Model Elise Crombez On Her Next Chapter

I met Elise one dreary Friday afternoon in a cafe in Chinatown in Washington D.C. As I perched at a high top table I noticed her sitting at the table across from me. To an untrained eye she would present as just another pulchritudinous brunette, but as someone who has studied fashion and models for the better part of two decades, I immediately recognized her. I waited until she was preparing to leave before satiating my curiosity and confirming my suspicions. As beautiful in person as she is in print, the Meisel muse entertained me either out of politeness, curiosity, or a mixture of the two. Now residing in New York, what follows is a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the model.

As a model you are defined by your looks. How did you reconcile your image with Elise the person?

I was lucky to have a strong foundation of family and friends while working. Going home to Belgium on a regular basis helped me balance out the demands of my job. But in the end, it was a gradual process of getting used to my ‘natural’ looks again after working with such great hair and make-up teams. I’m just really lucky to be seen and loved for who I am, and that is all I strive for. From the beginning, I have always looked up to women who age truthfully, fearlessly, and thus gracefully.

In fashion you have very little autonomy. What was that experience like for you, how did you cope, and in retrospect what have you discovered about yourself through this experience?

I agree that we are being told where to go and what to wear, although the reality is that most models move abroad, learn a new language, and make a life for themselves at a very early age in a business full of sharks. When I started, there were no smartphones or Wi-Fi, so we had to be much more responsible and self-sufficient. Most models become businesswomen in their early twenties. So I can proudly say that modeling has made me more independent than I could have ever dreamed to be.

You previously expressed an interest in film. Is that something that still holds your interest?

I love artistic self-expression. Modeling fed my passion to a certain extent but I felt at home in the acting lessons in New York and Los Angeles. I joined the Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Ghent, Belgium for a year before moving back to LA. This might seem strange to some, but exposing my vulnerability and truths creatively (through a character in a play, a movie, or my own writing), hoping to connect with the audience, is what I feel I’m meant to do.

What does success look like to you and do you think of yourself as successful?

I’m a Leo, so I’m very demanding of myself. Success felt like a threatening word for a long time because I feared it would change my beliefs and values. Today, I feel successful in the sense that I try to be a good person and have never compromised my core beliefs.

Do you feel you’ve achieved balance in your life?

I’m in this challenge right now. I find it very hard to sit still and be patient. Even though I sat in hair and make-up chairs for hours and had to wait for my turn at castings and fittings, I was still doing it for work. Work horses love to work. I’m trying my hardest to enjoy the free space I have without feeling guilty or forgetting I have sacrificed a lot when I left Belgium at 17.

If you think of your life in chapters what do you want to achieve next?

Creative risk-taking.

Where would you like to see your life in the future?

Healthy, honest, harmonious. Nothing great gets accomplished when you want to be happy and comfy. I realized that wanting to be HAPPY all the time is not conducive to what I feel my life’s purpose is, which is to show honesty on a stage, on the screen or in my writing.

What do you think people would be surprised to discover about you?

I turn into a kid when I’m at the beach, I’m obsessed with Jeopardy, and my dad jokes are relentless.

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Marland Backus: The Industrial Designer Turned Celine Breakout Star

For model Marland Backus, design was in her blood. Raised in Park Slope by her mother and assistant director father, the Pratt Institute alum is a budding industrial designer whose star turn in the Celine Winter 2019 campaign is trending on Models.com. When she’s not treading the catwalk, she can be found working on her jewelry line inspired by her travels to exotic locales around the world.

While enrolled in the Industrial Design program at Pratt Institute you rejected offers to model. Were you ever tempted to drop out and see how modeling panned out at the time?

It never even crossed my mind! I was totally focused on my design work at the time.

Talk to us about your design sensibility.

I try not to think about what people would buy or even what they would wear. I try to come up with things I’ve never seen before and I don’t ever limit myself by material or style. A lot of my pieces are very different but I still somehow feel they all have a similar vein running through them.

What designers have had the greatest influence on you?

I really try to look all over for inspiration but two jewelry designers I really love are Joyce J Scott and Richard Mawdsley.

Talk to us about the materials you prefer to use when creating your work.

Recently I’ve been working a lot with beads and a bead loom, weaving images and patterns out of beads.

Talk to us about your process when creating your jewelry.

Some of my pieces require a lot of problem solving and prototyping and others just require 20 plus hours working on the bead loom.

Since you started modeling has it influenced your own designs?

Traveling has really influenced my work. I love looking at traditional clothing and jewelry for inspiration, and I have gotten a lot of inspiration from my trips to places like Morocco, South Korea, and Japan.

Your Celine campaign is trending on Models.com. How did you feel when you found out?

Surprised!

What does life after modeling look like for you?

I don’t even know what life after next month looks like. I take it as it comes.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m learning Japanese.

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Model Meghan Collison Reflects On Her Storied Career

Model and muse Meghan Collison is a veteran of the modeling industry. As one of an elite number of models in Steven Meisel’s camp, Meghan has appeared on the cover of Italian Vogue seven times. Her feline gaze can be seen in a growing list of blue-chip advertising campaigns in addition to all the most sought after international runways and she shows no sign of slowing down. I recently spoke with the Edmonton native about her legendary career.

What was your childhood like growing up in Edmonton?

I had a typical childhood, except I always wanted a pet but I was never allowed to have one.

Tell us about how you were discovered.

My mom heard an ad on the radio announcing that there was a model search—hosted by Mode Models—happening at a local mall. She encouraged me to go because I fit the height requirements to enter. Much to my surprise I ended up winning the search and that’s how I started modeling. I’ve been with Mode Models for 13 years now.

How did you deal with isolation of life in New York being so far from your friends and family?

When I first moved to New York it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It definitely was an adjustment not being around my friends and family. This was before iPhones and FaceTime, but I remember texting and calling my family a lot. I also traveled between my hometown Edmonton and New York more frequently back then. It was a transition period, but I learned a lot about being independent and I’m grateful for the experience.

You’ve had a storied relationship with Steven Meisel, appearing on the cover of Italian Vogue several times. Tell us about what it’s like working with him.

He is amazing and inspiring to be around. I am so grateful for his love and support throughout my career. I wouldn’t be where I am without him. I am eternally grateful.

Who were your biggest advocates at the beginning of your career?

Honestly, my brother was the first person to truly believe in me. He helped me gain the confidence to move to NYC with so many unknowns in my future. He has always been there for me. Success in modeling is never a solo endeavor. I’m so thankful for all the photographers, agents, stylists, makeup artists, hairdressers, casting directors, art directors, and brands that have been advocates of mine. There are too many to even begin to name.

When did you realize you’d finally made it?

I can’t remember a specific moment, but there have been many highlights for me including: Italian Vogue covers, my image used for a limited edition puzzle by Steven Meisel, and Prada campaigns to name a few!

You’re somewhat of an industry veteran now. What keeps you interested in modeling?

I enjoy the creative process of modeling and photography. I also love traveling and meeting new people.

How has modeling shaped you and your world view?

It definitely helped make me more independent. I used to be quite shy when I was younger and it helped me overcome that as well. As far as worldview goes, I’ve been able to travel and experience different countries and cultures. It’s definitely opened my eyes and given me a greater appreciation that our differences are what makes us special.

What’s next for you after modeling?

I would love to live somewhere by the sea. It’s been a long-lasting dream of mine.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I can’t whistle.

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Introducing Kendall Visser

Up and coming model and social media starlet Kendall Visser’s joie de vivre is refreshing and contagious. The beachy haired beauty with a radiant smile has already walked for Giorgio Armani, and Dolce & Gabanna all while attending school. Now that she is pursuing her dream full-time the future looks bright for this Arizona native.

Tell us about your childhood. 

I am very grateful for my childhood—I am the eldest child in my family—I have one brother, one sister, and my parents are happily married. I was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and I grew up there up until I entered high school, and then we moved to Newport Beach, California. I am very close to my family, and it is something I highly cherish.

Tell us about how you were discovered. 

I was laying out by the pool at a country club in Arizona with my girlfriends when I was scouted by a model agent. I was fifteen years old at the time. The agent was from a local agency in Arizona where I was eventually signed to in addition to agencies in LA, and New York. I am now based in New York, and Paris. I am very lucky that model scout discovered me because I do not think I would have ever gone into this career if it weren’t for what happened that day.

How do you think social media, in particular Instagram, has helped you as a model?

Social media has done so many wonderful things for my career aside from just keeping me connected with family and loved ones. It has given me the opportunity to really show who I am through all the different features it has to offer. I can show my personality, my interests, my lifestyle, and my overall vibe through Instagram. It has helped brands, and casting directors get a better sense of who I am as an individual, therefore helping me get booked more.

What have been your career highlights so far?

I have been extremely fortunate in my career so far. I graduated from college last May and I moved to New York to chase my dream of becoming a full-time model. When I graduated I spent some time in Paris and I walked in my first Paris Haute Couture show for Giorgio Armani. When I was in school I would get booked direct and one of my highlights during that time was getting to work with my brother Neels. We did an American Eagle campaign together and we walked in a Dolce & Gabbana show literally side by side. Achieving things like that when I was still in school was major for me. Now that I am out of school I am able to stay focused on my career and achieve so much. I cannot wait to see what opportunities come my way.

What are your aspirations and goals for the future? 

Overall, I aspire to be happy with who I am and happy with whatever I may be doing in the future. I also aspire to always be surrounded by good people that I love. I have countless goals with modeling, and I am going to work my hardest to achieve those goals. I also have been taking acting classes so I hope there may be some big acting achievements in my near future and later. There are also so many extraordinary connections that can be made in this industry, and I feel that I will benefit from that in the long run and maybe discover a hidden passion throughout my journey.

What do you hope to get out of your modeling career? 

I hope to have many incredible experiences modeling such as traveling to cool places for destination shoots and shows. I would love to see the world and different cultures while doing what I love. I feel that traveling to new places can really shape someone and their outlook on life. I am very fortunate that my career has those opportunities. I hope I get to be in big campaigns, big runway shows, and that I achieve the unexpected. I am optimistic that I continue to find amazing people along the way and like I said before, create new connections that can benefit myself and others.

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

I would probably be focused on acting. I started taking classes this past year and I have fallen in love with it. It is truly amazing and it’s almost therapeutic for me. Acting can be challenging but it has allowed me to express myself and get out of my shell like I never have before.

What do you think people would be surprised to learn about you? 

I think people would be surprised to learn that my family is South African. My dad was born in Zimbabwe and raised in South Africa. The last thing I think people would be surprised to learn about me is that my absolute favorite thing on earth is ice cream. I have a personalized ice cream scoop that says Ken Viss the Ice Cream Princess that my friends gave me when I was in high school.

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Introducing Veronika Vilim

Rising star Veronika Vilim traded the gritty streets of Manhattan for the runways of Milan and Paris, and she can be seen peering out of the pages of glossies in campaigns for Marc Jacobs and Saint Laurent in addition to boundary-pushing editorials in leading fashion magazines. I spoke with the platinum haired beauty with rock-chick sensibilities about growing up in the city that never sleeps and her furry obsession.

What was it like growing up in New York? 

Growing up in New York I always felt like I was in a bubble that never slept. I knew that everything was growing around me so quickly, and I wanted to keep up with it all. It made me realize at a young age that I will always be growing, transforming, and I must let myself go but also hold on tight for the ride of life. Having everything in the palm of my hands since I was a kid really made me realize I can be, act, and do whatever I want. I love New York and I love growing with it around me. I am grateful to be influenced by it every day even the good and the bad.

Tell us about how you were discovered.         

Modeling was a fantasy of mine as a kid—ever since I can recall people have told me I should be a model—but I was short until I turned 15 and then I grew 7 inches in one year. That year I walked into a few agencies and everyone showed interest in me. In that moment I realized this dream could become a reality.

How has your background in performing arts influenced your approach to modeling?         

It helped in every way. I love performing—especially in front of a camera—get me in front of one and I’m shaking my little body in every way I can. I am a Gemini—I feel like I have a million characters inside me—and in front of a camera I feel them and decide this is who I am right now and I become that.

What was the moment when you felt that you’d finally arrived?

I would say that I arrived at birth, but I actually arrived when I realized that confidence is the most important thing. When I felt it I was truly “there”. It’s something that is always growing and realizing that I knew that this would be the closest I’ll ever be to actually arriving.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?                  

Wow, I’ve had a lot of highlights. Chopping my hair off and dying it blue for Marc Jacobs was next level—I always wanted to do something like that—but between ballet and modeling I couldn’t do it. When this came along I was crying with happiness. Shooting the Marc Jacobs campaign with the hair was super special and surreal because I always wanted to work with him.

What have you discovered about yourself through modeling?          

I can be who I want to be and people are willing to accept me for who I am. It has helped me realize that conforming is not helpful, and telling anyone I can’t or I’ll try will never work. Always say I can and see where it takes you.

Outside of modeling what do you do to decompress?       

Basically anything creative, I love music, and I love making music. I love making clothes, painting, and acting. I also really love playing—and watching people play—video games.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?         

I am obsessed with stuffed animals, and have had a plushie obsession since I was a child. As a kid I remember going to Disney World and throwing myself onto any stuffed creature. My mom saved a bunch of my old stuffed animals and I have also been collecting them. I have a room in my apartment filled with them.

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