Model Profile #4: Q&A with Mikayla Mifsud

Labelled by Elle Magazine Canada as "one to watch", Canadian-born brunette Mikayla Mifsud is riding a wave of success in the lucrative and glamorous world of modelling. 

Having appeared in numerous fashion and fitness magazines worldwide, photographers and designers alike are drawn to Mifsud's uniquely exotic look; a result of her blended Maltese/Italian heritage.

Recently, she has appeared in an editorial for HUF Magazine, "The Artist Muse", photographed by our Fashion Photography Editor, Geoffrey Chuah.

Editor, Michelle Larin, interviewed Mifsud, who is equally captivating as she is down-to-earth, about her career, interests and personal style.

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Q:  When did you first decide to pursue modelling as a career?

A: I always wanted to get into modelling and was scouted on the streets a few times, but I didn’t take it too seriously until a few friends suggested I meet with Canadian agent Chantale Nadeau. The next day she had me sit down with Ford Toronto, and I was working the following week!  At 19, my career began.  Even though they say it’s best to start young, I’m glad I waited until I was a bit older and had a more sensible head on my shoulders! 

Q: What agencies are you signed with?

A: I’m currently signed with Chadwick models in Sydney, Union models in London, Montage models in Montreal, and recently with Sutherland models at home in Toronto after Ford models sadly shut down its Canadian division earlier this year.
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Q: What type of work have you done as a model?

A: I’ve appeared in most Canadian magazines, including FASHION magazine and Elle Canada. For the few short months I spent in Sydney, I was fortunate to shoot for InStyle Australia, Fitness First and Cosmo. I have also worked with an array of very talented designers, artists and photographers.

Q: Have you done any travelling?

A: Last September I decided to take a year's break from business school to model full-time and travel. I moved to London where I quickly learnt how insane the industry could be. The city was busier than anywhere I had ever experienced and full of energy. It's the kind of place that would be easy to get lost in if you didn’t have your wits about you or good people helping out along the way.
During my time working out of London, I travelled around the UK including Staffordshire in the country, and even the ice-cold beaches of Newquay.  I also shot in Budapest.  My time in London definitely helped prepare me for coming to Sydney, which has been one of the best experiences of my life so far.
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Q: Tell me about your most memorable modelling assignment?

A: My favourite modelling assignment would probably be my shoot for Fabulous Magazine UK in Budapest. They insisted we experience as much of the Hungarian culture as possible, including outdoor steam baths, backpacker bars, and incredible dining. We shot in the woods, in a palace, and even had a day with wolves on set!  It was incredible.

Q: What has been your most unusual modelling assignment?

A: My most unusual job is probably the shoot I did as the main character of a vampire novel.  There was fake blood and fangs!
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Q: Who have you most enjoyed working for as a model?

A: I would probably have to say Canadian designer Lucian Matis. I love him as a person and feel honoured every time I get to wear his creations - bringing them to life.

Q: Give me a rundown of life as a model. 

A: The life of a model is all over the place! It’s lovely getting all done up and taken care of on set, constantly meeting new and creative people, and getting to travel the world, but at the same time, your life is out of your hands. It’s hard to make plans with friends when you can’t guarantee your schedule until the day before and, even then, things can still present themselves last minute. I sometimes find myself craving some structure and need to remind myself how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing.
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Q: How do you prepare for a shoot?

A: I don’t do much to prepare.  I think models have it easy in that sense.  All I need to do is arrive to a set a clean blank canvas (hair, nails and face), with a nude bra and panties!

Q: Describe what it feels like being in-front of a camera?

A: It feels amazing being in front of a camera. It’s a chance for me to be creative and contribute my own touch to a photograph.
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Q: What do you like to do in your down time?

A: I try to surround myself with the things I love, like good company, music and food. Throw in some sunshine and I couldn’t ask for more. When I was in Sydney, I loved taking walks along Tamarama Beach.

Q: If you weren’t a model what do you think you would be doing?

A: Hard to say exactly, but I imagine something in business. I have finished three years of business studies at Ryerson University, with only one year remaining.  My studies are on hold at the moment, but I hope to go back and complete my qualification sometime soon.
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Q: Describe your personal style. What would you be wearing when you’re not dressed up for a shoot?

A: My style is very simple, comfortable and hardly ever includes regular pants. 

Q: Who’s celebrity style do you envy most?

A: I wouldn't say I follow celebrity style as such, but I’ve always had girl crushes on Annalynne McCord and Rachel Bilson.
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Q: List three things you couldn’t live without.

A: Happiness, good health and a heart. As long as you have these, everything else is a bonus!

Q: What music are you currently listening to?

A: My music is all over the place and changes constantly. Right now I really like Flume, Of Monsters And Men, Ashanti, and anything else fun to dance to.
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Q: What book are you currently reading?

A: "Putting Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I’m excited to be working with Sutherland models, as they represent models I’ve always admired.  I want to spend some time at home catching up with friends and family for now, but hope to make it back to Australia before the year is over.
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Model Profile #3: Heather Aboff

Raised in a small beach town in Central Florida USA, model Heather Aboff has been perfecting her art since age nine.  Standing at an impressive 178 cm tall, the striking brunette’s parents encouraged her to pursue modelling to improve her self-confidence. 

“Before then, I was convinced I was a giant!”, says Aboff.
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Aboff is currently based in New York City and signed to Silent Models NY.  She has undertaken a variety of work, including editorial, commercial, catalogue, runway shows and modelling for e-commerce. Her most recent includes photo shoots and fashion shows for well-established designers Nicole Miller, Tory Burch, Ellie Tahari and Catherine Malandrino.

Aboff likens her most memorable modelling assignment on location at historical ruins in Thailand to the movie “Lost in Translation”:

“The day started out beautifully, but quickly resulted in arguing with a monk, being chased by a Thai mob, and having a police escort to narrowly escape the chaos in the end!”
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To prepare for a shoot, Aboff says she drinks plenty of water and a “green juice drink for glowing skin.”  To her, it is important to maintain a holistically healthy lifestyle.

 Likening her role as a model to that of an actor, Aboff explains:

“In front of the camera, I portray a variety of emotions according to the meaning of the shoot.”
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 In her spare time Aboff enjoys reading, writing and taking nature walks:

“This allows me to relax, while still doing something beneficial for by mind, body, and spirit. If I wasn’t a model I’d be teaching and writing based off teachings like “A Course In Miracles” by Helen Schucman – the book I’m currently reading.”

Her quintessential outfit away from work is:

“A comfy pair of BCBG leggings and a tank top that a nice shirt or jacket can be thrown over instantly if I need to run to a job or casting!”

Aboff admits to having a weakness for clothes designed by Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.
 

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A combination of beauty and brains, Aboff earned her Associates Degree in business economics from Daytona State College at age 17.

Recently, she co-founded the World Fashion Forum at the United Nations:

“This annual event and ongoing program at the United Nations aims to identify how the fashion industry’s economic, social and cultural powers can be best positioned, focused and managed to alleviate the world’s most critical needs.”
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Her advice to aspiring models:

“Modelling is a business, and you must bring something special to the table at each job and casting to stand out.
Approach the market that best fits you, and work with a support team that believes in you 100%. Good performance and professionalism is critical to a long lasting relationship with clients. The fashion industry is small, so make sure you are always on top of your game.”

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Model Profile #2: Q&A with Brittaney Blanchard

Discovered by a newspaper photographer at the tender age of 14, 21-year old Brisbane born blonde bombshell, Brittaney Blanchard, gives us an insight into her life as an international model.

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Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and your interests.

A: Ok, where to start! Well ever since I was little I have loved to travel. I took my first steps in San Jose California, USA, so I guess I got the travel bug from my family. Although I have travelled quite a bit, my home is definitely here in Australia.
My background is a mixture of French and Chinese from my father's side and Danish and English from my mum's side. I also have a fair amount of good old Aussie blood in me too, so I'm quite the mix.
As for my interests, I enjoy eating beautiful, healthy foods, cooking and sharing recipes with others and morning walks along our spectacular Gold Coast beaches (which is where I am currently based).  I also love yoga and meditating for mind, body and soul. I’m a big believer of looking after the body, internally as well as externally and feeding my mind with healthy thoughts.

Q: When did you first decide to pursue modelling as a career?

A: When I was 14 a photographer who worked for the Sunday Mail spotted me in a shopping centre. He asked if he could shoot me for an article in the newspaper and then insisted on sending my photos to a modelling agency.  That's basically how my career started.

Q: What agencies are you currently signed with?

A: My mother agency is Vivien’s Models in Sydney and Brisbane. I am also signed with Cosmopolitan in Osaka, Japan, Fashion Models in Milan, Italy, and Time Model Management in Zurich, Switzerland.

Q: What sort of modelling work do you do?

A: Modelling for me is made up of runway shows, editorials, campaigns and commercial shoots. I have walked the catwalks at a few fashions weeks, mostly Brisbane and Milan and once in Sydney.
One of my most memorable runway shows was for Vogue in Florence, Italy. I was flown to Florence for three nights to do showings. The clients were lovely to work with and treated all the models beautifully.
I've also enjoyed doing shoots with designer Sally Koeswanto for Harper’s Bazaar Indonesia, editorials for Gucci and Versace in Milan and another favourite of mine was shooting the campaign for Braccilini in Italy.

Q: To what exotic locations has modelling taken you?

A: Travelling is one of the biggest benefits of having a career as a model. I've travelled to Japan and Milan for shoots with short visits to New York, Paris and Turkey. Each of these destinations has their own unique charm and culture. I must say though, I particularly love Europe for its architecture, history, incredible food and fashion houses!
I had my first contract requiring me to travel to Japan when I was 15, so it was exciting experiencing  such a different culture, especially with very little knowledge of their language!  In Osaka, hardly anyone speaks English and, unlike Tokyo where they have signs in both English and Japanese, Osaka only has signs in Chinese and Japanese.
The culture in Japan is very different to Australia - the Japanese are mainly focused on work and money, whereas Australians are quite laid back!

Q: Tell us more about what it was like to work as a model in Japan and Italy.

A: In Japan, models are transported around to castings in a van with a translator and you can be cast for up to 10 hours a day. Modelling is also quite different in that you have to learn to pose the "Japanese" way.
Milan on the other hand is possibly even busier than Japan and you have to find your way around to your castings by yourself. When I first went there it was during fashion week castings and in winter. My mum accompanied me and we would leave our  apartment as early as 6 am and get home sometimes as late as 9 or 10 pm. Not many of the locals speak English and we did get lost at times. It turned out to be a great way to get to know Milan; I can now navigate my way around the city on autopilot!
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Q: Tell us about your favourite modelling assignment.

A: When I think about it, I have so many favourite modelling memories! However, one that stands out for me is getting flown to Turkey for shoots with one of the country's leading fashion houses and meeting their major textile manufacturers. Mum and I were flown over there in business class and we were treated like princesses. We flew into Istanbul first and then Ankara for a couple of days. The history, architecture and food in Turkey is amazing.  

Q: Tell us about your most unusual modelling assignment.

A: At the first ever photo shoot I did in Japan, a client ask my permission to chop off half of my eyebrow! That was certainly an unexpected moment!

Q: The life of a model sounds glamorous, but just how glamorous is it?

A: What the public sees as glamorous is certainly not the reality behind the scenes. We are on the runway for only a few moments during catwalk shows and backstage is a different world altogether: running models, photographers taking backstage shots, being interviewed for various TV programs, long days of walking back and forth to castings and jobs, early morning starts and late finishes…the list goes on.
Don't get me wrong, I love what I do and there are certainly many perks having a career as a model. I get to travel the world and meet some amazing, creative people.  All I am saying is that it is by no means an easy career! Not only do you have to work long hours, you are also limited from making long term plans, as you never know where you might be next. You are effectively "marketing" your body, and so there is a lot of pressure to keep in top physical shape.
As a model, you also need to develop the mental stamina to withstand rejection and not allow that to affect how you feel about yourself. It's akin to attending multiple job interviews every day and being rejected by most. Understanding that rejection is not necessarily about you and that the client is simply looking for a particular look to fulfil their brief is important for maintaining perspective.
In particular, Milan can be a tough market - the competition there is fierce. I have met many models who have arrived in Milan with high hopes, but left without being cast for a single modelling job. We mostly hear about the girls who make it, but for every one who does there are hundreds who don't. All are beautiful and equally as worthy; it is simply the nature of the industry! I guess you can compare being a professional model to being a professional athlete: there are those who make it to the Olympics and those who don't. 
Having said all of this, when you walk down the runway in a glorious outfit, or see the result of an editorial shoot or campaign, it is a great feeling.  It makes all the rejection and hard work worth it.

Q: Give us a rundown of what you do to prepare for a shoot.

A: First of all, I receive the call sheet from my agency, which will provide details about the client and job (including address, start and finish times and sometimes a brief about the look the client is going for and what you need to bring). Sometimes you don't need to bring much with you and other times you need to cart along quite a bit! Usually, you are asked to arrive with clean hair and no-makeup, but there might be the odd occasion when you are required to arrange your own hair and make-up for a show or shoots.
I also like to take along with me to shoots a packed lunch consisting of a healthy salad, pear and a handful of almonds to keep my hunger at bay.

Q: Describe what it feels like being behind the camera.

A: Being behind the camera is one of the greatest feelings! You get to play different roles and pull different poses and facial expressions. It is sometimes challenging, as you consistently have to be aware of the angles of your face and body and, depending on the clothes you are given, you need to be conscious of posing in ways that will present the garments you are wearing in their most favourable light.  
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Q: How do you feel about the pressure models receive from the media and the fashion industry to stay thin?

A: This is a controversial question and one I am glad you asked, as I am quite passionate about the subject.
There are definitely some "measurement "requirements to be a model, especially for certain overseas markets. Let's be honest, clothes do look great on thin girls. Models are clothes hangers to some degree and that is part of the job criteria. Particular designers require models to fit their clothes to make them look a certain way and you either accept this or you don't model.
However, not all models need to be thin. There is always the option of plus size modelling and some models can make a great career and a lot of money from this sector of the industry.
I personally don't believe in dieting to stay thin. To keep my body in good condition, I maintain a healthy balanced diet combined with regular exercise, meditating and positive affirmations. I used to be overweight before I began modelling and was bullied at school. If anything, modelling has improved my self-esteem, rather than destroy it (unlike the media would have everyone believe).
I am not convinced that the modelling industry is the cause of eating disorders. Girls who develop these disorders have major self-esteem issues to begin with and the fact that they don't feel good about themselves is what needs to be addressed. Taking away pictures of pretty slim girls won't make them feel better. I have used such pictures to create a healthier and happier me.
Ultimately, it's all about a girl's attitude and self-belief and this is what we should be focusing on, rather than the "thinness" of their bodies. Many models are unfairly targeted and bullied for being thin and this is equally soul destroying as criticising someone for being overweight.

Q: What do you enjoy doing in your down time?

A: I love to cook, go for a beach walk, watch a good movie or explore and discover different locations - I am amazed by nature! Sewing is one of my latest pastimes. At present, I also spend a lot of my spare time working on a new venture called "Models Club Online", which has been set-up to showcase the different creative industries that comprise the modelling industry. This is a very exciting venture for me because I am not aware of any other source which provides young people with access to such valuable industry information.

Q: If you weren’t a model, what type of work would you be doing?

A: I think I would have pursued a career in the health and nutrition field or in one of the creative fields. Right now though, I can't imagine myself doing anything other than modelling.  I love it!

Q: Describe your personal style. What would we find you wearing when not dressed up for a shoot?

A: I love feeling feminine, so dressing elegantly is my main style. I do sometimes enjoy dressing a bit "grunge" and chilled like a tomboy. When I'm at the beach or home, I often wear comfortable shorts with a big oversized t-shirt!

Q: Name some of your favourite fashion labels.

A: There are so many! To name a few: Christian Dior, Chanel, Gucci, Elie Saab, Marc Jacobs and, here at home, Alex Perry, Akira, Camilla, Lisa Ho, Gail Sorronda and Bowie.

Q: Who’s celebrity style do you envy most?

A: I wouldn't say I envy any celebrity's style, but I do adore Miranda Kerr's beautiful, stylish appearance when she is walking the streets of Manhattan!
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Q: What are three things you couldn’t live without?

A: A big bottle of water, my phone and tasty but healthy food!

Q: What music are you currently listening to?

A: I'm loving Phil Hancock's 'Castle In The Air'. His latest EP just came out on iTunes. I'm also listening to Ed Sheeran - Small Bump and Birdy - Skinny Love.

Q: What books are you currently reading?

A: "Wishes Fulfilled" by Dr Wayne Dyer, "The Secret" and "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle.

Q: What advice can you give aspiring models?

A: Dream big, believe in yourself and love your life! A goal can never be too big! If you really want a career in modelling, then keep going, don't take rejection personally and find an agent that not only believes in you, but one that communicates clearly and works with you to achieve your goals. Never be afraid to speak up for what you want, as agents are not mind readers and they earn their money from you earning money. Make sure you also remain grounded and respect everyone around you. You are the same and equal to everyone else, so put your ego away if it tries to rear its ugly head!

Q: Next up?

A: More modelling and starting a creative revolution around the world with "Models Club Online"!  I'm passionate about assisting people to discover their creative passions; it's my goal to help people achieve this!
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Model Profile #1: Anna Pembroke

Many young models are lured by the glamour and perks a career in international modelling can offer; yet the reality is few succeed.  One Australian fashion model is determined to cement her position in the international modelling scene, working her way across continents to accomplish her dream.  Her name is Anna Pembroke

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Currently living the high life in Paris, France, a talent scout discovered Anna at the age of 18 at a modelling competition in Brisbane.  One year later, her career as a model began to flourish.

Signed with Major Models Paris and Viviens Model Management in Australia, Anna’s work includes posing for major editorials and perfume campaigns, as well as frequenting the catwalks at various collection shows.  Her most unusual modelling assignment to date is a shoot she did for Harper's Bazaar in Malaysia.  

“My head was bound with fabric. I could hardly breathe,” explains the brunette beauty.
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No stranger to travel, Anna spent her childhood living in various Australian states and in England. Modelling has fed Anna’s travel bug, giving her the opportunity to experience new places including New York, Paris, Germany, Hong Kong and Singapore.

“I love seeing new cities. Every city has something special about it, something different to anywhere else.”

Of Paris, Anna says:

“It’s an amazing city.  Some of the most talented photographers are based here. It has allowed me work with some great people and the shopping is fantastic. I love vintage shopping. Paris has incredible vintage shops and markets.”
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Although acknowledging the benefits associated with being a model, she argues:

“It is a lot of hard work.  It can be an unstable life, where you are constantly moving around and don’t really have any one place to call home. You make great friends but everyone is constantly coming and going.”

Anna is also acutely aware of the pressure placed on models to maintain very slender frames.

“There is a lot of pressure from the media and the industry to stay thin. I don’t agree with it but at the end of the day I don’t see it changing. I feel bad for girls; living in an apartment with other models you see how differently it affects every girl.  It gets inside everybody’s head.”
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To prepare for a shoot, Anna says she does “very little”.  

“To be honest I don’t do much, I always make sure my hair and nails are clean. The team does everything else.”  She describes being behind the camera as “like acting.  I am somebody else.”

In her down time Anna enjoys watching movies, going out with her friends and dancing.  If not a model, Anna says she would be working as an early childhood teacher (a qualification she commenced studying for prior to pursuing her modelling career).

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On those rare days when Anna isn't modelling clothes, she can be found wearing “Black. Layers. Jeans. Boots.” Her favourite fashion designer is Galliano and her style icon is fellow Australian model, Abby Lee.

Three things Anna could not live without are her “phone, internet and music”.  Rihanna is the artist currently playing on this supermodel’s Ipod.

Anna’s advice to aspiring models is to:

“roll with the punches and don’t ever be discouraged by knock backs.”

Where to next for her? "New York". 

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