Interview by Jose Morales & Luis De Jesus / Talent: Alexandria Morgan / Photography by Jose Morales / Style by Luis De Jesus / Makeup & hair by Coral Del Mar / Production Assistant: Armando Ortega / Talent agency: Creative Talent NYC
"Before my career began, I also believed a false stereotype of what it means to be a model."
- Alexandria Morgan
– How did you get started in the modeling industry?
I originally moved to New York City to attend school at The King’s College in hopes of earning a degree in journalism. However, I had grown up admiring the confidence and beauty of supermodels like Tyra Banks, Gisele, and Cindy Crawford, but never imagined modeling would ever be a viable career for myself. So, when I’d get scouted on the street, I’d brush it off as either a scam or a pick-up line. One day though, during my second semester, I noticed a message on Facebook from a mother agent, Heather Bozzone of Glamoir Models, of whom I had mutual friends. She just wanted to meet for coffee, no strings attached. I ended up connecting with her so well, it felt like fate, and she really believed that I could “make it” if I just took the chance. So, I stayed in school but started modeling part-time, until part-time became full-time and full-time blossomed into a career.
– What do you feel has been the most exciting aspect of this career, and why?
The ability to travel places I never dreamed I’d walk upon and to work with so many talented and creative people from all around the world. Learning from different cultures through working with them has been such an exciting privilege to experience and has expanded my worldview in ways I never fathomed. Every shoot is a new opportunity. You’ll sit down in hair and makeup, with strangers hovering around you, but can end the shoot with life long friends, knowledge from those more experienced, or a new understanding of a different culture or lifestyle.
– What has been your most memorable modeling moment, and why?
It’s hard to pinpoint one specific moment when there are so many I hold special in my heart. Maybe it’s when I booked my first editorial for Vogue Italia. It was shot by Vincent Peters, all on film, on a sticky-hot day in July at Coney Island. We were wearing designer lingerie and beauty queen hair. I struggled a lot with insecurity growing up and even to this day still do, but I remember stepping in front of that camera, and for the first time in my life, feeling beautiful, feeling like maybe I could be a beauty queen. Feeling confident and not caring that I was essentially walking around a bustling amusement park in my underwear. I think that moment of realizing that modeling brought forth a whole new side of me is something I’ll never forget.
Another memorable moment was receiving my first big paycheck, the one that took the worry out of every rent deadline, and let me stop existing solely off the dollar menu – what a blessing that was! I remember crying and thanking God for lifting the aching financial burden I’d been carrying off me and then immediately rushing to JC Penney to purchase a mattress. The fancy kind, with memory foam that I hadn’t been able to afford growing up. Whenever I feel discouraged or down, I lay on that mattress, appreciate the way it supports my back after long days in stilettos, and remember that before all this I was sleeping on a twin-sized blow-up, meant for camping, in a crowded studio apartment I shared with three other people.
– You have a powerful presence on social media, where you have shared many aspects of your personal and professional life. You also shared a story on YouTube about a situation that happened to you with a past agency while on business travel. What motivated you to share this story with your viewers and followers?
Of all things, fear motivated me. Not in the usual sense -the way fear can lead you to be reckless, foolish, or too quick to judge- but more so in the desire to rid fear of its grip on my life. I was afraid to speak out, to show that my life wasn’t the filtered Instagram picture perfect I’d often portrayed. Scared that clients and bookers would be hesitant to work with me. “If she speaks out on this, what else will she speak out on?” But how many other girls in this industry have suffered in silence, or have been silenced by this fear? Maybe the industry should be afraid of models, that we might speak out on injustices, and come together to make a change. If my story coming to light could make just one girl feel she’s not alone – that it’s okay to say when it’s not okay – then it’s worth it to me.
"I think if the public were more aware of just what the life of a model is like, they wouldn't be so shocked into disbelief when so many come forward with accounts of injustice, exploitation, and abuse."
– You have become determined to shed light on issues and situations models face in the industry. What advice do you have for models afraid to publicly speak up about harmful situations they might face in the industry, and who might be fearful of repercussions against their careers?
I understand that fear, how crippling it can be, and I understand not everyone is in a place of privilege to speak out. Some girls come into the industry barely out of childhood, who might not know the language, or who don’t have a supportive network of family or friends nearby to give advice, love and a sense of self-worth to them. I would want them to, above all, always remember their worth. Remember that they are so much more than just a model, and they deserve to be treated with respect and to feel safe in work environments. Remember that you are not just a mannequin to hang clothes on, and you shouldn’t be treated like you are one. Your voice is worth so much more than you think, and you shouldn’t have to suffer in silence.
– You have also shared with the public stories about your struggles with mental health, and the rough impact this industry can have on a person’s psyche. Who or what has been your strength and motivator to forge ahead during those turbulent periods of time?
I never wanted my anxiety to be something that held me back in any aspect of my life, but especially in my career. For a long time, I kept it to myself, almost feeling shameful of it. But through sharing and having open conversations, I’ve found so much comfort; comfort in knowing that I’m not alone, and learning from others how they’ve gotten through hard and draining times. My mom has also been an enormous source of strength and motivation to me in my struggles. I grew up seeing how debilitating her panic attacks would be and how she fought through them to provide a better life for my siblings and me. I want to provide a better life for her now, and by working through my anxiety to not let it hinder my career, I know I’ll be able to.
– What else has worked for you to help you deal with the pressures of the industry?
I think distancing myself from the industry in my personal life has helped a lot with easing the pressures of it. The majority of my friends aren’t in the industry. I don’t live in a scene-y or hip neighborhood, and I try to retain a sense of normalcy in my personal life that might not exist in my professional one. I constantly remind myself of how privileged and blessed I’ve been, and how far God has brought me, and that comparison is the thief of joy. Also, seeing a therapist regularly and having the occasional glass of cabernet seem to be quite helpful as well!
– What do you feel needs to be done to ensure the safety and mental health of models are protected in this industry?
I think organizations like Model Alliance are doing a great job of helping bring awareness to the struggles models face, as well as advocating for new laws to help protect them. More people supporting organizations like that, or forming additional ones, would help create real change. The creation of a sort of human resources department or third party outreach where models could bring forth complaints and concerns in a safe and anonymous environment would do so much to help the safety and mental health of models as well. Also, people of privilege and power in the industry coming forward to advocate for those who can’t, would do wonders!
– How do you plan to continue to raise awareness about issues models face in their career?
By using my voice, and the platform I’ve been blessed with, to advocate for others who are struggling. I know it’s a privileged career, and a confusing one to dissect from the outside. I think keeping it real, shedding light on the dark as much as we inflate the good, will help bring awareness.
I think if the public were more aware of what the life of a model is like, they wouldn’t be so shocked into disbelief when so many come forward with accounts of injustice, exploitation, and abuse. I understand the allure, how it might seem like a glamorous job. I, too, thought a false stereotype of what it means to be a model before my career began.
– What is the job truly like?
A model is jetting off to Milan, walking in designer shows, dripped in luxurious jewelry, and getting pampered with the finest makeup on set. But what you don’t know is that that model was on a ten-hour redeye to Milan, cramped in a seat too small in the cheapest section of the plane. Rushed from the airport straight to hours of grueling fittings, in shoes a size too small, with stylists poking and prodding in places she’s now so desensitized to, that it doesn’t even seem to phase her when a stylist reaches for her crotch to pin a pants leg. You don’t know that the designer show she’s walking in sometimes doesn’t even pay, other than the honor of being in it.
What’s the conversion rate for honor? How much honor is worth having your own removed when you’re at that show? When photographers, press, and bloggers are backstage, snapping pictures and ogling while you are standing only in a nude g-string, waiting for someone to dress you. They don’t know that the makeup is itching, so heavy and caked up for studio light that your skin doesn’t feel like skin anymore. And the second that camera takes a beat, before you can yourself, you’re swarmed with more people poking and prodding, eyes up as someone swoops to your lower eyelid with a mascara wand used on ten other people and not cleaned once. You also have to keep still as someone pulls and twists and teases your hair that’s already starting to feel like a wig from all the hairspray.
These are the sort of things that occur on such a regular basis, and that is so accepted as part of the job that you don’t even realize they’re detrimental to your mental and physical health until it comes up one day in therapy.
"I look back now at that glossy-eyed, unscathed and naive girl I was when I first started, and I wish I could tell her... that her voice is actually not something she has signed over and that she shouldn't be so afraid to use it."
– What do you know now that you wish you had known before starting a career in modeling?
I guess I’m lucky in the sense that I was on the older side when I got scouted. I had those formative high school years to really just be a kid, to grow, and learn. But I look back now at that glossy-eyed, unscathed and naive girl I was when I first started, and I wish I could tell her to thicken her skin so it doesn’t get so torn when someone says her thighs look a bit more muscular. I’d tell her to read every single contract put in front of her, hire a lawyer to review it, and always get everything in writing. I’d tell her that her voice is actually not something she has signed over and that she shouldn’t be so afraid to use it. Like Ariel signing over her voice to Ursula, it sometimes can feel like that with an agency’s contract.
– Besides being a successful and talented model, you are also quite gifted in music. What inspires you when writing music?
That means so much to hear because music is something that inspires me, fascinates me, and has my heart the most. I don’t know where the inspiration comes from. Sometimes I wish I did when I’m strumming the same four chords in circles, pleading for my mind to find the lyrics. I guess creativity is something you can’t force.
The inspiration will come at the worst times. On the walk to a casting that I’m already late for, I’ll think of a melody and know I have to whip out my phone and sing quietly into a voice memo before I forget the words and lose them to the chaos of the day.
Inspiration hits me in waves whenever I have mounds of laundry, dishes piling up, emails left unreplied, and a plethora of vlogs to edit. I’ll sit down with my guitar and notebook and tell myself that it’s only for ten minutes, and end up losing half a day to three new songs. A good way to figure out your real passion in life is to see what you do when you procrastinate!
– Are there any plans to record music, and fully share your voice with the rest of the world?
I’ve been recording a plethora of demos on my laptop with my very limited knowledge of Garage Band for quite some time. My songs are so special to me, something I feel so attached to, so I keep them close and secret until I really think they’re at their full potential. But I’m getting there, and actually just had the insane “I-can’t-believe-this-is-actually-my-life-right-now” experience of getting to record a demo track at a studio with some insanely talented musicians. I don’t know when it’s set to release just yet, but it’ll be soon. It’s called “Chardonnay Skies.” It’s a song I wrote about that time in life when you’re submerged in such a drinking-focused, dating, and going out culture that you wonder if you’ve ever seen the person you’re interested in with fully sober eyes. And if they only see you when you’ve got your charming, relaxed buzz about you, will they still want you when the party’s all over and done?
– How do you describe your perfect day off when not modeling or in the spotlight?
I’ll sleep in with no alarm set and wake up slower than usual. I’ll open the blinds and let the sunshine flood the room, only to retreat back to bed to cuddle with my cat and appreciate the moment before it passes. I’ll find my way to a diner for breakfast, the kind with sticky, outdated menus and great coffee, and take the long way home after I eat. I’ll get happily distracted at a record store or thrift shop along the way, and realize the day should be spent exploring the city by foot instead of being cooped up at home. I’ll drag my boyfriend along to Chelsea Market, and we’ll pretend we’re on a Food Network travel show when we try samples.
I’ll cook dinner slowly, spicing it probably too much, and spending too much time looking for the perfect cooking music. It’s usually 70s soft rock, the kind soccer mom’s and grocery stores love, or Dean Martin if I’m making Italian. I’ll wind down the night dipping Tate’s cookies in almond milk, sitting on the floor with my guitar and a notebook, or watching a trashy reality TV show in bed with a glass of boxed wine. – GM
More of Alexandria Morgan
"I will continue to raise awareness about issues models face in their careers, and to advocate for others who are struggling, by using my voice, and the platform I've been blessed with."
The hats featured in this editorial are by The Hat Shop NYC.
Established in 1995 by Linda Pagan, The Hat Shop NYC features its own eponymous label as well as the work of up to 20 local milliners. To learn more, visit:
120 Thompson St.
New York, New York
ABOUT CREATIVE TALENT MANAGEMENT
Creative Talent Management is a full-service talent and model management firm founded by Victoria Lyandres. The primary goal of Creative Talent Management is to help talent and models achieve their full potential, with a careful and detailed strategy. The company scouts, develops, and places worldwide while providing full career guidance and management.
About this photoshoot:
Photography: Jose Morales
Fashion Director: Luis De Jesus
Makeup & Hair: Coral Del Mar
Production Assistant: Armando Ortega
Location: New York City
© Guild Magazine / BlueAngel Photography New York™
Camera: Nikon D850
Lens: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED & Nikon 105mm f/1.4E ED AF-S
Strobes: Profoto B1 x 3
Modifiers: Profoto 5′ rfi Octa Softbox, Profoto 4X6 rfi softbox, and Profoto Beauty Dish
GUILD MAGAZINE - THE FASHION ISSUE