In my years as a model, I've learned from many people and experiences, some good, some bad -but the value of these interactions has been in the lessons that I have taken away. I originally was going to start this post to rattle off a list of photographers whose body of work I greatly respect and admire.
Since I've already opened that door, I will tell you who some of my favorite photographers are: Patrick Demarchelier, Russell James, Helmut Newton, Peter Lindbergh, Pamela Hanson, Ellen von Unwerth, Miles Aldridge, David Bellemere, Paolo Roversi, Javier Vallhonrat, Julia Saller, Mario Testino, Mert Alas, Marcus Piggott, Irving Penn, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Steven Meisel, Annie Leibovitz, Corinne Day, Richard Avedon, Vincent Peters, Yu Tsai, Guy Paganini, and Gilles Bensimon.
Now that being said, I wouldn't have a clue as to whom many, if not all of them were had I not been inspired and challenged to learn about my craft and take my passion seriously. I am privileged to have worked side by side with my favorite photographer of all, André Rowe.
I credit him with everything I know about photography and modeling up to now. Hell, I'm still learning from him today, and I am blessed to have not only worked with him, but had him as a best friend. He spent birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with my husband ad myself. He stopped by "because he was in the neighborhood", and we took vacations together. He was family to us. I used to tease him (truthfully) that he set the bar so impossibly high - being that he was the first photographer that I ever shot with, and he would always point at who he considered to be"the greats" and would teach me something about their photos. He would silently call me over to his computer in the studio to show me photos, (and more recently videos) that inspired him and he wanted to draw from for one of his next shoots. Sometimes it was just a text message of photo, and I knew that he wanted me to analyze and be inspired and learn. As fate would have it, he may have been my first, but I was blessed with the gift of being his last model. Even on our last trip, he was teaching us.
These were some things that he reminded us, as if to say he knew it needed to be shared far and wide, when he was gone.
Passion. André said he wished more people would recognize their passion, find it, and chase it zealously. Not to be swayed by what the world wanted, but what You wanted to be Your mark left on this world.
Give back. The three of us were so very close, and often told each other how we felt about one another, and this trip - though not completed, was no exception. We told André how grateful we were for everything he had done for us as friends, and for myself as a model - André was my muse, my inspiration, my encouragement, my greatest challenger. He was a genius, creatively and otherwise, and always was coming up with solutions to solve the world's problems. André made it a point to sit forward in the backseat, and said "I've never given of myself to anyone with the expectation of anything in return, whether they could pay it back or not. I would only hope that they would take it upon themselves and be wise enough to pay it forward." He was generous to a flaw, and didn't care the cost.
Love. When asked what his opinion was of someone, he would more likely than not - tell you that he tries not to judge anyone. Time spent judging someone, was less time you had to find the good in them, their silver lining, and the less time you had to love those good qualities in them. If André did find a flaw, you'd never know because he was too busy appreciating the good in you.
Time. André knew too well the value of time, and was a master of managing it. He had our entire trip mapped out, knew how long it would take us to get there, and what we could accomplish if we got there in time. I feel André somehow, as if by magic, knew his time here on earth was short. We are all brought in this world with one guarantee, and what I am sure of is that no one here today had any idea how short our time with this angel would be. When he was with you, André left nothing unsaid, no sentiment unknown, and hopefully no words unspoken. Even if there was a silence, it was a comfortable one at worst, and whatever you were thinking was almost just... understood.
Laughter. What I learned from André was the value of laughter. It is in fact, the best medicine. As I stand before you today, I can tell you that I have tried to laugh more than I've cried, in my own mourning, and in my own personal irreconcilable loss of my brother - whose life he would only want celebrated here before you today. André was lucky enough to be present for (enough) of our lover's quarrels, and somehow regretfully was always sucked into it, only to tell my new husband and I " Now, now children, settle down!" He always shared his love of Oreo cookies, and realized a new epiphany when we introduced him to the Birthday came remix variety. "Wowwwwww!" His eyes lit up, and got this coy smile on his face, as if he had just been given the keys to a new car. He told stories and lead you by the hand to numerous punchlines, and I can still hear his laugh whenever I jumped around the studio like a fool dancing to Gangnam style.
I wouldn't be who I am today, without having met this beautiful soul. You see, he not only influenced who I am as a model and public figure, but as a human being. Life is too short. Tell those you love how you feel about them. Love them for who they are, and love the good in them. Spend time helping others. Give back, or at least pay it forward to someone who could use your help - even if you stand to gain nothing back from them. And laugh! If you can't find the good in a situation, at least laugh at it, and don't let it steal the best from you. Appreciate every day for what it is, a gift, and make the most of it. Find your passion, find what makes you truly happy - and do it, everyday.
I may not be a headline super model (yet, haha) but I will be damned if I'm not going to do my best, and at least inspire others around me through my life. This is who I am.