The reason that some portraits do not look true to life is that some people make no effort to resemble their pictures. Salvador Dali
Right around the beginning of the summer I worked with Valentina Ramirez for her senior portraits. I learned a lot about this Go Getter. Val is motivated, self disiplined and super smart. What a treat.
Since you recently signed with a NY agency, what area of fashion are you looking most forward to working in?
Since I have been signed with True Mgmt. I'm most excited to be a fit model. A lot of people think this is just being a healthy model for fitness purposes but in fact being a fit model means you get to work one on one with designers. This allows them to try their pieces on you before they go out for mass production. In this I'll be able to have a say on how the piece fits, feels and looks. I'll basically be a live mannequin!
You're pretty good with a camera, what do you enjoy the most about photography?
I get this question a lot from people and for a while I really didn't know how to properly answer. Yet about a year and a half ago I realized that what I enjoy the most about photography is all the different types of ways I'm able to capture a moment. I'm a very visual person so being able to capture any little moment just became a passion of mine. I also realized that everyone with a camera has their own specific style and that's also something I enjoy being able to see is how my style is evident throughout all my pictures. You've become a very prolific brand ambassador, how did you get involved in that?
After a few months of starting my blog I became aware that stores were willing to sponsor me because of my content. I have reached out to many companies myself just to simply introduce myself and my blog and it definitely became a learning experience for me. In the beginning I didn't know how to properly communicate with stores and their CEOs or marketing heads which was quite an interesting experience. However, many stores themselves have reached out to me for me to publicly sponsor them. One of these companies is SheInside.com who I'm lucky to have been working with since the beginning. I'm fortunate enough to be sent items from their store and in return promote their site. Something that has become a great advantage to me is social media especially Instagram. Through this I've been able to create a visually appealing account that has opened many doors for me.
Who has impacted your life the most so far?
I know this might be cheesy but definitely my mom. Not only has she been an incredible mother to me as well as my siblings. But my mom is the type of woman who will not give up on anything. She's a hard-worker, a kind person and very wise. She has always allowed me to follow my passion and I'm pretty sure that if it wasn't for her confidence in me I wouldn't be where I am today.
What are you most proud of?
I'm proud of a few key things in my life. Yet the one I'm probably the most proud of is being myself. I don't feel any pressure by anything or anyone to change the way I look or the way I act. In this society many girls struggle with fitting in but i've come to the point where yes there are things I don't necessarily like but i'm not overwhelmed by these factors.
What motivates you?
The future because so many things can happen unexpectedly whether it's in one day, one week, or one month. I believe that by having a goal and a passion you can achieve many great things in one lifetime. Describe your personal style?
Oh boy, my style is eclectic to say the least. My closet is a mix between bohemian and "edgy" chic. Overall my personal style has definitely evolved over the past year because of my job. Yet key pieces I always have are Zara pants, white and black t-shirts, oversized sweaters and my obsessive amount of black booties.
How are you going to impact the world? I want to be able to say one day that I've impacted someone's life in a positive way. To me that's how I will leave my mark on the world. I would also somehow like to impact society in a way. Whether it is in fashion or simply by giving back to the community.
Scariest thing you’ve ever done?
Not letting judgement get to me. Since I have stepped out of my comfort zone by starting a blog, becoming a model and simply just being my creative self. At first I kept everything a secret because I didn't want people's negative thoughts coming my way but then I realized that there's always going to be that one person that will just not like anything you do. And there will be countless of others that do support me so I keep my focus on those now.
What do you want your legacy at CHS to be?
I want to be remembered as someone who wasn't afraid to do what they really wanted. To reach out towards their goal.
I spent the morning with Lauren and her mom the other day creating her senior portraits. We got our toes wet with the dew at the vineyard and went for a dip where I dubbed her new knickname "Swamp Thing". We had a great time cheezin' and laughing and creating some cool images together.
My favorite childhood memory would have to be traveling across the country in a minivan with my family. Seeing the beautiful scenery from the east coast to the west coast with the people I love the most is something I will never forget and definitely do with my own kids.I would love to figure out how much time I've spent in the pool throughout my life but it would take forever. I have been in the pool since I was an infant, starting at Copper Valley pool club, to Meriden Silver Fins, to the CHS swim Team. The pool is my second home and my teammates truly are like family. I will never forget my coach Ed Heath on the Silver Fins, whom I owe all my swimming success to throughout the years.When I grow up I want nothing more but to help other people. Being a social worker has always been a career I would like to pursue. I would love to help children and people in difficult situations to make their life as normal and happy as it can be.
My hidden talent would have to be writing. I am not the best when it comes to mathematics or sciences, but writing is something I've always secretly loved very much. I love the idea of being able to record anything that comes into my mind and having the ability to get creative with my ideas. If I could have lunch with anyone, it would hands down be an astronaut. Astronomy has always been something that fascinates me so much, and the outer space is a never ending galaxy we have limited knowledge to. I would love to hear about someone's experience to the outer world.Earlier this year a good friend of my brothers passed away very tragically. Although I wasn't close with this person, I could see how it effected my brother, and the town of Cheshire. This put life in perspective for me and was an eye opener for me to realize how precious life is, and how important it is to love and care for everyone in your life as much as you can while they are here, because even something so precious such as life itself can be gone so fast. Something that motivates me when it comes to competing has stuck with me since I was very young. I remember when I was at one of my first swim meets ever, I was nervous to do the backstroke. It was never something I was good at. I looked next to me at my competition who was a young girl, smaller than me who had a missing leg. In that moment I realized that if someone with a missing limb is brave enough to complete the 50 yard backstroke, I am too.My go to pick out food... Geez this one is not easy. My go to pig out food would have to be Mac and Cheese. Or anything with cheese. Anything with cheese flavors, cheese is my FAVORITE.
I was first blown away and fascinated by "Izzy" aka "BellaBomb" a few years ago when she played a major role in her high school musical production of The Wiz. Her voice powered right through my chest from half way back in the audiorium. She is the very definition of POWERHOUSE. I had the opporunity to create her senior portraits a few weeks ago and learned just how amazing and ridiculously beautiful she is - straight through to her core.
"When I grow up I want to be successful and well respected. My absolute dream is to be the singer in a band or even a solo artist. I want to make something big of myself and have a legacy. I want to be remembered by many for my music and joy when performing."
"My favorite memory of my childhood would have to be the first time I ever got payed for performing. It was the summer in between my freshman and sophomore year and I had to fill in for a friend of mine on vocals. I was so excited when I received my small bundle of cash for the night. I knew from then on that I wanted to performer."
"At school I am mainly involved with the Jazz Ensemble. I play Alto Saxophone and fill in on vocals if needed. Last year and this coming year I have the responsibility of playing the lead alto part as well as being the section leader. During the fall and spring I also participate in the school's play and musical."
"If I could sit down and have a lovely lunch with somebody I would say either Janis Joplin or Bono. They stereo of my favorite artists. I look up to them and learn from them so much."
"I don't think I can say that there has been one moment that has made me who I am. I believe that every moment of your life helps you to grow into who you are going to be. Every moment in my past has made me who I am. Every struggle, triumph, and second in between the two extremes."
"Before I graduate high school there are two things I want to accomplish among many that I think are the most important. 1) I want to come to a place of acceptance and forgiveness to every mistake and bad time that I have gone through. I won't be able to thrive in a new environment if I'm still haunted by ghosts of my past. 2) to write and record a wonderful album."
"My dream job is being the lead singer in a very popular band or even a solo artist. My band and I would play soul. And the blues. Maybe even a little rock. It would be music that just made you feel good."
Izzy, describe yourself in three words
"Funny, Dynamic, Powerhouse."
I first met Anna when she was sixteen and I did her head shots for her theater auditions. Since then, we have developed a special friendship and partnership that is kind of hard to describe. I got together with her for breakfast recently before she headed off for a six month assignment.
JJ - So there’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you. You posted a picture from our first shoot together on Instagram a couple weeks ago and commented that that was the first time you ever felt beautiful. What did you mean by that or what was it that brought you to that?
Anna - Well, having my hair and make up done helped but honestly it was you as a photographer. Your way of making people feel like they belong and that’s what they’re supposed to be doing and be comfortable with it. Because I was so comfortable, for the first time in my life I was just able to let go and not worry about anything or anyone. I knew I could just trust what you were doing and be myself. Part of that comes from, I guess I am comfortable in front of the camera to begin with, but all of it combined it was like meditation in a way. I could just get away from the world and feel glamorous and beautiful and I did. It was an awesome feeling of freedom I had never felt before.
JJ - I’ve always known you as a very mature and confident person but you’ve grown so much to me over the last few years as a person and a performer. Where do you get your inner confidence? Anna - Oh my goodness. This took a long time for me to really grasp, but it started with you actually and then our trip to SPA. How do I put this in words? The first time I took a picture with you and then started modeling, I sort of realized that I do have an outer beauty, and looking at your pictures of other people made me realize that everybody has that and everybody is capable of that. So really just connecting the dots from that and what I was feeling on the inside and realizing that it does not matter what other people think about how you look and you just have to worry about yourself. I remember I started having pictures made and people would still make fun of me, they would still be like, “oh, why did you do your hair like that?”. We used to have this thing called Formspring which was supposed to be anonymous
JJ - Oh man, I remember Formspring Anna - Yeah, and people would be like, “ You look like Farrah Fawcett. Like, what are you doing?”
JJ - OMG hahahaha Anna - Yes! And it is just so ridiculous to me that people would still try to find something to make fun of you about. And that’s when it really hit me that it’s not you. It’s never you. It’s just other people and then from that I realized that everybody is insecure and everybody feels the same way, so if you can be genuine and kind to everybody you can just nip that in the bud - the bitterness and jealously and insecurities and you try to reach out to people and just be kind to everyone. That’s where I draw my confidence from now. From interacting with people knowing we are all the same. You can connect with everyone on a much deeper level than just how you look. That gives me confidence.
JJ - Was there a single, defining moment in your life that has led you or driven you to be who you are and where you are in your life today?
Anna - Aside from modeling at SPA, getting into the musical theater program at WestConn. I had a really hard time in high school. Just getting there and showing up because I was so insecure and felt utterly detached from that world. When I auditioned for WestConn, everybody was so positive and immediately supportive and I got in even though I didn’t think I would. In the past four years, I mean, I can’t even describe the support and the love at time the tough love that they showed me. It’s really made me who I am now, that change in me that you’ve referred to. They gave me room to grow and so many opportunities. I realized that hard work pays off and that it’s ALL about your attitude and how you work and communicate with people. I was given the opportunity to prove that I can do it and that was exactly what I needed.
JJ - Now that you’ve grown beyond all that stuff from the past, what motivates you now to be who are today?
Anna - I’ve always been a very career focused person and I’ve known since the first grade that I wanted to be an actress and that motivates me to stay on top of things and, you know, I took a semester off and worked in retail and I realized that what I truly want to be doing the rest of my life is performing no matter what the venue. My career motivates me to keep moving forward and with that comes the aspect of always bettering yourself and practicing and taking your vocal lessons and continuing with dance and that constantly moving forward motion perpetuates the motivation. I’ve never thought, “ Oh I want be famous doing this” but the feeling of performing and the feeling of reward from performing keeps me going.
JJ - What are your personal goals now?
Anna - I want to be doing some sort of substantial theater or film work like an HBO show where they have characters that are really deep and have crazy story lines. They’re not only entertaining but you can really connect to them and they shed light on different subjects like Shameless and even Game of Thrones. You know? The characters are so well developed and believable. I need to do something with a little bit of bite to it and a bit of edge. Wether that comes from tv or film or regional theater like at Hartford Stage or Long Wharf Theater. They produce amazing shows there and I want to be able to connect to people. I want to use empathy as a point of directing change for people. That’s my ultimate goal. I want to be able sustain myself as a working actress and be able to affect people.
JJ - What are you doing or what’s your plan to make that happen?
Anna - Well after this stint in New Hampshire, I’ve connected with a few agents in NYC through my senior showcase so I’ll do the NY scene for a while. I’ll do theater stuff there and collaborate with a bunch of my friends who are doing new theater stuff and putting on their own shows which I think is amazing. Eventually, I’ll go to grad school because having an MFA is crucial if you want to be doing ground breaking work. You need that extra training so definitely grad school and theater work on the side.
JJ - When you dream, what do you dream about? Anna - Wow, that’s a great question. I’ve never been asked that before. Last night I had a dream about New Hampshire because that’s where I’m going today. But I have these dreams where I’m about to go on stage and we never rehearsed and the director is like, “you gotta do this whole show” and I’m like OMG we never rehearsed this and I’m thrown on stage and have to just go with it. I still have those flying dreams, you know? Where you can fly?
JJ - Oh yeah everyone has those to some degree but I don’t know why Anna - Yeah right? They’re so cool. And I have these dreams where I went shopping and bought all these cool clothes and then I wake up and look in my closet and I’m like “Crap, well that didn’t happen”. That’s so unfortunate haha because I bought some killer stuff in the dream hahaha.
JJ - You’ve become quite the singer/songwriter now too. What’s your personal style? Can you define it?
Anna - Well my friends have described me a Soul-Country-Folk haha. A little bit of Joanie Mitchell in there that I try to make a little soulful. Joanie is the best. JJ - OK, Singer/Songwriter, Actress, Model - in what order do you put yourself? Anna - Oh man, OK, Actress……. Actress…. hmmm OK, Actress, Model, Singer/Songwriter
JJ - I know you’re working on an album now so what are you going to put on it? Anna - I have songs that I’ve worked on since my freshman year of college so I’m going to start there. Once I got into college, I found my writing style and developed it more . I want it to be a little country but not too country and folky and Indie. Definitely an Indie vibe. The first song that I wrote will be on there and there’s a few that I’ve been working on with my phone actually using Garage Band. My dad says I should put out an entire album of just work I've done on my phone. I love using garage band because you can mix in violins and I’ve learned to make it sound so badass hahaha. I upload my guitar work and mix it all together. I add a lot of layers and blend it all. It’s way cool. JJ - Can I shoot your first album cover?
Anna - YES!!!! Of course you goober!
So I've decided to start a regualr series of posts featuring some of my favorite sessions. So naturally I'm kicking it off with Chiara. She was clearly not your typical high school senior. She has stunning raw beauty and a whimsical personality to go with it. She marches to her own drum. A gifted artist, she makes a lot of her own clothing and all of her jewelry. I first noticed her a s a junior, on stage in one of the school's musicals. Although she was in costume with theatrical make up, I could tell just how insanely beautiful she is. Her senior year came and almost went. I was bummed that she had not called me to do her senior pics. I later found out that she hadn't done any at all. For her yearbook, she simply submitted a snap shot that a friend had taken. Funny thing is that simple snap shot was better than most senior pics. Because it is simply Chiara. I ran into her at the coffee house next door one Sunday morning and asked what she was doing all day. We both were working, her on homework and myself on paperwork. Neither wanted to be doing those chores, so I asked her to go throw some outfits together and come back. The next hour was one of the most amazing shooting experiences of my career.