“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I’m back! Firstly, I want to express a huge thanks to everyone who congratulated me on my anniversary. May 9th marked the day I signed my first modeling agency contract in Los Angeles, California. I received about a dozen emails with questions about my achievements, shortcomings, and lessons learned in my first year. I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on several projects in such a short period. I am also grateful for the friendships I have developed along the way. My model vocabulary has also expanded: Bookings, Print Audition, Casting, Body Check, Implied Nude, Composite Card, to name a few.
Like many times before, I am writing you from my home away from home… the courtyard of Saint Francis Chapel at the Mission Inn in Riverside, California (As though sitting here magically calls me to writing). I am apparently not the only one who is inspired by the grandeur of the courtyard. As I sat here I was interrupted by a gentlemen who asked me what he should write as vows to his fiancée. I simply replied, “Tell her everything you’ve been wanting to tell her since you met her” I’m no good at stuff like that, so good luck sir.
So, which male model has made the biggest impact on me this year? Choosing one is very difficult since I read a bit about several male models over the last year with hopes to learn from their career path. But if I have to choose one, I will choose one whose story I found the most profound and motivating. So who is it? I have chosen Djimon Diaw Hounsou.
Djimon Diaw Hounsou is an Academy Award nominated actor and model for Calvin Klein. Djiamon is most known for his appearances in the movies ‘Gladiator’, ‘Amastad’, ‘In America’ and ‘Blood Diamond’. Djimon is one of very few Africans embraced by well-known fashion photographers in Paris and, later in his career, abroad. He is also a passionate speaker in the fight against climate change and works with charities such as SOS and Oxfam.
What I find most interesting about Djiamon’s background is his upbringing. Djiamon was born in Cotonou, Benin (West Africa) to Ibertine and Pierre Hounsou. Mr. Hounsou describes his childhood as lonely. In an April 2012 interview with SPYGhana News, Djiamon said, ““I was just a very torn child, very wounded in so many areas, with no family support,” His parents left him at an early age as they moved to the Ivory Coast. At the age of 10 he met his father for the first time and at the age of 13 he moved to Paris to live with his oldest brother. There, the hardships continued. Djiamon recalls wandering the streets of London at night looking for food to eat. He wished so desperately to escape his surroundings.
And now the world knows where Djiamon has landed today. I first became aware of Djiamon Hounsou’s background after it was announced in 2007 that he was to become Calvin Klein’s new underwear model. Beginning in Fall 2007, Djiamon was featured as the face for Calvin Klein’s new global print advertising campaign which included the launch of the new Calvin Klein Steel collection. The relationship between the brand and model has been rather remarkable and quite controversial. The ebony skinned model blankets the side of a 27 story building overlooking Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong. And his appearance in billboards and magazines had raised discussions about how black subjects are presented in publications.
So, Djiamon Hounsou has become an inspiration to me because he breaks the racial barriers when it comes to what were used to seeing in fashion publications. He is one of very few black male models to be featured as the face of a well known brand and one of a very tiny group to be featured on the front cover of fashion magazines and storefronts. He was one of the first models who reflected me and others who look like me in editorial spreads. The current modeling industry and front covers are dominated by “ethnically ambiguous” european models who look nothing like me. And Djiamon gave me hope that I too (with dark skin) could someday become the face of a brand.
Lately, I have been in Orange County, California shooting a TV series pilot. I have also been spending a great deal of time in Hollywood shooting with photographer Ray John Pila and working my new campaign. I had wanted to engage in an editorial campaign, and finally did a shoot in El Matador Beach for a European line. I can finally show the photos in a few weeks. So, stay tuned.