This week we are taking a different step. Maya Coline is a freelance model, the first we feature on Models in the Raw. She has been modeling since she was 15 and was agency represented before going freelance. This choice seems to have worked out well for her, although it surely is not for everyone. Since the beginning of this project we have experienced pretty good relationships with agencies, bookers, scouts and models alike. Some have turned us down, some reached out to us, some surprised us. That’s basically how life goes.
There is a lot of talk at the moment in fashion industry, about the future, about new ways, about diversity, about standards. There is some sort of disorientation in the air, within the myriad possibilities of this fast-paced world. But at the end of the day, creativity needs a vision and some management. Some will find a mentor who gets them and works in their best interest, especially when at a young age, some will be better off with their own talent for personal branding and networking. One way or the other, it is never going to be easy.
Our journey started as a quest for authenticity, with a sincere curiosity for the personal view of the models we met and for their choices. We wanted to ask questions, to make things a little differently and to evolve as we go. There is no such thing as one truth or one right answer. It’s the choices we make that make us human. It’s the human dimension we are interested in.
Thank you for meeting us in your Parisian hood, Maya Coline. Paris has been your home for quite some time now, but before you have been living all across France and also in Milano for a while. Why did you decide to drop your anchor here?
My first impression of Paris was rough: a chaotic city with a lot of homeless, a disgusting metro and snobbish people… I didn’t really like it, though I decided to stay in Paris because I was looking for the best way to improve my acting skills while still modeling at the same time. I had been thinking about London before, but Paris was more approachable then. I got some family here and French is my first language, and language is essential to good acting! I figured out quickly that it had been the right choice. I really got some amazing teachers and even found a real master. I am enjoying attending the Acting International school and participating in workshops, like the one with Jack Waltzer, for example!
In my eyes Paris is still dirty and cold, BUT I have found a lovely place where I feel protected when life gets too stressful. I often give clothes and food to the homeless, I bike and I am totally in love with the vast offerings for learning, the diversity of cultures and the super open mind I found! Here is everything about art, fashion, theatre, dance, cinema! It’s amazing!
You are now working freelance as a model. When did you decide to go freelance? What are the pros and cons in your experience?
For me freelance means freedom! While in an agency I always felt uncomfortable every time I wanted to express myself or felt I had to do things I wasn’t really up for! I often felt like a sheep when I was going to castings. Most times you get sent to a casting where the client is not looking for a girl like you in the first place. So you have crossed the whole city, spent one hour or more in line behind other 100 girls waiting for your turn to hand them a book filled with pictures you don’t even think are your best and they look at you for 2 seconds and then bye! I have been sent to tests that were supposed to be free but at the end of the month 250 Euro were taken off my paycheck… It was not agreed on but I couldn’t complain either. Because complaining means you will no longer be the favorite girl at the booking desk, so having less chance to get a job. I quickly understood that my bookers were in fact my first client: if you are a fav, you’ll get to do the best castings with less girls and so get more options. They will call clients to push you and not another!
I started modeling at 15 and this system has worked for me in the past but it has some limit, including some respect and a whole understanding of the model! Since going freelance, I am working with more and more interesting people. I get to meet the people I really want to meet and can manage the time I want to put in it, I can say no when I don’t want to do something, so respecting myself and my creative vision! I take care of my own image and can take the direction I want to push my career into. Believe me or not, I get to work twice as much and earn four time the money while enjoying my career one hundred percent. I don’t feel like a sheep anymore and people around me keep telling me I am growing more and more beautiful. This beauty may well have something to do with happiness, don’t you think?
Instagram has become a powerful promotion tool. How much work and attention do you get from it?
Instagram is an amazing platform for my work. Without it, I wouldn’t be managing my work as a freelance so well! I get emails for castings, work, editorial and collaborations every day. And my clients get to see pictures of me that are up to date, they can see that I am quite active and also more of my personality. You can’t really make a wrong casting choice with that! Plus, some brands are more and more interested in working with models who already have some following.
Do you feel Instagram gives you the chance to express your personality in a creative way and create a persona that mirrors your interests?
Yes, I do. For example, I have recently been in Purple Magazine, it’s a magazine about art and fashion, and pretty famous, too. I guess I am giving an arty vibe on my instagram or at least showing some open mind. That is what the photographer and the team on the shooting had seen in me and what I could express on the day! They couldn’t have known from a basic smooth book made to please everyone! Month after month I see how the panel of people I am working with is increasingly matching who I am. Sharing my inspirations and personal projects I attract people who share my taste. A dream come true! And on top of that I follow inspiring profiles myself, thus getting both power and pleasure out of this “voyeuristic” system!
In your eyes, how important is authenticity right now?
Authenticity is really important. First of all for yourself: if you try to show something you are not, you will loose time attracting people you don’t want. It’s really important to be who you are and don’t try to change that! If you are faking it, people will eventually find out and think you are not sure about yourself and what you want and all your efforts will be for nothing, I mean they will not bring on the good you truly deserve! Like everyone deserves! I really wish everyone to find a way to express themselves and to experience authenticity to their maximum! That is the only way we can do good to others and give our best!
Since you have been doing some acting on the side, is this a talent you wish you can build on in the future?
Yes, that’s what I want. I have been working a lot for a movie this year and I am getting more and more requests. Just like for modeling, I want to do it my way. If I can have it this way, so bring it on! I love action movies and independent cinema. And to be honest, I wouldn’t mind being a Bond girl!
Being a model with a photographer boyfriend, how far is your relationship a creative one, too?
It’s amazing to have a creative boyfriend! We love to go together to dance shows or exhibitions, we are both visually sensitive. We share a lot of inspiration and one major point is that we understand one another when we are working hard and creation process gets complicated! And then there’s the fact that he is doing fashion photography and keeps me believing in the good side of fashion since he is doing an amazing work, really artistic, with a lot of thinking going into it! I trust him one hundred percent. And when we are going on vacation, sometimes we stop to take funny pictures or do something unusual. We often do artistic projects together and I love to share such moments with him.
I know we will be always evolving in an artistic way! He is thinking about turning to film making and I am pushing him to realize his dream like he is always pushing me when I have a new one! Creativity is also about pushing our productivity by giving each other confidence in what we are doing, you know?
What book, movie or work of art has most influenced your life?
Pina Bausch awoke all my artistic feelings in one moment! I grew up in an intellectual and artistic environment, so I really can no longer count how many books, paintings, songs and all sort of things have affected my life. But Pina Bausch is for me the perfect symbiosis of movements, music, the right perception of humanity, the sensibility of her observation, her style. They all just match. I have a deep admiration for her work. And she is a woman, I am a woman and I trust in female talent also thanks to her. There I find strength for my inner self!