that’s fine but unfortunately agencies don’t like dealing with girls who have done adult work.

Suzette:  Let’s talk about how you applied to over 25 agencies until you signed with Flaunt…what did you need to do, what kind of package (if any) did you have to put together?

Monica: In some cases I mailed a CD version of my port, a comp card, and a short cover letter describing my stats, but I mostly emailed agencies by finding the contacts on the agency page or from models represented by them.   The email included links to my Model Mayhem page and my stats; I gave them links to the articles I have been featured in from PMM and Venus, and then hit ‘send’ and hoped for a reply. The next morning, I woke up and in my email box was a message from Frank Marsi (a talent coordinator at Flaunt) that said “We’d like to meet with you when possible. No need to make an appointment, just come in with your portfolio, 10 to 15 comp cards anytime between 2 and 4pm, Mon thru Fri. -Flaunt Models”

My mentor helped me compile my best images into a new comp card, and I went to have them printed. I picked up the comps, and with my CD port in hand, I went to Flaunt. After a short meeting with agent Gene Roseman I was officially a Flaunt model.

Suzette:  Fantastic!  I’ve seen the Flaunt board and you are definitely in good company with Maddy, Lisa Scott, Dlo Brown (as a model) and one of my favorites Angellika.

Monica: Yes, I know 2/3rds of the models on the board thanks to MM and Myspace. Their advice helped me assess the agency itself and that it would be a good fit for me, I heard nothing but great things about the agency, so I was ecstatic beyond composure (on the inside) when I was told “Welcome on board”.

Suzette: Have you been sent on any castings yet?

Monica: Yes, I can’t put into words how happy, nervous, joyful I was and how much I wanted to cry tears of joy all while maintaining my composure when I was sent to a casting for Curvation right after being signed.

Suzette:  WOW! Monica, I’m not surprised I mean…that’s like hearing “Hi Monica, we want you to work with Queen Latifah on this project she has.”

Monica: LOL I know! The whole day really felt like a dream. Then going home, and seeing my face on the Flaunt site just made me cry. I felt so accomplished and exuberant, it’s just an indescribable feeling, working so hard for so many years and then achieving your goals. It felt similar to graduating from college, but modeling has been such a great passion of mine, that I honestly felt so much more excited and humbled by the knowledge that I finally “did it”.

Suzette:  Indeed! You say you’ve worked so hard for so many years, I think that’s an important point you make because some girls think its overnight success especially at your age.

Monica: For a lucky few that may be the case, but in the “real” world, people have to work hard to achieve success. Life isn’t meant to be an easy ride; you have to work to get want you want and to where you want in life.  It may seem odd to some, but college is something I “had to do” and modeling is something I’ve “wanted to do”. Wanting something and then finally getting it gives you a greater sense of accomplishment in my opinion.

Suzette:  Its so NOT odd, many famous actresses and models… like Brooke Shields, Christy Turlington and Jodie Foster felt they needed to earn a degree aside from pursuing their goals, those ladies have had longevity in their careers and Jodie has a couple of Oscars. I think you made the best decision for you and you’ve kept your eyes on the prize.

Monica: Thank you very much.

Suzette:  Now that you’ve graduated are you looking for work in graphic design or concentrating on your modeling?

Monica:  I am focusing on modeling full time right now and in conjunction with that I am doing my freelance Graphic Design work.

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Photos: Inez Lewis