Introducing Xu Liu

Model Xu Liu had a fascination with the fashion industry but it wasn’t until her mother suggested she enroll in a local modeling school that things took off. With a slew of editorials under her belt and a campaign for Philipp Plein, Xu’s ascent has only just begun.

Tell us how you were discovered.

I have to thank my mum. She believed I would make a great model. When I was 15, she asked me if I would be interested in modeling and learning more about it. I told her yes. I saw models wearing beautiful clothes on television and I wanted to wear beautiful clothes as well even though I didn’t know anything else about the industry at that time.

She sent me to a model school on the weekends. During that time, my modeling teacher encouraged me to attend different contests where I learned a lot by competing. About six months later I won the Elite Model Look in China.

What were the biggest adjustments you made when moving to NY?

Everything has changed! I mean everything. I traveled a lot during the last four years. My life at university was all about packing and unpacking until I graduated last year. It’s my first time moving to a new city and starting a full-time career. Everything is new and unknown to me but I’m excited to see it.

What challenges have you faced thus far in your modeling career?

Balancing modeling and university while learning how to be a great model. Modeling is a job that requires lots of traveling. You never stay in one place. Anyway, I finally did it and I can focus on modeling now.

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

I’d probably go back to university to study another major. Something related to art or fashion.

What are your goals for the future?

I have many goals for different periods of my life. My current goal is to live in New York and model full-time. I am enjoying it and striving to reach my goal.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I am not sure; it could be anything. I’m still learning. Life changes a lot but I would like to be myself. Hopefully, one day, I’ll do something great that makes people surprised and impressed.

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Introducing Nadja Giramata

Rwandan-born model Nadja Giramata fled to France with her family at age five. She later moved to Manchester, England to study English Literature where she was scouted in a local park. This statuesque beauty has starred in campaigns for Topshop and Philipp Plein and graced the cover of ELLE.

You’ve had an interesting life. Tell us about your path into modeling.

I started modelling pretty late compared to others girls. I was already at university and had just moved to Manchester for my language studies and to live with my sister. One day on my way home from university a lady stopped me in Piccadilly Gardens and told me that I should join her agency. By that stage I had dropped the idea of being a model from my mind as I thought it was too late.

Do you think being a model of color has hindered you in any way?

I hope not! In my head when I go to a casting I see myself as a model, not as a model of color. I feel that I have the same chances as the other girls. Even if a client is searching for a brunette or a blonde girl, I can still make him change his mind. I feel like it’s up to me. Of course there are still some diversity issues. The only way to change that, in my humble opinion, is to show them that I am more than capable of doing the work.

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

I would still be studying, as I had already started my language studies and English Literature when I was discovered. I’d also have a part-time job on the side.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given while modeling?

Don’t worry, it will happen at the right time for you. Most of the time I want everything straight away, but everything happens on its own timing. Worrying won’t add any more days to my life.

What are your goals for the future?

I’d like to use my languages for international business.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I am crazy about classical music. I am a big fan of Vivaldi and Chopin. As worldly as I am, I am unable to eat with chopsticks.

Follow her at @GiramataNadja

Introducing Alexandra Tomlinson

Born and raised in Atlanta, Alexandra Tomlinson’s career began after a fortuitous visit to the dentist. She has graced the covers of Marie Claire, Flair and Elle and has appeared in campaigns for D&G, Zac Posen, Etro and Armani. This All-American beauty took time out from her busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.

Tell us how you got started in modeling.

I was 13 and at the dentist, which I’m not a fan of, but the receptionist recommended I call a local Atlanta agency her husband modeled for. I did and it all started from there.

What have you discovered about yourself through modeling?

I’ve discovered that I’m resilient and strong. Not everybody is going to like you, your look or what you bring to the table but that’s up to them. I like myself and I’m able to let most criticism roll off my back. As long as I know I’m doing the best I can I’m cool with people’s perceptions.

How do you handle the isolation that comes with modeling?

I’ve always hated sleeping away from home. Being away so much, especially in the beginning of my career, was really hard. Luckily I have a great family who travels with me when they can. I make friends and I read a lot of books. Honestly, I’ve always been pretty independent and enjoy spending time alone. Plus, after traveling and working long hours on set, a little isolation can be nice.

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

I’d be writing. Well, I am writing but nothing cohesive or on a public stage as of yet.

​What are your goals for the future?

It may sound simple, but I just want to be happy and healthy. What more can we ask for?

What would people be surprised to learn about you?​

I think people would be surprised, or maybe they wouldn’t be surprised, that I talk to the birds. I mean I whistle at them. I like to confuse the ones that perch on my fire escape. I’m not trying to confuse them, but they get confused.

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Taylor Foster – Heaven Sent

Born in Miami, Taylor Foster was scouted when she was just thirteen years old. She has walked the runways of Milan, New York, Paris and London for top designers and has appeared in international editions of Vogue, W, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, i-D and Vanity Fair.

I called Taylor and talked about modeling, motherhood and her passion for the culinary arts.

I thought it would be best to start at the beginning. You were raised in Florida, is that right?

I was born and raised in Miami, oddly enough for a freckly red-head. Every time I say that, even people who I’ve worked with for years, look at me and are like, “that is the last thing I would expect”.

But yeah, I grew up there and people are always surprised by that. I remember I was about 13 and I walked to the corner stationery store. I was in there and this woman walked up to me and gave me her card. She was from Ford Models.

Were you familiar with the industry? Typically a lot of people approached are reluctant or suspicious because they don’t know much about the industry.

I didn’t know tons about the industry but I knew enough that I recognized the name Ford and I knew that she was legit even though I was still a little freaked out by it. I remember I went home and I told my mom, who had a brief stint in the modeling world in the sixties.

How did that conversation go with your mom?

She had some bad experiences as a model but I remember she told me that if I was interested then I should check it out.  She always kind of let me do whatever I wanted.

What happened next?

I had an older sister I dragged along with me and the agency signed us both. I remember my first shoot ever was with her. I wish I had those pictures but I never saw them. I don’t even remember what it was for.  I modeled a little bit and then I went to boarding school in Switzerland. I remember I gained a little weight when I was away and when I came back my agent sat me down and told me to lose weight. I was like forget it so I didn’t do anything with it for a few years.

How did that conversation go down with your agent?

I just remember thinking I’m not going to do that. I felt fine the way that I was. I mean, thankfully I didn’t get all crazy about it.

Many girls at that age are so impressionable and influenced by the media. I think it’s great that you were able to be so confident and knew your value at such a young age.

I just had a very strong sense of self.  Maybe it was the way I was raised,  I don’t know. It didn’t feel like some ultimate thing that I needed to aspire to. It wasn’t a big deal for me to walk away from it. It just made sense and that was it. I finished high school and then I went to a year of college and then I decided to go to culinary school.  At the time, there was a waiting list to get into the culinary school that I wanted to go to.

I had applied to a couple of programs and I wanted to travel. I remember I went back to Miami and thought maybe I should try the modeling thing again as a ticket to travel. I walked into a different agency in Miami Beach and I met with someone and he turned me away. As I was walking out the door, another agent came after me and told me the other agent didn’t know what  he was talking about. I just wanted to  go to Europe so then off I went and I lived in Milan and Paris. I did some shoots for ELLE and things like that and they kept trying to draw me back into the business. I didn’t want to do it anymore.

Modeling was always a means to an end for you then?

It was, yes. It’s interesting for me to see girls that are really into the business. It’s just now that I can understand, appreciate and be compassionate about it.

It’s refreshing hearing you talk about it in this way because I think, particularly nowadays, it’s such an aspirational career for women .

I came back to the states and I bought a Volkswagen bus and I drove cross-country and I lived in Berkeley for a while. I got accepted to culinary school and I went did that. While I was on my externship, my agent in Miami had a booking for me for a one day shoot in the Keys for $1500 for the day. I was making $4.25 an hour at the time so I thought do I really hate it that much?

At the time I was broke and I was just getting by. I made the decision that when I graduated from culinary school I would give modeling one last try. After I graduated,  I moved to New York which is another thing I never thought I’d do because I never really wanted to live in the city. Within a few weeks of being in the city my agent sent me to Paris for the shows. As soon as I got there, I booked a Prada exclusive. It was just perfect timing for redheads and that was when I met Emily Sandberg.

I rode that wave, but even at the time I remember thinking it was a lot to deal with it; running around and flying to this place and that and doing all that work. I managed to save money and open a bakery so it worked out.

How do you feel about the industry now compared to when you began?

I think it’s still a challenging industry and I think it still has a rigid set of guidelines that you are held up against for sure. I’m older now and with experience I appreciate the opportunities modeling has afforded me more than ever.  I’m grateful and excited to still be working. I feel that I can offer more of myself on shoots now compared to when I first began in the industry.

Now that your dream of owning your bakery has come to fruition it must be very rewarding for you. It’s something that you worked very hard for and it’s been very successful.

Last week I sent a box of baked goods to someone and the rave reviews I got for those baked goods made me so proud. It’s hugely fulfilling and the fact that I’m teaching cooking classes at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY is thrilling to me. I’ve seen my picture in French Vogue and it’s  cool, but the fact that I’m in the Omega Institute catalogue is amazing.

How do you achieve balance in your life? You’re a mother, you’re getting back into cooking, you teach and you’re modeling.

I’m constantly trying to find balance and figure out how to spend great time with my son, build the baking business back up, model, do yoga and teach.  I guess that goes back to what I said earlier. I like to keep myself really busy.

Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

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Anastassia Khozissova On The #Lifeofthemodel


Anastassia started her fashion career in Milan at 18 after finishing high school. Her debut at the Armani runway show was quickly followed by an appearance on the cover of Italian Vogue.

During the course of her career, she has appeared on international covers of Vogue, W Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, i-D, Elle, V Magazine and L’Officiel. She has done countless runway shows in addition to advertising campaigns for Valentino, Chanel, Dior, Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood and Ralph Lauren.

Tell us about how you began your modeling career.

My career started in Saratov Russia when I was 15. It was a spontaneous decision. I never thought I would get far and to be honest, I thought it would be just a temporary thing in Russia. I was scouted by an Italian agency and left for Milan. It was my first flight and first time out of the city. It was a priceless experience. Since then I’ve been modeling for 20 years.

What values instilled in you have served you well in your career?

I believe respect and helping others has taken me far. Smile at life and she will smile at you back.

You have been a part of the Ralph Lauren brand for a number of years. Tell us how your relationship began.

I’ve been part of the Ralph Lauren world for the last 10 years. It all started with the Aviator collection. I went for a casting and they were looking for a fit model. I was more of a runway and editorial model at the time. I had just moved to New York and was not having an easy time. He chose me to be his girl and it practically saved me, though he probably doesn’t know that. I love and respect the brand and specially Ralph for believing in me and seeing in me what others could not see.

How has working with the brand changed the course of your career?

It changed everything. I quit doing other shows and working with other designers and focused on my work and learning a new side of the fashion business at Ralph Lauren. I learned more than anyone could directly from a master and that’s more than you can dream of.

Tell us about why you started your brand AK Consulting.

AK Consulting is my consulting company which has the brand #Lifeofthemodel. I’m working on a consulting basis with the Yoox group, Carlo Pazolini, INGA and others.

What are short-term and your long-term goals?

I don’t like to talk about my goals until they are done and ready to be show to the world.

What have you learned about yourself through modeling?

I’ve learned so much; networking, fashion history, fittings for designers, research, styling, branding and business are just some of the things I’ve learned over the course of my career. I also had the privilege of working with designers who are no longer with us including Gianfranco Ferré and Alexander McQueen. I am very lucky to have worked with almost every brand in the world.

What is your spiritual practice?

I like to maintain a healthy lifestyle which includes a lot of walking, working out (Pilates) and cooking is my meditation. Even on bad days, I try to find happiness. I believe in God  and in myself.

Follow her at @AKhozissova and on Instagram

Images courtesy of Marco Piana