Photo courtesy of Raymond Croft
During my first shoot for The Know It Alls, I met Skye. She modeled for us in our premiere editorial, yes, that was an unabashed plug. Sweet, kind, AND wickedly intelligent. I left the shoot thinking, “Wow, she was so nice for a model.” Not even realizing that I had judged the woman before she even stepped foot on set. I must admit I’m not actually quite sure where I got the pre-conceived notion that all models are self centered, stuck up, and unable to hold their own in a conversation outside of fashion. To be honest, when I spoke with Skye, I don’t think we even talked about fashion once, more so about her love for journalism and her studies at Columbia. She plans to major in sociology or philosophy but hasn’t yet decided. Whoever started this model stereotype sucks because I kinda love this girl. Never judge a model by what ya’ heard cause they’re all lies I tell ya, lies.
How old are you?
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Alexandria, Virginia. I “grew up” in a lot of places, because we did so much foreign traveling when I was young. We spent a lot of time in Africa, and very significant time in Europe and in Asia. We always had a home in Orlando—that was our “base of operations.”
How did you get into modeling?
A modeling scout approached me while I was shopping with my sister at Orlando’s Mall at Millennia. He gave me his business card; I looked him up (to make sure nothing sketchy was going on…), and then I agreed to meet with him again. He introduced me to Wilhelmina’s modeling chief, and I signed a contract with Wilhelmina a couple of weeks after that.
Did you aspire to model? Do you have any previous experience?
Before I started, I had never made modeling a serious goal, given how rare it was to be ‘discovered.’ I had always dreamt of being an astrophysicist (although I have absolutely no natural skill in physics or any of the more quantitative, natural sciences…).
What was your life like before being discovered?
It was pretty different. I was rediscovering myself in high school. I was hopelessly awkward and tomboyish. Socially, I had a couple of friends, but that was it. But modeling came along around sophomore or junior year, and because of that experience, I started to change. The fact that I was already familiar with travel and seeing new faces every day came in handy; but I had to readjust socially to the professional world—quite a lot. I also began to get attention from casual acquaintances who normally didn’t give me a second look—so I quickly understood what a true friend was.
Have some of your goals changed since modeling?
I’ve never expected too much. This business, despite popular belief, is very tough, very competitive, and requires a lot of patience and objectivity. It may take years for anything ‘big’ to happen, it might happen in a second—or it might not happen at all. It’s a “lottery” industry. I’ve never been the type to know exactly what I plan to do. Plans can change in an instant, so I don’t try to overthink present circumstances. I just ‘go with the flow.’ I like to take the future on, day-by-day. I follow my interests in school without ulterior motive, and stay open to any opportunities in modeling.
What was your perception of modeling, prior to signing with Wilhelmina?
I thought modeling was just “America’s Next Top Model” and the women I saw on Victoria’s Secret posters. I was very, very wrong.
Is it difficult juggling homework, exams, college life, and a modeling career? How do you make time for everything?
I actually don’t have time for everything! Day-to-day life is made up of quick judgments and last-minute plans. For example, my agency may let me know that I have a photo-shoot in Brooklyn the next day. I then have to figure out how I can make it there on time, while also being present at the university (on 116th and Broadway) at some point, to turn in a (currently unwritten) 20-page-essay on Socrates’s oddly Freudian conception of love. On set, you’ll often see me buried in a book—studying for exams or preparing my next paper. Luckily, both my professors and people on set are really sweet and understanding. Despite all that, I absolutely refuse to compromise on sleep, working out, hanging out, and eating well. It’s the only way I stay happy and sane.
How do you stay focused and self-motivated?
Working out in the morning helps me arrange my thoughts for the day. It’s really the only time that I have to myself. I stay motivated knowing that I am responsible to myself and my family. I also stay motivated knowing that modeling is a truly special job that gives a lot of rare insight, so I shouldn’t give up when things get a little hard.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I wake up, work out, cook myself breakfast, run to class, go to some castings or a shoot downtown, then go back uptown to cook lunch. I may then hang out with friends, or edit submissions and do homework at the school newspaper office. I’ll then go home for dinner, study a little, then sleep. Aside from the castings/shoots, it’s a pretty standard college-kid-weekday. Modeling at 1 of the top 10 agencies while simultaneously studying at an Ivy League university is definitely not the norm for your average model. How does it feel to break so many stereotypes for models? I’ve always considered myself an outsider, simply because I didn’t have a very normal childhood. But I didn’t realize that that would make such a difference later on. But I don’t like to question my circumstances—I simply follow my passions and let those passions engender whatever label they may. I really like to read and write; I enjoy eating healthy and playing sports outside with friends. I guess that just happens to take place at Columbia and with Wilhelmina Models.
Do you think having a college education has afforded you more opportunities in the modeling industry or given you an advantage?
Plenty of models are doing well—much better than I am—without a college education. In fact, many people in my life outside of modeling are doing incredibly well, despite not having a college education. It even made me feel a bit wary about going to school. College educations definitely don’t define people, nor do they necessarily improve them. I just have a passion for the school and the people in it. I can’t say whether or not college has improved my chances in the modeling industry. But I can say that I’m able offer certain “angles” to conversations during the workday that I normally wouldn’t be able to, without a college education. I can amply discuss Nietzsche’s stance on tragedy or the Weberian stance on Puritanical capitalism—but I can just as well steam over the fact that the Nets lost last week, or the fact that chocolate ice cream is simultaneously the answer to and cause of my life’s problems….
What’s your take on many’s preconception that models just like to party, do drugs, are dumb, bitchy, and self-absorbed?
It’s just not true. While I do know some models who are like that, I know many more people outside of the industry who are like that too! Models, all the while, are some of the most balanced, steadfast people I’ve ever met. It takes quite a lot of will to remain grounded when the whole world tells you how you should look. I know many models who hold other jobs; who have dreams outside of fashion, and who actively pursue them. To assume that models are by nature a different ‘species’—one hopelessly inclined to debauchery—is more than a stereotype; it’s a little bit of a crime. We’re all just people—with variegated interests and affinities. Rarely do jobs actually define an entire demographic.
How do you combat the “model stereotype?”
By being who I am. I dislike drugs, excessive partying is tiresome, and I guess that I can say I’m not dumb. Remaining true is the best way anyone can combat a stereotype.
What advice would you give to other models to be successful and stay grounded in such a fast paced, influential, competitive industry?
Remember who you are. Follow the interests and enjoyments that you have always had. Don’t be afraid to be different, or even eccentric. Keep in touch with family and old friends. Take the time to unplug. There’s a lot more to you than your image.