With the start of the New Year I am launch a new regular feature to appear on my blog as well as my Facebook Page. Every month I will feature a new talent who I’ve had the pleasure of working with and getting to know. There will be a range of various talents featured, from experienced professionals to up-and-coming amateurs.
For my first interview, I chose to have a conversation with Danielle Pascente. For those that are not aware, Danielle was one of the first modeling talents I worked with when I got serious about fitness photography. In a short time we worked together quite a bit.
I selected Danielle for this first feature because I feel she truly embodies what it means to set goals, take risks, and achieve them. I am so happy with how the interview went as she has a plethora of information to share about her experiences in building her brand, auditioning, as well as what it took to get herself on a national magazine cover! Hope you enjoy.
James Patrick: You’ve been involved in athletics just about your entire life. At what point did you decide to make a career out of it?
Danielle Pascente: I decided to make a career out of it after I graduated college. When I graduated I wasn’t positive what I wanted to do. I knew I loved being active, I loved sports, I loved being a coach, and I loved being able to inspire others who wanted to make being fit a lifestyle. Those were all things I didn’t want to give up. When someone came to me with an opportunity to go to a conference called Fitness Model International (FMI), I decided I would go and see what it was all about. FMI jump started my career “in the industry.” I would encourage anyone who is thinking about getting into a sports or fitness modeling career to go to an FMI event. Going into it, I wasn’t positive it was going to be something for me. When I left the conference though, I knew right then I wanted to make a career out of it. I knew it was going to be a long journey and a lot of hard work, but once I’m decided on something…I never turn back.
J: What was your early experience with modeling like? For example, how did you go about building your portfolio?
D: My early experience with modeling was very difficult. I didn’t quite understand how tough it would actually be in a place like L.A. When I decided to move out here from Phoenix, I thought since I had a portfolio (which I thought had enough looks in it to be versatile), I would be able to sign with an agent and start booking work. Unfortunately that was not the case— ha ha! I do laugh about it now because I feel like I know a lot more being exposed directly to the industry in L.A. It’s all a learning process. When I first took my portfolio to a meeting with an agent in L.A. they actually laughed right in front of me. When they were flipping through my book they had a puzzling look on their face like “is this girl serious?” The thing is….I THOUGHT I HAD SO MANY PICTURES! The problem was….they were all the same. I thought since I was going to be a “fitness model,” why would I need to have a picture of me doing anything else besides fitness stuff. I had a lot of shots of me running, jumping, doing push ups, lifting weights, etc. I was in the same tiny shorts and sports bra for most of the shots. If it wasn’t fitness, it was something more glamorous with a lot of make-up and an outfit that made me appear older than I actually am.
Since I knew I had plenty of athletic shots, I contacted photographers and tackled every other avenue of photo that I didn’t have. I stopped wearing a ton of make-up and started to color my hair more natural. I studied the “athletic” models in magazines like Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Women’s Running, Competitor, Fitness, Health, you name it…. I tore the pictures out and studied them! When I worked with the photographers I contacted after that meeting, I would say “This is exactly what I need. This is what I want to try to do.” Each and every one of them were on board with my vision and I really have all of them to thank for helping me create what I now believe to be a much more versatile portfolio! My biggest piece of advice is to start that process a little sooner. Study the photographers you work with and see what their strong suit is. Get a strong and clean headshot first and foremost. Have an active shot, meaning you are performing your sport (i.e. running, basketball, football, cheerleading, swimming, etc.) Have a lifestyle one with you looking young, fresh, and carefree. If your lifestyle is that of an athlete or personal trainer, then you walk around everyday in sporty clothes right? That is your lifestyle! I would recommend casual fitness gear shoot for that purpose. Something you would see for a sports authority ad, Lu Lu lemon, Moving Comfort. You can also do another lifestyle one with a casual outfit on like jeans and a sweater. Something you would see for Macy’s, L.L Bean, Athleta, Buckle, Kohls, Ross, etc. The moment I started to get more versatile looks in my portfolio was the moment I started booking work. At the end of the day, the client wants to know that you could honestly fit and represent their brand. If they can’t see what you look like in similar apparel, then they will never know.
J: At what point did you begin to understand what represented your brand?
D: I’m still developing my brand every day. My brand is one of those things that I know will never stop expanding. As I grow older and learn more about myself and what my true passions are, I am always adding that back to my brand. It took me two and half years to finally come up with a “tagline,” that I truly believe represents me. Before then, I was just Danielle Pascente, the athlete/model/personal trainer. I have now come up with a logo for my brand and the tagline of “Infinite Possibilities.” Infinite Possibilities to me represents life and all that it has to offer. I have learned how many opportunities and possibilities are out there in the world. We have to take advantage and appreciate everything that life has to offer. Sometimes that means going through tough times and pushing past obstacles, but that is part of life. For my specific brand it means that there is always something else I can be doing to better myself and better the lives of others. This is never ending, infinite, until the day I die. We grow, we reproduce, we enhance, we learn, and we live everyday like it was our last. That is the message I want to send to everyone I come in contact with. This is the only life we have! I want to take risks, I want to do things outside my comfort zone, I want to inspire, and I want to create possibilities for myself and others…That is Infinite Possibilities.
J: How did understanding what your brand was guide you when it came to structuring your portfolio?
D: For me it was the other way around. Once I started constructing and building my portfolio, I truly realized who I was and the message I wanted to send to everyone. The one thing I can say is that I was always in a rush to brand myself. Don’t rush! Take your time and get to know yourself so that you are confident in your brand and what you have developed. The first 20 ideas I had were thrown in the trash. For me, I wanted to fall in love with my brand, my tagline, and who I was. I didn’t commit to something until I sat there and said… “OK……THAT’S THE ONE…..THIS IS ME!”
J: You’ve been on quite a few auditions; what was your first one like? How did the process go?
D: I was SUPER nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. I think I was shaking and I remember singing a song in my head to try and calm myself. Once I got in the room and realized what I had to do and how fast it went…I was totally fine. Each audition is different, but most have the same general outline. You usually say your name, what agency your with, and what activities or sports you are involved in. It honestly depends on the client and what they are looking for. Sometimes they will make you show them your talent (i.e. running, gymnastics, jumping, lifting weights). Other times, you are just saying your name and taking a few snap shots. Going on auditions now is like second nature as long as I’m confident in what I am going out for. There are many models that audition and say they can do something they actually can’t. I usually do just the opposite. If it’s not something I’m totally comfortable with, I will tell them straight up that I don’t have a ton of experience but I will do my best. If it is just the look they are going for, you may book the job based on if you fit that look. If they are looking for you to perform the skill, I don’t feel comfortable stretching the truth and looking silly the day of the shoot!
J: What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from the auditions you’ve been on? What can help make it more successful?
D: I think I’ve learned to just be confident and relaxed! I think most importantly try to be yourself. The client wants to know you for you. I want them to know who they are going to be working with if they do decide to hire me. If you can show them that in the 60 seconds you have (sometimes less) during your audition…DO IT! It shines through above anything else. If you have a talent or skill, don’t be afraid to brag. I’m not the type to brag…in fact…I really hate it! However, I have learned that they want to hear your accomplishments and the things you’ve been a part of. It makes you more authentic as a talent. If it is a shoot you will be running on, they are going to want to hear that you have done half marathons, run 5 days a week, were a national champion in track, whatever your achievements are. Do not be afraid to tell them. That is the biggest thing I have learned!
J: What are some common mistakes you feel a lot of people auditioning may make?
D: Again I will go back to this, but biggest mistake is not being yourself. Sometimes I hear models say the strangest things and no offense at all to them…I’m sure they are great! People often times think they need to be someone else to fit a mold and it’s just not true. Don’t try too hard, be overly nice, overly cocky, overly energetic, fake, rude….the extremes! Just be you! I’m not the hugest fan of yoga. Have I done it before? Yes. If I go on a yoga audition I tell them I know the basics and I do it every once in a while. I don’t say yes I practice yoga 6 times a week and am an expert. I have seen it happen to plenty of models, and the client will say… “Ok can you show us a pose.” I have seen the weirdest poses ha-ha—that I know for a fact do not exist. You can see it on the clients face and they will say thank you for coming….Goodbye. I went on a yoga audition one time and I told them the truth that I was an athlete, a runner, and I sometimes practice yoga. I know they were going for the long and lean look, which I do have. However, if they wanted a yoga expert, I wasn’t that. They asked me to show them some of the stuff I do on a daily basis. I did squat jumps, planks, handstands, push ups, etc. They said….wait…..can you hold a side plank? I said yes absolutely! They were amazed by how long I could hold a side plank. They said…..usually our yoga talent can’t hold it for that long on set so it is pretty impressive that you can do that! Even though I didn’t book that particular job, I still feel good about the relationship I made in that audition. They ended up talking to me for 5 more minutes about my career and what I did. I told them I was a trainer and they asked for my direct contact because they may be able to use me on set of a shoot to help the models understand the training positions and movement, etc. I keep my mind very open to learn things at every audition. Instead of treating it like “oh…it’s just another audition,” I treat it as a learning experience. What can I take away from this? What can I go home and practice?
J: You also secured yourself a fantastic national cover. Tell us about how that process went.
D: Runner’s World was the first magazine that really got me into running, and for anyone that knew me in high school….I HATED RUNNING LONG DISTANCE. I was always a sprinter or jumper. Getting into long distance running after college was a big step for me. Runner’s World initially sparked my interest to enter a half marathon, and from there I continued running because of the way it changed my body and made me feel. I always said, “One day…I want to be on the cover of this magazine.” About a year after I moved to Santa Monica, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to just try and contact the Editor in Chief. I knew in my head it was a shot in the dark, but what did I have to lose? I sent a package in the mail with some of the running pictures I had taken in the past for photo shoots, and also a little letter describing what this magazine meant to me. 8 months had gone by and I nearly forgot about that letter. I remember seeing an inbox message in my e-mail from RW and I had a feeling it was happening. From there, and with an assist from my agency, I shot and landed the cover. That feeling of accomplishment, that your actions and persistence were noticed is one of the best feelings in the world. Though it was a long process as far as wait time, I don’t regret sending that letter. It was well worth it and made me realize that there is a lot I can do on my end as a model! Agents are great and I can tell you that I truly have a great relationship with my agency and I couldn’t be more grateful for them. However, if you can work hand in hand and make it more of a team effort…it makes for a better model.
J: Knowing you now for several years, you’ve always been very focused on your goals. Tell us a little about how you set goals, and how you stay committed to them.
D: It’s so important to write your goals down. If you don’t like to write, then type them in a word document. As long as they are somewhere you can come back and check on them…you are on the right track! Often times I will put a time stamp on a goal. Putting a time stamp on it just means that I have to work that much harder to get it done by a certain time. It puts a sense of importance on it. I treat all of my goals the same. They are all equally as important as the other. I have learned and try to encourage others to not to be too self-centered in goal making. What is it that you want to give back to the world? I always ask myself that. I make goals with my personal training clients. I make goals with friends. I make long term goals that seem completely unrealistic. The number one thing I tell someone and a topic I usually cover during speaking engagements is the following: “If money wasn’t an issue….and you could do ANYTHING you wanted….what would you do?” And people are always like… “Well Danielle, c’mon I mean that’s ridiculous.” It’s not though. YOU CAN DO IT! I had all the odds stacked against me to move to L.A. and become a model and personal trainer. I won’t dive into that entire story but I will say that people’s goals change because of money! What are your true passions? If someone tells me they like to travel, read, write, skydive, and work with children but they are working behind a desk from 9-5…I would tell them to go rethink what they are doing! I challenge every person I meet to answer the above question. It really makes you think about life and what you are doing with it. I want to lead and live a life of fulfillment. I wish that for everyone else as well!
J: Final comments to readers?
D: Never give up. There will be plenty of people along the way that will say “you can’t, you aren’t good enough, you are too fat, too tall, too dumb,” you get the point. Prove them wrong! Be grateful for every single opportunity, and be an overall pleasant individual. Always remember that you are your OWN person. You have the power to decide what you want to do and what you want to make happen. Every time someone says no, I promise there is a yes coming! Stay positive and always be brainstorming about the next thing you want to tackle. There is a bigger sense of fulfillment knowing you have been able to help someone out or change a life. With modeling, it’s hard to know who is actually inside that picture. I just want people to know that I live and breathe this lifestyle. I want to motivate others through not just what I am (model/trainer/athlete), but WHO I am. I strive to find the true champion in each individual and I think everyone has the potential to be the best version of themselves with a little soul searching!
2012 is a new year. Do not be afraid to reinvent yourself! This year, think about “infinite possibilities,” and how you can apply it to your own life. Share, unite, and be fulfilled.
Follow more of Danielle and her work on her website which is www.daniellepascente.com