Renaissance Woman Cate Underwood Talks Photography, Modeling And More

Cate Underwood, the pulchritudinous Kiev native, has photographed editorials for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE , V magazine and a cover of L’Officiel Ukraine in addition to fronting campaigns for All Saints, H&M, Zara, Free People and Rodebjer. When not in front of the camera, or behind it, she can be found spinning the decks at events such as Vogue‘s Fashion Night Out. I spoke with the multi-talented and achingly cool Cate as she talked about what inspires her and where she hopes to be in 20 years.

Tell us about how you got into the fashion industry.

I started taking pictures when I was very young. I used to take pictures of my friends, all those beautifully dressed-up people hanging out in clubs and at parties. I liked how frivolous and bizarrely beautiful they looked. Then I realized I was more interested in their appearance than in the scene itself. I started doing fashion photography, making model test and taking on small independent projects. It was very amateur, very spontaneous but I really loved the process.  Then I won a fashion photography contest in Ukraine that led to bigger publications, editorials and covers. I love the new scale, the opportunities and responsibility as well.

What inspires and motivates you?

People, beauty and my daughter Eva. I’ve been very fortunate to work with people who push the envelope and who are passionate about what they do. What I’m trying to do is to show a different kind of beauty, something subversive yet sublime, something that has meaning. I like people and things that have flaws and imperfections. I think that’s what makes them honest and real. Giving birth to my daughter was the biggest motivating force for me; I matured greatly, in an instant. I’m happy to have had her so soon. I am raising Eva and at the same time she gives me strength to build my career, do my photography, create, improve myself and my personality.

How has being a photographer influenced the way you model?

For me, switching from photography to modeling was a rather natural and liberating experience. I like the idea of being on the both sides of the lens, of changing the roles. As a photographer you feel in total control over the situation but as a model you really have to give it up, to let go and do things you don’t normally do, to follow the scenarios you’re offered. You have to have deep trust in people you work with and follow their instincts. I find it fascinating! Being a photographer helped a lot because I understand what I need to do as a model. I sometimes catch myself thinking on set as both model and photographer.

In addition to modeling and photography you also DJ. How do you find balance in your life?

It just all happens and I enjoy living my life the way I do now. Maybe I just love a fast ride.

What do you consider your greatest achievement thus far?

Being able to combine my personal and professional life without giving up anything.

How do you define success?

Success is very relative term. Happiness and love is success to me.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I can easily get into trouble like losing myself somewhere, falling down on my way or any other thing like that which leads me to a big adventure after. Once, I broke my finger doing a handstand right before I went to Paris so I had to go to all of the model agencies with a cast up to my elbow. That happened when I signed my first contract as a model.

What are your plans for the future?

I like women who, at any age, remain true to themselves and know how to be beautiful at every stage of their lives. I hope that in 20 years I will be the best version of myself, wiser and more knowledgeable, but also remain the same Cate as I am now – with camera in my hands, traveling around the world and always open to new experiences.

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How Megan Puleri Went From The Mall To The Victoria’s Secret Runway

Megan Puleri’s ascension to the ranks of Victoria’s Secret is the stuff dreams are made of. From a local mall in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio to the Victoria’s Secret fashion show watched by millions, Megan Puleri’s future is bright. I spoke with her about how it felt being chosen for Victoria’s Secret and what advice veteran model Candice Swanepoel gave her.

Tell us about how you were discovered. 

As a teen everyone always commented on my long legs and how I’d be perfect for runway modeling. When I was 14, a neighbor who worked at a local boutique suggested to the owner that she should use me in her stores annual charity runway show.  We met, she agreed, and I walked in her show that year and the following three years.  After walking in my first show, I signed with a local agency in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio.  When I was 16, my parents were at the Easton Shopping Mall in Columbus and my mom recognized Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands, who was shopping as well.  They approached him for his advice on modeling.  He made it very clear that modeling is a challenging career choice and he would discourage his own daughter (if he had one) with similar aspirations. He didn’t like to say no to moms who showed him their daughter’s photographs, but had done so thousands of times.  In fact, he never said yes to any.  However, upon seeing photographs of me, he said he was impressed and felt I had what it took to go to New York and that he would recommend a meeting be arranged with the top four agencies in New York.  Additionally, he wanted to meet me.  My parents were blown away and excited!  My mom, knowing what an honor this was, waited 17 months to set up that meeting. She wanted me to grow and become a more seasoned model prior to the introduction. Coincidentally, when the time felt right to meet him, I won a local modeling contest where New York Model Management would fly me to New York to possibly sign me. I was so grateful, but before accepting the offer, I wanted to meet with Ed Razek.  My parents and I met with him that week.  He said upon seeing me walk around the corner he truly felt that I had a chance in New York and upon careful consideration he decided to send me to the biggest and the best agency IMG.  I passed my New York Model Management prize to the runner-up.  My parents and I promptly met with IMG. They agreed with Ed and they wanted to sign me. I signed with them when I was 17.  I turned 18 in May, 2015 and graduated from high school the next month and moved to New York in July.

How did you feel when you landed a coveted spot in the Victoria’s Secret runway show?

I felt so many things. So many emotions. I felt like one of my biggest dreams was coming true, like all of my hard work was paying off. I seriously dreamed about this moment, so many times, just to wake up to my reality. To find out that it was actually happening was insane.

What advice or guidance did you receive before walking in the show?

I received advice and guidance from one of my biggest role models, Candice Swanepoel. Her and I use the same trainer and one day I saw her at the gym and decided to talk to her. She told me her first show was by far her favorite show and to enjoy it because there is nothing like it.

Who’s career do you admire and why?

I admire so many people’s careers. I think that’s why I struggle a bit because I want to do so many different things and follow in so many different people’s footsteps, but I would say I admire Karlie Kloss’s career the most.

What do you hope to get out of your career?

I hope I get to build a platform to then spread the word about causes that I really care for. I want people to listen. I want people to care. I want to change the way people think as much as I can.

If you weren’t modeling what would you be doing?

I would be a photographer first and foremost. I’m not sure if I would do fashion photography or film but I would have a camera in my hand. I hope to build my portfolio as I model and continue to do that once I retire from modeling. I also have considered being an art teacher. I love kids and creativity, so mixing them both together would be ideal. I was touched by my middle school art teacher, she and I still visit and talk. I want to make a positive impact on children like she did for me. It was so important for me to have that relationship while I was growing up.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I think people would be surprised to learn that I am an old soul. I’m 18 years old and recently have been living a life full of first impressions. I feel like I come off a lot of different ways to people and very few people really know me. When people who really know me tell me that I am an ‘old soul’ it makes me feel understood.

Follow her on Instagram

2015: The Year In Review

Two thousand and fifteen was a fantastic year for The Cultural Omnivore, thanks to everyone that has contributed, collaborated and encouraged me throughout this endeavor. I am so grateful for your continued support.

In the spirit of reminiscing over the passing of another year, I thought I’d share some of the highlights from 2015. It was a great year for industry veterans Michele HicksEsther De JongChandra NorthKylie Bax, Cameron Russell, Anastassia Khozissova, Taylor Foster and David Smith who looked back on their careers while a new generation of models including Hannah FergusonEian ScullyAlexandra TomlinsonNadja GiramataXu LiuRoman LarichevNoma HanLaura Kampman and Rachel Thomas made their mark in the fashion industry.  

We spent a day in the life of Details Fashion Director Matthew Marden as he espoused the virtues of hard work and patience . Photographer Victoria Janashvili celebrated the female form with the launch of her book Curves and Kiehl’s president Chris Salgardo waxed lyrical about philanthropy, activism and his book Manmade.

Here’s to another year!

Kiehl’s President Chris Salgardo On Philanthropy, Activism and Manmade

Chris Salgardo is at the helm of one of the world’s premier skin care brands. Not content with spearheading initiatives to challenge perceptions about social issues and raising money for HIV research, Chris recently released his first skin care manual for men, Manmade. I spoke with Chris by phone as we talked about the pillars on which Kiehl’s is built, his new book Manmade and why giving back to communities is at the core of everything that he does.

Philanthropy and activism have been a part of Kiehl’s heritage and DNA since the beginning. How did you choose what causes to support and why are these important to you?

One of the things that I loved about the Kiehl’s experience of the original flagship store was that it was very much community based. People could come in, they could hang out and there was always generous sampling.  It was a place that you felt was your home away from home.  In the 80’s when all of a sudden AIDS had become ground zero in places like San Francisco and New York, Kiehl’s began to support organizations like amfAR and Project Angel Food and others and it just became a part of the company.

When I joined the company I wanted to continue that tradition and really amplify it. For me there are so many great organizations but at some point you have to decide where you want to put your stake in the ground and clearly AIDS and HIV were very important.  Also, I lost one of my closest friends to AIDS in 1996 so I understood that feeling of loss and wanting to do something.  So that became one of our pillars. As a company that makes great products I felt that we had a real obligation to get those products back in the recycling stream so recycling and the environment became the second pillar.  Also, children’s well being and hunger were an important issue. I find it alarming that in a country as wealthy as ours that we still have so many people going hungry.  It’s not so much about the food but connecting people to food and breaking that cycle of hunger for families.  It’s critical because if you are not eating properly you are not gonna study, you are not going to be able to keep a job, there is a whole cycle that comes with this.  Then I’d say women’s issues.  We started supporting ovarian cancer and I’m going to be doing my first motor cycle ride next year on behalf of breast cancer and so those are where we have really focused our energy.   My grandmother always said, “If you can give back, you should give back” so we are always finding a way to do that and we do that through raising money.  We do that from actually getting on the road and creating awareness.

I do a motorcycle ride, I’ve done it for six years now on behalf of amfAR.  We’ve raised almost 1.4 million dollars because making noise is important too.  Making sure that the organization and what they are fighting for is known because that’s a way to galvanize other people to get involved too.  So, they are very important to us and we are going to continue to give back in any way that we can that makes sense for Kiehls and for our customers.

I think that these causes are all relevant and timely.  Today is World AIDS day, the United Nations conference on climate change is taking place in Paris and women’s issues are at the forefront of political discussion.

Yes, thank you Craig I totally agree.  The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund honored me last year for their 20th anniversary Legends Gala. I thought about it and I asked them why they wanted to honor me.  They said it was because of everything I did on behalf of women. When I accepted the award I was asked if I knew anybody who has died of ovarian cancer. I said no but I don’t want to either.  I don’t want to know anybody who is having to go through that. Unfortunately, with breast cancer,  most of us know someone who has been affected by the disease. I lost one of my closest friends to it. It’s a hard way to see people go.

Let’s talk about the genesis of LifeRide. I know that was something that you created. Where did the idea come from?

It’s funny because everybody asks that. I have been a motorcycle rider for thirty plus years.  My father was a California highway patrol man and when we started to expand Kiehls I put a motorcycle in every store. The flagship store had a collection of motorcycles the previous owner put in. I’ll never forget when I was in Texas in 2010 I was looking at some motorcycles and I thought if we could just get it on the road it would make some real noise. We already supported amfAR but I felt like I wanted to do more. I worked with my team and we created LifeRide. The first one was in California, and I have to tell you Craig, it was one of those things where everything was just going wrong.  We were going to ride a short distance to raise money but people kept dropping out. I said to myself, if I am the only one riding I am okay with that because I am going do this regardless.  Luckily, that wasn’t the case and I got a group of ten very devoted people who came along with me for that event which are still riding with me today.  That’s how LifeRide was born and all of a sudden it really was creating a dialogue.   We’ve ridden almost  10,000 miles at this point.

It sounds like the motorcycle is a metaphor for activism.  The manifestation of noise makes me think of organizations like ACT UP in the eighties.

I think it’s still very unexpected and that’s exactly the point.  I’ll do anything to get attention around this issue.  There are 35 million people living with HIV and God knows I think we have buried about 40 million.  It’s a problem.  I just want to get people’s attention and get them on board and get them thinking.

I agree.  I wanted to segue into a lighter subject and talk about your book Manmade. The men’s grooming industry is growing tremendously. Men are more aware and there isn’t a stigma about taking care of yourself.  Why did you think that now was the right time for a book?

What you said is very important because the stigma is going away; it’s not gone but it’s going. As a teenager who had acne, it was a challenge finding products that would work and options were limited. It really affected my confidence because I didn’t feel like I looked my best. That stayed with me as a young adult and I faced all these questions that I think a lot of  other people are faced with. Women have always had the luxury of, and I use that loosely, being able to cover it up but those sorts of options for men did not exist.  From that point my love affair with skin care and how important it is began.  When I came to Kiehls I had been a Kiehls user for 10 years.  I absolutely love Kiehls because it works for me. When I became president, I started travelling and talking to the press more and all of a sudden men were coming up to me and recognizing me and asking me questions. I always wanted to write a lifestyle book and I thought I should really focus on skin care and grooming.  There were two things that really drove me to do it.  First, the questions were increasing and they were very similar.  Maybe they just wanted it all in one place and easier to digest or maybe they just wanted it from a reputable source or it could be all of the above.  Then there’s the trend in men’s skincare that is booming. I thought, now is the time to do this. I wanted Manmade to be a book that everybody should have but I wanted men to think of it as a manual, as a resource. I don’t know how you are with manuals but I skip around and I probably shouldn’t. Maybe that’s why my TV doesn’t work better.

Well, I don’t read manuals. What projects can you talk about that Kiehl’s is working on for the future?

Oh my gosh, we are always working on something.  In the men’s market we are coming out with our first line of men’s anti-aging products. We also have our very first beard oil coming next year and it has been worth the wait; it’s great.  One of my favorite products we are launching in January is our Ultra Facial Deep Moisture Balm. I took it with me to Alaska. Have you ever been to Alaska?

No, I haven’t.

Let me tell you this much, if you ever go to Alaska, and go because it is amazing, the minute you get off that plane your skin is dry.  I don’t know how a lot of people do it.  I rode around for 1,000 miles and it was cold.  It’s 18 degrees on a motorcycle and I used this balm and it was amazing.  It has edelweiss extract and creates a barrier for your face.  It’s light weight but you get real protection so this is a real breakthrough in technology.

That sounds exciting.  Shifting gears, what motivates and inspires you?                       

I have always been curious and I love to experiment and try things. Whether it’s a new adventure, riding around on a motorcycle in Alaska or working on my country house in up state New York that was built in 1772. I love to push myself and discover new things. I’d say what motivates me most is finding ways to give back.  There is really nothing I think is more  fulfilling. It’s good for your soul to be able to find ways to help others.  I started that a long time ago out of grief because I lost a friend to AIDS. I didn’t think he was going to die but he did.  I was volunteering, donating whenever I could and now I feel I can really amplify that and do so much more. It doesn’t have to be major, you don’t have to ride a motorcycle like I do.  Find what you want to give back, what you are passionate about and start with the small things because what you may think is small, to the person receiving it, it’s huge.

Thanks Chris, it’s been great chatting to you.

Purchase Manmade here 

Antipodean Model Kylie Bax Reflects On Her Illustrious Career

New Zealander Kylie Bax first found fame in the early nineties. As a protégé of legendary photographer Steven Meisel, Kylie’s gamine allure inspired many a designer. She has appeared in numerous blue-chip editorials, advertising campaigns and her visage has graced the covers of international editions of Vogue, ELLE and Harper’s Bazaar.

Now a mother, Kylie has returned home to New Zealand where she continues to model and breed horses. I caught up with her as she reflected on her career and much more.

Tell us about the transition from the Miss Thames Valley competition to signing with an agency and moving to New York.

You are asking me to dig deep into my memory bank. It seems so long ago now. I think it was a brazen decision on my part to go to New York. It wasn’t what everyone thought was the best idea for me, including my agency in New Zealand.

I was scouted by Elle Macpherson’s manager, at the time, in New Zealand. He was working for Women Management, a new, cool and trendy agency in New York. I had to bite the bullet and go with my gut instincts which were telling me that if I didn’t make it in New York then I may as well do something else and move on from modeling.

I saved my pennies through working small catalog jobs in New Zealand and bought a ticket to the States. I hardly had any money and the value of the Kiwi dollar to the American dollar was pitiful. I knew that the leap had to be one of faith and hard work.

How did you deal with the isolation of being in New York so far away from family and home?

I am not one for being scared to be out on my own. I love the sense of new adventures and making new friends plus discovering new countries and cultures. Of course, arriving in New York at midnight was certainly the beginning of a quest. My family has always been supportive and given me the feeling that I can do anything I try if I work hard at it.

Kylie Bax by Justin TeodoroWho were the greatest influences on your career in the beginning?

Oh, definitely Steven Meisel. He is a master of design and creativity and he boosted my self-confidence through his support of my burgeoning career. He was the first one to shoot me for two covers of Italian Vogue and a 23 page editorial. Pat McGrath did the makeup and it was her first major editorial too. Garren oversaw the transformation of my hair and gave me my famous short bleach blonde look. We had so much fun.

Before heading to New York, in my teens, Linda Evangelista was my modeling inspiration. I remember her D&G campaign as clear as if it was just this month. Little did I know then that one day I would be called Linda’s little sister. What an honor!

Modeling has become such an aspirational career. What are your thoughts on this?

It looks very glamorous to the outside eye, but it’s very hard work especially if you want to make it to the top. I think the grounds for being a top model stem from having a team of family and friends that collectively give you strength and love. Modeling is a loveless industry; one minute you’re hot and the next not, in and out of fashion like fashion itself. I don’t believe modelling is what it used to be. I was lucky; I think my era was a special one.

What changes have you noticed in the industry from when you started?

I think the term supermodel is used very lightly and the turnover of top models is fast. Faces are less familiar and names are not remembered or household names. Actresses adorn coveted magazine covers more often than models now.

What effect has social media had on fashion in your experience?

The concept that the amount of followers you have dictates if you get the job or not is far beyond what I ever would have conceived the industry would turn to. I understand it but am less likely to accept it so readily. However, one must follow trends. The public dictates what is in and who’s cool and not so much the art directors and editors anymore.

Kylie Bax by Justin TeodoroYou are back in New Zealand breeding horses again. Tell us about your transition out of full-time modeling to breeding horses.

I still model. I’m the face of Paula Ryan clothing and still get countless requests for work in Europe and other places. However, my horses and what I was born into, which is the bloodstock industry, has always been a strong part of who I am. The first major campaign I signed on for was Escada and I used that money to buy a horse farm in Kentucky.

Fashion and horse racing have always been connected. One of the biggest fashion extravaganzas is the Kentucky Derby. New Zealand is a far cry from New York but it’s a superb alternative and such a wonderful lifestyle.

Do you feel like you have come full circle?

Yes, I’ve definitely set out and done what I said I would do when I was 20. I’ve had bumps along the way and it hasn’t always gone smoothly but the ride and journey has been unforgettable.

In retrospect, what did you discover about yourself through modeling?

That I’m stronger than I think I am. That I can achieve goals and I am incredibly lucky to have gathered so many amazing friends along the way. I think the friends I’ve made through modeling are pure gold. They are so lovely, warm, kind, artistic and talented and I’m glad I can call them friends. I’m insecure about my looks and I am grateful to my friends in fashion who gave me confidence in that department.

 Follow her at @kyliebridget and on Instagram