Sarah, Shimada's first official "La Modelo del Mes" comes from Wales. After studying English at the University of Liverpool, she had plans to work in China until a blunder with paperwork prevented her from doing so. The other option she was given was Spain. When asked about the unexpected change, "It was a letdown, but I suppose Spanish was easier to learn than Chinese would be.” She currently resides in Madrid teaching English with plans for Central America on the horizon. We sat down for a cup of tea to chat about her first experience as a model.
How do you know Shimada, or better yet, how did you meet him?
My friend who happened to live on the same street as his business went in, got a haircut, and told me she had found this really great hairdresser. I have never been faithful to one hairdresser. I used to bring my little photo and say, "please make me look like this." I'm not the kind of person who is good about talking about hair and makeup. The good thing about Shimada is I can go to him. One time he shaved the side of my head. Now every time I go back, it's kind of shaping the cut around what's growing out. I really have the impression that Shimada is a very artistic person and that is really what he tries to bring to styling hair.
How did you get involved in this “La Modelo del Mes” project?
I’d been going to him for six months. He explained that all the pictures in his salon were of previous clients who are not models, he just liked something about them and tried to take good pictures of them. He asked me if I would like to be involved and I said yes.
What was your reaction when he asked you to be a model?
I was excited because it was a new thing I hadn’t done before. Excited...and flattered. I think I was most flattered when he asked me to do the photo because he said I had a really good energy. I have made an effort in the past few years to try to be more positive and have better energy. It was nice to have my work, my soul-searching, validated in a compliment from such an amazing person.
What were you expecting to get out of the experience?
I get bored, so I like to try a lot of new things. I find photography interesting even though I take really terrible photos. I was expecting to be pampered...I think I confused modeling shoot with spa day. It made me appreciate the difficulties that a model must face. Once the makeup was all set and put on, I didn’t want to eat or drink as the sun was going down. With time constraints, I didn’t want to just eat a donut and say, "Can we do this lipstick again?" I don’t think I had many preconceptions since I have never done it before.
How did Shimada have you prepare?
He explained to me that all of the pictures in his salon were taken of previous clients because he liked different qualities in each of them. He said with me, he wanted to take photos of my badness. I thought that was a really nice way to put it. Apart from that, he had a lot of ideas on standby. We then walked around the neighborhood to find some shooting locations. On one hand it was planned, but it was also very spontaneous.
What was it like working with him?
I think that I really saw how much of a perfectionist he was. I don't mean that in a negative way. While he was doing the makeup and while I was posing, he was very quiet, which is the opposite of how he is in the salon. Now that was something I found surprising. With that said, he was very supportive. He gave me a lot of positive feedback and made an effort to let me know we were getting great photos.
Was there something you found difficult about the process?
I remember seeing something like America’s Next Top Model and watching the feedback for the models. They were shown practicing in the mirror, talking about if you move this up that this is how this looks on camera. I had never thought about my body like that. They asked me after every flash to make a small movement, but I didn’t know where to go. Maybe I was a little nervous...
What else was going through your head when you were having your picture taken?
I was thinking of that moment when you give someone a dirty look. When I was growing up, in high school, I was not considered one of the popular girls—I was actually considered one of the ugliest girls of my year. You know what high school is like. But look at me now! I guess they probably can see me on Facebook.
What did you find most surprising about this process?
It surprised me that people saw the Christmas poster, especially in the window display. My friend walked past and said, “Oh my God, that model looks a lot like Sarah. I am going to take a picture of it because it's really weird.” She showed me the picture later and then I told her it was me.
How long was the preparation versus the actual shoot?
Shimada told me I would need to plan six or seven hours. He asked, "Which Sunday do you have the whole day free?" Preparation was about three and half hours. We shot for an hour or so. All shots were outside using the background from the local area, but the shoot was cut short by the fading light.
How did you feel about the results of the photos you saw?
I was really surprised with how they came out. My boyfriend and I joke that he is dating a part-time model...who could also be a waitress.
Shimada loves to talk about the energy people emit. What did you think he brought out in you?
I suppose a regal side. I think in the photos I look very calm, comfortable, and self-confident. I think he did a really good job bringing these attributes out in me.
What would you name your final photo?
"Kind of Blue."
Any advice for "aspiring models"?
Tweeze your eyebrows (I forgot to do that.)
Any last comments?
To reiterate the point, I normally don’t recommend services to my friends unless I think they are really excellent, and I tell all my friends about Shimada. He is a real artist and he tailors his cuts and each cut is individual.