You would be hard-pressed to find a woman like Christine Jenna. She exudes all of the qualities that a complete woman has: beautiful, determined, kind, sexy, and strong. Not only is Christine a model– she’s also the owner/president of Bella Life Models, and is the executive director of Greenline Productions. Christine is a prime example of hard work, and it shows in her dedication to help models out, and propel them far beyond their dreams and goals. It was an absolute pleasure to interview Christine, and you’re about to find out why she’s one of the top women in the modeling industry.
At what point in your life did you get interested in modeling?
Jenna: I began modeling as a child. I was discovered by a talent scout in a NYC supermarket riding in a shopping cart pushed by my grandfather. My mother was a signed model in her twenties before I was born, so it’s in my blood. The scout turned out to be an agent for FORD Models. I was quickly signed at the age of four, and right away was in multiple advertisements for Osh Gosh, B’ Gosh, FAO Schwartz, and Kangaroo sneakers, as well as national commercial spots for both TV and radio. It was a lot for a kid to deal with; traveling daily and being taken out of school. I told my mother as much as dress up was fun, I would rather be hanging out with my friends in kindergarten. So for a decade, I stayed in school and didn’t get the modeling bug again until I turned 17.
What was the modeling industry like when you first started out?
Jenna: Well, I don’t remember a ton from my child acting/modeling days. Just rooms filled with people waiting their turn to be seen and cast. The same thing I recall just a little over a decade ago when I got back into the scene. I was in NYC running around Manhattan with my thick black portfolio in hand. I was so excited to have the opportunity to work with a well-known New York agent. Every time you wanted to get booked, you had to show up in person–nothing was done via Internet or email yet. My agent was just an energetic and connected man; he knew everyone and their phone numbers by memory. I am talking hundreds of people in a Rolodex in his mind. He worked out of his NYC high-rise on E. 57th St. Within a few months, I landed a few editorial features–one for Seventeen Magazine and for FHM Magazine. Clothing clients used me for their catalogs and ad campaigns. I was living the dream, or so I thought. Although I loved the feeling of shooting and images I received, the strain of taking off days from my steady paying job as store manager at Armani Exchange–became a strain on my finances. So I took another decade off to focus on my career in luxury fashion. I became a GM–then went on to work in VIP sales management for Theory and Prada. Fashion management and sales became my passion. Dabbling in shoots here and there I never gave it another thought since I was the point person for celebrities and models in NYC clothing wise; I just assumed it was where I would stay.
What’s it like to be in front of the camera during a photo shoot?
Jenna: At first it was a daunting task, at least for me. I am my own harshest critic, and I was shooting in lingerie and swimwear. It didn’t take long before I just let go and realized the camera creates this barrier between reality and fantasy. I learned fast–that to be comfortable and confident behind the lens–means you have to let go of what you perceive to be you. We are multifaceted and being a new character in each look–gave me the confidence I needed to just let loose. Letting emotions and thoughts run rampant; fluid body movements you wouldn’t ever think made sense–all came together. It also began to foster my passion and love for acting. I was always the lead in school plays and had done some acting, so it melded together nicely. I was hooked.
Have you dealt with any criticism, negativity, rejection, etc. in the modeling industry? If so, how did you handle it?
Jenna: Haha, yes as a matter of fact I thought I was the queen of rejection; I used to try new things, do more, and work harder. I have indeed been told I was too young, too fat, too skinny, too old, too blonde, too white, too tattooed, not tattooed enough. Too everything and then some, and not just enough–something else. None of those proposed rejections hindered my drive to keep moving forward. When I was a teenager, it was heartbreaking. I was far more sensitive to people’s outward perception of me, perhaps why I took such a long hiatus before I started up again. Being told no, after running around daily getting shot, images printed–then to go to a casting with hundreds of talent can take a toll. I made a name for myself in the fashion world; I faced new challenges not based on my looks, but on my talents and abilities to sell and close deals to get ahead. I came to realize anything we do is business, we are always selling something. I knew that if I ever was going to tackle the modeling world again, I would look at myself as a brand and a product. I needed to defy the constraints of beauty and ones perception of it. Packaging it up in black and white wasn’t going to set me apart. I needed to utilize all my skills, my mind, and my business acumen to get noticed. I think true beauty is intelligent, vibrant, edgy, and the colors blur and bleed between the lines. There is nothing wrong with being viewed as palatable, it’s just not my way. I have always said I would rather be a dismal failure or a spectacular success, but never tread on the safe and sound road.
In your opinion: What does it take to be a successful model?
Jenna: Patience! And also never taking yourself too seriously. I have done more with a smile and laughter than my looks could ever do for me. Being human doesn’t hurt either; we live in an aesthetic world, looks and beauty do wonders for us. But god help me: If you’re striking in the looks department, but vapid and shallow–your ever evolving beauty will only take you so far. It’s up to your head and heart to take you the rest of the way.
In addition to my last question: Modeling is a tough business. Could you give some examples from your experience as a model on how tough the business is?
Jenna: Modeling in this ever-changing world of multimedia whether you’re a print or runway model, film or television actress, or actor is never going to be easy. We are all under the harshest scrutiny to stay young, thin, and impossibly perfect. Even if we weren’t under the confines of the aesthetic industry, our current world views of life in general remain the same. Beauty is key; youth is paramount. The amount of diet products out there boggles the mind. The industry is tough because its sole focus is pedaling the most beautiful and marketable faces, and bodies that are not perfect to start with. That is a rough venture to take on as a model. You have to stay on top of your game at all times. Competition is fierce. My mother always told me there will always be someone younger, stronger, and smarter than you. Be the best that you can be, and don’t worry about what the next person looks like or sounds like. Be you, and love who you are; own it. Once we stop worrying and trying to emulate someone else and focus on striving for attainable goals– we already have a leg up on the competition.
You’re also the president of Bella Life Models. How did you come up with the idea to start that?
Jenna: Bella Life Models was a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I know what I went through–sifting through the good, the bad, and the ugly this industry can throw at you. I wanted to change what the model experience would be like for new talent. I wanted to teach and share my own hardships and accomplishments. N one should ever feel less than or not good enough. While I own the company, I wouldn’t be anywhere without the strength and dedication of the team of industry professionals that I work alongside. By working with a powerhouse multimedia company, Bella Life Models is able to do far more than just be pretty faces in a picture. We work in all aspects of film, TV, and radio–as well as events and more. Bella Life Models has evolved and will continue to do so. The core meaning will always remain the same. The Bella Life Models are beauty incarnate, not one-sided. We encompass what it means to be individuals–to show that true beauty radiates from within.
What’s it like to be bot a president/model of Bella Life Models?
Jenna: It’s just like any other job I’ve had. Lead by example. Only this time around my job is a career and a passion. The old saying rings true “If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.” Here’s to my 24/7 non-stop vacation in 2015. Truthfully it’s a ton of work, but the rewards outweigh the cons. I get to play dress up, be in films, be on the radio and help mold and grow the world’s future talent in the entertainment industry; no complaints here.
How do you determine if a girl is the right fit for Bella Life Models?
Jenna: While I cast each model individually, I have a team of professionals from all aspects of the media world weigh in. I go right to personality. Believe it or not, the physical attributes are the final piece of the puzzle. I need to see a spark, something that makes this woman or man uniquely them. I pride myself on having a distinctive group of modeling talent. If I went by looks alone–well, I would be like all the others. Be you; show me why you stand out from the crowd. Black sheep are welcome and encouraged.
What’s your take on photoshop, and how it’s used in the modeling industry?
Jenna: I have zero issue with the use of photoshop; It’s all in the context of use. While we all love to think that models are perfectly beautiful at all times–we are human, and we have flaws. And those imperfections make us who we are. I don’t like when the overuse of photoshop and body modifications that are used. Constructing a human-like creature with no expression or emotion–is not where we should strive to be. Now with that being said, there are a lot of reasons magazines and photographers use photoshop. Lighting, shadows, blemishes, and colors all change with a click of a button. I have been so lucky to work with some of the highest skilled photographers, their techniques in lighting and shot set up– lead to minimal retouching and post editing. We buy products and services based on the concept of perfection. That hasn’t changed over time, just the technology to project it has. I think having an image that is flawless is amazing. I wish I could be virtually retouched when I wake up in the morning, but we use makeup for that as women. Taking away all signs of life, making people appear as lifeless humanoids is not beauty, its complete fantasy. I think everything in moderation and with a skilled hand can’t add to and not detract from ones aesthetic. I’m also a fan of digital manipulations on photos. Who doesn’t want to be a unicorn flying through space? People need to know this is not real–it’s all art and an artists take on reality. We change our hair color, nail color, and even eyes. Lose weight and gain it. Does that mean we aren’t being real? Let’s stop bashing photoshop, and start teaching our women and men confidence, and the difference between fantasy and reality.
Photographers are essential to models and their success in the industry. Unfortunately, some photographers have other agendas in their minds. What do you do to ensure the safety of your models when dealing with photographers?
Jenna: I have to say in my long-standing career, I have only met two photographers that have made my hair stand on end. They are not the rule, but an exception. It’s a crying shame when anyone in a position of power abuses it. I only associate with talent at the highest caliber. These professionals are good people to start with, and exceptionally gifted photographers second. If you’re an asshole to begin with, getting a camera just opens the door to allowing your perverse and adolescent mind of seeing boobies–the ability to run rampant. I have to say we’re lucky enough not to have any of those shady types in my circle. Maybe they fear me, maybe I’m just not their cup of tea. But it’s known: don’t test me. And keep your agendas in your pants.
There are certain models out there that are trying to buy their way to fame and success in the modeling industry. What’s your take on that?
Jenna: Listen, I get it. You want to get ahead in any way that you can. But buying likes and votes really is akin to sleeping your way to the top. Your beauty and modeling talent is not what’s propelling you to the top. It’s who has the bigger bank roll. Now that does tip the scales towards the ladies with deeper pockets, or men that want to see them succeed at all costs. I honestly have no issue with these models. I know that talent and skill will reign supreme, and may take more time to do so, but as I stated earlier: patience is not just a virtue in this world–it’s a commodity that cannot be bought.
Do you have any plans to expand Bella Life Models in the near future?
Jenna: The Bella Life Model agency will be opening its doors in Miami and across the pond in London within the next 12 months. We currently represent models all over New England, and our reach spans the globe–it’s only natural to offer satellite locations for our models not located in the greater Boston area.
What would you like to achieve with yourself and Bella Life Models in 2015?
Jenna: First and foremost–what I want for all the Bella Life Models is success. What each model perceives as such is uniquely their own. One may want to be the next cover girl, while the next is looking to break into the music business. We support the goals and dreams of the talent. No two are alike, and that’s what makes them Bella’s.
What’s your definition of success?
Jenna: My idea of success is never-ending and ever-changing. I do know I have achieved a monochrome of success at points in my life and career. But if I rested on my laurels and said, “now I have it all” I would never go anywhere. Success, to me–is the inertia that is me consistently showing the world I’m a frighteningly, fearless, boundless energy. My unabridged ambition to change the world is not one that can be contained. I succeed each day by not being afraid to try to stumble–then try again.
Describe some routines and habits that have shaped you into the person that you are today, and how they have had a positive effect on your life?
Jenna: Someone once told me–write everything down. Even the most vague and non-formed ideas now can be the start to a great venture in the future. Also, it keeps me focused. I do so many things, and talk to so many people on any given day–that I must have a way to look back, and track what I’m working on. Also, taking time to enjoy the people and places that I come across. Never thinking I know anything about anything; constantly asking tons of questions and listening.
Besides the modeling business, what else are you interested in and passionate about?
Jenna: Films, TV, radio. I’m an actress at heart, and I love being in front of the camera. I have some exciting projects on the slate in 2015. I’m really looking forward to getting back to acting, and playing new roles that challenge my emotions and my comfort level with myself.
How are you and Bella Life Models gonna change the modeling industry?
Jenna: We have just begun. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel; we want to make it function at a higher level. By empowering our team of talent to crossover into all markets and aspects of media enables us to secure a foothold in the industry–that will not only change people’s perceptions of the norm, but maybe create a new more appealing norm we haven’t seen yet.
What would be your advice to someone out there–that has an idea to start something, whether it may be a business, starting their own modeling agency, etc. but has no idea where to begin?
Jenna: My mantra is “Try it once. If it doesn’t work, try something else.” Any business ventures I’ve ever attempted started as a passing thought. I’ve built on that thought and formed an idea; ever-changing and evolving it until it works. Don’t allow negative energy or negative people detract you from your goals. Have a story board vision in mind that seems safe and sane; throw that away and do what truly makes you happy. Always follow your passion and if it makes you question all that you know to be safe–you know you’re on the right track. Stick to your guns, follow your heart, and let your creativity flow. Putting your fears in perspective and using them to propel yourself into uncharted territories–is what makes a good idea great! When people tell me to take the bull by the horns, I say, “take the whole damn bull, and ride that beast off into the sunset!”
Check out the links below to find more info about Bella Life Models and Christine Jenna