17 Feb Julia Conley | Modeling in New York
Frank Sinatra said it best in “New York”, “If I can make there, I can make it anywhere!” They aren’t just lyrics from a song, it’s the truth.Growing up in Northern California, I was blessed to live in a state fueled by sunshine, but I always knew New York would to be the place that would launch my career. Following my intuition, I packed my bags, my record player, and headed east. After driving for seven days and three thousand miles, I had arrived! I found myself immersed in all the cultural of the world coexisting in what seemed to be a concrete jungle. Being curious by nature, and with eyes wide, every moment became an adventure. Lights, Camera, Action!
One of my first and most memorable photo shoots took place just down the street from my building. Because I lived so close, I took a stroll to acclimate myself to my new environment. As I made my way down the street, I couldn’t believe I was actually able to walk to a shoot. This was the last and final shoot that I would be able to walk to. Don’t even get me started on the public transportation. I strongly suggest you learn to whistle or memorize the metro routes if you are going to be on time.
I walked up a brick skyscraper, pulled open a thick glass door, and presented myself to the front desk. They ushered me to the elevator and up I went, seventeen floors, with the thought that this was the moment I had been waiting for all my life. The elevator door opened and a familiar scent caught my attention. Incenses filled the hallway leading me to the studio’s door. I rang the bell, and was greeted by the photographer whose hair was pulled back into a low ponytail.
I felt like I was in more of a yoga studio than a white-walled photo studio. As I removed my motorcycle boots at the door, I observed the bohemian decor adorned with tropical leaves and crystals. We sat down by the computer and spoke at great lengths about ourselves.
The whole experience seemed like a scene in a Wes Anderson film, especially when we discussed the hair and make-up. The photographer, blank faced, told me that we wouldn’t be using make-up during our shoot. It puzzled me a bit, but I was open to trying a something new. It took me a moment to fully let go and have fun with the shoot. The photographer advised me to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and open my eyes once I had exhaled. This has become my go-to tool when in front of the camera. Taking time to pause resets your mind and allows you to be present and focus on the emotion you want to convey. In this shoot I was able to reveal my truest self in a light I had never done before. Being in my natural state affirmed the idea that we are just as beautiful naturally as we are with cosmetic enhancements.
After our shoot, which lasted much longer than planned, I was introduced to Katty, a soothing radiant soul that gave me valuable insight into the modeling industry. She explained the changes that would occur in me in the months to come. If I was going to be serious about my career, my whole lifestyle would have to change, and it did when I treated my body as my temple. With frequent trips to whole foods, ensuring that what I ate was grown naturally, I became more consciously aware of my diet. Although it wasn’t fun replacing my oatmeal cookie with a kale chip, the results proved to be worth the sacrifice. I was beginning to glow from the inside out. Your true self is your most beautiful self, and nothing is greater than that which is organic.
Although the natural state is now my favored state, modeling challenges you to embody different looks in sometimes unfavorable environments. As easy as we may make it appear on camera, it requires a resilient personality and a lot of dedicated work. I have been on shoots in the desert when it’s almost hundred degrees wearing ski gear, and had to depict that everything was cool. I have also had to wear swimwear in the freezing cold, and portray an image of warm bliss. With that being said, modeling takes a certain state of mind. You must be completely confident in who you are to be able to speak to the camera. What I have come to realize, living in the harsh and ever-changing environment of New York is that you must have a strong will to survive. My auditions are scattered around the city, requiring me to always be prepared to take a journey. Nothing comes easy in this overpopulated city; you must put forth major effort to get where you want to go. Unlike Los Angeles’s laid back style, New York is straight business. Time is considered precious and must not be wasted. I feel as if I am in perpetual motion. There are times where I have been called back or put on hold, only to not get the job in the end. I learned to not take anything personal. There is no time to waste on insecurities. This city has taught me to know your worth and go after what you want. Onward and upwards!
New York has taught me to have a clear direction. If you don’t have a focus, you will get lost in the sea of dreams, making it out with nothing to show for yourself. Being in this fast pace city has motivated me to make every second count and live life to the fullest. I wanted to do bridal editorials, so I told my agent at Wilhelmina, and I ending up landing the cover of Contemporary Bridal Magazine. Not everything comes as easy as that, but if you don’t put yourself out there, you will never know just how far you can stretch the realm of possibilities.
When I am not working or in acting class at Lee Strasberg, I am seeing all that this city has to offer. The last three months have been the most exciting times I have ever had walking the busy streets. I have spent afternoons walking aimlessly through Central Park only to discover a live show at the dome. Most of my pass time is spent at museums. My favorite museum is PS1, which contains the most incredible exhibits for contemporary art. If I hop the L train to Brooklyn, I can always create art at a friend’s studio or find treasures at a vintage store on Bedford Avenue. If I want to have a Breakfast at Tiffany’s day, I just take a cab to Fifth Avenue and shop the latest trends until my feet are sore. Style is everything in this city, centering on the concept that you can never go wrong wearing all black. My nights are filled with charity galas, Broadway performances, exploring new restaurants, and outrageous parties, too many to mention. I’ve been to outlandish penthouses uptown, antiquated churches converted into flats, and futuristic jettison style apartments. I am in the epicenter of the creative world. Every morning, before I take my dog on a walk, I look out my window towards lady liberty, and feel inspired by the strength she symbolizes.
NEW YORK’S ENERGY IS CONTAGIOUS
Inspiration comes from many different aspects of life. I am inspired by the mighty skyscrapers towering above my head, which symbolize that with a solid foundation there are no limitations. When I walk into my agency and witness the energy overflowing through the phone lines, I know this is place where I belong. Inspiration comes from trips to the museums, and seeing the struggle an artist had to go through to finally gain recognition. It’s those artists I keep in mind when I trek in the cold to an audition and have to defrost in the waiting room. Inspiration comes through the brilliant conversations I share with the most interesting characters. All of those who have dared to be great are inspirations to me.
New York has been a boot camp as far as it comes to modeling. I have never tried as hard as I have now to be the best version of myself. New York’s energy is contagious and gives me no option but to go with the flow. Considering my career choice, I have chosen the road less traveled. It is a struggle, but the rewards are worth the obstacles I encounter. I am thankful that I get to have the best of both worlds, traveling between Los Angeles and New York. I am looking forward to experiencing my very first fashion week this fall. The best advice I can give is to be strong and believe in yourself no matter how farfetched your dreams may be. When you are in front of the camera, be your true self and nothing more. Go for what you want in life and never look back. You are the creator of your reality.