With these hot summer days, I met with Chealynn to get an ice cream while we chatted about her modeling experience. Her mother, who was on vacation in Madrid, was happy to sip her cappuccino while listening to our interview.
Chealynn, how are you?
I am doing great, managing with the heat. I'm fine as long as I get out at the right time of day.
What do you do here in Spain?
Right now, I just finished my position as an Auxiliar de Conversación, assisting a school with their English classes.
And what brought you here?
Well I just wanted something different. I just really needed a change in my life. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. It is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes my body to react to certain triggers like stress and certain types of food. So far, I have had to have a few surgeries due to pain and intestinal problems. At one point, I wasn't able to eat and my weight fluctuated. Sometimes I get a fever and nausea. I live with a chronic illness and as you can imagine, it's really frustrating sometimes. When I got this opportunity to go to Spain, I decided to take a chance and head off. I don't want my condition to limit me.
How have you managed your condition now that you're in another county?
Well, I did notice some changes. My last surgery was in June, and I came here three months later. I honestly don't think I gave myself enough time to rest. It got worse before it got better. I now find myself watching my diet and eating more healthier which has helped a lot. In New York, I would just sometimes grab a slice of pizza because it was so easy. I have also found my doctor as well as my school were genuinely concerned about my heath and were very understanding if I was having a medical problem. I think all of these factors have helped my condition as well as my morale when my symptoms start acting up. Being here has allowed me to try new things, for example, being a model for Shimada.
So how did you meet Shimada?
I saw his name floating around on the Facebook page for my program. I saw that he spoke English and that he was American. When I went, it was instant connection. Every month since October, I take a 45 minute train ride from Alcalá de Henares to see Shimada.
You come from Alcalá de Henares just to get your haircut?
I'm not fluent in Spanish, but I speak better now. When I arrived in Spain, I was a bit lost. My hair is very important to me and I didn't want any miscommunication. I went once to Shimada's salon and I found that it was well worth the trip.
How did you get involved in “La Modelo del Mes” Project?
Shimada told me he was working on this project and he just spoke about it with such enthusiasm and excitement . If you know Shimada, he's very passionate about his work. He asked me to do the project a couple of months ago. I thought it would be fun to dress up and take pictures. Unfortunately, we were just never able to make our schedules work. Luckily, we found time before I head back to the states.
Have you done any modeling before?
I am from New York so therefore I'm an actor and a model...I am just joking. I have done a few projects but nothing serious. I did a local commercial for the DC area in 2006. One of the models couldn't make it, and so my friend gave me a call at the last-minute. It thought it would be easier. We had a lot of retakes as I kept messing up. I don't know if I would call it modeling experience, but it was an experience.
What were you expecting for the shoot?
Before the shooting day, he showed me the wig he was making. It looked so different from anything I have ever done to my hair. I was curious, maybe even a little nervous as to how it was going to work out. But I have faith in Shimada. He has photos around his shop of his previous clients and models. During the shoot, it worked out fine. I thought I looked a little bit like Beyoncé, maybe wishful thinking?
How long did the whole process take?
It took from 11:30 in the morning until about 8:00 at night. I am glad I brought some croissants and some fruit to get me through the day. We did three different shoots, the two styles, and then my natural hair.
What did you find interesting about the shoot?
It was fun watching Shimada do what he does best. I always like to learn new ways how to do my makeup. I was watching him carefully when he was doing the smokey eyes. Although, I doubt I could recreate them as well.
Did you run into any difficulties?
We did have difficulty pinning the second wig to my head. I don't have a lot of hair and it's very fine so it took a bit of time. A little patience and we were able to work it out.
What location did you shoot the photos?
One of the shoots, we did on the streets around Antón Martín. We walked around for about two minutes and found a wall he liked. The second shoot, we shot in his back patio.
How did you choose your outfits?
The first shoot, I just used some clothes he told me to bring. The second, he gave me a t-shirt with his design on it. You really see how dedicated he is, especially because he does the makeup, hair, wigs, and clothing on his own.
What was going through your head during the shoot?
When I left the salon in my outfit, I just went with it. You find a character when you put all the makeup on. During the shoot, I just kept trying to move, so they could get shots from different angles. You don't want to look stiff. They were nice enough to show me some of the shots as we were doing it. Some photographers do not like to do that. I thought it really helped to keep the momentum going. Shimada even told me he knew I had watch America's Next Top Model.
What do you think he brought out of you during the shoot?
I think he really brought a playful side of me. Shimada told me what he likes about me is I am very natural. I don't usually wear a lot of heavy makeup, so to be done up and participate in La Modelo del Mes, I felt a chance to express a part of me that you don't usually see.
What advice you would give now that you have been a model?
Make sure to have your energy up because you're going to spend a lot of time there. Get some sleep and bring some snacks. Before he put the lipstick on, I said, “I going to munch on this really quick.” I really didn't want to mess up the make up. Fortunately, with smokey eyes, lashes, and the hair, it gave me a bit of time to get comfortable and eat something to boost my energy.
So you're headed back to New York. Do you think you'll come back to Spain?
Right now, I am really on the fence. I love it here, but I am not sure if I should stay. Hopefully this summer, I'll have some time to reflect...that or maybe the skies will open and give me an answer from the heavens above. I am thinking some deep reflection is what is more likely to happen.
For more information on Crohn's Disease, please visit the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America website by clicking here.