Model Q&A: Jill Billingsley

Jill Billingsley | Model | Los Angeles, CA

Where are you from?

I am your typical introverted model hailing from Edmonton, Alberta, but masquerading around Los Angeles as an extrovert. On days where I am lucky, I get paid to travel or if I ever get really bored -occasionally pick up another placement and model somewhere else in the world for 2-3 months at a time.

Who or what inspired you to become a model?

My mother was a failed model, with a baby at 16 and a second one on the way (that was me), she gave up her dreams of modeling at 20. Although I do not consider her to be my inspiration at all, somewhere along the way I am sure she planted the seedlings of my dreams. She was very pushy -hoping I would get into modeling at a young age and even suggested dropping out of school. Being the spiteful teen I was, I graduated then went to college and only after accomplishing what society perceives as normal, went ahead to pursue my passion. I had to make sure I was doing it for me and not because I was being told so or having someone live vicariously through me.

How and when did you start modeling?

I started modeling while in college to make ends meet. A calendar gig paid my rent one month, and after working with a couple of select photographers in my city, the word spread that I was easy to work with. In reality though, I always enjoyed playing model and photographer with a group of close girlfriends since junior high school. Fridays we would compile all of our clothes and do our own fashion shoot. To us we were just playing, but I think it helped develop a comfort in front of the camera that is a hard thing to teach.

What type of modeling do you enjoy most?

My comfort zone would be fashion. The crankier I can look the better. If I know any pose I do has a chance of looking bizarre or strange, well when it comes down to fashion – that will work perfectly. Plus as a shorter model I like proving that I am not a one trick pony and I can elongate myself.

What do you look for when deciding to work with a photographer?

At this point, the photographer can’t have a portfolio filled with raunchy shots. If I get the feeling I am going to be objectified it will be a hard pass from me. I appreciate photographers who enjoy using color theory, know their equipment and lighting well, and can pull a little extra out of me with suggestions and going with the flow. The worst experience is when a photographer is trying to take the same shot 20 times and everything is stiff and unnatural because they can’t convey what it is they are envisioning. Those are the moments that really help shape a model- testing patience, personality and perseverance.

Also, if they are a master at skin retouching and I can see the pores and detail quality on their work, those types usually never disappoint.

Which models or other artists currently inspire you?

Coco Rocha is an amazing model, and although I do not try to follow models too closely, she is admirable for much more than just her image and ability. She is a great voice in the industry, making changes that benefit the safety of other models, plus she’s a Canadian! I appreciate Kate Upton as well, just because I feel she represents an image that’s not often seen, she isn’t a plus size model and she isn’t the typical fashion model- what you see is what you get, just an extremely beautiful healthy girl with an amazing face.

What would be your dream shoot?

Up in space, Kate Upon style for Sports Illustrated. If it’s a dream that would be pretty hard to top. The vindictive side of me wants to say a shoot where I am a giant, man-handling past models who have belittled me, oh and agents of agencies that have passed me by. It would be both fun and therapeutic.

How important is social media in your success?

When I started modeling it didn’t even exist. Now-a-days it is hard to not have it factor in. Certain agencies use your popularity on your composite card to prove your value. It seems more so as if you do not need a certain look, but a certain amount of people following you who like your look. So there is good and bad that comes with social media success. It has definitely allowed me to travel and make connections that otherwise would have been impossible, but in regards to my success I feel like it has not played the biggest factor. Just a lot of time and effort have contributed to my success.

What else do you like to do outside of modeling?

I use to be the master of all jobs. I have been a dental assistant, a failed wrestler, and had a million tiny odd-jobs when I was younger, but now I focus mainly on writing and designing. I am currently working on and illustrating a children’s book, and designing skateboards in my free time.

What’s the best career advice you can give to new models?

Learn to say “No.” If you cannot stand up for yourself, nobody else will, and of course, go buy my book, It’s All Perspective. I try to break down the reality of modeling when you aren’t an agency’s priority and the type of model who has to jump through hoops to be actively engaged in their dreams. Modeling has a predatory nature and the stronger willed a model is, the more boisterous they become – the better off they are.

For example…

Photographer :”I know you said you weren’t comfortable shooting topless, but what if it’s just from the back.” If you are uncomfortable don’t let someone find the weakness, say “No.” If you have to say no more than twice, just call it a wrap. Repeating yourself three times is more than enough to get your point across.

Agency: “You are too short and big to model, why don’t you try acting?”

Model: “No thanks, I am going to follow through with my passions, thanks for the thought.”

My girlfriend likes the expression, “kill them with kindness.” It works!

Instagram: jillbillingsley | Facebook: modeljillbillingsley | YouTube: Jill Billingsley | Twitter: JillBillingsley

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