By Jasmine Chorley Foster
I first met Jade in 2012 when I interviewed her for Models By Models. She was gracious, spoke thoughtfully, and her positive attitude was refreshingly earnest. Her personality paired with her undeniable beauty made me an immediate fan. But I wondered, how is this woman's face not everywhere? Within the year, the Ojibwe-Jamaican beauty had a new mother agent and was signed to Wilhelmina New York. She's racked up some beautiful editorial work, several campaigns, and a couple of New York Fashion Week shows.
Now in Mumbai, she's truly on the path to a bright career. Big name clients like Grazia India and Vogue India are helping to build her portfolio, which will serve her well when she returns to New York. I chatted with Jade, as well as the Director of Anima Creative Management, Gunita Stobe about modelling in India.
The Business Model: Why has Jade been received as well by clients as she has? Did you anticipate this?
Gunita Stobe: Jade has very special look for our market. We haven't had anyone over here with her profile and it is very new thing for us. We instantly liked her look when her agency abroad proposed her to us. We usually like to take challenges of introducing new types of beauties to our clients and push the boundaries as India is very bollywood-type-orientated. Jade also has a similar skin tone to many Indian models and her features could be also from some parts of India, but that is not the main reason why a foreign model would work or not work in our market. I also think Jade has great personality and right attitude, which ultimately bring the clients back for re-bookings. Modelling is not only something to do with great looks, but also a model has to have the right character and mind set for this job. Only this way some one can become successful.
TBM: What do you typically look for in a model?
GS: The right features which suit our market and then the personality which, is very important part.
TBM: What do you think the future holds for the Indian modelling market overall?
GS: The Indian market improves which each year from the quality foreign models coming to our market. The main reason the models come over is for experience and to have the opportunity to build their books editorially. We have some great Indian and International photographers shooting for magazines like Vogue, Harpers, Elle, Grazia, GQ, etc.
The Business Model: What made you decide to work in Mumbai? Did your mother agent suggest it?
Jade Willoughby: My journey to Mumbai actually began several months back. It was a decision that was made after careful & lengthy consideration from both my team at Wilhelmina New York and my mother agent.
TBM: What were you looking to get out of this trip? Tears for your book? Money? Something else?
JW: Ultimately I'm here to develop further as a model, both in experience and my book. But I wouldn't being doing myself justice if I didn't share that I came to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually as a person.
TBM: Many models think about traveling to India but are worried about safety. Is this something you were worried about initially as well?
JW: Initially, of course, but I did my research and watched numerous documentaries on the challenges and realities of life in India. I had many Starbucks dates in chapters to just sit and read as much as I could.
TBM: Did/do you experience culture shock? Language barriers?
JW: I still am experiencing culture shock as a women coming from a "western country" and dealing with what comes with that. Thankfully the language barrier hasn't proved to be too difficult for the most part. The food has been my biggest adjustment and was rough for the first two weeks. But I now know the local markets and my tummy is adjusted and now I'm catching rickshaws like a pro. But, to be perfectly honest, I am not suited for this climate. The day's average is in the mid to high 30s (Celsius). I miss the cold like you wouldn't believe. Yes, I can't believe I said that but it's true.
TBM: What advice would you give models planning on working in India?
JW: India is a vibrant and rich country with sights and sounds that you will only get in India. But I cannot stress the importance of being realistic in your expectations as you are travelling to a third world country. Above all your health and safety are most important. So be informed and aware of your situation and surroundings. Something as simple as a mosquito bite can land you seriously ill with Dengue fever here.
TBM: What is a typical day like on set?
JW: Early call times are the norm as most days are 9-12 hours. You quickly adjust to curious onlookers and random individuals just popping in to watch. One thing I love especially about jobs in India is they are not shy to feed you and ask constantly throughout the day if you need or want anything. I have had wonderful meals filled with laughter [and] runs to random fruit stands for watermelon and papaya.
TBM: What kind of jobs have you booked so far?
JW: My jobs so far have been amazing learning experiences in every sense. I have worked both commercial and fashion jobs, from 60 looks to 8 looks. I have been able to wear exquisite designs and have worked with the most driven individuals. And amazingly enough the opportunity to travel for jobs has brought me [from Mumbai] to Dehli twice.
TBM: What is a typical casting like?
JW: We get our casting info via text with all the necessary details. Our driver Ali comes to pick us up and delivers us to the casting. Again, be realistic in your expectations as sometimes the castings are in interesting locations. And time isn't always first priority. It's a great teacher in learning to relax and go with the flow. Castings range from commercial to editorial to television commercials. Once the casting wraps, Ali picks us back up and drives us home. But on the odd occasion we take a tuktuk (rick shaw) back to our flat.
TBM: Barely a month into your trip, and you've already booked two editorials for Vogue India, plus an editorial for Grazia India. What were your experiences working with these clients like?
JW: It's was a dream come true in the purest sense. I had the chance to work with majority of the editorial models in this market. The shoots themselves were in no short supply of positive energy and food. It is cool now flipping through Magazine pages and beginning to recognize names because I have worked with them. It carries with it tremendous amount of pride and accomplishment to know that I did it. But honestly, I still can't believe that I have shot for Vogue & Grazia Magazine in the same week.
TBM: What's something that has surprised you about the market?
JW: What suprised me is how new the market is most major magazines have only been around for 6 years. So it is a smaller but growing, dynamic industry.
TBM: What do you like most about the market?
JW: The diversity and the sometimes overwhelming realities that are occurring around you. I can say my time in India so far has changed me as a person. But speaking to the market itself, I love the ever-present feeling of Bollywood and the people behind the images and jobs. They have stories and lives even more complex than we stop to think about. And I'm blessed to have connected with so many wonderful individuals.
TBM: What would you change about the market?
JW: I wouldn't change a thing strictly because it's a new and developing market. And like anything that exists it begins with an idea and you grow and progress as you go along.