The modeling industry has set up a series of standards of what is known as the "ideal." There is an ideal height, weight, structure and look and in some cases, race. Once this "ideal" is established and becomes the norm, models change, contort, starve, remove, augment, bleach, dye, dermabrase until they meet the "ideal" with the hope of being the next "one".
That's easy when you're a little overweight. You diet, you exercise, you liposuction. If your breast are too large, you can reduce them. If your nose is unsatisfactory, you can make adjustments. You can bleach your skin, or you can tan. What do you do when you're too short - if you're lucky you can wear heels - Kate Moss can attest to that, however, what do you do when you're too tall?
To quote the illustrious Orenthel - the Fashion expert - "... you can't be too tall. Nobody wants an unfinished inseam..." and he is absolutely right, so the models who are 6'3 (because the cut off is 6'2) fudge their statistics in hopes of getting fashion jobs. But what if you're taller than 6'3, or even 6'4 for that matter? What if you're 6'8?
No. It wasn't a typo. What if you're 6'8? You already know that Prada and Gucci are not going to book you, and you learn to accept that fact that you will not be gracing anyones run way with the latest fashion trends, however, what if you have the goods, but you are outside the box of the "ideal"?
You embrace what God has given you and take it to another arena and that is what Mr. Devone Stephenson of New York plans to do. Mr. Stephenson is affectionately known in the model circles as Six Eight (not original, but hey, it works).
Mr. Stephenson is an impressive size. 6'8, 210 of solid muscle. He has a 30 inch waist, and 44 inch chest and the build that even Superman would have to take notice. His first love is basketball and from time to time plays semi-pro ball. He is also a personal trainer and mentor to New York's urban youth. I've always been told about this model "Six Eight" but being in the fashion industry, I had no desire to shoot him whatsoever. I could never get anyone to clothe a body like that. Any model I would pair him with he would dominate the frame and anything I would decide to shoot with him would have to be some sort of wide angle lens. The second time he was brought to my attention was through New York makeup artist and skin care expert Romell Duresseau http://www.myspace.com/romell4face, and again, I actually turned down the assignment. I saw no interest for it. Third attempt, I shot another "vertically challenged" (euphemism for "too damn short") model and then I came under the radar of Six Eight. I kindly thank him for liking my work, but still no desire. Well, as they say, "the fourth times a charm," and I had the chance to actually meet him face to face. I instantly fell in love with his look, his demeanor and his spirit. Sometimes it is not about what is on the outside, it is on the inside. There was a fire inside of Devone and it needed to be photographed. Devone lamented over the problems he had with photographers shooting him. It was either for their own sexual trangressions, or their skills were not up to par to capture the true model that he was.
I decided to change all of that. I discussed with Devone that he can give it up in the fashion world and head towards commercial and fitness (models that don't fit the norm - please take note). It is totally okay that you are not a fashion model. Go where the money is. When Devone walked into the hotel room he actually had to duck his head down to avoid connecting with the door frame. As he stood before me, he tried his best to slouch and make himself appear smaller. I immediately put a stop to that. "Embrace what God has given you. I will capture it."
A cold Saturday morning at Third Ward Studios in Williamsburg Brooklyn, I decided to take my time and work with Devone, teaching him how to embrace his body and all its muscled out loveliness. Embrace the line of his form. He may never be a Marcus Schenkenberg or Jon Kortajarena, but he will have a lot to bring to the commercial and fitness modeling scene.
Be on the look out for Mr. Stephenson at a Nike campaign near you.