When we began this feature we wanted to find small business owners from as many industries as possible. We found L.Shima via a site for independent models, Model Mayhem, the image above is the header she uses on her Model Mayhem profile. We were struck by her vision and the professionalism her digital profiles deliver. We had to find out more about this model and how she operates her small business. What we learned is she does modeling shoots, engages with her fans, creates/posts content (on all her social platforms), creates content for her store and more.
- What got you into what you are doing today?
In high school I was always told I had an exotic and unique look. Later I posed for my senior portraits and had a great time walking around town and posing. I enjoyed the creativity of finding a fun location and pose. A friend told me about Model Mayhem, which is a massive networking site for the modeling world, and I joined it. From there I posed for a few early shoots trying to build up my portfolio. I paid for a few shoots too.
When I turned 18, I noticed an artist who ran an art studio (now my boyfriend lol) was looking for a model to sit for a clothed portrait for a figure drawing class that he taught. I gave it a shot, and made a few dollars – my first check from modeling. He mentioned that he also ran nude classes. I don’t know where the confidence came from, but I wanted to pose for those! I loved it! The creativity and freedom was incredible. It had nothing to do with being sexy, but rather finding interesting shapes with the body and exploring lighting! That was key for me in realizing the artistic side of modeling. Directly from those classes, I met a number of artists in the class that knew photographers around town, and they encouraged me to look into pursuing shoots with them. I did, and a few months later I was contacted by Playboy TV to shoot a few videos (not especially sexual, calm down ha-ha – more like me walking around a room in lingerie) along with a few other promo gigs. That month I made more money than I made at my regular job at a book store, so I decided to model full time. That was 2.5 years ago!
So now that I decided to become a model full-time I was very scared honestly of how I was going to make this work. I received a ton of work during the SXSW festival in Austin (where I lived at the time) but now that was over I needed to figure out how to shoot during regular/dry weeks. My boyfriend has worked as a freelance artist for years as well as teaches art and marketing for artists. I learned the importance of professionalism, good taste, work ethic, being proactive versus waiting for work, and all that is required of the freelance lifestyle. I hit Model Mayhem very hard and messaged a ton of photographers in the Texas area. I received a ton of no’s but managed to build up a portfolio through TF (trade for) shoots. I began building my social networks and sharing my work, and treating this like a 9-5 job. Since then I’ve steadily gotten better at running my business and fortunate to work on a number of great projects.
I built my career with the site Model Mayhem, from the onset I was getting work via online sources. Once I began creating content people began to respond positively to it. I began fostering a brand and voice through social media 2 years ago. The more numbers increased the more opportunities came my way.
I focus on developing a genuine connection and engagement with my fans. It is important that brands see how engaged the audience is because part of my business is to promote other brands via social media. Brand integrity and a high level of aesthetics is important when I present my work. There are so many models out there, hopefully my visual point of view allows me stand out!
- Who are your mentors, inspirations, and/or heroes in the business?
Currently, Hattie Watson, Adrianne Ho, and Echo Nittolitto influence my style in modeling. With that said I also look up to artists who aren’t exactly in my same business such as Francis Vallejo, David Cho, and UnderLA.
- Fill in the blank: I can’t make it through the day without ______________.
Getting hugs and kisses from Francis and our Weimaraner, Akira! 🙂
- What’s the best advice you ever got? The worst?
Best: Don’t be afraid to approach someone with your work and interest in collaborating, the worst thing they will say is no. At the very least they saw your name and hopefully looked at your work!
Worst: I am too short to shoot fashion and am only good for glamour modeling. The fact is I am successfully moving forward in the fashion world, proving that “advice” wrong.
- What are some of your biggest challenges?
Honestly, a challenge that I face almost every day is judging myself and my work. I am really hard on myself and it is not healthy. Sometimes I do not jump at the right opportunities because I don’t feel I am ready. I see other girls that I may not care for their work having success….and become frustrated. I realized the time will never be right and I just have to go for it!
- What would surprise people most about your company?
Ha! I laugh and smile ALOT. I say that because my photos are rather serious and people think I am a tortured artist but it is rather the opposite.