Models can be a predictable bunch. They will either show up bubbling with enthusiasm, professional and ready to do whatever is needed, or frozen with insecurities lightly battered with indifference and a pinch of arrogance to protect the little girl inside. Or they arrive ready to experience something new, exciting, and create something truly beautiful both in the process as well as the outcome.
I love working with them all. I truly do. Regardless which girl shows up, each model brings some sort of honesty that day, and whatever that honesty is, it’s human, and it’s beautiful.
Then there is Elena Juan.
She told me she has four sisters and that she was raised by her mother. Not much is said about her father. I’m sure there’s a story there, but that’s the thing with Elena; if it doesn’t feel good, she doesn’t wear it, or bathe in it, or make it bigger and more painful by sharing it with everyone within earshot. She would rather spend her time telling you about her incredible mom and sisters.
She was born and raised in Ibiza, a place teeming with beautiful, happy people and the only time they are not having a party to celebrate something is when they are having a party to celebrate something else. Life there, in the summer months especially, is filled with excitement, passion, happiness, pleasure and freedom of expression. It’s a great place to be a young woman and Elena loves Ibiza. But Ibiza is a small island surrounded by horizons, and since she was small, she wondered what lay beyond them.
At 18 the world beckoned and fueled by her zest for life and unquenchable thirst for adventure, Elena travelled the world. By the time she landed in the United States, she had visited or lived in 22 countries on just about every continent in the world. In a few months, she will become a US citizen. She has chosen America to be her adopted home.
There have been adjustments. The culture in Ibiza is less repressed, more accepting of bodies no matter what they look like or what they are dressed in. Tops are optional on most beaches there for instance and if you grow up there, seeing a topless woman is no more unusual than seeing a man shirtless. No one stares, comments, or treats you with less respect or judges your character because you are in a skimpy bathing suit or dress. She has made the adjustment but still doesn’t understand the fuss when she dresses up to go to the mall or grocery store. “Why would you want to leave the house and not look your best?” A point well made that left me asking the same question.
Like anything negative, she doesn’t dwell on it for long. She just smiled and shrugged her shoulders as she fixed her lipstick. She is who she is and unapologetic about it.
When you’re that self-assured you don’t spend any time telling people that you are; you don’t need to. It’s that free-spiritedness, creativity and quiet, unassuming confidence that makes Elena so unusual, so much fun to be around and so fascinating.
It also makes her an excellent model.