Today we’d like to introduce you to Cassandra Jamie.
Cassandra, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Last May, I graduated from Pomona College in Southern California and came back home to Chicago for a gap year before continuing on to medical school. Being so close to Los Angeles inspired me to become more creative, but between my studies and playing college basketball, I didn’t have time for any creative pursuits. My original plans were to stay out on the West Coast, but some personal issues led me to move back home. Moving back was SCARY! I had no job, no friends, and was coping with a new breakup and some other issues.
To start meeting new people and exploring Chicago again, I decided to start modeling for a few local portrait photographers. I had always wanted to model because of my love of makeup and fashion, but never had an outlet to explore these or improve my skills. What began as a few shots just to “try it out” turned into an exciting way to express my creativity. Trying to produce unique and inspiring portraits with new people has been an incredible experience. The nature of portraiture photography allows me to style myself, do my own makeup, create poses, help choose locations, and sometimes even edit. I have learned so much about how to create and envision with another person that I may have just met a few minutes prior to working. It is awesome to be able to connect with others through a creative medium and I think that I have learned how to better connect with people in general. I more recently discovered a whole network of Chicago creative portrait photographers and models that inspire and support each other. The positivity of this community is like no other because there is an emphasis on collaboration instead of competition. I love all the fun outings I have had shooting, conversations, and stories I have heard, and the photographs that have been created over these past three months and look forward to everything that is to come!
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I began modeling at a rough time in my life. I was in the awkward transition period after college, I was applying to medical school, I had some family issues at home, and I was fresh out of a breakup. I had A LOT of doubt in myself but decided I would go ahead and put myself out there. I kind of went with the “What do I have to lose” attitude. I’ve definitely gotten quite a bit of hate from a few previous acquaintances/friends, and that sucks but I try to stay neutral about it and not let it get to it and me. What helps the most is to remember all the new positive and supportive people and friends I have met through Instagram. It has made me realize that the best people we can choose to include in our lives as friends are those that can support us and help us grow especially in new endeavors.
Another struggle I’ve had/have is pursuing all my interests at once. It has been difficult to find time for everything but with enough planning, you really can do it all. Keeping modeling/Instagram as an outlet without pressure has really helped me find balance in my life. I love being able to express myself in a creative environment whereas most of my life is more serious and career-driven. My advice to young women would be to keep everything in perspective and have some part of your life that you don’t take so seriously! Everyone needs some room to breathe and be themselves.
Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I guess I’d consider myself a portrait/creative model. While I have had opportunities in the past to try working with agencies standing 5’11”, I found it to be a lot less creative and collaborative. In the fashion industry, models don’t do their makeup, pick locations, outfits, styles, or poses. There were too little choice and lack of creativity as a model in the fashion industry. Additionally, I want to keep modeling as a fun thing I do here and there. I have so much pressure and competition in almost every other area of my life that I want to maintain modeling as my outlet. I’d say I’m different because of all these other completely opposite pursuits I have going for me. I’m most proud of my ability to adapt to different styles and settings. I think I’m pretty versatile when it comes to fashion. Spending time living in Los Angeles, Nashville, and Chicago the past four years, I have picked up on a lot of unique trends and ideas about fashion, makeup, and overall style.
Do you feel like there was something about the experiences you had growing up that played an outsized role in setting you up for success later in life?
My parents and siblings have been supportive of everything I have dreamed of doing! They inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams. Whether it is pursuing medicine, training for a triathlon, or modeling, they are there every step of the way, providing the support and everything else they can. I am so fortunate to have had them to lean on and to inspire me. Unfortunately, something I don’t talk much about is that I grew up with a father that had many illnesses including chronic kidney failure. He was diagnosed when I was a child and has had struggles ever since with kidney disease as well as countless other complications. The experience of having a close family member with health issues while trying to be successful as a student, an athlete, and everything in between taught me how to find balance in my life. I have learned to stay focused and in the moment of whatever it is that I am working on or doing at any given time. It has also given me a lot of perspective on how little you truly know about other people and their difficulties that they or others close to them may be going through in their life. The perseverance I have learned over the years has helped me become who I am today and will continue to be the momentum backing me in all of my future pursuits.
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