Brunch with Gabrielle NoelWade Phelps
Gabrielle Noel is a Brooklyn-based model and writer spreading positivity wherever she goes. I’ve known her for 8 years and I’m always impressed with the energy she brings to a room, especially under such a demanding schedule. Gabby has recently signed with Shortstack Modeling agency, a program that allows young girls who do not fit mainstream modeling standards to participate in charitable fashion events and learn about the industry. In addition, she writes fiction and non-fiction pieces in her spare time while juggling school, her sorority, and two waitressing jobs. I sat down with her before Job #1 to sip mimosas and talk about getting by.
Q: How do you find a balance between everything you do? Are there sacrifices you’ve had to make?
I don’t hang out with my friends anymore because I’m trying to be really focused on modeling. I just tell myself that it will all be over soon. I want to be working only one job making the money I need with less days, so I can have more time to devote to things that I like. I want to have more time to work out, more time to hang out with my friends, more time and money to invest in modeling, because modeling is kind of an investment. Even to get a makeup artist for a photo shoot, I’m like, “Fuck, this is so expensive.”
Q: Yeah, it’s weird to think of modeling as a business, but it is. Have you learned anything about navigating the business? You hear so many stories about sleazy dudes in the modeling world and stuff like that.
I’ve learned that if it’s too good to be true, then it’s too good to be true. I’ve had people try to run money order scams on me or not follow through on something. I’m worried I’ll piss the wrong person off when I try to stand up for myself. But I always try to recognize that we’re coming from two different perspectives and think, “Okay he’s thinking about his money.” I had this photographer where I had paid for two shoots and only gotten one. I’m supposed to do a shoot with him again, but my work check bounced and I didn’t have the money. He hit me up like, “I don’t think I want to work with you anymore.” So I said, “Well, you do owe me a free shoot from before because I paid for two and only got one. I was still willing to pay you because your work is so good, I want to incorporate you into my portfolio in a meaningful way,” and eventually he backed down.
Q: Standing up for yourself is so important. Is that ever hard?
We were texting so that wasn’t hard. I can go off on a person through text OD. But in person it’s hard.
Q: I remember you telling me how you were trying to be a go-go dancer because you didn’t feel like you could be a model. Why do you think that is?
A big aspect was my parents. They always wanted me to go through an avenue of work that was education-based. Especially growing up I just never felt confident in myself. I never really felt like I looked good and when I did feel like I looked good—mostly, the attention that I get from people, especially men, is attention about my body and not my face. So I guess I felt like I could be prouder of my body than my face, so I should show off my body. But now I feel differently, I love my face, I love shoots where I’m not wearing a lot of makeup and the photos still come out great specifically because of my face.
Q: That’s cool because it sounds like modeling has made you more confident. Modeling is this weird intersection of “beauty” which can be political, and “art” that seems invested in either challenging or affirming what is beautiful. Has modeling ever made you feel self-conscious?
As skinny as I may be, I’ve never fit the modeling build. I’m supposed to be taller and little less hippy to be considered a professional model. But I always said that I’m not gonna let that stop me. And then, finding Shortstack, there are a lot of girls who are shorter than the standard, a lot of girls who are bigger than the standard and you realixe, “These girls are great at modeling.” The program director was a past member and now she’s really modeling and at the same time she’s in medical school. I see her vision and I have her guide me a lot. That’s what I want to do as well.
Q: So, modeling isn’t the only thing. You also want to write. What type of writing do you ultimately want to do?
I love journalism, I love interviewing people. I think that gave me confidence as well. Being part of the journalism program at school was what gave me confidence to talk to people, even random people on the street. I was mostly doing hard news but now I want to tie my writing to my own beliefs and things that I’m interested in. Right now I’m interested in writing about feminism.
Q: What’s the goal for 2015?
Personally, I’m talented at web design and writing, so my goal for 2015 is to make a website with my portfolio and writing on it, in separate sections. Someone who’s interested in the writing aspect might not take me seriously because of the modeling aspect and vice versa. I hope that when I start my website, I’ll be able to write more things that are more meaningful to me that I can use to get an internship. The big reason I want to cut down my two jobs to on is so that I can have more time to pursue writing or creative jobs.
Q: How does staying positive help you with your goals?
Sometimes I get discouraged about modeling or about writing. But I think about how it’s so fun to write something and hear that it’s really good. I love hearing critiques from this person, I love it when my mom calls my aunt and reads her the stuff I wrote for fun. So I think about the general aspects of it. When I’m really sad, I go general, which I something I learned from Abraham Hicks. So, the ultimate goal of writing is to get paid, but generally I think of how fun it is for me. And eventually by looking at it like that, I think I will get paid for it.
Q: What’s something you wish you had known 4 years ago?
I wish I had known I was a deliberate creator of my own universe. I was very depressed in high school and I was coming out of that depression. I wish I had known what I know now. I always think, “There is great love for you.” Not because people like you or because your parents love you, but because there’s great love for you in the universe. Whatever brought us all here, there’s love in that. There’s love in me being myself. There’s love in being creative.
You can check out Gabby’s photos at http://gabalexa.tumblr.com/