Multi hyphenate, LA-based, Transylvanian-born beauty Gabriela Oltean talks about her unlikely creative journey, and just going for it

Gabriela Oltean by Diana Ragland

I had heard about Gabriela Oltean from the American-Romanian creative community, but we have never actually met, since she lives in Los Angeles, and I reside in New York. The first time I felt that I sort of met her, was while I was watching TV, and a commercial for Calzedonia, a brand I love, came on. The main character in the commercial was played by Julia Roberts, whose every move, and perfect calves, I was watching, until another female character, who played the role of store manager and shopping consultant, appeared and interacted with Julia’s character. The other woman had an unmistakable pixie cut, and it took me a few seconds to recognize that Julia Robert’s shopping consultant was played, with characteristic charm, by Gabriela Oltean herself.

A few years later, meaning this past summer, our paths finally crossed in a very fortunate way. I went to LA for a week, not for work, but to take a sunny break from the bleakness of NY’s Covid reality and destructive protests. To my surprise, a couple of discussions via email with the editor-in-chief of Harper’s BAZAAR Romania, Mara Coman, and with the famous artist Alexandra Nechita, also based in LA but born in Romania, led to an assignment for me to write and coordinate a feature story for the magazine’s September BAZAAR Art supplement. It seemed like perfect timing, since, during the month of September, the Beverly Hills City Hall was planning to unveil, at the entrance of the city and as an emblem of it, Nechita’s monumental, nine-feet-tall bronze sculpture titled Love Anatomy. Unfortunately, the pandemic-related restrictions prevented the launch from happening in September, but my Harper’s BAZAAR Romania article on artist Alexandra Nechita and her awe-inspiring work of art ran in the magazine’s September BAZAAR Art supplement (https://www.harpersbazaar.ro/alexandra-nechita/ ). Besides my idea for the article, and my inteviews with Alexandra, in order for this unique story to happen and to stand out, a photo shoot with equally impressive results had to and did happen in LA, inside the warehouse where the Love Anatomy sculpture is kept. The images blew me away, and, to my surprise, I found out that the photographer responsible for that visual magic was Gabriela Oltean, of whom I had only heard because of her modeling work. Although the credit for most images from that shoot was given to Gabriela, for others she shared the credit with cinematographer Eric Soboleski, who is Gabriela’s partner in work and in life. Via email and social media, Gabriela explained to me that she directed and tried to make Alexandra feel like a soprano bowing to her masterpiece. Judging by the majestic yet dreamy results, her suggestions and guidance helped artist Alexandra Nechita access and express a sublime state, in which she appears connected to her highest mind as an artist, woman and human being.

For a Louis Vuitton spec by Dana Tynan and John Pingry

Once back in New York, and the story out in Harper’s BAZAAR Romania, I received many congratulatory comments, praising the work of everyone invoved in making this material happen. One of the people who reached out to me because of this story stood out to me in particular. Apparently, he knew Gabriela for a long time, followed her work closely, and he told me that, besides the modeling work that she is best known and most visible for, she also works consistently as a photographer, as an interior designer, for which she attended UCLA, where she earned a master’s in interior design, as a set designer, and, more recently, she started making movies as well. I was definitely intrigued, and wanted to know more about this multi-talentated creative female force. Following a phone conversation and messages exchanged with Gabriela, I decided I had to do a recorded conversation with her, and turn it into one (or two) interviews.

She accepted and soon after there we were, face-to-face via a Zoom meeting, going through pages filled with questions and topics I wanted to discuss with her. Fortunately, the initial formality of our conversation gave way to a candid, spirited and meaningful exchange of ideas, thoughts, and experiences. We discussed immigration, modeling, fashion, working with Karl Lagerfeld. We exchanged our views on art, travel, our francophile leanings, personal and professional development, multi-faceted careers, the courage to pursue eclectic passions and dreams, and our common love for photography and film. We reflected on how beauty standards have changed during the last decade, on age along with the inevitable process of aging, as well as on what feminitiy means in this new era, in this new world where the rules of our adolescence and of our early 20s have changed dramatically.

DS: Why did you choose to name your most recent website, dedicated for the most part to your photography, and to some of your film work „The Broken Duchess” (https://thebrokenduchess.com/)?

GO: It comes from the name of a furniture piece I learned about in interior design school at UCLA. It was called La duchesse brisée, a chaise-lounge used during Marie Antoinette’s era, during 15th-century France. The translation of it stuck with me. I also get to often repeat that I come from Transylvania, and people think we may all be royalty if we were born there, that we must all be related to Dracula- so I thought that since I am not royalty, I might as well be a “broken duchess”.

By Anthony Friend

DS: I see. Well, it definitely gives you an aura of mystery and exoticism. But before https://thebrokenduchess.com/, I actually discovered another website of yours, http://gabrielaolteandesign.com/, and noticed all the areas in which you are active, according to the site.

GO: Oh my God, that website hasn’t been updated in 10 years, and I am still active in all those categories, but definitely focused on photography at the moment. I also had at the beginning of the year a design project I was working on, on wardrobe and set design.

DS: What do you actually do as a set designer?

GO: It’s what, in Romania, we call scenography…everything related to the environment where the scene takes place and is shot. Wardrobe is something different, although I have done that too, especially when I try to save on a budget. You know, I just shot in Utah with Eric the latest video of Haliene, a singer who has been considered a musical prodigy, she opened for Paul Simon for a long time. She’s a singer I have worked with in the past through Eric, whenever he shot her music videos in the past, I went along as a photographer. So that’s how I started with Eric.

Gabriela and Eric Soboleski

DS: What is Eric’s background? Is he a filmmaker?

GO: He’s a DP (Director of Photography). He went to film school in upstate New York, in Ithica, then moved to LA to do the whole acting and modeling thing, but he’s a Jersey boy, kind of like the equivalent of me coming from a small town like Targu Mures in Transylvania, and seeing all these opportunities here. Believe it or not, we actually met 10 years ago through a job. I was shooting a campaign for Martini & Rossi, which I had also shot the previous year with George Clooney, and which was for Europe. I did another one for the US, and this time I was the main. The campaign was shot by photographer Giuliano Bekor, and Eric was doing the behind-the-scenes video. We went out for coffee then and were planning to possibly do a photoshoot. Eventually, he checked in with me 1 year and a half after that, just in time for me to tell him that I was pregnant with my then-husband, Alex Rotaru [a prominent filmmaker also born in Romania, who now lives in LA as well, and the father of Gabriela’s son, Max].

Ironically, 5 years later, I was separated, there was a gallery opening and Eric was there. We were very happy to see each other and compeled to rekindle and see where our lives were at that given time.

I was in a place in my life where I was reading and writing a lot and specifically about love. Erich Fromm and his „Art of Loving” book being one important little bible I would carry with me whether I was on a plane or in a hotel room. I happened to just be back from a 10-day shoot in Hawaii, and to me that nature was very much like a rebirthing ground environment. Days later I ran into Eric.

DS: So you work together on photography projects, on which he is the DP?

GO: Yes, that’s how we started, and then the singer, Haliene, really liked the images I delivered, and her recording label hired me for her cover photo, which I was very happy to do. She asked me to also do her wardrobe. It was already during Covid, so I sourced the costumes out in LA, I used a jewelry designer who is Romanian as well –@LoriSunArtistry, she makes these stunning harnesses, headdresses and face adornments.

I do a lot of projects with him, and, maybe, since working with Eric, my aesthetic has changed a bit, in the sense that I see things in a more cinematic way than in a classical fashion photography manner, lit from the front, whereas now I prefer backlighting scenarios, and I am just fascinated by cinematography.

Gabriela and Eric

DS: Did you take photography classes?

GO: It’s funny because I actually interrupted university in Romania, where I was studying sports at the National University of Physical Education and Sport in Bucharest. I had played volleyball during my high school years. I was so depressed about losing my mom at only 14. I was just really unsure of what I wanted to do, so I said, „I just want to leave my hometown and the logical place was to go to the bigest city in my country-Bucharest.” I wasn`t into it, but I looked at my time in this university as a place holder and wanted to eventually move to psychology studies.

My horizons opened when someone approached me about taking some modeling classes, and my roommate also told me about taking these classes where they teach you how to move, how to pose, how to walk with books on your head, so I was doing all that for fun, and then, the prestigious, international Elite Model Look competition happened. It was brought to Romania by Catalina Isopescu, a former model. My girlfriend told me I should definitely go for this scouting, which I did, and there were girls from all over the country, and we signed up to participate in the contest. We had to pass a few tests, and, to my surprise, I was scouted. I was actually about to leave, because I hadn’t heard my name, and Mihaela Radulescu, a famous Romanian personality, who was one of the organizers, yelled at me: „Where are you going? You were selected”. Sadly, my girlfriend had to leave, but I stayed, along with Roxana Voloseniuc,who is now the editor-in-chief of ELLE Romania, and with Diana Pistalu, who now has her own modeling agency, IMM Models, in Düsseldorf. We’ve been best friends for 20 years, she’s amazing, she has an amazing life that she really, really has created herself.

So when this opportunity came, I was so ready to grab it. It was definitely my ticket out. I had just buried my mother and all my grandparents within 3 years…As a result of the contest, I was offered a contract with Elite Model Management Paris, and I moved to Paris. I was there for probably a year and a half, and then I moved to the States, to LA.

DS: What were you appreciated for as a model?

GO: During my entire career I had a pixie haircut, and there is a story about how that happened. I was still in school in Romania, I had no style, yet I was already doing this training for Elite Model Look. I went to see famed Romanian hairstylist Geta Voinea, because every girl who was doing this training was sent by the scouts and organizers to the salon Geta Voinea had at the time. As I mentioned, I had no style, maybe I had a bob, and she sat me down in a chair and told me: „I will cut your hair short.”

I said: „What do you mean, short?”

„Short, short,” she replied.

By photographer Dorian Caster

So, literally, she was my visionary. And look at me, years later, I still have the same haircut.

By the time I went to Paris, I already had a pixie cut, which gave me more of a Parisian look. I feel like that was the beginning, and the scout and the agent from Elite in Romania promoted me that way.

Once I got to Paris, I basically had to start from zero. I didn’t have a portfolio, only a few unusable images from Romania. Germany was actually a good market for me as well, and I also did some little editorials for Switzerland. When my book got stronger, I would go to Germany for one month at a time and work in Munich or in Hamburg, and I really put time in these cities. Once I had a good professional portfolio, I could pretty much pick a place to go for work. I also went to Milan, Italy. I worked a lot. I was always traveling.

I didn’t like the modeling scene. For example in Milan, it was like Sodom and Gomorrah. I have seen there all I need to see for the rest of my life.

Workwise, I did fashion editorial work for magazines, I was on the cover of Madame Figaro, which we shot in the mountains, in the Alps, at Chamonix. It was a very special winter edition of the magazine, and I was on the cover with two dogs- it was very, very unique.

On the cover of Madame Figaro

I have also done some skincare advertising, some fashion shows. The main shows I did were Chanel, and then Pierre Cardin.

With Chanel, there’s actually an interesting story, an exciting, challenging and inspiring turning point in my career, because I went to audition for the Chanel team to be a fit model, which in Paris is a very coveted modeling job to have, not only because it is very well-paid, and you stop going on a million castings, which I was doing all day around Paris in high heels. I would have 8 to 10 auditions a day, and I would do them all in high heels and took the subway everywhere, to the point where I remember Paris by heart, even today. But I was so determined, and, living in an apartment with models who were already doing well, was an incentive. And since I had no idea what it took to succeed, I thought, I can’t change the way I already look, I just want to and have to persist in doing what I am doing.

But to return to the Chanel story. My agency, Ford, sent me on a casting for a fit model, and they liked me, they wanted to see me again, and I literally went through this process that involved very thorough measurements. You had to fit perfectly at every angle and part of your body. Your ankles, your height, your body type- not too skinny, not too curvy, but just right, and all this was for one position. I went there probably 3 times before I got the booking, and that job was all I did for the next three months straight, every day, kind of 9 to 5, sometimes longer during the show. It was amazing for a girl like me, from Targu Mures, a small town in Transylvania, to just be able to say that I went to work on rue Cambon every morning, and it was fascinating to do that and to see, every single day, the creative process that Karl Lagerfeld had. From the morning time, when he would arrive with his sketches, until evening, when we finished and we did the essayages (fittings).

Regarding his creative process, you were wondering and asking me why I do so many things, and why I am jumping from one thing to the other.Well, I think that the seed to me being this way was probably planted by Karl Lagerfeld. I could not believe that he was such a force of nature, that he was able to do as many things as he did at the time. He was designing Chanel, the Karl Lagerfeld line, Celine, as well as Fendi.

In Marie Claire France

He also designed his house in Paris. Sometimes we would go to his house, which was an incredible place on the Left Bank, an 18th-century Parisian apartment, and it was all decorated by him. That was another fascinating thing, to see how his work process continued at home. He had this long table, which was all stacked with books. Period books, coffee table books, history, art, design books, and they were not on display, so they were probably items that were handy to him all the time. And he would speak so fast. Back then, he was already doing photography as well, and he was just observing everything. Even though people say that if you are a fit model you are just a mannequin, which is true, because they literally fit the prêt-à-porter and the couture collections on you- in this case, on me and on another model, with push pins, I worked along with the designer who was creating the embroidery, monsieur Lesage, and with the woman who designed the jewelry, Victoire de la Castellane, and with the tailor, and all these people would call me by name. My grandmother had been a seamstress, and she made all my clothes, and I was thinking, „If my grandmother could see this”. Karl was also a polyglot, and just an indefatigable force.

DS: How did Karl treat others?

GO: He was very respectful of his staff and contributors, and was extremely collaborative. For example, when we were doing the essayages (fittings), there were mirrors everywhere, and the famous Coco Chanel room with mirrors. And Karl would look at you, and talk to the ladies, and then he would always ask us, „Qu’est-ce que tu penses?” („What do you think?”). He didn’t treat us like we were just pieces of meat. The other girl, who worked as a Chanel fit model for years, ended up getting out of the modeling circuit, and she became the head of the shoe department for Chanel. That place was definitely also a launchpad for all the assistants who worked there, they are all designing on their own now. That’s where I also met Philip Treacy, the milliner, for example. He was doing the hats for the shows at the time. I also met some of the supermodels who were doing the show: Naomi Campbell, Stella Tenant,  Erin O’Connor, and others.

DS: So you were a fit model and were also in the show?

GO: Yes, that was the perk of being a fit model for Chanel, which the models who worked for other big houses like YSL or Balenciaga, also had. It was understood that you would also be in the show. It was a great honor to do that because, if I had auditioned only for the show, I would have been pushed out by all the supermodels, and the spots for newcomers were so few- that was just the mentality towards prestigious runway shows at the time.

DS: Did you make friends you still talk to during that time?

GO: I didn’t make very long-lasting friendships during that period in Paris. It’s that young age, and you are surrounded by these beautiful, competitive girls with no money. There were the Russian girls with no money, the Romanian girls with no money, the Czech girls with no money comparable to the Western world, and you get paid so many thousands of dollars a day, and you are only twenty-something. It’s a very wrong relationship with yourself, with money, and with where you are positioning yourself in the world. Anything you make is a lot of money, on a daily basis, for anyone at that age, coming from anywhere. And money gives you confidence, power, but it’s still money that comes easy, there are no other people who get paid that much for a day’s worth of work at that age. I was always aware of that, that when you are a model, it’s a mindfuck relationship with money.

DS: And how did you manage that?

GO: I saved my money, but once I started to earn money, I already owed money to the agency, which was charging us a lot for this amazing house I was living in, located in the upscale 16th arrondissement. It was $1500/month, but I shared it with another girl. So I had a lot of expenses, and whatever was left over when I started making more money, I saved.

In an Esprit catalogue

GO: What kind of modeling work were you doing in Milan?

DS: I was doing catalogues, advertising campaigns. I think that at the time I did a campaign for Benetton, a W magazine editorial, and an alcohol campaign, although I wasn’t even 21 at the time, but that doesn’t matter in Italy, then some tests, and yes, of course, I met [actor] Paul [Johansson] and came to LA. It was wintertime in Europe, and LA was like this. I had no idea a place like this existed, I didn’t even know what Hollywood was. I thought Hollywood was like Disneyland, a place you go visit and where there were studios, but not what it actually is.

Gabriela’s first editorial in Los Angeles, for Los Angeles Times Magazine, by Michael Habor

Luckily, I came here for work, not for love. The attitude in the modeling world is that your book needs to be really strong in order to work in the US, so I had never dared to come here as a model. Elite NY said that I was not ready for them, but I came to LA, where I actually signed up with Elite LA, and I worked from the moment I got here, and had a really good run. I was in Paris for about two years before I moved to Los Angeles and, even after I relocated, I went back to Paris every year and put time into working in Europe.

I love going back to Paris, it’s a place I had a hard time leaving. When I came to LA and, in terms of the differences between the fashion world in Europe and in the US…There is already such a great difference between LA and Europe. I could not understand what the fashion world in LA was like, because there is no high fashion in LA, now there is a lot more, but at the time, there were mostly just sporty brands and Disney catalogues. Fortunately, I had my German clients come to the US to shoot in Miami, so I was based in LA, but I worked a lot in other places. I was hesitant to go to NY to work as a model, and I was also very comfortable in LA. So I went to NY and rented myself an apartment there. I was with Ford NY. It was a great experience. And this started my relationship with NY. I had a bi-coastal living situation at some point. I had this apartment in Midtown, on Lexington and 26th St., in Murray Hill, and either I had a booking in NY and went there to work, or I would just go there to discover the city, to visit museums- it was such a sweet deal.

DS: And what did you get booked for in NY? What kind of work did you do?

GO: Again, I did mostly advertising campaigns, catalogues. I literally made money, doing catalogues in NY, shooting for Macy’s, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus that we shot year-round, so I had on-going accounts too, Ann Taylor was another one of them. At first, I had a hard time transitioning into catalogues, until I understood that „this is great”, it’s the bread and butter, especially when I started going to school, and these modeling jobs were supplying me income for tuition to attend UCLA.

In a Nordstrom catalogue

I always wanted to go back to school and get a degree, since I left Romania in the middle of my studies. I decided to be in LA full-time and designate the time I would put into traveling to diferent markets into my education.

I have always loved art, and even when I modeled in Paris, I would go to museums, and one of my ambitions was to know all the periods of the furniture I would lay my eyes on. My mother was a furniture designer, she was definitely the artistic person in our family and, although I was not encouraged to pursue an art path, all the travels and beautiful locations I was visiting were planting seeds in me. As a result, I threw myself into the Interior Design and Architecture program at UCLA. I thought that studying interior design would be very cool, and I really enjoyed my time there. I was still working while I attended UCLA, so I took evening classes. Normally, it’s a three-year program, but since I was working as a model and traveling for work, I finished it in 4- 4 1/2 years.

Looking back, I consider it my formal education in arts. It was the basis of other fields that I got into since then, like photography and set design. Working as a model has been the undercurrent of my life, but I felt that I had to be ready to get out of it anytime I was going to be told I was too old, not good enough, or not booking jobs anymore for some reason.

DS: Did/do you like modeling?

GO: I did and still do, yes. In the beginning, I wanted to learn, I wanted to be like the supermodels, who were the ones I admired, Helena Christensen, Linda Evangelista with her ability of transforming herself with each look and expression.  Also, with time, you really learn your body, because of this expression that’s demanded of you in front of the camera, and that’s a good thing. A model’s job becomes more like a pantomime’s, because you have no dialogue and no voice unless it’s a commercial, but my voice has never really been used, because of my accent. I think it’s very challenging exercise (in a good way) in expressing your being. You are expected to have to give 100 expressions just with your eyes and body, so it’s definitely teaching you a lot about yourself. I love it, I have always loved it, and, with time, I think I am even getting better at it. Besides the fact that you have more wrinkles to retouch and discoloration on your face, I feel that I can do this kind of work so much better than when I was young and flawless.

DS: Maybe, also, when you were younger, you felt more pressure than you feel now?

GO: Yes, for sure. I also never felt beautiful. I always questioned the fact that certain agents or clients believed that my proportions were right and that I should be here. Scouts definitely know how to spot a face with the right proportions, with the golden ratio. It’s all about how the light falls and now, as a photographer, I really see that- you can be beautiful and well-proportioned, but maybe the light doesn’t wrap right around your face, or you need more lighting.

In a Jean Louis David campaign shot by Patrick Demarchelier

DS: Did you work with any photographers I might have heard of, and do you have any favorite photographers that you enjoy collaborating with? I think that’s a vital relationship.

GO: Yes, you learn a lot from photographers. I feel like they are the main modeling coaches. You could attend all these modeling schools, but it’s all done on set. If it wasn’t for these great photographers I have worked with, I wouldn’t have had the career that I had. Starting with Herb Ritts, with whom I worked in 2002 on a campaign for Virginia Slims, which was styled by the late L’Wrenn Scott, who was amazing. It was a one-day shoot. The prep day consisted of all his assistants setting up the lights, and the next day when we all came, the set was done, he took a few images, and we were done. Everything was super produced. I also learnt a new word from him: „smirk”, by which he meant, „give me some attitude”,and he actually showed me in the last image of that shoot what a smirk was.

In Paris, I worked with Patrick Demarchelier on a Jean-Louis David hair campaign, with André Rau, Russell James, Terry Richardson, Giovanni Gastel. Helena Christensen also shot me for a local LA clothing brand. We shot for a day in a room at Chateau Marmont, and I had no idea who the photographer was, but obviously, once I was inside the room, I recognized her. There were only three women, I felt very comfortable, it was a very unique encounter.

Then there are some local photographers I always love collaborating with, including Adrian Nina, whom I love and call him a wunderkind. We get together, we’re just having coffee, and he always has his camera with him, and he delivers the best shots of everything. And I had my good camera with me when I saw him, maybe 2 years ago, in New York, and he kept joking, „oh, a model has a better camera than the photographer.” Also, Marcel Indik in LA has a good eye, and then, of course, Eric.

You asked me about collaborations with people…what I really love is this whole idea of being a muse.

In the beginning, I was doing more print work, stills, and then, once I came to LA, I got into commercials- I think America is more into that. As soon as I got to LA, I started doing TV commercials as well, and did a lot of them, without any formal acting training- I had to learn that on the fly as well. Doing commercials opened up a new skill in me, although I don’t use my voice.

DS: But you don’t have a strong accent.

GO: Still, I can’t sell you a beer or a burger with my accent. I am not your typical American, unless it’s skincare.

In a commercial for Oil of Olay

DS: What commercials have you done?

GO: I have done commercials for Revlon, Oil of Olay, Avon, department stores (Macy’s, JCPenney), cars (Buick, Ford, Hunday, BMW).

A while ago, I did a really amazing campaign for Magnum ice cream. It was a job that lasted for 21 days, was shot in Milan, and directed by Shekhar Kapur, an Indian director who won an Oscar for directing „Elizabeth”. I went on the audition for this job in LA, I pre-booked it, but the director wanted to meet me and pre-audition me in London, with me having no acting training.

DS: Did you ever take acting lessons?

GO: No, I never got into acting. I never went down that path because I was aware of my accent, and I was afraid that I would be stereotyped or typecast.

But let me finish the story about this job. It was based on a script where I had to impersonate 7 characters based on the 7 deadly sins, which I got to embody. So it wasn’t just about me licking ice cream and all that, it was me wearing super elaborate costumes and doing costume changes based on each deadly sin, and I had long hair and I had short hair, all with this famous director who had just finished these amazing projects. As I said before, there was a lot of learning on the fly.

In a campaign for Martini & Rossi, shot by Giuliano Bekor
With George Clooney on the set of Martini & Rossi commercial
With Julia Roberts while shooting Calzedonia commercial

This was a great starting point for me, and especially LA, it was more of a TV commercial place, and I did TV commercials basically from the moment I arrived. For example, I was in a commercial with George Clooney for Martini & Rossi, and in a beautiful commercial project with Julia Roberts for Calzedonia. For me, it’s really been the gift that keeps on giving.

I also got to work with some amazing directors and cinematographers, like Matthew Libatique, who shot Bradley Cooper’s debut as a director, „A Star Is Born.” I have also worked with Phedon Papamichael, the cinematographer of „Ford v. Ferrari”, and Wally Pfister, who won an Oscar for „Inception”- this caliber of cinematographers.

I started paying attention to cinematographers more recently in my life. Before, I would maybe pay attention to directors, but cinematography has become a subject of interest for me because I’m kind of a cinephile and I realize that, looking back at movies from different eras, the fact that the work was so outstanding was not so much because of the director, but because of the cinematographer, who gave the aesthetic that we are still recognizing and appreciating those movies for today, like the 60s era movies, all the French Wave, and then the period of John Cassavetes. So I would definitely look at who shot those movies. Now I also love to compare the way I saw these movies years ago, or in Romania, and then watch them again now, especially if they were shot in New York or in LA, where you know and can recognize the locations, and to notice how my perspective on them has changed.

DS: For some reason, I was under the impression that you also act.

GO: I have never actively gone on acting auditions for movies or television. The one movie that I have been in was „John Q”, with Denzel Washington, and I was basically offered that job. And it was a great opportunity if maybe I was someone who was interested in acting, then I would have definitely taken it as an amazing chance, but since that was not the case, it didn’t really plant any seed.  

DS: So you were not a model who aspired to go into acting.

GO: No, for me it’s a very uncomfortable world, the acting. You impersonate this character for a few weeks, or for however long you have to, and you literally have to become that. Also, you are at the mercy of the PAs, they call you, they knock on your door to see if you’re ready. For me, it’s just a big invasion. And I try so hard to be true to myself that I don’t seek to portray a character. I don’t know if I was good at it. If I was offered a role that challenged me, I would try it, but to pursue that every day, in this competition in LA, where every other neighbor is doing the same thing, I didn’t want to be just another pretty face. I just didn’t feel like it came from inside me. And again, I’m very comfortable expressing myself in front of the camera, doing pantomime, or a silent movie. If people are interested to hear my voice, sure. I am confident enough now to act, but, in my experience, even if it is just a commercial with only two lines, I will deliver those two lines the best I can, I can even study for those two lines, and still, somewhere, my accent slips. It’s not worth it for me!

But, as I mentioned before, I feel very comfortable opening up and expressing my feelings. I like helping a brand in that way, I can convey their message and sell those clothes or products.

I love to collaborate and to make that brand come to life or, when I am behind the camera, I have this fascination with the subject. I can’t even breathe, I try to get so tuned in with the subject, and to kind of direct them. It depends on who I’m working with, but pretty much, unless I am working with a veteran model who really knows what she’s doing, everyone else needs direction. And I feel like, coming from the background I come from, I know what they are feeling, what they want to hear. I don’t have to talk much, I have developed this chemistry and dance with the subject, and it’s pretty much my favorite place to be, to empower the people in front of me, especially when I work with people who are not professional models. It’s my favorite thing to show them their image on the screen. And when someone says something like „I have never seen myself look like that”, I know my job is done.  

By Dana Tynan and John Pingry

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