Where Are They Now #1 - Kayleen

This is the first in what I hope will be a new series suggested by a model's mother - updates on models who have been in past issues of Vancouver Fashion eZine and gone on to successful international careers.  I want to start with VFE's inaugural issue which went online in September 2007.  Kayleen was covered as our very first New Face and modelled for two photo shoots in the October 2007 issue.  With a mixed ethnicity (Caucasian and Filipino) that is increasingly in demand, she has moved out into the international arena to become a super star in Asia. In 2007 she shared that her inspiration came from models like Daria Webowy and Gemma Ward as well as fashion designers such as Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen.  Past times she enjoyed back then included learning to play guitar, drawing in her sketchbook and keeping in shape with a "Twinkie" diet.  She's come a long way from that early interview!  Here is her journey - from then to now.

Kayleen always wanted to be in the fashion and has defied the odds.  Her measurements are perfect, but at 5'7" it was a challenge to break into the industry. Growing up in a small town in Northern BC meant early opportunities to model were limited, so the day after high school graduation she headed to Vancouver.  Studying Fashion Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, work and participating in over 100 non-paid creatives and test shoots with wide range of photographers filled her days.  A fellow classmate and friend directed her to the John Casablancas Model Agency and, although they did give her a chance, it was not with out hesitation. Kayleen's drive and determination to succeed were the deciding factors that finally opened the door.  She recalls,  "There have been so many people that turned me down because of my height, but there are also many people who had faith in me.  Those are the people I have to thank.  I was lucky to have started out in Vancouver...It  is a great small community of creative go-getters."

Her first big break was a fall campaign for AG hair products shot in Vancouver by Waldy Martens that received nation-wide exposure. The following spring she landed a campaign for Plenty. Aritzia is also on her client list. Local bookings kept her busy, but it was her first contract to work in Tokyo, received almost three years ago, that launched Kayleen's career onto the international stage.  "I think that was the moment when everything changed for me.  It was a really hard and scary thing to do.  I left my apartment, my friends, my family, my school and my boyfriend and came to Japan by myself to do a three month contract.  It was the best decision I ever made. There is no way I could work full-time modeling in Vancouver. I love Japan! The money is good, the food is amazing and the people are so nice.  I'm glad to call this place home."

Japan is a country of consumers making Tokyo a very busy market to work in. New products are always being launched creating a steady demand for models.   Days are long and can be stressful. A model might attend 5 to 10 castings a day, driving around the large city in a van with a manager and other models from around the world.  Navigating the narrow streets takes patience, a GPS is mandatory and you absolutely CANNOT be late for castings.  For Kayleen, "My work situation in Tokyo is really like no other.  The day usually consists of a 6 or 7 a.m. call-time, around 1.5 to 2 hours of hair and make up prep and 8 to 12 hours of shooting, depending on the job.  An average work week for me ends up being around 4 or 5 jobs, but in some cases I've done 15 or so [jobs] in a row and sometimes two in one day."  Over the last 3 years she has also worked in Thailand, Hong Kong and Shanghai, usually for 2 to 3 months at a time, with her home base in Tokyo.  Living out of a suitcase is hard and she looks forward to her yearly trips back to Vancouver to reconnect with family and friends.

For Kayleen, modeling is just one area of fashion where she intends to make her mark.  With two years of fashion design already behind her, she hopes to incorporate all she is learning and eventually create her own line.  "I love my job.  I'm extremely lucky to have the opportunity to live and work overseas, I know how rare these things are.  But my overall love for fashion is in design...and I can't imagine life without a sewing machine.  My current job lets me see a side of the fashion industry you don't always get to see...I'm constantly learning every day and eventually, when I do my own thing, I will have a bigger insight on the production, fit, quality and creative concepts that go into the clothing.  It really is all about networking and teamwork."

For those hoping to enter the world of modeling Kayleen has some great advice - don't sell yourself short, make it happen, practise, build a portfolio with the tears necessary to be taken seriously, put yourself out there, don't be afraid of rejection and don't take no for an answer.  "Even if no one else thinks you can, as long as you know you can, that is all that matters.  Believe me!"  She was also willing to share a few of her beauty tips. "Moisturizer for the airplane is a must.  No matter where you are going, the air is so thin and dry up there.  There is nothing like a freshly moisturized face in the morning...nothing!"  Other tips include - limit the amount of foundation you put on, use a water based one (better for your skin) and travel light by only bringing one or two of your favourite eye shadows.

With five years of modeling already under her belt and her career still on the rise, it may be awhile before we see the launch of her own collection.  That said, given her determination it is sure to become a reality. The following quote really defines Kayleen's personal statement of who she is and where she is headed.  "I am a creative individual and I think of myself as an artist before anything else.  I'm very emotional and feel I have a way of looking at things that not a lot of people can see.  I have to lot to say.  My impact in the fashion industry needs to be self-propelled.  I need to challenge myself and find a route that is right for me - I believe I owe it to myself."  Beauty, talent and determination are all an integral part of this home-grown talent and these qualities will definitely propel her to even greater success in the future.

For bookings or to see Kayleen's portfolio go to the JCI website at http://www.jcvancouver.com/portfolios/women/kayleen/gallery.htm.  To read the original VFE 2007 article go to http://vancouverfashionezine.com/magazineissue01/newface.html.  Her blog can be found at kayleenfranklin.blogspot.com.