Model on the Rise: Jillian Towson
By Camille Devincenti
Jillian Towson, full-time student and part-time model, has been modeling for four years and has seen her self-confidence blossom along the way. Signed when she was a freshman in high school, Towson has gone to model in several print campaigns, walk in international couture shows and is a regular at DC Fashion Week, laying claim to being a young DC model to look out for. Here, the model talks about how she got started, her experiences, and advice for young girls who are interested in modeling as well.
Q: When did you start modeling?
JT: I started modeling my freshman year of high school. I was really shy and awkward in middle school and my mom let me start modeling to gain more confidence. As cheesy and cliché as it is, I developed my love and dream for modeling watching America’s Next Top Model in the basement with my sister in elementary school. When I first started, I was pretty clueless and signed with an agency that was just trying to make a quick buck off of naive children’s dreams. My sophomore year, I unsigned from them and found more gigs on my own, through friends, and just networking, than I ever did with that agency.
Q: What made you first start modeling?
JT: What made me start modeling was my lack of self-confidence and how insecure I was about my body. In school, I would miss out on all these great opportunities just because I was afraid to ask. I didn’t have the confidence to put myself out there and grab the opportunities that I had the chance to reach for. Since I am on the skinny side, ever since middle school, when other girls bodies started to develop curves and I just stayed the same, kids would ask me straight up if I was anorexic, and that knocked down my confidence a lot. Even in high school, things like this happen. I remember before an AP test one morning I asked the girl next to me if I could have a bite of her McDonald’s and she said, “Why? Aren’t you just going to go throw it up?” I started modeling to make myself feel better about my body and to make me feel secure in my body. So I wasn’t living like an outsider in my own body, going through life and not appreciating herself.
Q: Why do you like modeling?
JT: I like modeling because of all the cool people I get to meet. Last year, at DC Fashion Week, I got to walk for a Serbian designer named Bata Spasojevic and do my first editorial shoot with the photographer Marko Arsic. Last summer, I was fortunate enough to be able to do a photo shoot with my best friend in New York City for these two really amazing German designers that work together for their brand Ingwa;Melero. This year I made some new friends at DC Fashion week and met even more designers with great messages. This year I was lucky enough to walk for four designers and promote another designers look during intermission at the show. Another reason I love modeling is just the rush you get when you’re on the runway and all eyes are on you and the design you’re in. Though, I love print a lot more than runway because you get to interact one on one with the photographer who is, in a way, your audience.
Q: How did you feel when you did your first fashion show or photo shoot?
JT: My first photo shoot was a lot of fun. It was just for headshots and photos like that for my model comp card, but the photographer, Cedric Terrell, made me feel really comfortable. When I first walked in, I went into make up and that was a really fun first for me. Then, once we picked out my outfit and everything we took some shots inside and outside. One of the things the photographer said to me that I’ll always be grateful for is, “you should be in New York because this really comes natural to you.” That’s really what propelled me into modeling and encourages me to keep going. My first fashion show audition was so scary. I remember all these older girls in heels towering over me, and they were all so pretty. When it was my turn to walk, I thought I did such a great job, but the director pulled me aside right after I walked and told me and my mom, “I’m going to let you walk in the fashion show because there’s something special about you, but you have to work on your runway walk”. Needless to say, everyday after school I practiced my runway walk. No joke, you can take a look at the scuffed up floors in my sister’s room, or ask my mom how many headaches she got after hearing what we now call my “military walk”.
Q: What did your parents first think of you being a model and were they supportive?
JT: My mom and dad are definitely really supportive of me pursing a career as a model. My dad is as supportive as a dad can be, because I know me modeling definitely freaks him out a lot. He tells me how much it freaks him out every single time he drops me off at an audition or a show. That’s understandable, though, because there is a lot of over sexualization of women in the modeling industry. It’s scary, there are a lot of people who will take advantage of young girls dreams, so you have to be careful. My mom is a little less worried, I think. My mom is really supportive of my modeling career and will always help pick me up when I’m down about not getting an audition or something. I really appreciate all my parents have done for me with modeling because we’ve run into some scams and people who just want money. They’ve instilled in me that if any one asks you for money at an audition you leave, and you’d think that’d be obvious, but people are getting creative. They’ve instilled good values in me, and I know what’s actually modeling and what’s not, I know what poses are appropriate, and what’s not. But I’m still learning, and so are they.
Q: Have you walked in any shows recently?
JT: I do more print than runway, so I’m going to have to bring up DC Fashion week again. That’s the main fashion show that I do and that’s the most recent show I’ve been in. This cycle, cycle 26, I was ecstatic when the founder of DC Fashion week, Ean Williams, asked me last-minute to walk for him. I’d been waiting to walk for him since I found out he’d been in British Vogue. The first time I auditioned for DC Fashion week, I didn’t get in, and I walked up to him after auditions and asked him if I could be a volunteer (which you have to be 18 or older). I also asked him how I could improve my walk and he told me, “You just have to be really confident, and you know I really wanted you to get in because you remind me of a young Chanel Iman”. Which is essentially how I found out about Chanel Iman and she became one of my idols.
Q: What other hobbies do you have?
JT: A lot of people ask me since I model do I plan on going to college. I do plan on going to college, and I plan to major in film. One of my aspirations in life, along with modeling, is to become a great film maker. I love cinematography, but I also love having control over how the story is told, so directing is also a passion of mine. I mainly make documentaries but I have made experimental music videos, fashion, and dance videos. I also love photography, but I mainly do that just for myself. I love photography for the same reason I love modeling, I love finding beauty in others like I found it in myself.
Q: Do you want to continue your modeling career when you are older?
JT: I would love to continue my modeling career when I’m older. When I turn 18 I plan to sign with an agency and pursue my dreams even more.
Q: What advice do you have for aspiring models?
JT: If I had to give any piece of advice to aspiring models it would be that this world needs every type of model. You don’t have to be a double zero or even a size four to be a model. Even though the industry isn’t always the most diverse, they need models of every ethnicity, height, and shape. I’d also say don’t be afraid to take chances. Also, look for opportunities everywhere and don’t look at other models as competition all the time. Helping other models is the easiest way to find out about other opportunities.