Style Life: Online Shopping Edition

I am not a fashion or beauty blogger but lately I’ve decided maybe I should be! I have definitive opinions on stuff I love and stuff I hate.  When I was still a pageant queen (recently retired) people would ask me almost every day about my make-up routine or what brand of lipstick I was sporting or  where I got my dress. Now those questions are a little fewer and far between but still occur, if or when I’m wearing lipstick at all. So the following is my Skylar Witte 2017 list of clothing websites I can’t live without and why:

So my favorite sites are two I can rarely afford on my college girl budget but if you can……DO IT! http://www.revolve.com and http://www.shopbop.com, the latter is Madison, Wisconsin based! Whoop whoop. Both are amazing for current, fashion forward designer fare. I love them and both sites are completely splurge worthy. Great customer service, easy returns and high quality almost always guaranteed! I have been obsessing over this Nicholas lace dress for weeks and trying to justify why I would need a $700 dress to wear to my International Law lecture…alas, no excuse, and now it just keeps popping up in my Facebook feed…why you gotta do me like that Facebook marketing algorithm …WHY?

For my pageant peeps reading this right now who are far from retirement…someone wear this in interview, please and thank you!

Azalia dress

Next up in the mid-range category are http://www.shopakira.com and http://www.zara.com both discovered out of necessity when I was searching for appearance wear last year. So quick side-story.  I purchased no less than 4 potential interview outfits for Miss USA. I had one custom-made, purchased a few back-ups and simply couldn’t decide, by the way they all had their fabulous features. Turns out I ended up wearing none of them.  While in NYC I had purchased these cute culottes and matching shirt at Zara (not a jumpsuit, which everyone thought) and wore it to a prep session with my directors who immediately fell in love and ta-da my interview ensemble was born. It was actually very blush but looks a little more baby pink in photos. I loved it and was so happy it was my final look for interview.

Interview USA

Finally my go to site: http://www.us.boohoo.com, Ok here is where the review gets honest, half of my Miss USA wardrobe came from this site and much of it was under $20! But if I’m being forthright, which I always am, the stuff is hit or miss. Sizing is sometimes off and sometimes the material is not super high quality. But all and all it’s super trendy and super inexpensive. They do 60% off sales on a regular basis, stay on top of this site…I always have a wish list going and just purchase when the sale hits. Be cautious sales items are often not included so sometimes it’s less expensive to buy their new arrivals. Win and win. This company based in England ships to the US for a mere $6…so yeah there is that. This is where I go when I know I will only wear it once or it might not make it past one season. For example capes, rompers, chunk heels and bodysuits might not be in for 2018 so this is where I purchase all my fun stuff. Check out the below hits from my boohoo purchases (the white dress that made my dad blush, the super fun harem jumpsuit and the wild bell-sleeved floral romper):

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Then there was this little cranberry number worn to a fraternity formal in Texas last year….it was basically a swimsuit with panels but man let me tell you this dress got more attention than most $15 purchases (that’s right $15) warrant. It stood it’s own among girls in designer couture….it also sparked the love of this halter look which became my signature for Miss USA….note the similarities to another gown you may remember which was a little more on the HIGH END of high end. That of course is the gown that will forever by my favorite piece of clothing to ever exist. Mac Duggal does it up a little better.

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Speaking of which any website that sells Mac Duggal ranks high on my list, although this is one area where I would never suggest you go online to make a purchase. Pageant gowns, cocktail dresses, prom dresses, bridal gowns all should be tried on and purchased from an authorized retailer.  Trust me there are things you can’t buy online. There are items you must try on in real-life. It makes me sad to hear horror stories about knock-off gowns and expensive custom gowns ordered that come in too small or completely unlike the girl thought they would.  Try it on people.

So those are the secrets, I don’t have many. Next week I will tackle a few make-up and skincare items. I am not working for any of these websites (except Mac Duggal of course)  If you want more, let me know by either commenting on this blog or on my FB (by the way have you followed my public page yet on Facebook?!?)  This is a new arena but if you are interested I will write. As always!

Dream Big

Skylar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Wisconsin USA Life: The Path Pavers

One of the most overwhelming ‘truths’  of becoming Miss Wisconsin USA was the fact I was suddenly launched into the same category as some of my idols. This is not hyperbole, the 12 women in this photo (Courtesy: Pageant Update)  who have come before me are, with all sincerity,  my lifelong heroes.

I have been fortunate to follow their journeys and some I have been blessed to personally get to know. Many have impacted my own path in ways they may have never even realized…but isn’t that what a blog is for…to share your inner most thoughts. So I’m about to tell them.

Kate Redeker, your pure beauty is incomparable. When I found out you would be competing as a miss the first year I was a teen contestant I tried not to ‘fan girl’ the moment I met you. Winning your title at 19 gave me hope and courage.  Just two months later while attending the Miss Minnesota USA pageant my mother and I got into a lengthy conversation with your parents. I told them how much I wanted to become Miss Wisconsin USA but thought I should wait, worried I was too young to compete. They were so absolutely inspiring. Your mother told me I had something special and the judges would see it at any age. They are such a huge reason this was my year, they planted a seed that grew all year long.

Haley Laundrie, there is a photo of you and Bucky Badger throwing up the “W” that was my ‘goal image’. Whenever I imagined my dream, what it meant to be Miss Wisconsin USA and how I envisioned it,  I thought of you and UW-Madison and that image. Bucky and I have yet to recreate, but I’m working on it. There will be a picture of Miss Wisconsin USA 2017 with Bucky, it will happen.

Bishara, I once referred to you as the “Queen of Queens”, and it is the truth. This year I finally had the chance to meet you and learn from you. I even had the opportunity to try  on the yellow dress you wore the night you were named into the Top 10 at Miss USA (fate anyone)!

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Your mother was on a mock interview panel that day and she gave me the best piece of advice I had gotten up until that point. She asked me about my dream job and I started by talking about becoming Miss Wisconsin USA and then Miss USA but quickly apologized for sounding too over-the-top. She stopped me and said “never apologize, be strong and confident in what you want and don’t be afraid to say it out loud!” I’ve thought about that moment many times since. When I completed the Miss Wisconsin USA interview I was disappointed that the judges never asked me that question. I’ve come to the conclusion they already knew the minute I walked into the room. Strength and conviction, they knew exactly why I was there. Thanks to your beautiful Momma for reminding me it’s ok to know what you want!

Courtney we have yet to meet, however my mother and your mother have formed a unique mommy mojo that makes me laugh. Your mother has always let it be known she believed in me and she saw something in me before anyone else had quite yet noticed it. She was convinced of my fate and kept my biggest fans sane in their most insane pageant moments not one but two years in a row. She just knew, I don’t know how but she believed in me when others doubted! I have to think it is because she raised a double crown winner and astonishing human being. She once said something about me reminds her of you, there is no greater compliment in the world.

Jordan I remember meeting you at the tender age of 13 when you were helping Kenna Mia as we both enjoyed our first stage experiences…I remember being completely enamored by you and your smile. You were the most beautiful woman in the room and still are everywhere you go.

Alex Wehrley, you are living my dream by creating a successful career in the entertainment industry. Not only that, you are doing it with grace, style and remaining true to yourself the entire time. You are the woman I aspire to become. I hope we can meet in person one day, because my connection to you is strong and that’s all I can say about that. #empowerista

Caitlin, your undeniable commitment to the growth of young women is evident. You have been such a force in the Wisconsin pageant community. You and your mother are the mentors every woman hopes to find in this world. Your motivations are so clear and so genuine… to build up others. I feel like I look just a little bit like you in our reaction photos and that gives me happy chills (fate anyone)!

Finally, Melissa there are no words. You are a beacon of pure light and energy. For years I ‘just missed you’ while those around me shared your story of hope and inspiration. In the end I believe it was only fitting that we finally embraced in-person the night I was crowned. Your life, your persona, your ability to create a legacy so much larger than yourself is the stuff dreams and legends are made of. You are the real and forever Miss Wisconsin USA.

My path has been paved by each of these remarkable women and their families even those I have yet to meet and know; each laying stones of hope, guidance, inspiration and love.  I feel like I am somehow the end product of each of their time with the crown. I followed their each and every move, dreaming of my moment, while working hard to create my own destiny. I can only hope that some Miss Wisconsin USA hopeful is reading this right now and someday feels the same way about me! And whoever she may be, it is just as spectacular as you have imagined it in your dreams.

Dream Big, Skylar

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Miss Wisconsin USA Life: Awareness

This weekend I was honored to be part of the 10th annual Down Syndrome Awareness Walk in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. The Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin-Chippewa Valley advocates for a worthwhile cause and is a wonderful organization. I have supported multiple causes throughout my life.  Among the organizations related to celebrating all abilities, I have been an award presenter for Special Olympics, a judges coordinator and emcee for the Miss Amazing pageant and am so looking forward to participating in Best Buddies events around the state as an ambassador as part of the Miss Wisconsin USA organization.

But even more so, I have been involved in awareness events and walks since I could walk. My mother was a news anchor and was often asked to participate, so non-profit events were a true family affair. I am blessed to have been taught the importance of community involvement and giving back. We did it all, Alzheimer’s awareness, heart disease awareness, Epilepsy awareness, mental health awareness, and breast cancer awareness. The latter came to be when my Nana was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer when I was 12 years old. She wanted to attend events and we all got involved.  Something she used to say has stuck with me all of these years. We would all get dressed up in our pink shirts with our ribbons and pins and head to an ‘awareness’ event and she was bald and sick and going through chemo and would say….”AWARENESS, oh I am aware, I’m aware of what breast cancer is and what it does and what it means.” and she was, we all were. For my family it meant we would eventually lose our matriarch.

So when I go to an awareness event that is always top of mind. The families who attend, who live every day with ‘awareness’, choose to come to help the rest of the world understand, even if it is just for one day, for a few hours in a park, to share what it means. It is a time for them to come together, be together, to laugh and sometimes cry. My heart is full this Monday morning knowing that showing up with a crown and banner didn’t actually make anyone more ‘aware’ of the ups and downs these families face every moment of every day, but it did put a smile on a lot of faces. They are aware, and I am more aware and more educated than I was yesterday.

This will be my favorite part of being Miss Wisconsin USA. Please invite me to your ‘awareness’ event, I would be honored to be a part of something bigger.

Dream Big, Skylar

Just Life: Being a size 0

I like to share different stories/experiences on my blog and this one is difficult for me to share, because it’s difficult for me to admit. The other day I was at the mall with my mom shopping for an event. I was trying on all of these adorable outfits yet nothing fit right and made me feel great (like any good outfit should). That entire week I had been struggling with my body in general, I just felt like each time I looked in the mirror I was unhappy with what I saw. That shopping trip to the mall ended with me in tears and my mom attempting to comfort me by saying “honey, you are a size 0 why are you self-conscious there’s no reason to be upset, you literally can’t be any skinnier, or you will have to buy kids clothes!” She was right but it didn’t make me feel any different in that moment.

I want to take a minute to discuss body image with you all because I think it’s important and I hope that everyone I know can read this and take what I learned that day and often have to remind myself. No one can be confident 100% of the time. Fat shaming and skinny shaming don’t help. People judge you no matter what you look like and it is OK to look in the mirror and not love every ounce of yourself (every once in a while). Love the skin you’re in is a great and wonderful tagline in the world but the reality is no one, regardless of size, is without flaws. You are always your harshest critic.  People can be horribly mean and tactless and it’s ok to not love all of you all of the time.

After all was said and done I look back and think how silly I was acting, but you know what…it happens. Everybody has off days where they just don’t feel they are looking their greatest or their body is in the shape that they want it to be. A part of life is moments where you are self-conscious, and that’s OKAY! And it doesn’t matter if you are a size 0 or a size 24. Moving past those moments is where strength and confidence converge. Being able to brush off a horrible criticism….She needs to eat a burger, she looks sick….She needs to workout, look at how fat she is…these words sting, and man do we all hear them, and sometimes they seem impossible to move past.

When I decided I wanted to model on a regular basis it was the acceptance that my healthy lifestyle now had to become my permanent lifestyle times about ten. It is more pressure than I could have imagined when the decision was made. Not only do I have to stay thin and fit but I have to make sure I don’t get too thin or too muscular. It is a wild balance and it takes a lot of time. That being said, I am not even close to perfect and nobody is, who the hell is to say what perfect is anyhow!!  And sometimes with all the pressures I face, I break down and after that mall catastrophe I want to say a few things to anyone out there who has felt the way I did that day:

You are beautiful because you are you. I have talked about this previously,  but at the end of the day I am the best Skylar Witte that I can be. It’s okay to have imperfections, but embrace them and remind yourself why you are beautiful…I guarantee there are an infinite amount of reasons. Work for the things you want (in my case lady abs) but love what makes you–you, and I guarantee it will never be lady abs. I think I am kind and compassionate. I would like to say people who meet me enjoy my company, I am extremely outgoing and my smile is often both made-fun-of and complimented because it is unique and frankly I love it, I think it is my favorite feature. I know I work hard and have a lot of work ethic because I wouldn’t be doing what I am today if that wasn’t the case. Lady abs are completely unrelated to any of those things which I am confident make me beautiful. Your beauty is not found on you it is found inside of you, plain and simple.

Respect your body and accept the things you have, be able to separate who you are from how you look, even on the bad days!

 

Dream Big, Skylar

Pageant Life: Confidently Beautiful

With all the excitement of the crowning of a new Miss USA last night, I wanted to take a minute to share my two cents about what it means to be a “pageant girl”.

Over the past two weeks 52 of the most extraordinary women in the country took to Vegas. The contestants volunteered, spent time bonding, and rehearsed (a lot I can imagine). But what those girls also dealt with over the past two weeks was being in the public eye constantly. When they walked across the stage, their bodies were seen by millions of people and judged by far more than the judges assigned to the difficult task of choosing just one Miss USA.

I think the biggest, most difficult issue facing young women is being comfortable in your own skin regardless of what others have to say about you. We live in a world where even strangers can have feedback on our lives, through social media. It amazes me what complete strangers find appropriate to stay about these contestants publicly for all to read.  That is extreme pressure and even though as a pageant girl you sign up for that aspect when you compete it doesn’t make it acceptable. I always wonder what an internet troll would say if they came to face-to-face with a contestant they called fat, ugly or dumb. Especially after hearing the strong words of our new Miss USA, a dedicated member of our military, who happens to be beautiful and well-spoken, would you have the guts to look her in the eyes and tell her she was anything less than amazing.

The Miss USA contestants prove being confident in who you are, owning yourself 100% of the time, and knowing full well that people will criticize you means you have already won in life, not in a pageant, in LIFE.

I wanted to use this opportunity to say thank you to all 52 contestants who competed. Thank you for being a role model to people across the world. Thank you for sharing with us your passions and dreams and for putting it all out there. I can speak from experience when I say walking on stage in front of an audience of people is no easy task, and you all did it with grace. Thank you for representing your state and the Miss Universe Organization. You are the epitome of real “pageant girls”, confident, strong, intelligent, compassionate, giving young women. Thank you for always staying true to yourself. You see the character of these phenomenal women as they all surround their new Miss USA with tears of pride in their eyes. These are women empowering women, and understanding that although it is a competition, the best they can be is themselves and in the end support the one among them who was chosen to represent them all, heck to represent us all.

So thank you to each of the contestants who competed last night. Thank you for being someone that thousands of people look up to and for representing yourself and your state to the best of your ability. Congratulations to the new Miss USA, and congratulations to each of the contestants. There are many girls out there who would love to have been where you were standing last night, be humbled by that reality.

In addition, those following my journey. Miss USA is still the dream for me, someday I hope to have my chance to be among that elite group and I’m so thankful I have young women before me to look up to and motivate me to reach that dream!

Dream Big,

Skylar

Fashion Life: One Piece

Over the years I have developed into an unexpected fashionista! I have always enjoyed trends and fashion but working as a model has opened up a whole new level of appreciation. The process that it takes for a designer to go from sketch to concept to creation is amazing. When I look at a dress, a piece of jewelry or accessory my mind now considers all of the work and craftsmanship that went into making that item happen.

My “girl crush” designer is Chelsea Muneca Stotts and her Moda Muneca line, first because she gave me a shot at my first runway and two because her dresses are AMAZING and she is a Wisconsin based designer. If I ever made it really big, Chelsea would just have to live with me and make my entire wardrobe, all day every day, I truly adore her.  We just shot her Fall Look Book and although I’d love to share the photo,s the best I can do is this sketch….from the mind of a great artist. (follow me on insta to see when the full book is released)

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It is easy to build a look around an amazing singular piece like a gown but my favorite challenge comes from building a look around a much smaller piece.  My personal style is to find the most unique and original piece possible. I truly like to find a smaller piece like jewelry which I get every month from Rockbox or a fun clutch…my newest obsession is this piece from Milanblock.

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It is an inlaid acrylic eye or evil eye  with every single detail down to the Hamsa clip accounted for. I recently styled my own shoot where the clutch was the star. I own several pair of shoes that also have been the focal point of many an outfit.

I find that when I have one-piece that becomes my focal point it is easy to build a look around it. Sometimes the inspiration is small and less obvious. I will never probably become a fashion blogger, but today I was inspired by the other part of my life, which I can attest to by the fact I own a closet the size of a studio apartment and it is completely FULL!

 

Dream Big-Skylar

Model Life: Building your Network

Finding a foot in the door in this industry is hard, networking takes time, energy and the ability to handle a lot of rejection. But one thing I have learned is you have to make your success your own and you can not ride anyone else’s coat tails. So if you want to become a model, you need to quickly learn the difference between good connections, bad connections and overstepping your bounds.

This is a ‘sticky wicket’ as they say. When I started the first photographers I found and connected with came via several friends whose photos impressed me, and that is what I told the photographers when I reached out via email or Facebook. I  simply said, I have seen so&so’s pictures and I love your work, perhaps we could work together sometime. Sometimes I just loved their work and knew absolutely no one they worked with.  I then invited them to become my friend on Facebook so they could see what I brought to the mutual table. Some said they would love to work with me, others gave me a price they would be willing to work with me for and some didn’t return my message.

In turn when people reach out to me seeking advice or want to work with me I try to be both kind and helpful.  This isn’t a hobby for me it is a job. A great piece of advice I got early on is that you have to know where you fall on the scale. Are you a novice, inexperienced model or professional model who has appeared in several publications and done commercial or paid work? At this point I consider myself a professional working model, I expect to be paid for my time, however I am again a realist… I am not Lily Aldridge or Elsa Hosk. I also am not available all-day every-day, I do this on a part-time basis. I have a strong portfolio and a resume which includes national campaigns.  I take that all into account when someone reaches out to me.

As far as helping aspiring models, well it is why I started this blog, I couldn’t keep up with the messages. I used to get a few messages a month, now I get several messages daily and they come from aspiring models all over the world, which I am both honored and overwhelmed by.  I wish I knew more. I wish I could help everyone.  But as I have shared a million times over there is no secret here, you have to put in the work and you have to make the connections no one can ‘help’ you, simply give advice, that is what I do.

I am more than happy to connect people when I personally know them and their work. I get asked by designers and photographers if I know any other good models and I will gladly spread the love. Or at the very least tell them to go check out someones website, Facebook or Instagram, the rest is up to them. One of my greatest experiences in this industry came from someone helping me in the opposite direction. Cali Rae,  who is now a signed model met me at a fashion show and passed my name along to a photographer she worked with who was building his portfolio,  I have now done several great shoots with him. Our friendship and connection is just the type of networking that helps get models to new levels. In turn when I am contacted by a photographer or designer looking, I am always willing to pass along the names of models they should contact. I have made direct connections between people and believe in helping others grow.

Here is where people often overstep their bounds and it is hard to swallow as someone who worked hard to build a career. Don’t call, DM or message a photographer, a client who has paid me to represent them or my agent and tell them you are ‘friends’ with Skylar Witte and ask for something, especially for free. I think every working model or actor would agree, this is one of those crazy things that happens often.  Unless I made that connection directly you are likely to tick off several people in the chain. Great photographers cost money and sometimes they shoot for free but if they aren’t OK with TFP work using my name only looks bad for me and for you. My agent just put a very clear message to those represented stating if someone name drops by messaging, emailing or calling her personal cell phone she will not sign them, regardless of how talented they are, also I would risk being dropped because I gave out her personal information, and I really, really like my agent.   This does not constitute as networking, as a matter of fact it will likely ruin your chances as a model or actor.

Relationships are built on honesty, trust and kindness. Starting off by saying you were sent by someone when you were not or asking for free work can and most likely will upset all parties involved.  In turn, if I act as a reference or connection for you please do not destroy a relationship I helped you to build. This includes not responding to a message from someone you asked me to connect you with, not following their directions or call sheet information, rescheduling, cancelling on them or simply standing them up for a shoot.  They probably won’t want to work with you again and I will not refer you again.

Although this is my first ‘professional’ life experience I would hope this goes the same for any career choice I should make. Much like everything in the world even in the entertainment and modeling industry it is a small circle. Photographers, agents, scouts, designers and other models will quickly identify friend and foe. Reputations can be built and destroyed easily.  I am proud of the relationships I have with others in my market, it is a snowball that keeps connecting me and it is what keeps opportunities coming my way.

Also I am not shy at all about asking for help and advice myself. Before I signed with my acting agency I sent several of their signed actors a quick message asking about their experience. Some of us now follow each others budding careers even though we are thousands of miles apart. I have a whole network of amazing people whose hands I have yet to shake, but to me that is the best part of this industry.  I also was contacted by a New York modeling agency recently and reached out to several girls in my network who were signed with them or I saw had a connection to them.  These quick checks have been lifesavers to me, it’s also how I avoid creeps which will actually be my next post.

So read this blog, comment and ask me questions. If you are in my neighborhood and want to chat over coffee, let’s do it! I won’t tell you anything I won’t write about on this blog. There is no SECRET…seriously this is a job and like all jobs you have to build experience, network and grow day-by-day until you get to the next level. The unfortunate part of this job is it is based on your genetic make-up  and subjectivity, so success is based on several things you can’t control. If you are gorgeous like Ms. Cali Rae then you are a lucky one. But taking advantage of your relationship with others will not bring you success, you will lose opportunities and more importantly lose friends.

Dream Big, Skylar

 

 

Model Life: Free Agent-ish

So I get asked a lot why I am not seeking agency representation for my modeling career, I think for many people who have a different approach to this industry that is the way and only way to go, it is just not my way. I shared my big agency experience with you all a few weeks ago. Acting is a whole different beast and I will address that today as well, I love my film/television agency and I will explain why. But no modeling agency yet and there are a few reasons I will share for my career path in this post.

First, modeling agencies come in all sorts of levels of support, promotion and industry rank. There are small agencies that do mostly regional work, large agencies that do national work and/or will act as a mother agency connecting you to the big dogs who are the international players in the modeling world. I have been approached by three regional agencies and was just  approached by a Chicago agency, which could act as my mother agency in the next step of my career, and so far I haven’t signed on a dotted line with a modeling agency.  Many of my friends in this business are signed with regional agents or signed with agencies in large markets but are trying to live in the Midwest. I am fortunate, because they have all shared their wisdom and pitfalls of their contracts with me.

Once you sign that piece of paper often you are obligated to work with that agency and no one else, good models get asked to sign exclusive contracts. The relationship is meant to be mutually beneficial, they promote you on their available roster for paid jobs and you either go to a casting call/audition or get a paid job based on that promotion. They get a cut of your payment. Now that is great if the relationship is great. What if the agency doesn’t promote you?  Are you buried somewhere on page 27 of 50 on a website? If you are one of 400 female models the regional agency represents how much are you being pushed alongside of the 399 others? When a client seeks a blonde-haired, blue-eyed model is your info being sent, shared, viewed or even found? Many agencies aren’t agencies at all they are paid websites which are a monumental database of hundreds of inexperienced models who are willing to pay to be included. Do clients actually go there and offer jobs to models, who knows? I have never heard of someone getting their big break this way.

Sometimes you can get a non-exclusive contract and have multiple agents. This route works well for those who want multiple chances to get their face out there and be submitted for a handful of jobs, especially in markets like Chicago and Minneapolis.  A few models I know live in Chicago and are signed with LA or NY agencies and they all tell me the same thing, it is really hard to live where your agency isn’t, they might put you up for paid gigs in NY or LA but guess what you are in Chicago. Now you are asking for travel expenses and more. Sometimes the job makes the travel worth it but often it doesn’t and sometimes the client doesn’t want the hassle.

Upon the advice of one of the very first make-up artists and photographers that I worked with I have decided to not sign with a regional agency and instead pursue building my regional career on my own, until I know I am ready for the next move. If you have read any other blogs you know I hustle and so far, so good!

But what about that great agency that pushes you and believes in you and promotes you like no other, well I’m not ready for them. Frankly, I am still committed to my college career meaning I need to be able to choose my own jobs on my own timeline. It would be completely unfair to get a great modeling agent who finds me all sorts of great opportunities that I am constantly declining. Really big, big opportunities are going to take me out of the Chicago market and I’m not ready to go yet! Flying to New York or Milan on a whim just isn’t my life right now.   I will say it again 25% of this business is relationships and why burn a bridge by not delivering on your end of the deal. I won’t do that to someone, when I am to that point I will seek out the proper representation for where I am at with my career. If I sign with you I will give you all that I have 100% of the time.

So I guess my reasons are actually only one reason, right now I need to have complete control of my career, my approach is different than most, find success on your own and then find the right person to acknowledge that success and bring you to the next level. I know the type of agency I want to work with and when I am ready for them I hope they will take me. (fingers crossed, toes crossed)

Now I do have an amazing acting and film agency, YJB Talent out of Atlanta with an office in Chicago. They are a boutique agency and represent only a handful in their regions and work very hard on development. My agent is helping to develop me knowing that I have a looooooong way to go. Acting is a whole different game! I have done one film and been offered a few roles in others. I hope to work more in this field but without an agency in the acting field I would not be able to move forward. The agency submits me for SAG/AFTRA paid jobs and they also have me connected to receive information about unpaid jobs and opportunities. They also understand I model and will even give me the inside track on jobs I maybe haven’t seen on my own.  So I can chose to pursue student films, independent films and other career builders. They help me with head shots, available acting workshops and classes and building a brand. I shared in my last post about not paying to become a model, again acting is a very,very different beast. A good acting school, classes and workshops at some point are musts. It is an art and a talent which can and must be developed. I am working on that right now. My agent is available to help and willing to help and that is a relationship I am thankful for every single day.

Hopefully in a few years I will be able to add to this blog and share my experiences in becoming an actress, much like finding a modeling agency partner I’m just not there yet.

 

Dream Big, SkylarYJB

Model Life: Don’t PAY!

Growing up in small towns I would have had absolutely no idea how to get started in modeling, I do remember there being model searches in my hometown mall however and once in a great while a ‘talent scout’ would come to a hotel selling your chance to be the next Disney star. Now that I have been doing this for some time and built a professional network which includes many other models I have learned this one very, very, very important fact. Do not pay  a ton of money to become a model!!!*

That said there are costs involved but if someone tells you that you need a series of classes, expensive workshops or thousands of dollars’ worth of photos they want to take your money and once they have it their interest in you is likely over. People I know have done this and I imagine they would not only echo my thoughts but have an even harsher reaction. Now this is a point where I could easily name the names of companies that are notorious for doing this but as an aspiring lawyer I am smarter than that. So please google modeling classes and know that very few signed models (with good agencies that get you paid  work) actually ever went to those ‘schools’.  Modeling is one of the few things in the world that cannot necessarily be taught and attending classes will not make you more successful, if you want to spend money invest in great photos. If you want to find success build a network.  25%Luck, 25%Relationships,50%Hard Work.

Also to read a lot more about this check out my favorite article on the subject.

So if you aren’t lucky like I was and fall right into this business in an unexpected ball of fire, how do you start? This is where the money you do need to spend probably comes in. Get a decent headshot and set of polaroids (or ‘digis’ or ‘digitals’, they go by many names) They are called this because if you got an agency interview or scouted, back in the day, they would  pull out a Polaroid instant camera and take a headshot, profile, 1/3 and full body shot, usually in a bikini or tight clothing or something that shows off your build  and are usually fresh faced with little to no make-up, raw unedited images. These become part of your portfolio for potential clients.  In 2016 modeling agencies usually prefer you submit these images digitally and if you go to agency sites often they will tell you that these photographs do not need to be done professionally, this is probably true if you have all the makings of a supermodel. But don’t trust your smartphone with this task. Go and get these done by a good professional photographer, especially your headshot, one who has worked with agency signed models, do your research for your market and find the best photographer you can!

So if you aren’t a ready-made supermodel (and honestly, who the heck is)  my best advice is to work first, build your professional portfolio, hopefully with a good headshot and some prime networking you can find work with photographers also building their portfolio and you can work together. The progression of an unsigned print model usually follows this route, you pay for really good pictures from a really good photographer, sometimes you need to pay for more than just head shots and Polaroids, portfolio prints don’t come cheap.  When you get good enough you can work for free with photographers on a TFP (time for prints, time for photos) basis and finally you get paid by photographers who want to work with you.  This is how as a print model you progress, learn and get better. If you have talent photographers will seek you out. In my career I started by reaching out to really good photographers, now photographers will reach out to me, that is an awesome place to be.  Those pictures build your portfolio which you use for casting calls and a comp card. These are items you will take to casting calls and auditions.

Then if you are so inclined take that material and hit the open call agency circuit to get signed. A true agency may charge you a nominal fee for including you on their website and will likely suggest photos from a high end professional who can assure your listing is the quality the agency prefers and yes this may cost you some money. If you have a strong enough portfolio, brand and proof of success no agency is going to charge you up front to sign with them.  If they insist you spend $1500-$3000 up front for ‘signing’ something is seriously wrong. Since I am a ‘free agent’ most of this advice has come my way from people who have been doing this a LOT longer than I have. But I trust them and take their advice to heart.

Again most of these things are separate posts. Connect with other industry professionals and models but don’t use them to advance your own career .  Be cautious of snakes in the grass, I have horror stories about bad casting calls, shady photographers and downright scary situations, vet everyone you work with.

And as usual as I complete this blog post my last paragraph has just given me four more post ideas. So follow me, if you are curious about my experience or stories from this crazy world I have enough apparently for a novel.  So until next time.

Dream Big, Skylar

*These are my personal opinions and professional experiences, I know there are people out there who will not agree. I am sure with an infinite amount of money many models can build a successful career. My goal was to build my own career without spending my parents cash. It has not been easy…it’s a lot of work every day!

Photography: MCMXC Photography

Pageant Life: Competition

 

People don’t often believe me when I tell them I am not a competitive person. A model and a pageant girl, I must believe in competition and I must want to win. Half of that last sentence is true. I like to win,who doesn’t, but I don’t consider other women my competition.

Here is what it has taken me 18 years of life to realize, in subjective activities in which you can not control the outcome being competitive is both counter productive and exhausting. Both modeling and pageants are just such types of activities. The outcome rests solely on a set of judges or a client/agent who has a very personal and very embedded view of what they are looking for in a model or a queen. So knowing that there is not another Skylar Witte out there in the world I truly have no one to compete with but myself.

If a client is looking for a 5’10” Hispanic model to promote their new line, I will not get the job. Chances are they won’t tell me that is specifically what they are looking for but if they are there is nothing I could have done, said or changed to land that job. If I knew they were looking for that I would have them contact my friend Vielka down in Texas because she is that girl, I am not. Chances are as I stood in line with the 200-300 others at that audition everyone else in line was comparing themselves to each other and to me. “Oh she is pretty, oh she is tall, oh she came equipped with a huge portfolio!” I have given up on these comparisons long, long ago. Because if they are looking for Skylar Witte, I will get the job, if they want Vielka, well hopefully she is in that line somewhere too 🙂

The same holds true for pageantry. A long time ago when I was much younger and devastated over not placing in a pageant someone told me, different judges, different day, different outcome. It is probably one of the most real things I have ever heard. Judges have a job to find the best representative they can, they are given a loose outline of criteria. Can she talk, walk, is she representative of today’s modern woman…so on and so forth, but in reality everyone’s ideal is going to be different. So my approach to my life is to continuously better myself and worry only about the things I can control. I work on my physical, mental and emotional well-being. I am not afraid to help others better themselves. I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I was worried about giving away some big secret that was going to make someone ‘beat’ me out for a title. The whole concept of a pageant being some sort of a race is ludicrous to me.  The girl who walks away with a title did not win her way to a crown by elbowing out other girls along the way, that isn’t how it works!

There are competitive girls in both fields, some but very, very few are downright mean. They will try to tear others down, they will talk poorly behind your back and they will just not be kind when given the opportunity to be kind. I feel bad for those girls, they are missing out on some of the best things that both modeling and pageantry have given me. Lifelong friendships with cool, motivated, beautiful woman inside and out who I want to have by my side. Sometimes those girls will win, sometimes those girls will get the job but I never cry about those girls because in the end they had an opportunity to build a kingdom much more valuable than any crown or job and they blew it!  That 1% has given both industries a bad name.

In reality, most of the women I have come across are supportive and kind. They have also learned along the way that there is endless value in building others up and very little value in trying to tear them down. I don’t necessarily believe in destiny but I do believe in every moment having its ‘time’!

Last year I was 1st runner-up to the title of Miss Wisconsin Teen USA and after the pageant I did not feel even the slightest let down by the outcome. It simply wasn’t my time and I look at what this year has brought me and every day I am reminded of it. It was Karly Knaus’ time and that girl is killing it! I am proud of her, I am thrilled for her and I am honored that we became friends, not because we were ‘competing’ against each other but because we are two motivated women who have a lot in common. I did well that day, I talked the right talk, walked the right walk and was the most confident I have ever been. When we were standing up there in that moment I was truly and genuinely happy, for both Karly and for myself, I was the best Skylar Witte I could be that day and she was the best Karly she could be.  We are now friends and will be friends for the rest of our lives and that’s probably the best ending I could ever ask for!

 

Dream Big, Skylar

MacDuggal1