DJ Cobalt 60: I’d like to ask you about your forthcoming book titled “Exposed” I don’t think a model has ever tried releasing a book like it before, was it something you always planned on doing?
Eleanor Rose: I’ve always wanted to write a book, and the idea of releasing a memoir has been playing around in my head for years. A few years ago I came up with the title and knew right away that it was perfect. Last October I started writing and within a month had what I consider to be my “shitty first draft” – I got a lot of stuff out of my system and now have a lot more clarity around what I want for the finished product. I was planning to have the book ready to be published by now, but my journey developing Empowered Muses has distracted me pretty thoroughly. I’m feeling an urge to start writing again though, so I’ll be working on that second draft pretty soon.
DJ Cobalt 60: “Exposed” speaks to you finding yourself again as model. Since becoming a model have you ever complemented retiring early or returning to your old job?
Eleanor Rose: I’ve considered retiring early since the car accident, but I ultimately decided that I really couldn’t stand to – I’m too addicted to this process of creation. I don’t know that I’ll ever really retire as a model. Even as I develop a parallel business with Empowered Muses I have no intention of dropping the modeling completely. There have certainly been times when I’ve wished for the consistency of a paycheck, the security of full benefits and disability, but I’m far too in love with my career to ever really seriously consider it.
As for returning to my old job, working at a law firm was most certainly not for me. I loved the idea, but in reality I hated being cooped up indoors doing paperwork.
DJ Cobalt 60: How much input do you like to have on any given photo shoot?
Eleanor Rose: That’s an interesting question! I really enjoy having an equal exchange of ideas during shoots, but when I’m hired I may not get any input, depending on the photographer. I’m happy to go along with their ideas, but I do sometimes feel that they’re missing out on the additional perspective and creativity models can provide. At the same time though, some photographers who hire me want me to provide all of the direction and ideas. Without any input from them it feels quite awkward, since I don’t know at all what they’re looking for. I consider finding that middle ground, when possible, as part of my job for most shoots. Even if it’s a highly conceptualized shoot that was planned for weeks or months prior, sometimes we’re able to come up with something amazing within that concept that we hadn’t considered before, and that wouldn’t have happened if all parties hadn’t brought respect, communication, and creativity to the table.
DJ Cobalt 60: What do you think the best photographers bring out of you that you can’t on your own?
Eleanor Rose: Nothing, honestly. Which may irritate some photographers who think that they can bring something special out of models, but I’ve found that often that’s a very misogynistic and presumptuous claim. Photographers who work with non-models or brand new models often learn how to get them to relax and thus pose better, and I certainly experienced photo shoots that captured facets of my personality I didn’t often reveal when I first started. But part of the reason I am a much better model now is that I’ve learned who I really am, explored the facets of my personality and become comfortable with them so that I can manifest them when appropriate for shoots. With professional models you may be capturing the truth of who we are, or part of it, but thinking that you’re the first to do so is somewhat delusional. It’s our job to accurately convey those emotions and complexities. So when photographers tell me during a shoot that I’ll love the photos because they’re sure I’ve never seen myself that way before, I honestly just roll my eyes.
What’s different about the best photographers is that they allow me to do my job unimpeded rather than insisting on micromanaging my posing or using ridiculous analogies to direct me. (We’ve all heard “ok now pretend you’re making love to the camera”…) They just tell me they want sexy confidence, or sorrow, or aloofness, and let me go from there.
DJ Cobalt 60: Is much of the real Eleanor present in your photos? Are you only trying to project an image of beauty and confidence that is an invention of your own or your photographer’s?
Eleanor Rose: This question about the “real Eleanor” always makes me giggle. Humans are immensely complex creatures, and no one image, or mood, or theme, or idea will capture the real me. Even when I project a persona that isn’t one I typically wear, I still draw on my experiences to inform that. Every image of me is of the “real Eleanor”, or at least the real Eleanor at the time it was taken. There are images from when I was 18 that are no longer me, but at the time they very much were. As for whether I’m only trying to project an image of beauty and confidence, whether my own or the photographer’s… I like to project beauty and confidence, but I also enjoy exploring vulnerability and sorrow. When I am hired I do have to project whatever it is that the photographer wants, but my portfolio should be proof enough that I am not interested in portraying myself as solely beautiful and confident.
DJ Cobalt 60: When are you most satisfied with your work?
Eleanor Rose: When that equal exchange of creativity and ideas is achieved and I am able to create something truly unique. When I see a photographer thrilled with what they captured. When I get to work on a project that is personal to me…The list goes on, really.
DJ Cobalt 60: I think you are amazing at what you do and it shows in the work. Do you play on exploring new artistic mediums in the future? I love your blog entries!
Eleanor Rose: Thank you! I was writing and creating photography long before I started modeling, and I doubt I’ll ever stop. I am definitely working on getting my writing out there more via my blog and Exposed. As for photography… I just got a DSLR, so I may pick that back up again more soon. For a long while I haven’t shot much because I no longer have darkroom access and I refuse to let anyone else develop my film.
DJ Cobalt 60: You started Empowered Muses as a way to provide freelance models with useful help and advice to better navigate the modeling industry. What do you wish you had known starting out that you do now?
Eleanor Rose: I wish that I had known how toxic the pressure we face to be people pleasers, this idea of “the client is always right”, really is. There’s this bizarre power dynamic between models and photographers, and when you’re told that you’re responsible for setting and enforcing your own boundaries AND that you need to do whatever you’re told in order to get paid, things become really confusing and often the boundaries go out the window. I want new models to know that it’s ok to say no, it’s ok to stand up for yourselves, and it’s ok to just walk out if your boundaries are being violated. Anyone who tells you they can ruin your career if you leave/don’t do what they want/report their behavior/anything really is a blustering fool. It’s a bluff. Walk away, put yourself first, and don’t stay in a bad situation because you need the money. The money will come from somewhere else, and it is never as important as your safety and mental health.
DJ Cobalt 60: Do you think anyone can become a full time model or make modeling their primary source of income?
Eleanor Rose: Absolutely. Not everyone will find it as easy to break in as others, but if you’re willing to put in the work you can succeed at this. There are needs for every age, gender, and look out there, and I know some very successful models who break the molds.
DJ Cobalt 60: Once a person decides they want to take the leap into becoming a professional model how should they go about doing so?
Eleanor Rose: Assuming they want to be, or start out, freelance: I recommend starting out by creating a profile on Model Mayhem. To do so all you need is to recruit a friend to take four images of you standing against a blank wall. From there you can start to network online and find local photographers who are casting for what we call trade work, which is a shoot where no money exchanges hands and both parties get photos to use in their portfolios. I highly recommend watching these videos from my YouTube channel as well, to get more info:
DJ Cobalt 60: Would you say most freelance models realize what they are getting themselves into?
Eleanor Rose: Not at all. Freelance modeling is really running your own small business, and most models aren’t prepared for that reality. We have to do all of our own PR, marketing, branding, customer support, and delivery, and it’s pretty intensive. This is really a career only for the entrepreneurial, but like most entrepreneurial careers it can be highly rewarding as well. It does seem that most of the models who attempt a freelance modeling career tend to be entrepreneurially minded, which I suspect has to do with the fact that they’re choosing to operate pretty far outside the traditional, but even then it seems most aren’t expecting the realities of running their own business when they first start out, because there really hasn’t been info out there talking about that.
A lot of freelance models don’t start out wanting to be freelance. Quite often the idea is that they’ll just shoot until they build a good enough portfolio to get into an agency, then somewhere along the way that stops being the goal. I feel like it’s often a bit more difficult for those models since they didn’t start out with the intent of being freelance. But overall, it varies wildly. Some models totally get it but couldn’t explain it to you, they just put together cohesive and profitable branding from instinct. Others research business and marketing materials an/or come from an entrepreneurial background like I did. Others just struggle until another model helps them out and explains the business aspect. But I do think that overall, most freelance models who take the job seriously do understand that it helps to be a professional and maintain a professional reputation, even if they aren’t thinking of it in terms of branding.
DJ Cobalt 60: What do you feel are the biggest mistakes most first time models make?
Eleanor Rose: Listening to bad advice from people who don’t understand the industry is a big one. But the worst, the one that always makes me want to cry, is getting involved with disreputable “agents” or “agencies”. There’s nothing else that promises quite that level of impending career death. If a local photographer tells you that you should only shoot with them and has a bunch of reasons why the rest of the area photographers are scumbags, if they try to control your rates and bookings or take control of your portfolio, if they get jealous and angry and act unstable when you shoot with others, they aren’t an agent. They’re just a scummy photographer trying to control you and your career and make sure they’re the only one who gets to work with you.
DJ Cobalt 60: In your opinion do you think the industry exploits models? Or more accurately exploits young men and women?
Eleanor Rose: Yes and no. I think exploitation is everywhere within our society, and this industry is no different. I really want to stress that: regardless of what society seems to think, the freelance modeling industry is no more exploitative than the rest of our society, and is so precisely because these issues are rampant within our society. Let’s make another important distinction here: the industry itself is not exploitative. Certain members of it are. Additionally, as freelance service providers running our own business, we have more power to combat this than we would in traditional jobs.
DJ Cobalt 60: Would you say this exploitation is systemic? Do you feel what exploitation does take place is representative of a larger problem within our society?
Eleanor Rose: I guess I already answered this. It’s definitely systemic and indicative of a larger, societal problem. Within the freelance modeling industry you find that the service providers are predominantly young women, and the clients predominantly professional men middle aged and older, often privileged. They’re often used to ordering around younger women – assistants and secretaries – and they expect the dynamic to be the same when hiring us.
DJ Cobalt 60: Where do place the blame for such exploitation?
Eleanor Rose: While I think it’s important to discuss this as being a societal problem, to discuss patriarchy and privilege and systemic issues within our culture, sexism being only one of them, I don’t find placing blame to be a productive exercise. I would rather discuss responsibility: photographers’ responsibilities to be respectful, models’ responsibilities to start standing up as described whole to change these trends, society’s responsibility to start dismantling structural inequality across the board.
DJ Cobalt 60: Do you know of any photographers who have had models try to take advantage of them or make false claims about them?
Eleanor Rose: You hear stories about false claims, and I’m sure it happens occasionally, but they don’t happen as often as photographers claim and I tend to doubt them when it comes to things like inappropriate behavior. I know that at least two photographer’s I’ve spoken up about are telling people that I’m lying. One flat out admits that he touched me but denies it being assault – it comes down to perception, and you run into things like photographers claiming that a model is trying to slander them because they don’t see what they did as actually being inappropriate.
DJ Cobalt 60: Do you think model release forms favor one party be it the model or the photographer more than the other?
Eleanor Rose: This question reflects a misconception that I see fairly often. Model releases aren’t supposed to protect the model. Their intent is to give the photographer the right to use the images they take of our likeness. It’s a form that we sign to give them legal permission to produce and sell those images in exchange for whatever the agreement was that we would receive in return (typically photos or a monetary amount).
DJ Cobalt 60: In regards to woman reporting rape especially ones involved in nude, fetish, erotic modeling etc. do you think the authorities would take them very seriously? It’s a little hard to swallow and I feel bad saying it but, based on some of the stories I’ve read and heard about rape taking place on college campuses and other professional institutions I feel had someone like Christy Mackgiven her background as a former porn star only been raped instead of viciously physically assaulted by her former boyfriend her case might not have been taken so seriously.
Eleanor Rose: We definitely face a fear of not being listened to, of fighting to convict because we were consensually nude alone with them. But I also fear not being taken seriously in general. I didn’t report it when I was assaulted by a photographer in Utah because I saw very little hope of anything but a traumatic experience in store for me from that course of action. But that was in turn influenced from when I did report assaults that occurred on my college campus when I was underage only to find that the campus police just didn’t care. I was discouraged from actually filing a report because it could seriously harm the future of the student who assaulted me – apparently his education was more important than the fact that he intentionally grabbed the breast of a 17 year old without consent. We live in a society where I still struggle to openly name that as assault because I’m told it’s just locker room antics and “boys will be boys”. Hell, we live in a society where the authorities failed to take the clear cut Brock Turner case seriously enough to give a just conviction. It’s not just nude models and sex workers who are afraid they’ll not be taken seriously if they report sexual violence. Read or watch Arlene Hutton’s “I Dream Before I Take the Stand” if you want further proof.
DJ Cobalt 60: The biggest questions every model wants to know the answers to – how do I maintain a steady work flow without burning myself out and how do I have a long and fruitful career in this industry?
I could talk about this for hours. This isn’t one point, this is all my videos and my teleseminar combined. 😛 But I guess if I have to give a quick answer, I would focus on the “how do I not burn out” portion and say this: being your own boss doesn’t mean being a sweatshop boss. It means that you are also your own employee and need to give yourself the breaks you would expect of a traditional job. Don’t be the type of boss that would drive you to quit a traditional job. Be nice to yourself and practice self-care. The rest, the creating a profitable business and booking enough gigs, will come later. But you have to actually be taking care of yourself if you want to enjoy them, if you want your career to last. Otherwise you’re better off going and finding a boss somewhere who will treat you well.
DJ Cobalt 60: What do you say to someone who doesn’t feel like they are where they want to be in this industry?
Eleanor Rose: The good news is that you can absolutely change that. The bad news is that it means taking responsibility for where you are now. And for those of you who’ve already been working hard and still aren’t where you want to be: I’ve been there too. I believe that you’re working your asses off, and I’m not trying to say that you haven’t been. What you need to do now is figure out what you need to change about what you’ve been doing in order to get better results. Start approaching the work you do as an experiment. Tweak things. Track your results. And if it’s still not working, seek out people who can help you figure it out. Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to see the obvious (or the not so obvious). Also: Good luck. I believe in you. And I’m here if you need some help.
DJ Cobalt 60: What’s the reception been like for Empowered Muses? Are you surprised by the questions you get asked by people?
Eleanor Rose: The reception has been very positive. It seems a lot of people see that the industry is more than ready for this, and people appreciate having these resources available. For now, I’ve actually heard way more from photographers than from models. I’ve been pleased that their responses have also been positive, but I am getting somewhat fed up that most of them are trying to tell me, either by “suggestions” or even flat out demands, what I should talk about when addressing models. They often really don’t know what models struggle with, and I’ve been getting suggestions that range from well-intentioned but horrible ideas to bizarre to just flat out harmful. I welcome photographer’s suggestions, but the way most are being presented has mostly just proven to me that Empowered Muses is sorely needed. Because if the advice photographers want me to give models is the same advice they’ve been giving models, it’s really no surprise that models are struggling.
What I’m really surprised by is the lack of questions I’ve been getting from models. I’d love to have more models asking questions and requesting topics for my videos, but so far things have been very quiet in that regard. I’m looking forward to building up that interaction as I grow Empowered Muses, because it’s really important to me that I cover the topics my followers need. But so far the questions and requests for topics that I’ve posted on FB have just sat there unanswered. I suspect that perhaps models are nervous about coming forward, scared that they’ll be judged. I’m fiercely committed to keeping the EM FB fanpagea safe space, and I’ve created a closed group just for models as well for that reason, but it takes some time to cultivate a safe space before people really trust it.
I WISH MORE PHOTOGRAPHERS valued models.
SCARIEST MOMENT OF MY CAREER was when I failed to recognize a photographer I’d worked with a few years prior who claimed to “know me well” when I dropped off a friend at her gig. I thought he was a stalker and fled. I’m still laughing about that.
A CHALLENGE I LOOK FORWARD TO is getting Empowered Muses up and running so that models nationwide are aware of it as a resource and able to thrive.
THE LAST TIME A PHOTO LEFT ME SPEECHLESS was when I got images back from a trade shoot I recently did for content for my upcoming Patreon account and the photographer had captured the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen of my scar.
FAVORITE FILM NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD OF EXCEPT YOU – I didn’t really grow up with films, so I’m going to tell you about my favorite book no one has ever heard of instead. It’s called Poison Study, and it’s been my favorite since I was 14. It has a wonderfully relatable woman of color as the lead, though I only came to appreciate the diversity in recent years, and she climbs trees and kicks ass. It’s the only book I’ve ever read in which I was truly happy with how themes of abuse and rape were represented and overcome. It’s overall just a complete and total gem, and as much as I want to see it turned it into a movie I’m terrified that it would be screwed up.
IF I COULD ONLY RETAIN ONE OF MY FIVE SENSES I can never pick! Taste is useless without smell, sight and hearing both bring beauty and joy into my life and let me experience art, and touch, well, that goes without saying…
MY IDEA OF SUCCESS is following my heart and making a difference in the world.
DJ Cobalt 60: For People interested in learning more about you or your work where can they go?
DJ Cobalt 60: Is there anyone you would like to thank who has supported you throughout or has been instrumental to your career?
My partner deserves (and has) my eternal thanks and love for their endless support throughout my career. And a special thanks goes out to a very dear photographer and mentor who passed about 6 months after I began posing nude. Without him, Eleanor Rose would not exist. Come to think of it, neither would Empowered Muses.