Story and Photos by Rebecca Price
Sometimes, things come together in just the right way, at just the right time. Sunday, October 23, 2011 was one of those days. Impossibly beautiful weather, a Mercedes Benz convertible, a $20,000 wardrobe from Saks Fifth Avenue, a private jet, a male model … not bad for a 17-year-old model from Georgetown, Texas.
It has been my pleasure and privilege to to be granted an occasional peek behind the scenes of the modeling world. When model Anya Brill became a client at Speak Social, I jumped on the chance to assist her in any way possible, but one thing became immediately clear: this girl is going places all by herself. Anya may still be in high school but you’d never know it. Driven, focused, with a professional demeanor which belies her teenage years, Anya has a clear vision for her future. She does her research, books her own gigs, defines hergoals and then achieves them, period.
One thing I’ve learned while working in the world of Social Media is how very important connections are, in ANY field of business and with life in general. Please note that I mean genuine, real-world connections with people, based on respect; not frivolous ‘friending’ of people just to collect another contact. This is a distinction that Anya too understands and lives by: Find and team up with spectacular, trustworthy people.
The Team: Excellent on All Sides
While Anya was in many ways the ‘common denominator’ of the shoot, its true success was easy to spot. Every single member of the team (read to the end for a complete list of names and links) was amazing to work with; not just talented and professional, but funny, energetic, and tireless. Everyone worked together with such ease and synergy. There was plenty of laughter but also meticulous attention to detail.
The star of the shoot was the entire team, and what a joy it was to watch everyone work!
Step 1: Convince Michael Shane Gordon to be the Photographer
Michael Shane Gordon was the immediate choice for photographer. He had shot with Anya once before on a shoot which produced some Anya’s favorite images ever. Soft-spoken and warm, he immediately puts you at ease and was incredibly fun to work with. Shane has so much various experience, I’ll let him tell you in his own words:
“I am a television photojournalist, video editor, and photographer. For around twelve years, I have worked in TV and TV news from Texas to New York City. During this period I also began to focus on Fashion Editorial, Advertising and Fine Art Photography / Videography for Texas magazines and companies. It was this pursuit that took me to New York City shooting model portfolio development for models at Elite Model Management NY. While most of my experience and various awards are in traditional TV news, over the last two years I’ve had the pleasure of working on programs such as So You Think You Can Dance and Inside Edition. I am currently working in Austin, TX at the FOX owned and operated station KTBC FOX 7.”
Shane Has Some Surprises…
Not only was it exciting to land Shane as the photographer, he provided some huge ‘extra’ things for the shoot. Shane has a friend who is both a photographer and a pilot, and somehow secured for us the free use of a private jet for the whole day!
The second thing Shane surprised everyone with was the announcement that he’d have a camera crew with him who would also make a short video showing the ‘story’ between the two characters. His crew was Ric Torres and Marc Suarez. They were not only great at filming and photography, but really friendly, creative and fun.
They are all done now with the video and (spoiler alert!) it’s fantastic! The Austin Fashion Week website’s second blog post about the shoot will debut the video, so you’ll have to wait until then to see it!
The Hard Work Begins…
The very first person Anya knew she had to have on board was her favorite stylist, Edith Henry (Edie). She has worked with Anya numerous times in the past, even acting as a mentor, and friend. Edie’s professional clout and expertise were absolutely instrumental in this shoot.
Edie came to Austin from Los Angeles and has quickly become a big part of the fashion scene in Austin. Edie participated as the stylist of one of the mash-up teams competing for the top spot on the opening of Austin Fashion Week. She’s worked with numerous designers and is signed with the Campbell Agency out of Dallas. Not only does she pour her heart and soul into her professional styling work, she also has an expanding personal styling business, consulting for ‘regular’ people who need some style help.
You can’t know Edie without also knowing that she spends most of her free time working with Austin Pets Alive and the Special Olympics. Edie says,
“As an owner of three dogs (two of which are rescues), I volunteer at Austin Pets Alive, a no kill shelter – with the dogs. I play with them, walk them, feed them – do whatever they need help with. And I’m an advocate for adoption. To say I LOVE dogs, is an understatement!
I also volunteer as an athletic coach with the Special Olympics. In the fall I coach bowling, winter: basketball and spring: track & field. It is one of the MOST rewarding things I do EVERY week. I ADORE my athletes, and am consistently in awe of them! They are truly gifts!
I am starting a chapter in Austin called ‘The Little Black Dress Society, a non-profit organization that raises awareness with hope to eradicate domestic violence
against women. My first ‘Girls Night Out’ is being planned for this month.”
In just a matter of days Edie took the project from just a concept to reality. She proved to be full of wonderful surprises: she secured for the shoot a Mercedes Benz convertible, which she was able to borrow and drive right off the lot. She was able to pull a $20,000 wardrobe for Anya and Donny, the other model, from Saks Fifth Avenue Austin.
The biggest surprise of all was that Edie had a connection with Mallory Baysek at Austin Fashion Week, who is now going to do two blog entries about the shoot for the Austin Fashion Week website, as well as feature the shoot in their newsletter.
Once we had the plane lined up, Shane and Edie designed the ‘story’ for the shoot: A sophisticated and well-traveled older man is trying to sweep Anya’s character off her feet and wants to take her away with him for a romantic adventure. Responsible and rational, Anya’scharacter is unsure, and reluctant to leave behind her work, family and friends. She wants to go but is afraid to commit to the idea, and do something so rash. She is pulled back and forth between her heart and her head.
Donny grew up here in Texas and was scouted as a model while playing college football. His modeling career took off almost immediately, and he found himself traveling the world, walking the runways in Milan, Paris, London and New York.
More recently, Donny has begun an additional successful career as an actor, and has appeared on Friday Night Lights, Lone Star, and numerous other TV shows, and has also been in numerous movies, including The Great Debaters with Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker and, most recently, Deep In The Heart, in which he had a starring role. Deep in the Heart happened to be premiering at the Austin Film Festival the very night of our shoot, which made for an extra exciting day. We had to be done by 5 p.m. so that Donny could get to his premiere by 7 p.m.
Donny is extremely charismatic and charming in person and everyone on set was excited to be working with him. He and Anya hit it off right away and worked incredibly well together, which added to the special feeling on set. His dynamic presence took the shoot to the next level, and it was fun to watch Donny immediately make friends with each person, and talk to each one individually, with the same enthusiasm, no matter what their role for the day.
Anya and Donny connected right away.
Donny is an expert storyteller and loves nothing more than an interested ear.
The Big Day Arrives
Lecia Harkins, the owner of Russ and Company Salon in Austin, was kind enough to open the salon early Sunday morning just for us. (Much more on Lecia later!) We were greeted by Deborah Lira and Avery Allen, and they got to work on Anya right away. Deborah and Avery made for a fun morning for Anya and I …
Deborah Lira, Hair Extraordinaire
Deborah Lira also works at Russ and Company Salon. She, like Avery, was so kind to get up so early for us! She kept us cracking up with her jokes and irreverent sense of humor. It was fun to hear about all the weddings and fashion shows she does hair for. Deborah says,
“I relocated to Austin in 1995 from Houston as a makeup artist for Revlon. Later I returned to a salon setting and I have been responsible for providing outstanding hair and makeup services to hundreds of brides and clients ever since. My specialty is in the area of bridal hair and traditional or airbrush makeup, hair coloring and cutting. I am listed as preferred vendor at some of Austin’s best wedding venues like Vintage Villas. Brides love the fact that I can do natural to super glam hair and makeup. My regular customers particularly value my 20 years of experience and dedication to their needs. My business is located at 1805 West Ave. Austin, TX 78701.”
After Deborah was done with Anya’s hair, Donny had arrived so she helped him tame his hair as well.
Early Morning Make-up With Avery Allen
Bubbly and sweet, Avery was like a bright spot of sunshine, despite the early hour. Well established in the fashion scene, she had worked with Anya at least once before. I immediately felt at ease with Avery and especially enjoyed watching her airbrush Anya’s makeup on- a process I’d never seen before, and it was definitely compelling! Avery is a freelance makeup artist who also works in conjunction with Austin Wedding Makeup.
After graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in Textiles and Apparel Design, Avery decided her true calling was to pursue a career in makeup artistry. She currently works with Austin Wedding Makeup, as well as for personal clients, and really enjoys collaborating on photo shoots. You can see more of her work at www.averyallenmakeup.com or facebook.com/averyallenmakeupartist.
Ready to Head to the Airport!
Anya and I, right before we left for Georgetown.
When Anya, Donny and I arrived at the airport, Edie and Kristina had already been there for hours preparing the extensive wardrobe. Edie had gotten five full outfits for both Anya and Donny, which included suits, coats, shoes, sunglasses, purses (all from Saks) as well as custom designed jewelry from Ferrell Designs, which was made just for Anya.
It was pretty obvious who the styling team was, since Kristina and Edie were for sure the most stylish people on set. Kristina is full of life and energy, and has lived and traveled all over the world. You definitely can’t miss her passion for all things fashion and style. Kristina is an assistant stylist currently, but plans to one day be a stylist on her own. Kristina says,
“I trained with a fashion consultant in Austin, TX on personal shopping techniques, beauty and style, and currently work for two established wardrobe stylists in the state of Texas. I previously worked for Neiman Marcus-The Shops at La Cantera as a Sales / Fashion Specialist and took various fashion courses for my BA at Texas State University including Textiles 1 & 2 and Fundamentals of Fashion. I have traveled to different countries all over the world. I was born in London, England and raised in Germany. I have had the opportunity to visit the fashion capitals such as: Milan, Italy, Paris, France, London, England, Tokyo, Japan, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. My style blog is all about fashion, beauty and everything chic. Visit stinachic at http://stinachic.blogspot.com. I will be launching my new website in the latter part of 2012 featuring my styling portfolio.”
The Styling Begins…(It Takes a Village)
Once Anya and Donny were dressed, the shoot was underway!
Olivia Delk was my assistant on set. While I was extremely busy shooting hundreds of behind the scenes photos, Olivia expertly helped me by capturing tons of great behind the scenes video footage for Speak Social’s own ‘Behind the Scenes’ video (find it at the beginning of this blog). Olivia got great footage, which was then edited by Brad Bogus of Speak Social.
Olivia was surely the quietest person on set, but was focused, professional, and did a wonderful job. Soon to graduate high school, Olivia has a background in tech-theater and lighting
Lecia the Great!
When Lecia arrived on set to be our hair and makeup person for the duration of the shoot, it was like another jolt of electricity went through the group. From the moment she arrived at the airport she had everyone laughing. Lecia was so full of personality and brought such a fun energy to the shoot. She did several different looks for Anya with both hair and makeup to go with Anya’s changes of outfit. Lecia charmed every single person there that day with her upbeat energy and smiles.
Lecia has been in the hair and makeup industry since 1987, specializing in hair styling and coloring, and airbrush make up. Trained in Los Angeles and Hollywood, Lecia has worked to keep Austin beautifully styled for the past 20 years at Russ & Company, in addition to working in films, television and print. A 2009 Austin Fashion Week winner for Best Make Up Artist – People’s Choice and a three-time 2010 Austin Fashion Week nominee for Critics choice Best Makeup, People’s choice Mash up Team for Makeup and Critics choice Mash Up Team for Makeup, and twice nominated 2011 for Fans Favorite makeup and Industry choice makeup. She is active in the Austin fashion, bridal and beauty industry in addition to her work at the salon. Lecia brings her humor, honesty and heart, as well as creativity to every job.
The Shoot Continues…
It was such a beautiful day, and the whole team worked effortlessly together.
Having Fun in the Down Moments …
Donny and Edie striking a pose
Me, goofing off in the hangar
Donny down on one knee
Anya, being silly
Lecia changes Anya’s hair yet again
All in all it was a perfect day. Sure, there were minor hiccups, but on the whole everything just fell into place beautifully and we even finished a whole hour early! How’s that for time management?
And to Conclude…
Of all my time with Anya, watching her walk in Austin Fashion Week 2011 was one of the biggest thrills, and when we heard she placed in the top five for ‘Best Female Model: Industry Choice’ and ‘Best Female Model: People’s Choice I felt like a proud parent. Due to her own tireless research and work ethic, Anya has lined up work for herself to such an extent that virtually every weekend since then she has had photo shoots or runway shows. Now that she’s signed with Butterfly Entertainment of Austin and The Campbell Agency of Dallas, there will be a steady stream of new jobs sent her way, and Anya’s next goal is to also get signed with a major agency in New York.
I personally had such a magical day, since I’ve always had a love for both fashion and photography. It was eye opening to see the herculean effort it takes behind the scenes to pull off a shoot that looks so effortless. I still can’t believe how hard Edie and Kristina had to work, especially! Shane not only worked so hard that day, but he had the most work to do post-production, editing the photos and creating, editing and scoring the video, with the help of his friends and crew.
We are so very excited to have met Laura LaQue from Austin Fashion Week, and to also be working with Mallory Baysek at AFW. Their interest in this story has been such a source of excitement for all of us, and their first blog about it will be released soon. If you’d like to follow their blog you can find it here: http://fashionweekaustin.com/blog/ and also, they are on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/fashionweekatx
Complete List of Credits & Links
Model- Anya Brill: http://on.fb.me/oPYsdR
Model- Donny Boaz: http://kimdawsonagency.com/models/men/d/119
Photographer- Michael Shane Gordon: www.michaelshanephotography.com
Assistant Photographer- Ric Torres: http://www.vpg1.com/
Videographer- Marc Suarez: http://on.fb.me/tdaXN8
Stylist- Edith Henry: http://www.edithhenry.com
Asst. Stylist- Kristina Anyachebelu: http://stinachic.blogspot.com
MUA- Avery Allen: http://www.facebook.com/AveryAllenMakeupArtist
Hair- Deborah Lira: http://deborahlira.com
Hair and make-up- Lecia Harkins: www.RussAndCompanySalon.com
Behind the scenes photos/help- Rebecca Price: www.speaksocial.net
Assistant help w/ Behind the Scenes filming: Olivia Delk
Pilot: Jerry White, Georgetown Airport: http://airport.georgetown.org/
Designer (jewelry)- Ferrell Designs: http://on.fb.me/uwogur
Salon- Russ and Company: http://www.russandcompanysalon.com/
Car provided by Mercedes Benz of Austin: http://www.mercedesbenzofaustin.com/
Wardrobe provided by Saks Fifth Avenue, Austin: http://on.fb.me/vXy1r1
‘Behind the Scenes’ video edited by Brad Bogus of Speak Social: www.speaksocial.net
Special thanks to Laura LaQue and Mallory Baysek of Austin Fashion Week, http://fashionweekaustin.com/blog/