Michelle: My AZ mother agency set me up with a contract in China. It was a very eye-opening experience for me, both regarding the industry there and a world outside America. China in particular has a very different view of fashion and their standards are far below those of America's. A work environment in a Chinese market is 12+ hour days typically with few to no breaks. They are very conservative and even their attempts at high fashion are always very rigid, contrived and covered. They are not fashion forward at all, the money isn't good, but China has many work opportunities simply due to sheer volume of population and largely due to the lessening of the chokehold from the Chinese government and it's politics.
MI: Many agency types stay away from the online sites. You not only use them, you take time out to do education. Why?
Michelle: In the hyper-technological age the models who are not networking aren't doing themselves any favors even if their agency has given them a consistent workload. With instant access to any corner of the world social networking sites are crucial! The reason I share advice is because so many new models are severely mislead by people who simply don't know anything about the industry or by crooks with their own agendas. When I first started I had no mentor nor reputable people to turn to for questions and I made many mistakes through trial and error. If I can steer a new model in the right direction and help her to avoid disastrous mistakes then it's always worth my time. Also, I've noticed that people appear to have the disposition of selfishness for reason of competition and I believe that with that mindset the they are really only competing against themselves and doomed to fail. I truly believe that if you do that you are distancing yourself further from everyone else as well as your goals because we can all achieve much more if we help each other. Reciprocity makes up such a huge percentage of success in this industry.
MI: What do you see for the future of modeling with people trying to push non-standard business models (like online sites) and also pushing to diversify the people who model?
Michelle: I really think these social networking sites have opened up a whole new can worms, and I daresay industry, because clients will have such an intrinsic access to a whole array of talent, which I can see being both liberating and very problematic. As for the future of this aspect, I really don't think the industry will completely change but it will definitely revolutionize to be quite a bit easier to model than it used to be, but also far more difficult for already established industry standard models because the talent pool will be far greater than before.
MI: What’s in your future from here?
Michelle: I still have only a few years left in my career and I intend to do much more traveling and leaving my footprints behind me as I go. I know this career is ephemeral, but I don't think I could ever truly leave the industry and I see myself being an art director or exec not far off from now.