The next time Oxford Publishing releases an updated version of its brickesque dictionary I won't be shocked if, under the word self made, I find L. Shima as an example. Earlier this week I sat down to chat with this lovely lady via Skype trying to discover exactly who L. Shima is. What I see is that Shima is smart, dynamic and kind. This model of white, black and Japanese descent is also armed with a game plan proving that you can be young, yourself and oh - good things still come from Texas
A- Please tell me a little bit about yourself:
L. SHIMA - Okay, my name is L. Shima, but you can call me Shima. I am twenty one years old. I was born and raised in Austin Texas, and I currently reside in Sarasota Florida I've been modeling for three years now – full time for about a year and half or so. So that’s a good chunk but obviously not an extravagant amount – like ten years I've heard a lot of people say and things like that. I’m really bad always about talking about myself usually.
A- What made you get into modeling?
SHIMA - To be quite honest I was really more fascinated on what it took to become a model cuz I’d always see in the magazines or online all of these girls or guys posing in front of cameras. You know when you have senior portraits and things like that you kind of experience it for a little bit. So once I did my senior portrait for high school I realized that I’m going to try it out a little more heavily. So I basically created a model mayhem site when I first started. Since then it has escalated – Model Mayhem has been very beneficial for my first steps of becoming a model. Of course I am still learning as I get older and as my career changes.
A- You’re so ambitious. I know a lot of people who are like I want to model – but the fact that you actually went out and did it, you didn’t just think about it that is amazing to me:
SHIMA - I definitely did try it. Especially when I first started when I turned 18, it was more of a hobby than anything else. I worked my normal job and I went to school. I would do a photo-shoot just because. Until I met my boyfriend actually. He said ‘No no, you should definitely pursue it more heavily.’ I’m like meh okay maybe. January 1st 2012, that was my new year’s resolution. I was like alright. I’ll get more into modeling and I’ll book as many shoots as I can to build my portfolio. And then on April 2012 is when I became full time. I was a scary moment for me.
SHIMA - Cuz you’re like I want to hold onto this job that I have. Cuz you know when you’re going to get paid and you know how much you’re going to get paid; you know your hours and you that you’re gonna meet people and things like that. Compared to this job where you really don’t know how much you’re going to get paid, and you don’t know when and what days you’re actually going to be going to photo-shoots. So it’s been a learning curve for myself because I wasn’t expecting the way it turned out. Which is a good thing. When I first started I just thought, oh you know it’s just a girl or a guy that poses in front of a camera and then their day is set. It’s definitely not like that or anywhere near that.
A- So do you manage yourself?
SHIMA - Yes, I do. I’m independent and obviously a freelancer. Everything is done by me personally. There might be times where I will have my boyfriend (because he is an illustrator) help assist or help produce a photo-shoot that we find will be interesting; and we can’t find a photographer – he might just grab one of our camera’s and just take the image. Or if I need an opinion on an outfit for the day or for a photo-shoot, he’ll help me put some of his point of view into what I think right. Usually he is helpful here and there but most of the time it’s actually me and only me that’s actually making the L. Shima brand.
A- So after managing yourself for almost two years would you ever consider joining an agency and being represented by somebody else?
SHIMA - Now in today’s society I feel like it’s not as important as it used to be. It’s still beneficial to have an agent behind you to rep you. But with social media sites like Tumblr and twitter and Instagram and everything; you don’t need them as much. The only thing they really are beneficial for is they have the client that you might not have the name for or number. This is like my baby and I want to make sure that I can do it myself before I let somebody else do it for me. If the right opportunity came I’m not just going to push it away. I would consider it or even take the opportunity.
A- When it comes to utilizing social media where do you decide where to draw the line, especially when it comes to interacting with your fans or photographers? Where do you really say that this is private or this is just not a part of the Shima brand?
SHIMA - When it comes to the point where someone can actually easily stalk me. So like say for example, twitter and Instagram. You can actually say what you’re doing. So I always make sure that I’m one step ahead. Paying attention to what I’m posting, what time I’m posting it at.
I make sure that I am interactive, I feel like that’s very important just so fans can see my personal side as much as they can without actually being here and getting too much information. I’m sure you've seen in my Tumblr people can ask questions. I get the sexual ones a lot on Tumblr. That’s just too private for me, I am not going to share that information with anyone. But the ones that are like what did you eat, you know two seconds ago. I can definitely tell you. I don’t think that matters. When it comes to sex, it’s definitely the border line. People will always assume since I do nudity you definitely can talk about sex. But it’s a different line when it comes to just shooting images for artistic nude purposes compared to actually talking about your sexual life. I put my best judgment towards interacting.
A- That’s so intelligent. Seriously. I feel like a lot of people really young people get caught up in the idea of just creating an images and they don’t actually think of the consequences and the repercussions. I've seen your nude work. It’s very amazing. I was like three cheers, high five for you because I feel like you always look really powerful and really in control. Of not only where the shoots go but just how you appear in the images.
A- After shooting for a while, what is the best thing you’ve learnt about yourself or just in general?
SHIMA - I’m super nice – just kidding. Really I’m super nice and I’ve heard a lot of people especially on Tumblr be like ‘Oh I feel like you’d be a mean badass person based on your photos. But hearing you or seeing you you’re really so bubbly and nice’. I’m like yeah, no. I’m a klutz and I’m really nice. Sometimes I shouldn’t be as nice as I am. I tell my boyfriend all the time I wish I was more of a bitch but he’s just like ‘No don’t be more of a bitch.’ Throughout my life though, or at least through modeling I’ve realized how sincere I am and apologetic and nice. I am always making sure that I am professional at all times and I always want everyone to love me.
Even if I feel like a photographer or any one artist of some sort doesn't love me then I’m like ‘I need to try harder’ but then the shoots done and I’m like ‘eh I guess they won’t love me. I guess I’ve learned more that: I used to be and think that I’m pretty damn shy. But I guess with modeling it’s helped me be more extroverted than I used to be.
A- I find like it’s really hard to be like ‘Hi guys this is me.’ Society is always like don’t talk about yourself but I’m like you can’t really get anywhere if you don’t say ‘Hello, I’m doing something really cool’
SHIMA - That is definitely true. It’s hard even for me to talk about myself. Sometimes my boyfriend will be like ‘Oh you should tell your parents, tell your family what you’re doing and how your modeling is turning out’ ‘I’m like no I really don’t want to talk about myself to my family, I’d rather talk about something else. Why me, not me. I’m not special enough to talk about just me.
A -Who would you say your biggest inspirations are?
SHIMA - As far as just in general or –
A - Just in general:
SHIMA - As far as models go I really feel like Echo Nittolitto is really inspiring especially when I first started. Seeing her, how creative her work is and how experimental it is as well. When I first started there was Alysha Nett and Hattie Watson that I always looked up to because I loved how one they were freelance artists, models and were able to create their business based on just being a simple person doing modeling and creating an empire for themselves.
As far as just in general though, it feels cheesy and very stereotypical, but I do get very inspired by my mother, my brother, my sister as well as my boyfriend. He is probably the most inspirational one. He is an illustrator. Freelance. He’s been doing it freelance at least for seven years maybe longer than that. So he’s already experienced it way before I thought I was going to be a model. So he’s already experienced what it’s like to raise a business from the ground up. Then my mom she’s just always inspiring to me. The fact that she’s my mother but she’s also a single mom raising three kids and doing her thing, working two jobs and just making ends meet for her children. Seeing my brother and my sister evolve – they’re both older than me but seeing how they turned out in their career and their life in general it’s great. Very inspiring.
A - I was really wondering why you decided to take the risk, apart from making a resolution. Why take the risk and why stick to the risk?
SHIMA - It’s entertaining. I just really enjoy it. If I picture myself before I started modeling I’m appreciative for my modeling because it changed my life completely. It allowed me to travel and meet a lot of people. See a lot of things that I wouldn't see beforehand. As well as it’s fulfilling my life. It’s giving a whole new outlook as to what’s in store. It also gives new obstacles. It’s not easy – at least how I’m taking it. There are days when I want to rip my hair out and sometimes I’m like it’s not worth this risk. It’s not worth this time and effort. When I look into the details of it it’s definitely worth it. It just takes a lot of time and breadth to do it. Again it’s very stereotypical and cheesy but I wouldn't trade it for the world.
A - It’s really good to hear. I don’t see enough people going out there. I want to talk about your fashion design now. I was wondering how did you start? Did someone teach you or-
SHIMA - I technically started when I was in high-school. I took one of those courses – I thought it was going to be cooking, sewing and the house mother type thing courses but it was actually just the sewing course. So I’m like okay I’ll try this out see how it goes. My first pair of pyjama shorts that I made were horrible. Then I ended up making a skirt and the skirt ended up being the most perfect thing in the entire world – which shocked me. After that point I’m like this is pretty interesting making clothes that you actually wear on the daily that would be really entertaining. So the next course I took was costume design. That was interesting because it was one class room with one teacher but the class was split between theatre and costume design. Oh. So the costume design only had me plus three other girls. Then the theatre was like 12 people in total. It worked for some weird reason. So I did costume design and I decided my – it was for the Texas Renaissance fair, but it was my own renaissance outfit created from scratch. That was the first time I actually designed a full outfit.
When I graduated high school I wanted to take fashion design but I was actually more interested in photography. I went to a community college in Austin for photography and eventually found out that’s not my thing. Then that’s when modeling struck and I’m like I’ll do modeling for a while.
So I actually hadn’t sewn for three or four years before I bought my first sewing machine. Then I’m like I’ll definitely get back into it, cuz I love looking at clothes just feeling them and understanding how clothes fit and what makes somebodies style. Their outfits because everybody speaks differently and the definitely speak differently with what they’re wearing. So I was really intrigued with that. So I was like I’ll start doing my own designs and see how they go. I’m still teaching myself. I’m not taking any classes. I’m doing everything myself, I’m self-taught. Currently still in the beginning process of fashion design, learning the fundamentals in creating the bodice and the pattern blocks. Once I get past that that’s when you know I’ll step over and move to a different section and eventually progress to be better and better. I hope once my modeling dies down, my fashion design will rise up and I won’t be in the dumps at one point in my life but who knows.
A- I’m sure you won’t. I’m sure you won’t. I was wondering when you design do you have a specific girl in mind who is going to wear your clothes or a specific aesthetic?
SHIMA - Specific girl in mind is me, I design for me personally. Sometimes when I sketch it though I imagine it on a runway – my sketches are more getting ideas out and seeing what I can actually create in my head. When I’m actually sewing and deciding what will work I’m like this will be interesting on myself.
A- I just wanted to ask you about building your social media in order to further your brand and get your images out there. How did you start that because it seems so challenging?
SHIMA - It takes time. Especially Tumblr for example, you have the whole html and how the actual front page of your Tumblr is going to look like. When it comes to starting all my other social media sites it’s just the simplicity of signing up and using it to the best way you could possibly use it. I want to keep a genuine fan base. I don’t want to be idolized and fantasized as a sexual icon. I mean that would be a perk but I don’t want people to be like ‘Oh L. Shima, she’s a sexual model that’s who L. Shima is.’
I don’t want to be known as that. When I look back in my career ten years from now, twenty years from now I don’t feel that will be an awesome title. I want more than that. It’s also a lot harder to gain more with that. I make sure there are certain things I do post and don’t post. Even though numbers are important I actually want the ones that will support me to the day that either I die or my modeling career dies. So even though I have seven thousand when I could have eighty thousand fans. I think the seven thousand true fans overrule the eighty thousand possibly not true fans.
A- How did you gain such a strong sense of self? You’re very clear.
SHIMA - I don’t know. Since I was little I always thought I was older than I actually am. I don’t feel like I’m 21 years old. I feel like I’m 30. I don’t know if it’s from society or what – that’s just how I turned out. Which may be a good thing or a bad thing I have no idea.
A- I think it’s a good thing. We get a bad rap for being young and loose on morals and loose on ourselves.
SHIMA - Yeah
When it comes to booking jobs – I hear a lot of talk about discrimination in the modeling industry or this prioritization of whiteness. Do you feel that your career has been affected by that, or you’ve been slighted by such views?
SHIMA -No I think the opposite actually. Nobody’s ever said you’re not white enough or something. But I see more of the fact that if I see an event happen in my head I’m like they need a more urban feel of a model. They need a different feel of model. I feel that is important especially when you have say a group of people from New York who are doing the high fashion stuff or even people in Miami who are constantly doing the urban stuff – I feel you should mix it up. Keep people on their toes.
A- Do you have any personal mottos?
SHIMA - I don’t really have one except be nice. You have to be nice, especially in this industry. It will get you so far.
A- But it’s true people, everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who has heard of you so that’s very good advice. Where do you see yourself in 5 years in a perfect world?
SHIMA - I will be 26 so I see myself traveling the world hopefully. I wanna go overseas and see other things or even Canada –
A- Don’t come to Canada, it’s so cold –
SHIMA - I would love to visit there. I’d love to at least travel the world and be able to see new things. Be able to go to Thailand one day or my dream country which is Japan. I see myself taking care of my puppy (crazy dog). I still hope to be modeling at 26 and being at a different platform in my career; I have no idea where life is going to take me with this career but I hope I will still be modeling. I hope I’ll be further than I am now and that my fashion design will be more involved and more developed with my fashion design. I don’t care for anything else those are the main ones I pray will happen and know will happen.
A- Cuz you’re putting the work in, you’re totally putting the work in. My final question is what is your guilty pleasure? Your ultimate guilty pleasure.
SHIMA - So I’m on a diet and I hate it right now. It’s not that bad but when you start its horrible. One day of the week I can eat whatever I want for the entire day and then I have to go back. So of anything in the entire world its pizza, I cannot get enough of it.