“I’m more comfortable naked on a shoot than fully clothed in the real world!” Modeltypeface meets Aimée Nazroo!
Aimée Nazroo has ‘It’. I met her for the first time for this interview, and left our meeting feeling both elated and exhausted – a couple of hours with Aimée is like being constantly pelted with a scattergun of optimism and confidence. It’s awesome.
Incredibly tall and slim, she has the sort of long limbs that take her from one end of the room to the other in just one step, like the BFG. Her ‘model uniform’ look of black leggings, tight top and clompy boots emphasises her elegance…As well as her bandy-legged goofiness, which helps stop her coming across as unrelatable or unattainably gorgeous.
This was my first ever interview for Modeltypeface with a model I’ve never met before, and I was a bit nervous! I didn’t need to be, though – our two hours in the LVK Lounge at the W Hotel, where models can eat and drink for free – was not only enjoyable but really fascinating. Aimée took the lead, and has the easy familiarity that lots of models have: we’re used to getting on with teams of people straight away, which is probably why we were discussing cystitis within 1 minute of meeting!
Just like Aimée tends to, I digress. Here’s our interview…
A: Hey Rebecca! I love your blog. I think it’s so important to talk about the experience of us models and give us a voice. In fact, I did my dissertation on the labour market within the creative industries. People don’t realise how precarious and unregulated our work is.
R: Wow thanks Aimée! I agree that we’re often misrepresented as lazy divas – it’s nice to show the truth, as well as a bit of sisterliness! So what do you think it takes to survive in an unreliable job like modelling?
A: You have to be strategic, always 5 steps ahead of your game. You’re not just thinking of the next step, but where you have to be headed after that. You need a killer work ethic – I always ensure that I make the most of every day from the second I wake up. A short-term memory helps, too – if you can’t easily forget losing money or facing rejection, you won’t survive long in this job!
Finally, nowadays, you have to be shameless in telling people what you’re up to up to on social media, which I’m still getting used to. I’m reading ‘Show Your Work’ by Kleon, which is helping me get to grips with that.
R: It’s true – you’ll get left behind otherwise as other models are so ‘on it’! Right, I feel like we should rewind, as I don’t know anything about you or your career! Tell me how you started. Oh and where you’re from – you have such an unusual look.
A: My Dad’s from Mauritius, and my Mum’s from the Seychelles.
A: Yeah! So it all started when I was 15. My uncle, who’s a DJ, knew a booker at Profile. They asked me to come in and, when I did, I was signed on the spot.
R: And did you get good work right away?
A: No. I was building up my book, and it was really slow. It was all tests and online magazines – I just had to stick at it.
R: Well you seem to be doing really well now – you’re always working (it took months for this interview to happen!) – and you seem to be at Rankin’s studio every other day.
A screenshot of a Polaroid from a test for Coco De Mer with Rankin the other day.
A: That’s true – it feels like it’s happening for me now. I’m gaining momentum and it feels good.
R: Well you don’t have to be 16 to make it big these days. Look at Lara Stone, whose career took off at 26. You’re how old?
R: Well there you go then! Was there a turning point for you?
A: Hmm. Well I did get some good work on my gap year, but I suppose my turning point was when I went to Uni. It’s not that I got a particular job, but more that my ambition with modelling was…Cemented, I guess. I decided that I truly wanted to pursue modelling and succeed.
So basically, I was doing my degree at York, which is a very prestigious University. I was paying my own way through my modelling work and, to be honest with you, I was horrified at a lot of the people I was studying with. Having come from navigating all the weirdness, challenges and adult nature of modelling in London, I was now surrounded by all these middle class, idiot kids who couldn’t be bothered to show up for class. They were just interested in drinking, shagging and spending Daddy’s money.
R: Ha! I was at Bristol Uni and I had a very similar experience. I met some great people and I wanted to make the most of studying as I was paying for it myself. However, some people rarely made it to lectures and didn’t care about learning.
A: Yes! Of course I made some lovely friends but I felt at times like I was in Mean Girls. Without even telling people about my job, I had a reputation for being ‘The Model’ – I could see people whisper it when I walked past. I guess I figured – if I can establish a reputation for myself as a model at Uni without even trying, then perhaps I could really make it in the fashion industry.
I emailed my agency when I graduated [She got a 1st – natch – R] just saying ‘Let’s go,’ and they’ve been pushing me ever since.
Every model needs an agency that is totally behind them – Profile are my backbone, my other family.
R: What nice jobs stand out for you so far?
A: Tigi was a big one for me. I was in my last year at Uni and I came down especially for this casting. I was exhausted from studying, I looked rough and I just couldn’t see the point in the casting as I knew I wouldn’t get it, so I walked in with that terrible energy.
Anthony Mascolo [creative director of Tigi – R] ended up taking me for lunch to tell me that I had got the job. He said he wanted to give it to someone deserving, and that I was in education and had ambition so they all felt like I should be the one to get it.
I’m pretty sure I cried. It was a huge job to get, and it was £15k. My Mum’s a carer, my Dad’s a graphic designer and the recession has really affected his work. So it was amazing that I could finally treat my parents!
R: And Rankin? It’s a huge opportunity to work with him.
A: Nick from Tigi suggested me for a Leica calendar shot by Rankin. Typical Rankin, I started out in a ball gown and ended up naked!
He uses me a lot, because I suppose I’m pretty relaxed on set and up for whatever on the shoots. I remember being on a shoot with him and he called out for 2 Coke cans to make my nipples poke out!
R: How do you feel doing naked shots?
A: I think I’m quite a paradox. Growing up I was a real tomboy and I was bullied for being so skinny and flat-chested, which made my hyper-aware of my height and weight. I go to acting classes and I’m told that I have a very masculine, ballsy energy. So I’m this lanky tomboy who the agency are always telling me to put on weight, which is probably unusual for a model – but I’m just naturally skinny!
On the other hand, I love doing lingerie jobs, and I’m totally comfortable on sexy shoots with Rankin. I feel complete ownership over my body and what’s being asked of me on shoots.
From this shy, retiring kid at school I feel as though I’ve blossomed into a sexually empowered model and I have a good relationship with my body. I’m more comfortable naked or in underwear on a shoot than fully clothed in the real world!
R: Cool – I don’t think it’s wrong to shoot naked or sexy – but I do think it’s important that models have thought about the consequences of doing nude shoots, and know in themselves what they’re comfortable with, like you have.
If you love lingerie, what about Victoria Secret? You definitely have the right Amazonian vibes..
A: I suppose so…I mean I’d love it…
R: If you want it you’d better mean it!
A: You’re right! Yeah, OK, I’ll be honest – I’d love to get Victoria Secret! I’m all about healthy, athletic bodies and it’s the ultimate commercial modelling job.
R: So finally Aimée, I’d love to know what advice you’d give to my MTF readers about modelling.
A: It’s actually advice that my supervisor gave me at Uni when I was slogging my guts out for my dissertation, working night and day. I’m a perfectionist and I can get really obsessed with whatever I’m wanting to achieve in that moment, meaning I can get tunnel vision. He told me,
‘Always wash your knickers.’
It’s about taking that time out to take care of yourself, which we can forget as models. It’s important to sleep, to eat right and to keep in contact with your family and friends, or you’ll burn out.
R: Sound advice indeed. Thank-you, Aimée!
Check out Rankin’s website here.