We have been trying to schedule an interview with Aissa, August’s “La Modelo del Mes”, for a while now. After her shoot, she headed off to Columbia before we had a chance to speak with her. Fortunately, she has since returned and I jumped at the chance. We sat down at a café in Moncloa to hear about her impressions of her experience.
Hello Aissa, I am glad we had a chance to finally interview you! How are you feeling?
I am doing great, even with this “wonderful” summer weather here in Madrid.
Aissa, where are you from?
I was born and raised here in Spain. My mother is originally from Sorria, a town in Castile y Leon. My dad is originally from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in Africa.
Have you ever visited his country?
I have seen pictures and it is a very beautiful country and I love the cultural traditions they have there. I have not visited, as there is a lot of instability there and in some of the surrounding regions. So for now, I have photos.
What do you do here in Madrid?
I work at Jazztel, a telecommunications company. I work for Human Resources and my main job is to boost staff morale with the employees. I lead motivational workshops, activities, and I also give prizes and incentives. Everyone is really happy when they see me coming into their office.
How did you meet Shimada?
Shimada actually used to teach English at a company where my ex-boyfriend worked. I did not go to a hairdresser here since my hair is so different than most Spaniards. My ex-boyfriend was cutting my hair back then. Shimada couldn’t believe this and he offered to cut my hair. That was about 8 years ago. Now, Shimada is the only person that can cut my hair. I always tell him that if he moves, I am going with him. If he's going to Japan, I'll come to visit just for one day. In Spain, it's very difficult to find a hairdresser for my hair, they always want to straighten it. I like my hair how it is, I like it curly.
How did you become part of “La Modelo del Mes?”
Shimada has been talking about doing something like this for a while. He's been styling and taking photos since he lived in Los Angeles, California. He has mentioned multiple times that he wanted to use me for a project. Then he started “La Modelo del Mes” and he asked me to be a model. I thought about it and said, “Why not?”
And then you went to Columbia after?
A bit of my work involves traveling. I went to Costa Rica in February of last year, and this year I went to Columbia.
Have you ever done any modeling?
No, I don't like anyone taking photos of me. You won’t believe how shy I am. I like to dance, but I have never done a performance. I take classes, I go to a studio where people go to rehearse, but I refuse to do it in a theater. I also take singing classes there, but have not participated in the performances. When I am with my colleagues, I feel comfortable. Right now, I am working on Mamma Mia! and I am in the Chorus. Part of my job is leading workshops and doing lectures in front of a variety of people. I have no problem with that. But performing on stage, the idea I find horrifying.
What did you think was going to happen during the shoot?
I thought it would be bad. I know Shimada was going to do good work, but I don't know how I am going to look on camera. What if I make weird facial expressions or I am in an awkward position? I just figured I would be disappointed with the results, even worse that Shimada would be disappointed in me. Then I saw the photos and thought, “Wow, this is me?”
Did Shimada let you know what you were going to be doing before the shoot?
He just told me what types of clothes to bring, everything else he explained the day of. The whole process ended up taking about 5 hours. We spent two hours on hair and makeup for the first shoot and about an hour on make up for the second shoot. The extensions he used in my hair took a lot of time. It even hurt a little bit when we were taking them out.
Did you find anything about the process frustrating?
I had no problem while I was getting my hair and make up done. I liked to see how he does his work. I was maybe a bit impatient. The photo shoot is what I found difficult, I was just so nervous. I had no idea what the photos looked like and I kept thinking that they were going to turn out horrible. I couldn't believe it when I saw the actual photos.
If you were nervous about the shoot, how did you feel about the people coming by and watching?
There were a lot of people coming by, but I was so nervous that I didn’t realize they were there. I had no idea until Shimada mentioned it to me after. I was just so focused on what I was doing that I couldn't think of anything else.
Anything that surprised you?
The photos. When I see them, I find it hard to believe that it is me. When my friends take pictures, I always make a weird face or I blink. Something goes wrong. I always say I am prettier in life than in photos. This was the first time in my life I have said, “I am beautiful in this photo.” Shimada was really able to capture that part of me that no one else has.
How did Shimada work with you?
He was much more demanding and a perfectionist about everything. Not just with me, but also with himself. Setting things up for film is a bit different than just a day at the salon. He told me things such as not to look into the camera, to change my position or to jump. I had to jump a lot. While he was more demanding, he was always Shimada. He still treated me with the same professionalism and fun he always does.
So I know what you think of the photos. What do your friends and family say about them?
They thought the work of Shimada was incredible. I have a friend who goes to him regularly after she saw the photos. My mother printed off a copy of the photo and put in the middle of the living room. When people visit, my mother loves to show it off. I ask her to stop, but she doesn't. She is so proud. She looks it and says, “It's you!”
Which photos do you like most?
I like the ones with my natural hair. With the first photos, with all the makeup, the person in the photo seems a lot different from who I am. The second felt closer to me, more natural.
What do you feel Shimada brought out in you?
My eyes, my smile, that happy side of me that no one seems to be able to capture on camera.
For anyone else doing this project, what would you tell them?
Be natural. Feel free to do you want in that moment and have fun. Shimada is going to do the rest...really, he will do the difficult work.
Do you think you would be willing to do something like this again?
For me, never in my life have I ever done anything like this. I think I would only do something like this with Shimada. You can trust him, it was much easier after we started. I know now that he is going to do great work. I don’t know if I would trust anyone else to do that.