At 5’2” today’s guest has made her mark on the fashion industry with unique passion, punch and personality. Zoe Elyse’s stellar modelling career has challenged many mainstream norms so it felt pretty cool that before we sat down for this remotely-recorded conversation where we discuss body-diversity, representation, how she got into modelling & the changing landscape of fashion – I photographed Zoe in her home in LA from my home in Byron Bay, Australia – using some clunky wifi connections and the wonders of FaceTime. This is a new age, the rules are changing, and I for one am excited to start exploring the new frontier, so please make sure you visit the journal to see the photos we took as I welcome Zoe Elyse to the stage that is I AM. Let’s go!

 

 

I AM. The podcast is available now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Pocket Casts, Breaker Audio, Radio Public and Anchor. Please listen, rate, review and subscribe!

 

 

Making your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse + photographer Amber Melody

Making your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse + photographer Amber MelodyMaking your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse + photographer Amber MelodyMaking your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse + photographer Amber MelodyMaking your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse + photographer Amber MelodyMaking your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse + photographer Amber MelodyMaking your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse via FaceTime with photographer Amber MelodyMaking your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse via FaceTime with photographer Amber MelodyMaking your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse via FaceTime with photographer Amber MelodyMaking your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse via FaceTime with photographer Amber MelodyMaking your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse via FaceTime with photographer Amber MelodyMaking your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse via FaceTime with photographer Amber MelodyMaking your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse via FaceTime with photographer Amber MelodyMaking your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse via FaceTime with photographer Amber MelodyMaking your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse via FaceTime with photographer Amber MelodyMaking your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse via FaceTime with photographer Amber Melody

 

THIS CONVERSATION WAS recorded remotely during the time of Covid-19 self-isolation, I hope you find our conversation as honest and thought-provoking as I did. Let’s begin…

Welcome to I AM – an experimental mixed media platform that is part photographic-journal / part-podcast. Join us here every week for candid, relaxed conversations where we traverse our intimate and often complex thoughts on self-love, style, ambition, art, wisdom, and everything in between. These are interviews and accompanying portraits to evoke, empower, and inspire because we all have a story to tell. What’s yours?

 

Zoe Elyse: “Hello? Hello? Hello?”

Amber Melody: “Hello. It’s not real life if there are no technical difficulties”

ZE: “Yeah, it’s always like that”

AM: “Oh my goodness. Well, Hi!”

ZE: “Hi!”

AM: “I could kind of hear shuffling in the background so I thought the connection was somewhat there, but you obviously couldn’t hear me.”

 

KITTEN

 

ZE: “Yeah, I’m sorry. I literally was like, hello… hello? I just got a kitten today. So I was talking to my kitten”

AM: “Aww, is it a boy or a girl?”

ZE: “It’s a boy”

AM: “What have you called him?”

ZE: “We haven’t named him yet. I, bounced a couple of names off my boyfriend and he just didn’t like any of them and he was like – let’s just wait and see what he’s like. So we’re just kind of waiting. He was like, at least wait a couple hours cause I’m just like, Oh, let’s name him. Leonard. Let’s name him Franklin. Let’s name him Theodore and he’s just like – let’s just wait. Let’s just wait”

AM: “One; I like all of the names that you just said. But two; I have two boys and the second one I was like that for three days. I was like, Oh, let’s just feel out the name. And my husband was like, whaaaaat?? On day three he was like – ‘um, we really need to name the baby’. I was like… okaaay”

ZE: “I know, I just keep, I just keep saying Kitten’s sleeping again or Kitten’s playing again”

AM: “I mean Kitten is not a bad name either”

ZE: “I know! But we have another, my roommates have a cat and his name is Roy and so I’m like, I feel like we should have a cute name that kind of goes with Roy”

AM: “Yes, Roy is good. I don’t know, you kind of want those old curmudgeonly man names for a cat. I reckon”

ZE: “Right, exactly. I’ve had lots of cats and I’ve always just like picked a name and it worked”

AM: “Yeah but now you have to negotiate with your boyfriend to choose a name so that just takes it to the next level”

ZE: “Right”

AM: “Has he thrown any names into the mix?”

ZE: “No.” [laughter]

AM: “Interesting. Well you need to keep us up to date with how this pans out”

ZE: “Oh, I will. The saga will continue”

 

Life goes on, even in lockdown

 

AM: “Well hello and thank you and welcome”

ZE: “Hi”

AM: “I’m so sorry that it took a couple of days to get on this call”

ZE: “I know, same. I’m so sorry”

AM: “I appreciate – No! that’s alright. Life is like that, hey. For both of us. Even when you think – we’re in lockdown so you should have all the time in the world, but still…”

ZE: “Right”

AM: “Life goes on, even in lockdown so things can be tricky. How was your camping adventure?”

ZE: “It was great. It was a really fun time. We went like four hours up north and we just did like one night and it was really fun. It was a good time. There was a little fire… I don’t know, it was cute!”

AM: “Like along the coast road out of LA?”

ZE: “Um, no, we went more like into the desert cause there’s like BLM land up there so the restrictions are less strict I guess. We went up to a town called Bishop”

AM: “Yeah. Cool. I haven’t really explored – like when we were there in September in LA, we drove up to San Fran, so we did the coast road which was so beautiful”

ZE: “It’s beautiful”

AM: “And then, yeah. We did go out to Palm Springs and previously I’ve been out to Joshua Tree. But yet there’s so much that I haven’t explored. Right. So, Bishop. I am going to flag that as somewhere too to think about”

ZE: “It’s like on…basically, it’s like if you’re going up to Mammoth”

AM: “Okay”

ZE: “Where there’s like… it’s a ski town so that’s kind of what’s up there in the winter. But during the summer they’ve got a lake, so there’s like lake stuff to do and Bishop is just a town on the way. My brothers were actually born in Bishop”

AM: “Ah, okay. Yeah, people raved about Mammoth. We went… umm, wanted to do a day trip out of LA in December to see the snow, which we did do, but people were saying Mammoth. But I think it sounded like it was a bigger trip”

ZE: “Mammoth is definitely a bigger trip cause it’s like five hours up North”

AM: “And you would need to have chains and stuff in the winter?”

ZE: “Um, most of the time yes, unless it’s, if it’s not actively snowing, you don’t really need them [shuffling] Sorry, noises…”

AM: “That’s okay. And so your brother’s were born in Bishop, but tell me about your childhood. Are you an LA girl or – what’s your background?”

 

FROM ARIZONA BABE TO CALI GIRL

 

ZE: “I’m actually from Arizona”

AM: “Okay”

ZE: “So I always… I would always joke with my mom. Like, you had my brothers in California and I so badly wanted to be a California girl like my mom was cause she was born and raised in the South Bay, which is like Torrance in Redondo beach and that area. So she was born and raised there. And I so badly wanted to be like from California and she had me in Arizona”

AM: “The outrage”

ZE: “I know. I was like, ‘mom, excuuuuse you’”

AM: “By the way, I saw that photo of your mom and you on your Instagram. And it is exceedingly cute. You have the same smile”

ZE: “It’s crazy. We’ve actually, as I’ve gotten older – when I was younger I really didn’t look much like her or my dad – and then as I got older we’ve just, we look so much more alike. It’s insane”

AM: “Yeah. I like that though. I think that’s happening with me and my mum as well and I can definitely see more similarity as my face ages”

ZE: “I feel like they always say (that) you don’t think that you’re like your parents until you get older and then you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I’m exactly like my parents’’”

AM: “And you know, maybe for some people that’s not necessarily what they want”

ZE: “Right”

AM: “But yes, I think if you have a lovely mum then that’s really nice…”

ZE: “Exactly. Right”

AM: “So you were born in Arizona. What took your mom, if she’s a Cali Girl, what took her to Arizona?”

ZE: “She moved to Arizona by way of… so first when she was younger, she worked for what is now Bank of America. She started as a teller and then she just kind of worked her way up. And then that brought her out to Arizona where she got a better job in the company. And then she met my dad and then I was born”

AM: “Ahhhh, and then we had Zoe!”

ZE: “Yep!”

AM: “And so you grew up in Arizona. What age did you finally make it out to the Californian coast?”

 

THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK

 

ZE: “I lived in Arizona until I was… what birthday was that… I think it was my 17th birthday. I moved to Orange County. My mom got a new job at a different bank in California. She got a job in Orange County, in Irvine. So we moved out to Dana Point when I was 17, so right in the middle of my junior year”

AM: “That would have been a big change”

ZE: “It was, it was. For so long I was like, ‘Oh I want to, I want to live in California. California is where I’m supposed to be’. And then when I finally lived in California I was like, ‘Ohhhh…’, It was just… it’s just a weird change to go through in high school especially cause you’ve already made like all your friends. And especially in like Junior year for me, it was like my favourite teacher was my junior year. He was my English teacher and I loved him to death and then like I couldn’t have him as a teacher and just like kind of in a little bit of like a culture shock. My family is pretty liberal and you know, all of that stuff. And I think Orange County has a little bit more of like a conservative culture. So when I moved to Orange County it was just a little bit more of like a culture shock. I was a vegetarian at the time and like the people that I became friends with were like shocked that I was a vegetarian and, not to say that everybody in California or everyone in Orange County is conservative, but it was definitely different because I was so used to like – my friends and like the life that I had. And then I finally got to California and that’s where I’d wanted to be my whole life… and it was just like, not what I expected”

AM: “It’s so interesting that it would be right at that sort of pinnacle age as well. That’s a tricky, tricky age to make any big shift. Even if it’s towards what you think that the goal, the end goal, that you want is”

ZE: “Exactly”

AM: “Just hard with friendships. And how long do you think it took would you say to like really settle it? “

ZE: “It probably took me, I don’t know, maybe a week to start to like really figure it out and make friends and like go through the motions and have people that I could eat lunch, eat lunch with and stuff like that. I mean, in my mind I was like ‘I really, I don’t want to be the girl that on my first day, like I don’t have any friends. So I eat lunch in the bathroom’ and then I ate lunch in the bathroom” [laughter]

AM: [laughter] “As we all have”

ZE: “Yeah, exactly. So, then after that, I made a couple friends in my French class and I’m still friends with one of them. We’re still great friends. He lives in Chicago now. Shout out to Justin”

AM: “Hi Justin!”

ZE:“He lives in Chicago now, but anytime he comes to California to see his family, he comes up to LA and we spend like, you know, a couple hours together and hang out. And so he’s still one of my good friends and he was actually probably the first person that talked to me”

AM: “I love those friendships that just, you know, instantaneous flourish and are forever. And it’s like, how did we happen to be at that same place at the same time? And you know, switching schools and then you have that friend for life. What were you like at school in general?”

 

FINDING CREATIVE OUTLETS

 

ZE: “I mean I wasn’t like popular by any means, but I also, I had, you know, kind of friends in every group, but I took like AP English and AP history and I really, I still to this day really like English. If I wasn’t modelling or in the fashion industry, I would probably have studied English Literature in college”

AM: “Right”

ZE: “And I probably would have done that instead of modelling”

AM: “Well that’s a good segue into your modelling career and how that all came about. I also saw that you have been in a short film ‘In Thin Air’”

ZE: “That one, that one was really fun. Yeah”

AM: “Is that something that you would like to start doing more of?”

ZE: “I think, yeah, I think I thought about it for a really long time and I was like, Oh, I really like modelling. I don’t know if I could ever go into acting. And then I just like, I met a couple of friends who were in that industry and they were like, you know what you, you have a good personality and I think that you’d… I guess just from like, I don’t really know. I don’t know how they viewed me from their angle, but I had a couple people telling me like, you should really like try acting and go into acting. And then I was like ‘yeah, I like that idea’. And then I kind of just didn’t do anything with that. Um, and then just last year I was like, okay, you know what, maybe I want to do this. I started doing these like horoscope videos for a company called Dolls Kill. Really fun because it was like I got a script and then there were some things I could like add, like when I could try and throw in my own jokes here and there. And that was fun. And I did that for every single sign and I was like, ‘okay’ like this is pretty cool. And then I got approached by my friend Hunter and he was like, I think it’d be perfect for this. I’d love to have you in it. And so I was just like, yeah, let’s do it. So I think acting is something I would really like to get into. It’s something I was hoping to really start this year in 2020 and then everything’s kind of been derailed, which is totally fine. I think it’ll happen when it happens. It’ll happen at the right time for me and for my, you know, timeline. But that’s definitely something that I’m interested in. I think it’s interesting, I think it goes a little bit hand in hand with modelling where you get to be a different person and like do this like, you know, this different persona. And I really liked the idea of just like being able to tap into a character and learn about that character and then emote that character”

 

on DIRECTION

 

AM: “Yeah, I think I haven’t… I remember when I was in primary school and I directed a play and I had a sort of a role in that, but I never acted through high school. And, um, I’ve known a lot of actors and I think I ended up finding that really intimidating. So I’ve not really acted but I still have that connection with, I don’t know, wanting to experience life through different people’s eyes and I can totally see that”

ZE: “Right. I think when you’re doing, like, when you’re directing, I feel like even more so you get to create this life and these characters and these people and you can base them off of the people that you already know. I mean directing something that I really admire. I don’t know how people do it”

AM: “Yeah, that’s a really big job. But interestingly I feel like this is, as all my conversations seemed to end up being very circular and we haven’t even gotten to the modelling part yet, but, our audience hopefully as they’re listening to this are also getting to see the images that we shot together. Which was my very first FaceTime remote shoot and your second, if I remember correctly?”

ZE: “Yeah”

 

FACETIME PHOTOSHOOTS

 

AM: “So that was a pretty crazy take on, you know, photography-plus-model. And from my perspective, even just thinking about it ahead of doing a shoot I really had to sort of think of the role of Photographer more like Director of Photography on a film set. You know, cause the Director of Photography isn’t necessarily the person sitting in front of the camera, but they have to have that vision and it’s more of an aesthetic. So it was a really interesting shift to not be the person holding the camera and then you know, for you – you were having to model but also be the grip and be the person that was much more hands-on and technical. So that was such an interesting shift. And yeah I was actually amazed at what we were able to do, but it was such a bizarre experience and yeah, I want to shoot more remote stuff just in that. Interestingly, it opens up an opportunity. The images obviously aren’t the full-res and everything that you would want to be working with, typically, but it also means in terms of this concept of I AM the podcast and the journal; being something that I can interview people anywhere in the world really, and still meet my self set criteria of ‘I need to photograph the person as well as speak to them’. It’s a new world and it’s kind of crazy, but it does bring in that sort of more directorial approach I think, to photography”

ZE: “It’s harder to, I think… especially with like the FaceTime shoots – you have to kind of direct. When I model I’m so used to just like doing one pose after the other, after the other, after the other. And then if the photographer is like like ‘Oh that works, stay there’ then it’s like, cool, let me do that for a couple of frames. And it’s just like you can… I feel like communication is easier when you’re in person”

AM: “Yeah”

ZE: “So it’s really interesting to just see like this shift of like having to shoot remote like that. But I do think it’s a very cool, cool way to be able to like shoot because you’re in Australia. I’m in Los Angeles. It’s a really cool way to shoot people that you normally probably wouldn’t be able to shoot unless I was taking a trip or you were taking”

AM: “And the funny thing is; for our audience who are listening, Zoe and I actually tried to shoot a bunch of times when I was in LA, which is how it ended up that she was my first FaceTime remote model because we just didn’t manage to be in the same place at the same time. Even if you, you know, you are the same place, I mean I probably will end up shooting someone, you know, in Australia this way as well, just because circumstances make it more effective or easier at certain times or even just more of like a playful experiential sort of art form in a way. Okay. I do need to take you back to the original thing of ‘how did you get into modelling’. Um, and I wanted to also bring up the point that you’re shorter than maybe a lot of models are or you’re a petite model”

ZE: “Yes”

AM: “Yes. If you want us to talk about that and how that has impacted your career… but if you want to start at the beginning that would be awesome”

 

ON Becoming a petite model

 

ZE: “So I basically started modelling while I was in college. I was living in Los Angeles at that point. I’d done a couple of (photo) shoots here and there. I had friends who were photographers and it was something that I was interested in early on when I was younger and it became painfully obvious when I was in high school that I was not going to get any taller. So I was like, okay, well, you know what, I’ll just go to school for fashion because I’m still, I’m still interested in being in that industry”

AM: “Sorry – how tall are you, Zoe?”

ZE: “Five foot two. I don’t know the centimetre conversion”

AM: “Yeah. Okay. Okay. So I’m five foot four, so a little bit taller, but I’ve always felt reasonably short and I wasn’t trying to model, so I understand that you are small for a model”

ZE: “I’m probably on the smallest end of modelling. I think again with going into acting and stuff, it’s much more acceptable to be shorter in acting cause there are characters that you know, are that. But yeah, so I went to college and then I was halfway through college. I was like, you know what? I still really want to do that. I’m just gonna like I’m just gonna put my feelers out and like see what’s out there. I was on Instagram already. I was shooting with a couple of photographers that I just was friends with, in Los Angeles, and then at a certain point I found this girl on Instagram and she was signed with this agency called M Model Management. And I looked at their board and they had such a variety of models and they’re like, they’re a boutique agency. They’re only in Los Angeles. They had a smaller roster. So I was like, you know what, maybe I’ll just like, I’ll just email them and see if they’ll, you know, I’ll send them the photos I do have. And then we’ll just see what happens. So I did that and then they were interested in meeting with me so I went and met with them and they liked me and they were like, ‘we think you’re great. We think that you could work’. So they signed me”

AM: “That’s so cool. I mean even as a photographer – and I understand there is runway and catwalk and I understand the reason why a certain body type is used for a certain type of photography – but I completely don’t understand it being an across the board thing because, you know, people come in all shapes and sizes and I’ve been loving shooting with some of the models from Natural Models who are more plus-size so I think it’s really exciting to see people just, you know, seeing the person for what they’re capable of regardless of some pre-described necessity to be a certain height. And you have gone on to do some runway am I right?

ZE:: “I did one runway show”

AM: “Is this the Prada one?”

ZE: “I didn’t do Prada. I worked with Pat McGrath who was the makeup artist that directed the makeup look. So I just did like a press release with her for her new foundation. She’s great”

AM: “Ahhh, she’s amazing”

ZE: “She’s insane. She also happens to just be such a genuinely nice human. You walk in, like… she’s one of those people that you walk into a room and you just feel their energy”

AM: “What an opportunity to work with someone like who is truly one of the current masters of makeup”

ZE: “It was amazing. She was to die for. Her personality… just to die for she was just a wonderful human and it was a really cool experience. I worked with a couple of models that were also with my agency, so you know, I walked in and they were like ‘Oh, you’re with Wilhelmena too’ and I was like, yeah. And they were like ‘Oh, interesting!’”

AM: “Oh, really?”

ZE: “Yeah, I don’t think it was so much like as like, ‘Oh that’s bad’. I think it was more just like, ‘Oh, you’re not exactly like us’. Which, I think – the industry is really opening up to different body types, different people and I think a big part of that is personality. Like you can be a pretty face and be tall and stuff, but when you’re on set with a client and you know, personality is more important I think in the industry these days. People, you know, like when I go to castings, you know, they’ll, they just ask the most random questions and they just want to see how you take it and how you bounce off them”

 

THE INFLUENCE OF INSTAGRAM

 

AM: “And just how you… I guess in a way because… even without being an influencer, people who are on Instagram and being seen represent those companies that they work with. And so if you are playful and if you sort of work in with the brand message and stuff like that, I guess that’s also something that’s a big sell these days:

ZE: “Exactly. I think the availability of social media and all of that stuff, more people can see it. Basically, there’s a bigger audience. And so it’s not just like, you know, people who also are in the industry seeing stuff. It’s everybody seeing this and they want to see… they want to see them represented”

AM: “Yeah. And I think previously, there wasn’t… I think one of the things I really love about the concept for I AM – and I’ve got to remember because I keep forgetting to get people to do an introduction – is that we want to see behind the images, you know. You see beautiful images of people and it’s great to step behind that and also step behind the gloss of Instagram. I do love a beautiful aesthetic in an Instagram page, but I also love when you get to really see in people’s stories, just their regular life and who they actually are and personality. And I really feel like I get to see a lot of that with what you represent”

ZE: “Oh thank you”

 

AUTHENTICITY

 

AM: “Yeah, which is nice because I think that authenticity is something that in tandem with somebody who can obviously do their job really well is like – that’s the killer combo that you want. You were with M Models, and then how did you end up with Wilhelmena – because they are obviously one of the leading modelling agencies in the world these days”

ZE: “Yes. So I basically stayed with M for a couple of years. And then Wilhelmena just scouted me. I had a scout hit me up I guess. She DM’d me on Instagram and she was like ‘We’re super interested in meeting with you. We’d love to have you come in’ and it was kind of like a shell shock. I didn’t really think that that was possible for me to be signed with a top agency like that. ‘Is this real, are you really a scout?’ [laughter] And then, yeah, so I met with them and the director was, she was great. She was like ‘I think you can work.’ She kind of, she noticed that I had a sense of style I guess and she was like ‘well we like, we like you, you seem to know well about fashion’. And I think that was kind of like a selling point for her was like, I knew brands that I wanted to work for and who I thought I would fit in with. And she kind of, I think, respected that. And then from there it just, it just happened. And I think it’s coming on four years with them. Yeah”

 

THE KIM KARDASHIAN WEST BEAUTY campaign

 

AM: “Wow, that’s pretty cool. And, you’ve shot with KKW Beauty, which is, in this day and age for whatever reason, they would have to be one of the biggest brands in terms of right influence, you know, it’s so interesting to see a brand like that based on celebrity end up being so mega in comparison to all these fashion house beauty brands like Chanel Beauty. But in 2020 KKW Beauty is a pretty big player. Did that have much of an impact on your other work or – working on a campaign like that – does it follow through to other stuff I guess is what I’m trying to say”

ZE: “Yes. I think in some terms, yes. And I think in other terms, no. I think Beauty is a pretty easy market for me to be in because even though I’m shorter, you can’t tell because it’s just my face. Um, and it’s kind of funny if you’re behind the scenes, it’s like, you know, all these two other girls and then it’s me and I’m standing on two apple boxes [laughter] But I think it’s definitely, um, helped me get more notoriety on social media and stuff like that. You know, friends were seeing like my pictures on KKW Instagram and they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, I know her’. And so that was kind of cool and, but um, I think, I think it eventually led into me doing other beauty campaigns and bigger beauty campaigns. Um, but I think in some ways it also didn’t do anything crazy.

AM: “Yeah. I think maybe it’s just that thing that people perceive it to be one thing… but whether it actually, yeah, like actually has that much impact – that’s another question I guess. It’s interesting. What would you say has been the campaign that you’ve shot that’s had the most impact for you personally?”

ZE: “For me personally, the, I think it was my shoot that I did for All Saints and I did that…”

AM: “Yeah, they are beautiful photos”

ZE: “That was just a great experience. The whole set was just so fun. The models were great. I’m still friends with some of the models that were on set that day and I met everyone. I still have makeup artist friends that I’m still friends with and stylists and creative directors and that kind of stuff. So, um, and I even have worked with that, the photographer that shot that multiple other times just like happen to work with him again. Um, but that shoot was definitely like the shoot that I think I guess would say like kind of skyrocketed my career and my confidence in my career”

AM: “Yes, interesting”

ZE: “Like it was, it was one of those shoots where ‘Holy crap. Like this is a huge brand’ and this is a brand that I guess essentially wouldn’t use someone shorter because I think they’re, you know, they’re considered a little bit higher fashion, not, they’re not you know, it’s not Chanel or anything like that, but it was the first brand that I worked with that was like not fast fashion basically is what I’m trying to say. So, and that was really cool. And then, you know, then I was seeing my face in stores and that was crazy. That was insane. And that was the first shoot that really, like that was the first shoot that I like ever got recognized out on the street for… like that was the shoot for me. Yeah, that was a really cool shoot”

AM: “Is there a brand that you would really love to work with still now, that you haven’t?”

ZE: “I would still love to work with YSL. YSL is kind of like my peak, that if I booked that I’m just like, okay, I don’t even have to do anything anymore. That’s like personally, that’s just like my pinnacle of like, that would just be… it’s one of my favourite brands. It would just be, you know, or even like Gucci. I would love to work for Gucci

AM: “Yeah doing some Gucci Beauty would be cool”

ZE: “I just love the creativity and the design and just kind of like the whimsical, the whimsy”

AM: “I love that. The big Gucci flagship store on Rodeo Drive… is so cool, amazing”

ZE: “It’s so cool. It would just, that would also be a dream client”

 

BRINGING LOS ANGELES TO THE WORLD STAGE

 

AM: “And so, interestingly, I feel like LA always had this reputation of being more ‘catalogue girl’ but it’s felt like it’s shifted in the last few years and a lot more high fashion stuff is coming out of LA and being brought to LA, but still a lot of that YSL and Gucci; you know, it would be going to Europe. Have you considered going over there for a season? In terms of career trajectory and ambition and things like, do you think that you will consider Europe as a sort of stage two?

ZE: “I would love to. I did a small residency in London, um, and I worked for ASOS for the ASOS Petite line. Um, and that was really fun. That was a great time. But I, I think, I mean I would love to go to Europe and I’d love to model in Europe, but I think Europe standards are a little bit more traditional with their sizing and there’s like, they’re all tall and that’s totally respectable and that’s totally fine. I think LA is, is really emerging as a main fashion hub beyond catalogue which is… you know, it was perceived as that for a long time and it still is still as a lot of the commercial and catalogue and that kind of stuff. But I do think that along with what I said, there are so many different types of people in Los Angeles. Like, I think LA probably has the best street casting. There are so many different types of people here. And yeah…”

AM: “I’m the worst in LA because I just, every time I go into a bookstore, I’m like, ‘Oh no, I just want to photograph that person sitting over there [laughter] and I’m, you know, trying to work out ‘Amber, can you approach them and not be a weirdo?’ or sometimes I’m like, ‘okay, it’s just too random’. And so often I just go, ‘why not’ and end up just walking over to somebody and giving them my Instagram and then we connect from there and shoot. But, I feel like where I live in Australia we have a really eclectic range of personalities come and spend a lot of time here. And so I felt that was a nice common thread in LA that you have a lot of diversity”

ZE: “Definitely”

AM: “Yeah. And I think… while I understand that in Europe there is much more of a classic approach, I also think social media has disrupted that to a great deal. And I love that in a way LA is kind of playing by its own rules and that works really well in a lot of ways because then you can, as you’re saying through personality, you know, gather interest and I love that your scout from Wilhelmena loved your perspective and your personality in terms of her vision for being able to see you working as a non-traditional model. So I kind of feel like LA is spearheading a lot of that and hopefully maybe even with the disruption that COVID has wrought through the industry, that will shift some of that for the Europeans market as well”

ZE: “I mean, I hope so. I would love to work in Europe. It would be a dream come true but I also, you know, I think when I first started modelling I was like, ‘Oh if I make it to Europe then I’m like done. That’s like the best part. That’s the best I can do’. And as I’ve worked more and, you know, grown-up and I’ve reached my mid-twenties and you know, I’m kind of like, ‘Oh, you know, there are other things that I think would be a pinnacle for me’. I really love modelling and it’s something I want to keep doing but I do think acting is kind of… like, it took me a while to figure out ‘Okay, like what’s gonna be my next step?’” And I think for me acting is maybe my next step”

AM: “Yeah. I mean you’re in the right place”

ZE: “I would still love to go to Europe and model. That would be insane. That would be so cool. I visited, I’ve vacationed in Paris and Italy and it’s just beautiful. I would love to be working out there, but I also, I feel like I would be so homesick. There’s like… I really commend the girls that, you know, just spend most of their lives in different countries. It’s just like, I just love like being in my bed and being with my friends, I just like would miss it so much. I think I would just be like ‘Arghhh’ I don’t know”

AM: “You’ve got to know yourself as well. It might look glamorous, but a lot of that is just really, really hard. And it’s a lot of model share-houses and people, you know, just living off the smell of an oily rag. And so yeah, when you’re in the sunshine in LA versus the rain through Milan winter, then, you know, you’re probably on a good thing”

ZE: “But I think those are all definitely world experiences that I’d love to have”

 

A 5 year plan

 

AM: “One of my questions was; where you see yourself in five years, and I guess we’ve touched on career stuff but personally… what would you hope – like do you see yourself getting married or having kids or – what do you think the next five years looks like for you personally?

ZE: “I think for me personally, I would love to buy a house that’s kind of… in LA, that’s a really hard goal to have, but it’s something that I, you know, I would love to. I’ve saved a little bit of money and I would love to just keep saving money and eventually like have a house of my own. Marriage. Maybe. I mean, I have my boyfriend now, we live together. But I also, you know, for a long time I was like, ‘Oh, I have to be married. I’m going to have to get married. Like that’s going to have to be a thing’. But, um, I think as I’ve gotten older, I’m kind of just more open to just, if I’m in a relationship and the relationship is working fine, maybe we don’t have to get married. I would, I mean, I would love to have a beautiful wedding. I just would love to be in a frigging cute ass dress. Really. I would just love to be in a dress [laughter] but it’s not something… it was something that was really important to me when I was younger. And I think as I’ve gotten older, I’m just like more open, you know, if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t happen and I’m in a happy and committed relationship, then that’s great too. I mean, I’d love to have kids as well. I think when I was younger as well, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to have, I have to have kids’. And I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve just been more open to like, ‘Oh, you know, maybe I could adopt a child’. Maybe, you know, just things that you learn with age. Like, ‘Oh, like this is, this is a possibility for me’”

 

ON MARRIAGE

 

AM: “Yeah. When you’re actually experiencing it and you realize, you know – I think it’s one thing of maybe what’s being modelled around you in terms of your parents or relationships and then when you’re actually feeling it out in real life for yourself and you go, ‘I don’t, I don’t think what I thought is my main priority’. Like I actually thought that I would purposely never get married because, uh, I didn’t see it as a necessity or… and if anything I was not scared of it, but – my parents had separated when I was two and my husband’s parents had separated when he was two. And I think both of us were like, it’s a farce on some level. And then, you know, circumstances ended up that it made sense to get married. And I feel like that was totally not what I… I never imagined the dress or any wedding-related things growing up. It just wasn’t on my radar. And I actually got married when I was 20, so I was super young when I did get married. So, yeah, and it’s been hard, but it also, it pushes you through the super-hard periods of your life, I think in a way that maybe, a different commitment wouldn’t, but then at the same time, you know, I certainly don’t prescribe to it being the be-all and end-all because relationships should be because you’re in love with somebody and you want to be with them, not because you made a decision X amount of years. And yeah, that’s a big one. I think it’s interesting what people’s childhood visions of what their life will look like versus their adult vision. It’s a nice thing to compare”

ZE:“Yeah, it definitely is. I think in five years I would just like to be stable. I mean, I’m, you know, I’m fairly stable right now. I live in a house that I love. I have roommates and stuff, but I think in five years I’d love to just have my own house. Maybe have a couple of dogs”

AM: “Yeah, oh see, I nearly… when we were talking about your kitten I was like, ‘Oh no! She’s not a dog person?’ I pictured you being a good dog person as well. And I’m – I have a great dog, but I also love cats, but I haven’t had a cat since I was a kid. So I like these cat and dog people”

ZE: “I’ve always,… when I was growing up we always had… we always had at least two dogs and at least two cats. Always. So I’ve always had dogs and cats and I love both so much. I mean cats are just, I don’t know… I love both so much so equally, but I think cats are just easier personally, ‘cos I do travel quite a bit so it’s just easier to have, you know, it’s like a baby…”

AM: “A dog is a big commitment. My first dog out of home was basically a trial baby. To make sure I could keep something alive”

ZE: “It’s like a human baby with a tail. And you have to take it walking, you have to take it on walks a lot” [laughter]

 

PERSONAL STYLE

 

AM: “Going back to your style, how would you describe your style? The images that we shot together – that everyone will get to see – sees you with this awesome sushi-orange hair, which I absolutely love. Um, well it’s kind of pinkish orange-y super nice. I loved it. Which was an exciting part of shooting with you, getting to shoot you with this gorgeous hair. But yeah. How would you actually describe your own personal style?”

ZE: “I don’t even know. I think I would describe it as ‘eclectic’ in a way that it’s not, it’s not like crazy out there, but it’s, I have so many different types of clothing that I like to wear. Like some days I really like to wear, you know, bright neon stuff and you know, kind of crazy like out-there stuff. And then some days I really like to go super classic, but I think what I wear the most is just super classic blue jeans and a tank top that’s just like my uniform. I love to wear that. So I think I would probably describe my personal style as ‘eclectic with it, with a hint of classic’”

AM: “Nice. I like that. And last few questions… Is there, and it could be something relevant just to being in lockdown because you are still in lockdown in LA as far as I know. Yeah?”

ZE: “Yes”

 

“I MISS MY MOM SO MUCH”

 

AM: “What is missing in your life right now?”

ZE: “My mom. I miss my mom so much. We live in a three-bedroom and she rents out the third bedroom. So I’m used to seeing her at least once a month”

AM: “She comes and goes?”

ZE: “She lives in Minnesota, so kind of far, you know, on the opposite end of the country. But she comes to LA once a month. She still has her dad out here, my grandpa is out here. So she still has family out here. So I’m so used to seeing her like with like a month interval. Like I see her at least every four weeks and so I haven’t seen her since February. And so that’s like a long time for me. And we had these plans where she was going to come to LA and we were going to… we love Disneyland so much. We are like Disneyland people. We’re just Disney people, she loves it. It’s so fun”

AM: “Oh my God. I’m such a Disney person. It’s so brilliant”

ZE: “So we had this whole plan. She was going to come to LA at the end of March and she was going to bring her best friend from Minnesota who’s never been to Disneyland. And so we were going to do this big trip. We were going to do multiple days at Disneyland and then Disneyland closed down”

AM: “I mean, the whole Disney-closing-down -.”

ZE: “It’s monumental”

AM: “- is some crazy, hey”

ZE: “This is the longest they’ve ever been closed down.”

AM: “Yeah. I was reading an article in the LA times and they were saying, you know, it’s been – apart from the day after 9/11 and weather events or you know, and things like that – it hasn’t shut down for more than two days since 1950, whatever when it opened. So yes, talk about cultural shifts”

ZE: “Yes it’s crazy, and once it opens then you know, the capacity gets probably cut in half or more, I would assume masks and then I would also assume as if their lines aren’t long enough longer lines because social distancing”

AM: “And just the need to actually (deep) clean rides. And all the practicalities of that. But I love Disneyland. I love the.. just that everything is so perfectly created in a… it’s just an alternate universe [laughter]. You know, they hide all of the behind the scenes props and all the things that, you know, take you out of it. You know, it’s fake, but when you can’t see all of that stuff you’re just in the perfect little bubble”

ZE: “It’s so magical”

AM: “That’s such a nice thing to share with your mum. My mum hasn’t actually been to the States and my brother is in LA now as well so hopefully once all of this shifts she’ll be able to come out and visit him and hopefully I can get back sometime soon. And I would love… she’s not a rides person but it would still be pretty fun to go to Disney with your mom”

 

DISNEYLAND CATS

 

ZE: “Totally. Disney’s so much more just the experience of being there and like, you know, even if it’s, you know, crazy and there are so many people, it’s just, just a fun place. Just the atmosphere is so fun and everyone’s having a good time and like it’s, yeah, it is crazy. Just like how much behind the scenes goes into it. If you look closely next time you go, whenever you go. They have cats all over – like not all over the park, but in Downtown Disney and in kind of off areas – they have a bunch of cats, so that’s just a bunch of feral cats. Yeah”

AM: “Like wild cats?”

ZE: “Yeah and they kind of control the cats during the day but then once it’s nighttime and the parks are closed they have the cats is kind of like, um, like mouse control.”

AM:  “That’s awesome! [ laughter] I love that. Okay. That’s my new goal. To get to Disneyland and spot some cats”

ZE: “I think there’s an Instagram page called @disneylandcats. Sorry. I just keep directing the conversation to cats [laughter] but there are just so many fun little like tidbits about Disneyland like the fact that there’s a basketball court on the top of the Matterhorn”

AM: [laughter] “Really? What?!”

ZE: “It’s for employees on their breaks and stuff. Honestly, that might even be not true [laughter] but I’ve heard so many people say it that I’m like, it’s gotta be true. I think you know what, I changed my mind, my pinnacle of my career would be able to be in Club 33.

AM: “Yes, yes, yes. For our listeners do you want to describe what that is”

ZE: “So Club 33. It’s kind of like a members-only club in Disneyland in New Orleans square near Pirates of the Caribbean and it’s basically for celebrities or people who just have a lot of money. You pay a yearly fee and it’s not cheap, but you get access to Club 33, which is just like a private dining area. You can have drinks, you can have food, you can bring in guests if you want to. Um, it’s just kind of like the like exclusive club of Disneyland. Members-only”

AM: “I saw the doorway entrance when I was there in October and I was like, ‘I’ve heard the rumours’””

ZE: “It would be so cool”

AM: “It would be super cool. Well, I like that we all have this shared thing to look forward to, hopefully, once life can return to enough normality that we can go to Disneyland”

ZE: “Exactly”

 

PODCAST HEALING

 

AM: “To wrap things up… can I just point out to you that I have terrible PMT [laughter] and I’ve got a cold and I woke up feeling really shit this morning…”

ZE: “Oh no”

AM: “…I had a headache just before I came down to start recording. And I – miraculously – feel really good right now. So you’ve completely healed me which is awesome”

ZE:  “Oh YAY I’m so happy!”

AM: “I’m so impressed”

ZE: “I’m like a dose of Advil”

AM: “It’s totally working for me. I love it”

ZE: “That’s the best compliment I’ve ever gotten”

AM: “Thank you!”

ZE: “Thank you”

AM: “It’s so the truth. I was like, ‘Oh shit, how am I going to do this with a roaring headache?’ But it’s 100% gone, which is… you’re like magic fairy dust. I love it”

ZE: “It was the Disney magic”

 

COMPLICATED IN A GOOD WAY

 

AM: “Now because I’m really bad at coordinating my own podcast… but, but also because it’s under the realm of being an ‘experimental’ [laughter] mixed media platform, I’m going to ask you to introduce yourself at the very end of the podcast. I sort of introduced that idea to you about coming from the position of I AM and talking about yourself and who you actually feel like you are. Because we obviously know ‘Zoe’ as this beautiful sprite of a model and gorgeous personality”

ZE: “Thank you”

AM: “But yeah, I know we’ve touched on so many things and I’m going to have to add a little addendum as ‘Disney Lover’ but yes, I need to start asking this question early on, but I so love just diving into a conversation as well. I’ve got to work out how I actually get to this earlier in the conversation, but I’m going to let you take it away and, introduce yourself, Zoe, for the I AM listeners”

ZE: “Okay. I am Zo Elyse. I am a petite model, regular model, cat lover, Disney lover. Um, yeah, I think I am… complicated in a good way. I think there are layers… layers to who I really am”

AM: “I like that”

ZE: “And I think even now, I’m still figuring those out. But I think overall I would consider myself… Oh! This is so hard!”

AM: “Do you know what – I have to say – ‘complicated in a good way’ is the best line ever. And I’m like, I want to steal that if anyone ever asks me”

ZE: “Right!”

AM: “That is kind of what we all want to be, right?”

ZE: “Complicated in a good way. I think maybe there are some complications in bad ways. Not, not like bad-bad, just like – I’m a little bit sassy. I’m a little bit sassy, my boyfriend will attest to that”

AM: “Sassy is good”

ZE: “But I think overall, I am just content and happy to live life a day at a time. Yeah”

AM: “I love it. That’s awesome. Well, what else could we want in life”

 

Don’t take yourself so seriously

 

ZE: “Just figure it out as it comes. I think, there’s good days, there’s bad days and you take them with stride and figure it out”

AM: “One of my questions on my little list here is; What is the best advice you’ve been given or the best advice you could give? Um, and I like that ‘figuring it out just as things come’ ideology. In that, do you… do you have some good advice, Zoe? Or have you been given some amazing advice that you’d like to share?

ZE: “I think the best advice I have been given is again, just take everything a day at a time. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Don’t take everything so seriously. You know, life can be complicated and hard sometimes, but it’s supposed to be fun as well. You know, enjoy the small things, like the little things that happen in your day that you know, make you smile even if it’s not a big thing and you, you still kind of just had like a shit day, but you know, you saw a dog on the street or you saw one of your friends or you got some good news. You know, I think there’s always a silver lining in a bad day”

AM: “That is so true. And if you are having a bad day – going for a walk, because if you can see that dog that makes you smile, that can totally be the thing. That one hundred percent, for me, is a game-changer. Seeing cute dogs, which – I also, I have to say – everyone that is listening who maybe hasn’t been following me on Instagram and other platforms prior to me starting this podcast, they may not realize how much I, for whatever reason, love LA at the moment! I’m just super into it and I’m obviously back in Australia now but one thing I love about LA is the dogs in cafes, the dogs just everywhere…”

ZE: “Everywhere. They’re everywhere. It’s so cool”

AM: “It’s so cool. Like seriously the coolest. They’re everywhere. Yeah. People are totally into their dogs in California. I don’t know if that’s like right across the states but that was… it just sealed the deal when I was like ‘hey I’m liking it here’ and then the dog situation is so good. Brilliant. And because I didn’t have my dog; I was obviously missing him like crazy when I was over there. So I would just be the weirdo in the cafe, going over and talking to everybody’s dogs” [laughter]

ZE: “Yes!”

AM: “Well thank you so much. I’m so pleased that we got to have this conversation”

ZE: “Thank you”

AM: “And thank you so much for doing my very first FaceTime shoot with me. That was super cool. And I love what we created together”

ZE: “The pictures are beautiful”

AM: “Thank you. And I obviously would love to shoot with you when I get back to LA, whenever that might be”

ZE: “Let’s do it! I’m ready”

AM: “Good. And if you would like people to check you out on Instagram or on any other platform… would you like to do your own shoutout?

ZE: “My Instagram is @ZoeBelleElyse it’s really long but [laughter] it’s Zoe Belle Elyse for anybody that’s interested in following or looking, you can find me on Instagram. I have a TikTok but don’t look at that.

AM: “Really… I might have to stalk your TikTok now” [laughter]

ZE: “There’s really nothing interesting on it. I swear there’s nothing interesting but I’m going to get there. I’m going to make cool videos. I swear”

AM: “Okay. I’ll follow you for the promise of cool videos to come”

ZE: “There’ll definitely be cool videos of Kitten”

AM: “Do you know what? I actually did start a TikTok (with my son) and so far it only has my dog on there. And I ended up making the account name in his name. [laughter]. That’s a good way. That’s an in. To get your vibes happening for TikTok”

ZE: “Exactly. And because of the quarantine, there’s different ways to do things. My roommate loves it and he just was like, ‘you should make one, you should make one’ and I was like, ‘I don’t want to’ and then I finally was like, ‘okay, fine’. So I made one. But yeah, I’m more active on Instagram. You can find me on Instagram at @ZoeBelleElyse and that’s kind of my only social media.

AM: “And have I been saying your name wrong in that you use ‘Zo’ not ‘Zoe’?”

ZE: “I honestly don’t care. It’s not like a big thing for me. That’s how I just introduce myself, but it’s not… I go by both. Both are perfect”

AM: “What does your mum say?”

ZE: “My mum says both. She named me after my great-grandma whose middle name was Zo, but she calls me Zoe all the time, so.”

AM: “That’s so cool”

ZE: “I respond to both”

AM: “And weirdly, I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to listen to episode one of the podcast yet, but my first guest was a model called Chloe Belle”

ZE: “That’s so funny!”

AM: “And when I realised that you were going to be guest number two, I was like, it’s so weird like Chloe Belle and Zoe Belle… it’s just too weird. People are going to think I’m making this up”

ZE: “That’s so crazy, that’s more perfect than anything I could have imagined”

AM: “Oh good. I like that you’re seeing it as a positive. I was like, it’s weiiiird!”

ZE: “Yes. That’s really cool”

AM: “It was all meant to be. Clearly”

ZE: “I’m going to have to look her up!”

AM: “Yes, you should do that! Have a listen to episode one of I AM the podcast! All right, beautiful. Thank you so much”

ZE: “Thank you”

AM: “Enjoy the rest of your afternoon and I hope you get let-loose soon. Do you know what the timeline is for you guys now (in LA)?”

ZE: “Right now we’re in the beginnings of phase two for opening up, which is – now, I guess not all non-essential businesses, but some non-essential businesses can open up for curbside delivery and then I don’t really know. I think that’s just kind of like the beginning right now. And then I think some counties in Los Angeles or in California can petition to basically open up dine-in services and stuff like that. So I think it’s just kind of like county-by-county case-by-case. We’re kind of figuring it out. I mean, I know I would love to eat out at my favourite restaurants, but I also am in no rush to do that. I just want to make sure that, you know, I’m safe and other people are safe and responsible about it”

AM: “Good. That’s absolutely the way forward. Well, please do stay safe”

ZE: “Thank you. Yes. Hopefully, I’ll see you in LA soon.”

I AM. Is hosted and produced by me, Amber Melody, and you can talk directly to me on Instagram @ambermelody and @i.am.thepodcast Thank you for listening. Please rate, review and subscribe to I AM. The podcast if you enjoyed today’s show. See you next week!

Making your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse + photographer Amber Melody

Making your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse + photographer Amber Melody

Making your Own Way in The Fashion Industry // with petite model Zoe Elyse + photographer Amber Melody

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