Christine, March’s "La Modelo del Mes," graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee before shipping off to Spain to teach English. During her shoot, she endured the stares of many curious people looking through the window of Shimada’s salon while we she was having her wig put on and her makeup done. She took it in stride, calmly humming to the music playing on the radio while Shimada meticulously prepared her new persona.
From Nashville to Madrid is quite a shift. How did you end up in Spain?
I did a study abroad program at the University Complutense of Madrid for six weeks at the end of spring 2009. I was here from May to July and the weather was just perfect. I think it only rained one time while I was here. I was lucky because I just missed the extreme summer heat we can have here. Before graduating, I decided I wanted to come back. Since my major in college was Latin American studies, they sent us information about the Auxilares Program in Spain in a department newsletter. I said that looks like a good idea...and so here I am. I’m still teaching English here with a different program, UCETAM.
How did you first meet Shimada?
I actually found out about him before the summer I came here. I have my hair chemically straightened, so I wanted to see if I could find someone with proper experience before I moved. I did a google search and came across his website. When I arrived in Madrid I had braids, so I wasn't looking for anyone. When I took them out, a friend of mine told me she was going to get her hair done at this stylist she found. I said, “Was it this guy named Shimada?” Turns out is was! She invited me to come with her. I thought it was a good idea because I wanted to see what he could do. I had to chance to test him out with someone else's hair. That was back in November of 2011. A month later, I went to him and got my hair done for the first time.
How did you get involved in the model of the month project?
He just asked me one day when I was getting my hair done. He was making this wig in the shop and he was playing with it. Then he said, “Hey, put this on! You’re my model for this week.” I didn’t really think anything of it, but he brought it up again at my next visit. He said, “I have this idea and it works with your short hair. You’re going to be model. Are you cool with that idea? You sure?”
Did you take him seriously?
At first I really didn't. I didn't really take him seriously until he said, “No, and I’m being serious.” So I said sure, why not? When else am I going to do something like this? This was going to be something different for me.
So you had never done any modeling before?
I don’t know if this really counts. When I was six or so, one of my parents knew a children’s illustrator so I did some modeling for a children’s book. They took pictures of me doing certain things so that they could sketch the illustrations later. It was such a long time ago; I don’t remember what came of it.
What were you expecting?
Shimada told me we were going to do this with the lashes, this with the makeup, and this with the hair. He was very animated about what he was doing so I just took in his enthusiasm. He was so excited, I felt he could just do whatever he needed to do and I was there to support the cause. Really, I was just ready to let him work with his big extravagant idea.
Overall, what was the experience like for you?
It was very exciting. As I said before, aside from experience as a six-year-old, I have never done anything like this before. I have never had my makeup done to this extent and I have never worn a wig. It was like playing dress-up for the day. I was able to play around, put on a persona if you will.
Have you seen any of the photos?
He put one of them up on Facebook. It's one of the shots we did in the salon. He’s sending more soon which I’m really looking forward to.
What was going through your head while he was taking the photos?
It was easy for me to sit there and let him put on the makeup. The actual modeling process was a bit more challenging. We first shot indoors. Shimada and his friend, Pablo, were taking a lot of pictures. Shimada was telling me to look this way, then Pablo would tell me to look the other. While one of them was speaking to me in Spanish, the other was speaking to me in English. I was a bit overwhelmed at first. Then they decided to do a little shooting outside the salon. It was a Sunday afternoon, and there were of course people walking around us. People were stopping and staring wondering what were we doing. I thought, “Oh my god, this is really embarrassing.” Fortunately, Shimada was able to help me focus my attention.
While Shimada was getting you ready, there were people stopping by the shop window to take a look. Did you notice them?
I noticed some people out of the corner of my eye when I was getting my makeup done. It was nothing compared to when we were in the street with Shimada standing on a chair trying to take the photos.
Was there anything you found to be surprising?
I was surprised at how long the process took. Maybe a couple of hours just to do the makeup. The preparation took a long time to get exactly right.
How was this experience different from going to the salon to get your hair done?
I tried to be a blank slate for him. I was just going along for the ride, and he seemed very clear in his vision. He knew how he wanted me to look, how he wanted the makeup to be, and how he wanted me to pose. I just tried to be the canvas and let him paint what was in his mind.
What has been the reaction to your photos?
It has been a lot of fun. Many of my friends have seen the photo, but they are not sure if it’s me or not. So many people have sent me messages saying “Are you Shimada’s model of the month?” and “Oh my god, I don’t even recognize you!” It has been a good response, I took on the persona he created for me for the day. Some people checked with me before commenting on the photo just to make sure it was me.
Shimada loves to talk about people’s energy—what did he bring out in you?
He helped me to loosen up. The photo taking process was a bit more difficult for me, if you had to call something difficult. I was eventually able to play with it and not be so self conscience. Just play pretend if you will.
Any advice for anyone doing a project like this?
Just relax and have fun, don’t take yourself too seriously. Follow directions behind the creative mind and try to embody what they’ve created.
So would you do this again?
I’m not sure, it would depend on who was asking me. For Shimada sure, It was dress-up. Why not? But I don’t know if I would do it for someone else.
Anything else you like to mention about your experience?
Shimada is awesome. I recommend anyone who wants to get their hair done to go to him. I like his shop because it reminds me of a salon back home. It is very familiar, and it has a good energy and good vibes. Yes, he is good with the hair, but I also just have positive feelings when I am there.