Cole Sprouse: Digging Up a Bright Future

As we turn our heads to view the history of Disney Channel stars, we typically see a timeline that follows a particular pattern. Child star on the rise, capturing the hearts of millions of youth worldwide and as they reach their late teenage years, they find the common need to individualize themselves, to capture a new character in their maturing lives. Soon, we see the use of illegal paraphernalia, risque actions follow suit, and unfortunately, a child star shining bright in the limelight becomes a burnout image of what we used to idolize. Almost inevitable, it is in a rare case that a few fortunate Disney alum find a way to escape this engulfing fate, the Sprouse Twins being one of them.


Both are commonly recognized for their appearances as Julian in Big Daddy, Ben on F.R.I.E.N.D.S., and Zack and Cody on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody/The Suite Life on Deck. On their hit Disney Channel shows, The Suite Life, Dylan and Cole Sprouse captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of kids. With such a strong acting future ahead of them, the Sprouse twins surprised many by taking a hiatus from the entertainment industry and enrolling into a university, New York University, that is. Slowly fading out of the industry, the twins have discovered passions that lie outside of the entertainment business, broadening their horizons and skills. As seniors this year, the Sprouse twins have found their niche outside of acting, but it isn’t to say that they aren’t recognized anymore. Daily encounters with the Sprouse Twins are just as exciting as any other meeting with a celebrity, which you can view from any fan photo on the streets. Luckily enough, I was able to meet with Cole Sprouse at a quiet cafe to discuss his new passions, life beyond New York, and his possible resurgence in an acting career.

Cole has been noted to have a very eclectic array of majors, ranging from Archaeology to Journalism to Photography and even Anthropology. With all those skills at hand, where does his main interest fall? “Well, my main focus I suppose is archaeology. One of the strengths of Gallatin is that you are able to supplement what you may feel is lacking. I chose something like Journalism because I felt as though my writing really needed a boost. In my first semester, I took a photography class. It was digital photography. I had only taken it so I could learn how to use my camera. I got a camera, because I knew I was going to be going on geological expeditions and I wanted to document them and take pictures of artifacts. I ended up carrying my camera everywhere with me and after that I just started taking pictures. I then started doing things on Instagram that made people happy, but the main purpose of what I study and even my photography is still archaeology. It just so happens that it’s all able to apply to one thing.”

While archaeology and acting are on two different spectrums, Cole has managed to take on both trades in his lifetime. Even though archaeology is the focus now, is there any chance that we may see him return to our television screen? “Ya know, my brother and I get that a lot. Right now, an Italian director that we worked with when we were younger has asked us to do something right out of the gate. But it is quite heavy, and my brother and I, well, we came up in a family that didn’t have much and when you come up in a family that didn’t have much, rarely do you go into something like the entertainment industry and say, “well no, I’m going to stick to the artistic side of it, yes?” So now, I think my brother and I are in a privileged position when it comes to acting. Do I really think we could go back and pick and choose what we do and all that? Ya know, it’s strange, we both came to NYU expecting to fade out, we wanted to fade out, and when you’re on a show, like the Suite Life, you’re very recognizable, but when you’re a twin, it’s extremely hard to get away without being recognized. I get recognized by myself, but when I’m with my brother, since we’re a pair, it’s nonstop. And for the longest time, my brother and I, we wanted that to stop, to cease. And we went to NYU to cut that out, and it still hasn’t. It’s both a blessing and a curse. What it has shown us is that a lot of people want us to get back into the industry and so, as of now, it is a great way to make money, a great way to express yourself. You get to meet a lot of cool people. Do I know for certain that we are going to go back yet, not really, but even if we do go back, we probably won’t do the whole “twin” routine. In fact, a lot of interest has been expressed in us playing separate roles or even the same part, which is interesting. But, nothing is really set in stone.”

And as we have seen for his entire acting career, Dylan and Cole have been a packaged deal. Is there any interest in working with his twin again? “Well, when he is your brother, every day is working, you know what I mean? No, no, yeah of course. Honestly, my brother and I are both very critical, which in the industry, can be quite rare, because people see success and they look at you and ask how can they critique someone who is successful, when in actuality, anyone who is successful or not, needs critiquing. Absolutely. And so, the good thing about having a twin is that I can honestly tell him truly, that something sucks. And he’ll listen and vice verse.”

Even though archaeology is his major, Cole has been known to dabble in the art of photography, from multiple, famous Instragram accounts to beautiful shots he’s taken professionally. From the range of photos he has taken, what seems to be his favorite type of photography? “I think my favorite type, and I think it’s good that you noticed that there are multiple types, but my favorite type is probably fortune photography, and what I mean by that is, you have a camera and something pops up, it’s something unique, and the pieces fit together well enough that a photo can create something amazing. Like, I use HONY as an example. You have this character that just appears and he’s/she’s/it’s unique enough to have it’s picture taken. And it’s only fortune/fate that brought the subject and the photographer together. It was just fortune falling upon the incident and it was someone who said, ok, this deserves to be photographed. So, I like that kind of photography. I used to hate portraits. I think that’s because my brother and I used to be in the industry and we were told to pose, smile, take a stance. I took a real aversion to that. And there are a couple forms of photography that I really hate and it’s that type of posed photography, and I wouldn’t even call it photography, I would call it picture taking, where, it’s like, ok everyone, we’re all here in this moment, let’s take some photos. I think my bias is that my brother and I grew up doing that professionally. I love when something is candid and someone does a funny face. I think that a lot of the network that surrounds me nervously asks if I have any bad photos of them because I’ll post them. I think now, more than ever, with our virtual personalities and how we interact with each other socially, being so predetermined and sought out, or posting this photo or that photo, is giving us a very biased understanding of one another. And when you get a photo that is just atrocious or ugly or unflattering or just honest, whether it’s angry or happy, that’s the best. My first semester when I did a photography class,I ended up getting in a lot of trouble. For one of my projects, I dressed up so you couldn’t tell who I was, and I waited at intersections for taxis. I would just open the door and take photos of the reactions of the people inside the cab. I think everyone plans what’s going to happen, and, well, it’s only in those moments of pure surprise that you get those moments of honesty, that true surprise, really any sort of response. I would rip open the door and take pictures. At first, I thought I would only get fear and I thought, ok, even if it is only fear, that will be fine, because at least it’s honest. But, I got a range of emotions. It was really honest. I even had a lady, she was my favorite, when I did it, she had a child sitting next to her in the seat, and rather than going into mama bear mode, she just looked at me and posed. When I opened the door, she just looked at me and posed.”

With so many talents that Cole has acquired, there is the case of remembrance, how will he be remembered by? Many people will remember him by Disney Channel, it’s inevitable, but is this necessarily a bad thing? What does Cole Sprouse want to be remembered for? “You know it’s funny, I’ve received that question before. A lot of Disney Channel actors and actresses, when they stop working for Disney Channel, they have a real aversion for not wanting to be remembered by Disney Channel. They try and redefine themselves through some type of “Wrecking Ball” performance or drug use, or showing their total wild side, which I think is totally foolish. For one, as a human, you’re lucky enough to be remembered for anything. The very human condition is that most of the time you’re forgotten. So, I don’t mind being remembered by Disney, especially because Disney Channel has brought a lot of joy to a lot of young children, which without a doubt are the people who deserve the joy the most. So, I don’t mind being remembered for that, which usually surprises people. At the end of the day, if you’re remembered for anything, you’re doing something right. Since I was young, I was called Julian from Big Daddy, Ben from Friends, Cody for the Suite Life, and Cole by the people who really know me. You just learn to respond to a bunch of names and different ideas. If I could be remembered for anything though, I would want to be remembered by something that pushes human knowledge or questioning forward. My one thing with acting is that it’s a very superficial thing, it’s a very temporary thing. You make people laugh, cry, etc. and that’s it. Most of the time it stays in just a lifetime, 50 plus years, but after that it dies down. People forget about the actors. One of the reasons I love archaeology is because it gets people asking questions. It’s a huge mystery. And once you get answers, it’s so important enough that people take notice and it moves human knowledge forward, they think a new way about something. You can say you have honestly left a mark, you really did something for an entire understanding for the world. That’s what I want to be remembered for, but, Disney Channel has done me a huge service. People know my name, my face. My social media is definitely lacking, but we’re still being recognized, and it has done me a huge service. So, I don’t mind being remembered for that, but I would still like to be remembered for pushing humanity forward. That’s what I strive to do.”

And living in New York must have helped tremendously with him escaping his Disney Channel fate. “Oh yeah, definitely. And I still think the idea that you are able to study whatever you want is the most helpful thing. My brother and I are still some of the only people on Disney Channel to go to a university. That’s because when you’re in the acting industry and you’re making money and you’re determined as being successful, you have the idea that you don’t need to do anything else, that you don’t need to try anything else, you don’t need to study anything else or take an interest in anything else, because if you continue on doing the same thing, that the fame will keep on rolling in, the money will keep on rolling in and bada bing, you don’t have to do anything else. But, coming to New York was amazing because one, it taught me what a brat I was and how spoiled I was, which was absolutely necessary and being able to study something else showed me what actual fulfillment feels like. Like, the acting industry is great and I’ve been doing it since I was a kid and you make a lot of people really happy, but it doesn’t fulfill you as working really hard and studying really hard and getting that good grade off your own back does, all without the assistance of a whole team of cast and crew. Coming to New York has been a fantastic thing. And everyone here doesn’t give a shit. No one cares who you are. If you are a good person, you’re a good person. If you’re an honest person, you’re an honest person. But you can’t get away with showing up and taking off your sunglasses and announcing you’re here to get free shit. And that’s good. No one deserves that. It teaches you nothing. And so the good thing about New York is that no one has that and it makes you strive even harder to have that.”

Now, with all that in mind, with all his majors, his talents, his skills, where does Cole Sprouse want to be in 5, 10, even 20 years from now? “Oh…I think, if I could be in any place in 5, 10, 20 years, I’d wanna be in a place where I’m running something, like a dig, or in a different part of the world and I’m still learning. I think I just want to be uncomfortable. When you are so comfortable, you don’t learn too much anymore. With archaeology, you travel all the time, and when you travel all the time, you’re always uncomfortable, not like nervous, but you’re not in your zone of comfort and so you are so aware of everything. I’d like that. I’d like to be outside of my comfy zone. That would be nice.”

With all of this in place, the world can now see that there is a possibility for a better ending than what we have seen. The Sprouse Twins have found a way for their lives to carry on out of the spotlight, while still maintaining a dignified image of who they are. Congratulations to these tremendous young men and do carry on with all your endeavors.


Marvin Funes: Life of Luxury

High fashion, luxurious expenses, aggrandized lifestyles, really, the idea of a life as such collectively tickles the inner mechanisms of all our minds. And as we spend a great deal of time fantasizing about this extravagant life, plotting our way to attain such glory, Mr. Marvin Funes is capturing the scene, bringing our fantasies to view.


How generous of him, right? Yes, the 18 year old photographer has spent years capturing our wildest fantasies, creating incredible photos that grasp truly what luxury, fashion, and royalty encompasses. Studying photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), Mr. Funes will hone in on his skills, perfecting his impeccable craft in order to capture the minds and attention of everyone who comes in contact with his creations. So, without further adieu, I am honored to present a fascinating, talented man.

With such a strong, perfectly worded introduction (I take full responsibility for such *wink*), Mr. Funes must have skills that have been expertly crafted for years, maybe even since childhood. He must enlighten us on his life-long passion. “I first started photography in 8th grade, so in 2009; I was 13 years old. The way I started is actually pretty funny. There was this girl I knew through a mutual friend and we didn’t like each other at all. Before I started photography, I was more inclined to drawing and painting, and digital art every now and then- there was always tension between us since she liked doing those things as well and always tried to outshine me. One day she took up photography and started posting pictures on Facebook; I didn’t like them- I thought I could do way better. So, I ended up buying a cheap point-and-shoot camera and started experimenting with different genres of photography; I eventually fell in love with the medium.

A year after that I started specializing in fashion photography. I got myself a DSLR, that I suppose was considered nice at the time. I still use that same camera, the Canon Rebel T1i. It’s pretty outdated and I still only use its 18mm-55mm kit lens, but it gets the job done.”

So, maybe not lifelong passion, but definitely a passion. This passion is exemplified through his vibrant work. With such incredible pieces, he must be noticed by notable companies, I’m sure. “I can’t really say that I’ve worked with anyone “notable.” I’ve only ever worked with clients/talent who are brand new; up-and-coming. The market in the DMV area for fashion isn’t very desirable, in my opinion- it’s in no way comparable to NYC, obviously, so I never really bothered trying to get a lot of work while I was there. But ever since I made the big move from NOVA to NYC on August 1st, I’ve been trying to get my name out there. So far, some notable people I’ve met with are agents with MSA Models and ADAM. I’ve also reached out to the owner of V-Productions- who’s also a photographer and producer with amazing connections; he helped produce the “X Mark Your Spot” campaign for Calvin Klein. I’m currently in the process of trying to become his second shooter, and sending out my work to more modeling agencies to test with them.”

Soon enough, it will come along, that I feel with no uncertainty. Now, as I have said before, Mr. Funes holds a predilection for the extravagant features of life. Is this what captures his inspiration? “I’m mainly inspired by extravagance; I love rich, romantic aesthetics. I like looking at major fashion campaigns, particularly ones for brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, and Versace, and trying to create work that look similar to those but in my own voice. There’s so much attention to detail in those campaigns to make everything look expensive; the composition, the styling, the story, the mood, etc- it’s all perfected. The way the pictures are shot give a lot of depth and movement to them as well, which is something I like doing a lot. I like having a wider angle in my pictures and seeing the model without losing the background- it feels more real and engaging to me.”

Well, with this love of luxury, where does his love fall in his favorite genre of photography? “My favorite type of photography is definitely fashion. I love the fantasy; the luxury. The creative environment and commercial opportunity is something that I’m really drawn to.”

And as well all know, fashion is a world more luxurious and aggrandized as any, which sure makes for some incredible shoots. What has been his favorite shoot he has done so far? “My favorite shoot that I’ve done has got to be the one I did for my friend, Shannon Tate. It was for her senior collection; she needed shots done to create a lookbook and sell at the runway show. We did the shoot in a gorgeous museum called the Anderson House; it was in DC. Every room was so intricate and luxurious. I had studio lights, assistants, a hair and makeup person; I had to coordinate a time with the person that ran the museum for the private shoot- it was probably the most elaborate shoot I’ve done so far since I usually just work with one other person.”

While it may have been elaborate, I’m sure it was an experience that would never be exchanged. I’m sure, though, that his dream shoot hasn’t been accomplished as of yet though, so what exactly would his dream shoot entail? “My dream would be to shoot a big fashion campaign at the Palace of Versailles with a high profile model like Kate Moss, Natasha Poly, or Magdalena Frackowiak, with couture gowns. It’s been done, sure, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. There are a lot of things keeping me from it, like lack of experience, connections, budget, etc., but hopefully one day I’ll get to experience a shoot like that.”

Well with the talent he possesses, I’m sure the dream shoot will be reality in the nearest future. With one ambition revealed, what other fantasies wonder in Mr. Funes’ mind? “I’d love to become a very well established, notable photographer- just like any other photographer would want, I’m sure. I’d love to see my work in Vogue and on billboards throughout major cities. Branching out from photography and getting into modeling would be really nice, too. I always viewed modeling as another form of performance art- I’d absolutely love to walk for fashion houses like Givenchy or Alexander McQueen. Collaborating with designers and creating a fashion line is something I’ve been interested in doing as well. I’ve done a lot of menswear sketches, but I’ve never bothered to do anything with them since I don’t know how to sew.”

Incredible enough that those accomplishments have not been met, yet. But in close time, I’m sure all his aspirations will fall perfectly in place, as I have only met a few with talent that Mr. Funes possesses. So whether you dream of being royalty or already lucky enough to be granted with a life, Mr. Funes will always be there to capture the fantasy that is such.

Lauren Alef: The Dior Diva

It’s time to tell the age-old tale of the California girl meeting southern hospitality on her way to fame. Never heard of it before? Then you are in for quite a treat.


Once upon a time, 20 years ago to be exact, there was a stunning girl, born all the way across the land in Santa Barbara, California. Not only were her looks charming, her knowledge far surpassed the rest, allowing her to receive admission to Duke University. And, traveling across the land, the English Major met many feats, taking on Dior, Teen Vogue, Saint Laurent, and even Harper’s BAZAAR. And while it may seem as though it is a fairy tale, Lauren Sachiko Alef is a real, living talent that I had the incredible opportunity of featuring.

Ah, Dior, Teen Vogue, Runway, such amazing feats, she must have fantasized about those accomplishments since she was a little girl, right? “Modeling was never something I even remotely considered growing up. Besides being short (think: 5’3” on a good day), I have an athletic build and was actually a bit of a tomboy. Ever since I was really young, I’ve been a competitive athlete (I was a very competitive swimmer and volleyball player, a scholastic All-American and black belt in judo, and now I’m on the Duke rowing team).

But at the same time, I always had a pretty creative mind. I was fascinated by art – observing it and making it – and towards the end of junior high, that sort of creativity began to translate to my wardrobe. I started experimenting with trying to express myself through my clothes, and became hooked as I began learning about different designers, trends, and styles.

At around the same time this transition was happening, I got my first modeling job. I was fourteen-years-old – a freshman in high school.”

Sad to say, that’s considered somewhat of a late start nowadays. So, what was the first job she was able to covet? “My freshman year of high school, my best friend and I accompanied our older brothers on a college road trip on the east coast. We saw a model casting in a Teen Vogue we were reading on the plane there, and realized we would be in the New York area around the time it was happening. We figured we would go just for the experience, and I truly had zero expectations of being chosen. The casting consisted of them taking polaroid shots and asking us a few short questions (like our favorite designers or to describe our personal style). Towards the end of the day, we came back and they announced 5 winners. I was actually the very last person they announced, and I didn’t believe it when they said my name.

The five of us were to walk in a prom runway show the next week at one of the Teen Vogue Haute Spots that was covered in an in-book listing in the magazine.”

Oh, so fancy. I would say what an incredible stroke of luck, yet, who would be that shocked with a face like her’s? But, I do want to hear more of this incredible endeavor. “The prom runway show I walked in for Teen Vogue was a pretty surreal experience. We came in for a fitting, and I got to try on a ton of amazing designer gowns and accessories. Ultimately, they chose 3 very different outfits for me to walk in (one bright, one edgy, and one romantic). On the day of the show, we had to get there a few hours early for hair and MUA. I loved the whole production of it – the styling and creativity behind it all. But in terms of the actual show, I was kind of a nervous wreck. As weird as it sounds, whenever I had been in the spotlight before that, I was never really aware that people were looking at me. For example, if I was playing a volleyball game, I was so engaged in the actual game that I would tune out the crowd. In this case, I had to be a lot more self-aware, and I definitely felt like I had to fake a confidence that didn’t come naturally to me. It was definitely challenging, but at the end of the day, it was really fun, and I got to meet some amazing people (like Amy Astley, editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue).

After that experience, I was totally hooked on fashion. When I had met Amy, I asked her for some advice on how to be successful in the industry, and she told me to get as much experience as possible. So that’s what I tried to do. I started designing formal dresses, taking photography classes, working as a stylist at a local boutique, and interning in the editorial department at a local magazine. As this was all happening, Teen Vogue gave me the opportunity to enter the “Dior Diva” competition. For this, people voted on social media for the winner, who was to be flown out to NYC for a photo shoot to appear in the magazine. My friends were incredibly supportive, and I really think it was because of them that I won the competition.

But again I got flown out to NYC and set up in a hotel in Times Square for a few days. I got to tour the Teen Vogue HQ. On the day of the photo shoot, a car took me to Industria Superstudios, and I went through hours of hair, makeup, and wardrobe styling. The shoot was for Dior makeup, so the focus was portrait images. This was my first photoshoot, and I expected it to be different from my runway experience in that I wouldn’t have a ton of people looking at me. But I was definitely wrong. I didn’t realize that it takes a village to make a photo shoot happen. There were a ton of people on set, and it took me a little bit of time to get comfortable in front of the camera. But it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, and it solidified my interest to work in fashion.”

Well, maybe this is a fairy tale then, as all of it sounds incredibly surreal. Yet, this is not the only talent Ms. Alef possesses in the fashion industry. While she was found behind the camera, she also can be found behind the company. “As much as I enjoyed my modeling experiences, I never saw it as a viable career option. I think Teen Vogue was a special avenue for me because they were so accommodating to different looks and builds. But at the same time, I wasn’t particularly passionate about modeling. I was passionate about fashion and the production, creativity, and community behind it.

So, once I got to college, I began to experiment in different parts of the fashion industry with summer internships. My first summer, I worked in the PR department at Saint Laurent in New York City. There I handled a lot of the sample trafficking, and saw VIP and editorial requests through start to finish (from the initial requests to pulling looks, to accumulating coverage of the product). It was a really hands-on experience, and I got some cool opportunities (like helping dress Scarlett Johansson for the Tony Awards) and got to work with some of the most hard-working, fun people I’ve ever met. After working there, I wasn’t completely set on a direct career goal, but I did realize that I want to work in a creative capacity in the industry, and I want to work with people.

The next summer, I decided to switch things up a little bit and work in the Marketing department at Harper’s BAZAAR in NYC. The entire department was filled with such nice people who were so invested in making sure I was getting the most out of my experience there, and because of that, I got some really cool opportunities. One of the most memorable ones was getting to assist at a photoshoot for The Coveteur (one of my favorite websites of all time). Having just finished my experience there, I’m still not entirely set on a particular department, but I know I like working at photoshoots and at events. Because, like I said before, I like to express myself creatively in a collaborative environment.”

With such incredible experiences in the fashion industry, an industry that finds home in New York, why Duke University? “I have the biggest heart for Southern California, but I figured I should have an out-of-state experience for college, just so I could experience living in another part of the country for a part of my life. Duke had everything I wanted in a school. Strong academics, amazing athletics, school spirit, a social scene, and not too severe winters. And it’s totally provided.

I’ve had a great two years at Duke so far. I’ve gotten involved in a lot of different things there – some new and some old. I walked onto the Varsity rowing team. I was an RA for freshman (this year I’ll be one for upperclassman). I’m in a sorority (Kappa Kappa Gamma). I’m a leader for Campus Outreach, an on-campus ministry that’s provided me with really solid, loving community. And in terms of fashion, I got to intern for Rent the Runway during the school year, and I work as a Fashion Editor for FORM, Duke’s fashion magazine.”

So, with such a full plate, full of numerous talents and opportunities, what aspirations and goals lie ahead for Ms.Alef? “There are a couple things I’m passionate about. First – people. I love meeting and working with people. And not on a superficial level; I like really getting to know and connecting with people at a heart level. So I know whatever job I (hopefully) get, I will be working with people. I’ve been so fortunate to work with really friendly, kind people in the fashion industry, but for me it’s so important to reflect that wherever I work. I know sometimes the industry can get a bad rap for being harsh or superficial. In regards to that, I do have sort of lofty aspirations for the industry. I’ve found that a lot of the time, people are searching for something to make themselves feel complete. For me, I don’t want fashion, beauty, or self-image to be the thing that completes people. I want to help people to feel fully complete on their own, and have fashion as an enhancer – as an avenue of self-expression. Because at the end of the day, fashion really is fun. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing when I graduate, but hopefully you’ll see me working hard in the fashion industry, working with people and getting to express myself creatively and influencing people in and out of the industry.”

And so the tale is told to here, but fret not, for this fair maiden has much farther to travel, many more feats to accomplish, and with the talents she possesses, in no time, I’m sure she will be ruling the land.


Tal Barnston: The Perfect Fit

To maintain one’s body is a struggle. The calorie-coated items of our daily lives plague our healthy mind, or, well, the part of the mind that is trying to be healthy. It’s hard to master a nutritional, healthy lifestyle, and yet, not only has Tal Barnston perfected the task, he’s helping others do it for themselves.


The 21 year old, Los Angeles native has spent the past few years taking his physique and overhauling it, for the growth of his athletic abilities and for his blossoming modeling career.  And of course, it only makes sense that he studies Physical Therapy at the University of Santa Barbara. To hear the intensive training he undergoes, as well as his trainees, was incredibly interesting, even though I felt exhausted just hearing about it myself. So, take a gulp of water and a deep breath, for it’s time to undergo some training.

Making it in the modeling world requires you to have a near perfect physique, but with Mr. Barnston, he’s already one step ahead of the game. So, while maintaining an incredible body is one large portion of his life, where does modeling fall? “I have never officially signed with a modeling agency. Since the age of 18 I have been asked to model for different shoots. Various photographers have been interested in shooting for mutual portfolio development and I have also done several shoots for up and coming clothing companies. Modeling has not been a lifelong passion. However, keeping in shape, healthy, and looking as best possible all the time has always been consistent throughout my life.”

So the interest in a healthy lifestyle has been a constant through his life, but when did he first express interest in helping others achieve their ideal bodies? “I started personal training at the age of 17. I wasn’t trying to establish myself as a trainer at the time, but simply develop as a basketball player. I played basketball all 4 years of high school and was by far the smallest and skinniest for the first 3 years. Hiring Rene Johnson, basketball and personal fitness trainer, was one of the best decisions I had ever made. He started as my trainer and developed into my best friend until this day. He helped me gain 35 lbs in the first month and half and take my game to a much more advanced level. After having such drastic changes, I must have influenced a few people because others were now asking for my help as well. 1 person turned into 10 people by the time I was 18. 10 people turned into 15 by the time I was 19. At the age of 21 I currently assist and train 20 people. The numbers seem to increase as I spend more and more time in Los Angeles. Studying Athletic Training and working in the Athletic Training room with all Santa Barbara City College athletes has translated over to my ability to develop men, women, and children all over Los Angeles and Beverly Hills.”


And with his intensive knowledge of training and the human body, he got a gig with The Santa Barbara Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity. “In Fall of 2014, I rushed the University of Santa Barbara Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) fraternity simply for the experience I would receive. I felt that the frat had a collection of individuals who I could create some memories with and build relationships that could only benefit my success in the near future. In the process of pledging I became known as that fitness guy that could most likely answer questions and help out with anything fitness related. I always helped out and decided that after initiation, it would be a great opportunity to help and build my personal experience with a fraternity boot camp. I began hosting open workouts 5-6 times a week 1-2 times a day for 3 months. In a frat that reaches numbers over 100 individuals, over 3/4 had came to the workouts.”

Well, with his popularity among the frat, he must have a great workout system. So, what would a workout with Tal Barnston entail? “Training the fraternity consisted of a 30-40 minute high intensity and high pace bodyweight workout from start to finish. The workout would always begin with a group dynamic stretch (stretching that involves active movements related to the exercises about to be executed). It would then move into separating everyone into even groups to work with. If there were 15 people at the workout that day there would be 3 groups, 20 people and there would most likely be 4 groups. In that group I would choose exercises that needed to be accomplished in a collective fashion in an attempt to always keep our brotherhood working together and keeping the family aspect involved. An example would be one person doing 10 clap push ups while everyone else was in a squat hold. Once the person finished the push ups he would get up into squat position and the person to the right of him would begin his clap push ups. This would continue until everyone in the group had completed the pushups. Group exercises like this may start off easy for the first 2 minutes, but it soon turns into a lot of motivating and positive enforcement in order to finish and move on to a collection of different exercises.”

I’m literally winded from just imagining that. I can’t even begin to imagine what he does on his own. “In order to maintain my physique, I workout and stay active 6 days out of the week. I surf in the early mornings before work 3 times a week,  have a high intensity 40 minute weight lifting/bodyweight workout in the late afternoon, and usually find time to do a different form of cardio 3 times a week at different times of the day or night as well. This includes sprinting, cone work, soccer, basketball, swimming, hiking, jogging, jump rope, and anything else that is available to get my heart rate going for 15-40 minutes of my day.

With such a large focus on physical training, where do his aspirations for his future lie? Do they include modeling? “My aspirations are based mainly around on helping others. I find enjoyment out of training people because I feel amazing as a person develops before my eyes and becomes the person physically and mentally that they have always wanted. Helping others reach their goals has a return that is priceless. However, helping others and training others only benefits the people that I personally work with. For this reason, I aspire to create a system that can help people reach their fitness and health goals on a much larger scale. With this I plan to also be an established Physical Therapist. But besides the training side, I do really enjoy modeling. It keeps me focused on maintaining a clean cut look and body. It is rewarding to see a great picture as I know that it was worked for. If the opportunity to model more than part time rises, I would be more than happy to take it. I would love to travel the world for modeling purposes. I feel that traveling and modeling would be an amazing experience.”

Well, while on the subject of body images, many in the fashion industry hold negative connotations regarding their bodies, as is the case when looking at extremely thin models. What would a trainer say to this? “People that struggle with weight issues go through a very hard time feeling comfortable in there own skin. I speak from experience in being one of the skinniest kids in high school. My younger brother and many of my clients can speak from experience in being remarkably overweight. I advise all people that have such issues to not walk to get what they want but to sprint. It will take a lot longer to walk to the grocery store than to run there. If people want a change it is completely up to them on how long it will take to be successful. The answers and opportunities are out waiting for us.”

And if people are searching for a change, a change to live a healthier lifestyle, they should contact Mr.Barnston, an incredible trainer and, possibly, future model. So, if you’re a model, looking to obtain the perfect physique, or just an average joe, looking for a healthy path, you know who to call.

Sabrina Franza: The Royal Look

She’s beauty and she’s grace, she’s…well, Miss. Long Island Teen 2014, but we’ll just pretend that rhymes.

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Yes, this gorgeous royalty, Sabrina Franza, is reigning over Oceanside, New York as this year’s teen queen, but soon she shall be moving her throne to a much larger kingdom, New York City. What does this land have in store for her? Well, Ms. Franza has been offered a spot at New York University’s Steinhardt School for Media, Culture, and Communications. Beauty and brains, Ms. Franza seems to dawn it all, while working as a devoted humanitarian in her free time. To be let into this wonderful queen’s life was a privilege, an interesting one at that.

One would think with all the time she spends on the road to the crown, that she would have no time to pursue any other passions. Wrongo. It seems as though, Ms. Franza, has quite the knack for modeling. But with a face like that, can you really be that surprised? So, how did it all come about? “I always was a theatre kid. Ever since I was seven years old, I’ve been taking private acting and singing lessons, while performing. As I got older, I realized that the best way to get myself out there was to make myself as marketable as possible! So, I hit the gym, took some pictures to finish my portfolio, and started submitting myself to whatever job/agency I would qualify. In a way, this outlook really helped me explore my talent and be open to new experiences.”

And soon enough, I’m sure, agencies were knocking down her door. What was her first coveted gig? “At first, I would try to shoot with photographers who were also just starting out. It was great experience for me, but also allowed us both to grow and learn more about our respective fields. I was able to get out of my comfort zone, because I could experiment different techniques without any actual consequences! I even tried modeling on a tractor once.. Needless to say it wasn’t my best idea, especially since I was standing super high, facing beach winds!”

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love a tractor shoot as much as the next guy, but maybe Ms. Franza should work her way up, maybe starting out on a nice bicycle of sorts? But,  this is a perfection representation of the personality that she possesses. Fun loving, outgoing, and a pretty face. That could take her anywhere. “There’s this goofy side of me that would love to dress up like a kid again. This is why when I was asked to model for Party City, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be paid for being a banana? Along those lines, I was once asked to do a commercial and print campaign for Splish Splash, a water park on Long Island. By the end of the shoot, I knew every single employees name and probably rode the same ride a million times, but the experience was super fun. The commercial is actually still on air, I’m the girl with the blue bathing suit in the front! The very next day, we filmed a promotion for Johnny Rockets. I had a fake boyfriend for the shoot with a little ‘one milkshake, two straws’ action. It was cool having to meet the challenge of meeting someone that day and then having to act like you’ve known them for months. Until then, I couldn’t truthfully say I’ve ever had a complete stranger feed me french fries on camera. Recently, I was asked to model Triangle Swimwear for an upcoming online magazine. I was proud to have been picked because it proved to me that all the hours at the gym were paying off; It takes a lot of courage to take pictures in a swimsuit! It just shows you can conquer anything you set your mind too.”

Well, Ms. Franza should know a lot about courage and conquering, seeing as she is no stranger to being photographed in a swimsuit. Miss. Long Island Teen made sure of that. So, what made her want to go under that type of scrutiny? “My journey to the Miss Long Island crown started with a need to make a difference in my community. Combine that desire with a goal to become the best version of myself physically and mentally, and you end up in a pageant! I saw the work that previous winners had done, and submitted my picture on a whim. With a lot of hard work, I was able to win the Miss Long Island Teen crown on my first try. I competed in the three phases recognized by MUO (the Miss Universe Org): interview, swimwear, and evening gown. Each phase took hours of time in preparation, but I learned that with hard work, anything is possible!”

Ms. Franza is definitely the ideal image of the idea of hard work, and yet, some view these pageants as nothing more as a beauty contest among women, valuing what their outer image over what they truly have to offer. How does she feel about this predetermined judgement? “I am a firm believer that it takes a real woman with real courage to stand up in front of a crowd to be judged. Not many people can say they feel comfortable enough in their own skin to stand in a swimsuit, welcoming a score. A person who demeans pageantry also has no clue what happens after the girl gets the shiny tiara. She may look all glamourous when she wins, but she will spend an entire year getting her hands dirty helping others. Now when athletes compete, do they spend a year helping others after they win the superbowl? Didn’t think so.”

It is true that after the pageant ends, the tiara comes off, and the makeup washed away, the winners enter a world devoted to helping others. One organization that Ms. Franza has offered her time to is TWLOHA (To Write Love On Her Arms), an organization that covers many topics, one being eating disorders. In the world of fashion, we see time and time again, many falling victim to the stress body images bring on. What does this organization, as well as herself, have to say on this issue? “TWLOHA is a non-profit movement that I am proud to be an advocate for. They help others embrace the beauty in themselves, learn that “hope is real” and realize that “every story is important.” I have witnessed within my own friends the truth in the statistic that one in five teens suffer from depression. As Miss Long Island Teen, it was extremely important to me to continue my involvement with TWLOHA’s Street Team, helping spread awareness through social media. My goal is to help people understand that each person can strive to be the best version of themselves in a healthy way. Pageantry has taught me the importance of physical fitness and self confidence, and I try my best to filter those lessons to anyone in need of help or just someone to talk too. The ‘model type body’ is a much different than the stereotype. Personally, I’m 5’3” and work hard to keep my body physically fit. Starving yourself is never the answer. In actuality, people who workout wanting to lose weight actually have to eat more (which rocks). There are so many better alternatives to become your best ‘you,’ physically and mentally, that starving yourself seems extremely unappealing. You matter! Don’t let anyone, any picture, or any stereotype tell you otherwise.”

Well, through it all, Ms. Franza has remained strong and a beacon of hope and inspiration to girls everywhere. And with the body image in order, fashion is the next thing many girls tend to worry about. So, what does fashion mean to her? “I’ve always looked up to Audrey Hepburn as a style icon. I love how she embraces the the simplicity of small details and makes every outfit glamourous. However, my style is tweaked to meet my tastes. I mean, come on; a pageant girl has got to have her bling and stilettos! Whatever your interests are, embrace them. Dress the the way you feel most confident and comfortable and everything else will follow. A girl’s best accessory is her smile.”

Truly, an inspiration and idol to many girls, Sabrina Franza is one of a kind. If not in modeling, I am sure that we will see more of her, in some form of fashion. She is kind hearted, a good soul, and truly someone that can capture the heart of millions.


Conrad Bischoff: Renaissance Man

As we shift the focus back on the fashion industry, it is my pleasure to introduce a rising face that is taking the modeling world by storm.

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Who is this talented man, you may ask? Well Conrad Bischoff, of course, a mature, 18 year old who will be jet setting off soon to study at the NYU campus in London, England. It comes as no surprise that this fellow has had quite the luck in his claim to fame, taking on the names of Prada and Marc Jacobs in his first year of his modeling journey. In less than 10 months, he’s conquered more than some have done in years. To hear his story was quite the honor and I’m incredibly pleased to share it with all of you.

So, how did this all come about? I’m sure Mr. Bischoff didn’t call Prada up and just simply ask to model. No, there was a beginning before that. “I signed with my agency, Red Models NYC, in August of last year, so I was 17. My freshman year of high school, I started to get into fashion more through Tumblr and eventually Instagram, and I sort of discovered the world of high fashion and it became less alien to me. During the end of my sophomore year, I started sending a few photos around to different agencies, but it wasn’t until I was living in NYC that summer, that my agent, George Brown, scouted me. I signed about a week later.”

It seems as though the process has only begun, and yet, everything is moving so quickly. I’m sure it was only a moment’s notice until he got his first job, right? “My first ever shoot was for an online blog, Visual Tales, shot by John Tan. It was an interview series he was doing for new faces. Going into it, I was pretty nervous just because I didn’t know how he’d react if I messed something up or didn’t know how to move for the camera. But he ended up being really chill and we actually shot again a few weeks later. Our first shoot was at different locations around Manhattan and I had to change looks in alleyways, so it was definitely a sort of crazy first experience, but I loved it.”

And soon enough, he took from changing in alleys to working for Prada and Marc Jacbos, two very incredibly experiences, I’m sure. “After about 3 months of doing test shoots and building my book, my agent told me that a few big designer brands were interested in having me walk for their Fall/Winter shows in January. The brands I knew of were Gucci, Prada, and Burberry. Throughout most of December, I’d have to go to my agency and take unedited digitals to send to the brands, since they couldn’t actually meet with me as they were all based in Europe. Sometime at the end of December, my agent called me and just said “Hey Conrad, what do your parents want..?” Confused, I asked what he was talking about and he said, “When you go to Milan, I mean, what do they want?” After that I freaked out and couldn’t believe that someone had actually booked me so soon. He explained that Prada had booked me as a Worldwide Exclusive, meaning they wanted me to walk for their show and only their show that season, and in exchange they’d pay extra and cover my airfare/hotel costs. The actual show was amazing to be a part of, things like meeting Miuccia Prada and meeting up with other models from around the world was so incredible. About a month after Prada, Marc by Marc Jacobs booked me for their lookbook shoot, which was inside of this really sick, sort of tarnished warehouse in downtown Manhattan. They had installed this half pipe in the space and had us shooting on it, which was really cool. A few weeks after that, I did a job for Marc Jacobs that’s been one of my favorites to date; I basically just played dress up with the team as they tried different pieces on and off me in order to decide what the new collection would be like. It was everything from last season’s pieces to vintage stuff and the looks were all amazing, plus the people are so nice to work with.”

With all this success in such a minute amount of time, it must be a completely different environment for the family setting. How does his family take to all of this? “They are supportive to the extent that modeling is a good way to make money. They don’t really understand the more artistic viewpoint of you helping someone’s vision come to life or how you’re becoming a different character each time you’re in front of the camera. They’d really like to see me go into business or science, but I’m so into art, music, and fashion now, I know I’ll be working with something a bit more cultural.”

Alas, some are just not artistically inclined to appreciate the finer points in life, yet he could find the situation much worse. So, what does Mr. Bischoff plan on studying at college then? “I didn’t know exactly what part of fashion I wanted to work in going into the college application process, so I thought a broad education like Liberal Studies would be best until I work it out. I hope the more work with modeling I do, the better I’ll know the industry and what exactly I want to do later on. I’d love to be a creative director for a label or magazine. I plan on modeling as long as I can; I really do love the work and the people I get to meet/places I get to travel. It sounds so cliche, but its 100% true.”

And it seems 100% genuine. Fashion has inspired millions of people, taking them from beyond who they thought they could be. With the infinite meanings of fashion, what does fashion mean to him? “Fashion’s really become my best way to get a first impression from someone. How much someone cares about their appearance really tells you a lot about who they are. And knowing fashion as I do now, you’re able to identify certain looks or pieces with past influences and see what the person was trying to identify with when they chose that to wear. Fashion’s all about choice and the individual’s image.”

So then what exactly is Conrad Bischoff’s image? “I don’t think I really have a look.  I really think I identify best with Marc Jacob’s “Slight bohemian, a little off-color” brand description. I’ll usually take a lot of inspiration from 40’s and 50’s musicians/actors, but put more of a modern spin on it. I love the patterned/color blocked button ups from the periods, but instead of slacks I’ll wear skinny jeans and a leather biker jacket with them. Mixing pieces is a big part of my style, but doing it in way that’s effortless. If some stuff isn’t meshing well, I’ll just feel uncomfortable wearing it. A big part of modeling is being comfortable with your look, so you can be confident to meet with a client.”

Well, confidence is key in a world that judges your image, but certainly, Mr. Bischoff has no problem with that. It’s safe to say that, soon enough, we will be seeing the Conrad Bischoff as the face of, maybe, Prada, perhaps, Gucci, or so be it, Vogue. Whatever the case may be, I am certain that he will be going on to conquer the world in the most fashionable of ways.

Aija Mayrock: A Red Carpet Beauty

Here at Catwalk, I believe in representation of all the art forms, as they connect through the web of passion and expression. So, to add diversity to this ever-progressive site, it is time to feature the moving model, the actress.

I found this occasion to be rare, as Catwalk is a site to feature the growth and talent in fashion. Yet, fashion can be found in all artforms, especially on the actress. We all flashback to the iconic white dress that Ms. Monroe dawned for us, or Audrey Hepburn’s classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s look, and even Ms. Elizabeth Taylor, showing us just how fashionable Cleopatra could really be. In all reality, fashion is what makes movies classics, it is what drives the character of any actor or actress. To be inspired from what one wears, what one feels as they drape through the room in an evening gown to die for. It’s inspiration. Fashion is what inspires the movie industry, it makes the imagery in a director’s head, the fire in the actor’s heart, it’s the base of fantasy. And so, when I first took this feature on, I wondered, how would I relate this to fashion…until I realized, you can’t act without it. So, without further ado, I present the inspiration for this diverse piece, Ms. Aija Mayrock.


Yes, Ms. Mayrock is certainly one of a kind, a true talent. This New York native has proved to be quite the busy girl, taking on projects as an actress, a writer, and so much more that it leaves heads spinning. She uprooted her family from their New York dwelling to spend the past five years in Southern California, chasing her passions. However, as glamorous and beneficial California has been, Ms. Mayrock will be returning to the big city, after being offered a position in the Tisch School of Arts at New York University and for more business. And thankfully, she took time from her chaotic schedule to invite me into her life and her passion before it all goes taking off.

So, to uproot her entire life to move to California must mean that she has been passionate about this career for quite sometime now. “I loved to act and make up stories since I was a baby. But, I didn’t start discovering my craft and working until I moved to California at 14. I had a burning passion and desire to act. So, I started training every weekend with an acting teacher and then fell into my first opportunity.”

The American Dream, a convertible full of luggage, driving down the West Coast with nothing but some talent and a dream…anyways, so what was this coveted first opportunity? “My first acting job was actually when my screenplay was accepted into the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. It was made into a short film and I was collaborating with the director. She asked if I had anyone in mind to play the leading role and I said “How about me?” So that was my first job.”

Santa Barbara International Film Festival, pssh, no biggie. She just happened to win it twice. A talented actress and a writer, oh do tell. “When I was 14, I saw a poster at my school for a screenwriting competition that the SBIFF was having. The deadline was that night. I went home and wrote my first screenplay. I was really lucky to have it accepted. That film wound up winning and being made into a short film. The film was about bullying and it was called “A Heart’s Journey”. The following year I was a finalist for a screenplay I wrote that was a coming of age story titled “Diego”. I also was a finalist for directing (someone else’s script whom I was paired with) and that film was called “Dying with Laughter”.”

Honestly, the talent shines through when Ms. Mayrock can write a winning screenplay in just hours. Purely talented, which must be why she has more ties with the SBIFF and other writing awards. “Other than my 2 screenwriting projects for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, I was actually also the face of the festival in a sizzle reel film that the SBIFF produced. This was filmed this year. So I acted, directed, and wrote this film. It was a life changing experience. Additionally, I have won Gold and Silver Keys from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. I have also done some writing for local magazines and blogs.”

And as for more talent, she has a soon-to-be book. What juicy, insider knowledge can I be let in on? “I can tell you that it is about a particular issue teens deal with. I’ve worked very hard on it and I can’t wait to be able to share it with people. I’ve really been focusing on my book and how I can make the biggest impact with it. But I do have a few other possible projects going on too (there was a smile included after that phrase, just to let you know she’s being a bit coy with us).”

So, with all this success in California, why move back to New York? “I really want to work on continuing to cultivate my craft. NYU Tisch is an incredible school with such wonderful professors. I can’t wait to continue to learn and grow there.”

Well, she will definitely continue to grow as her talent is recognized by the many to see. And, what does she hope to do when she’s known to the world? “I want to give a voice to the voiceless through art. I want to make the biggest impact I can. That is my aspiration.”

Ambitious, talented, and so much more that mere words are not enough to capture the light that Aija Mayrock emanates. A true talent and true sweet talker (she called me awesome, which will really mean something in 5 years when she has a collection of Oscars sitting along her mantel). I’m sure in the very near future you will hear of the name Aija Mayrock and remember that she was destined to be a star. But don’t forget to remember what dress she chooses for the Red Carpet, because I’ll be sure to cover it here.


Christopher DeLorenzo: The Man Behind the Flash

It’s time to take a step back from the beautiful faces we see in front of the camera and take a look at the talent that spends their time behind it.

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Who am I referring to, you may ask? Well, none other than an extremely talented artist himself, Christopher DeLorenzo. Yes, this photographer hails from the Garden State, Basking Ridge, New Jersey to be more exact, but has recently made the haul out to Los Angeles, California to pursue his passion on a much larger scale. When asked how he plans on studying his craft, his answer was simple, “I’m shooting till my hands hurt.” Well, giving his hands a break, I was given the opportunity to question Mr. DeLorenzo on his passion, his life, and his ability to capture the perfect moment with a single click.

So, when did his talent surface? “Hmm…well, I started getting into photography when I was in elementary/middle school. I used to draw a lot before photography, and all I could remember was that I wanted to create. I could create what was in my head a lot better through photography than drawing. I basically stole my moms camera at 10 or 11 years old and got hooked.”

And what famous artist hasn’t had some petty misdemeanor in their portfolio? He’ll be among the Greats in no time. Well, I’m sure his skills will contribute to that as well. So, when did he first reveal his skills? “I think my first job was at 15, shooting for my brother’s fire company. It was an event and I was so stoked on the fact that I actually saved the first 5 dollars I made from it.”

5 whole dollars? Wow, the beginning of it all. With all that money, it’s no wonder why his site looks so fantastic. How did it come about? “I started messing with sites when I was in eighth grade and then I made a Facebook fanpage in High School. The Facebook page was probably the biggest help for me to be identified as a photographer. I think overall I have had five or six different platforms. It’s really an ever evolving thing, and just like your portfolio, there can always be improvements with sites.”

Well, with that site, it is hard to imagine any improvements that can be made. It highlights the most unbelievable photos, which poses the question: out of all the fantastic shots he produces, what is his favorite image to capture? “That’s tough. I’m really split between shooting surf or fashion/portrait work. Theres so much culture and lifestyle that goes along with the action of surf.  From the shaper who creates a board, to the athlete who rides it, there’s a broad spectrum to be captured. I also love to use slow shutter speeds when shooting surf to blur the motion and create a painterly feel to the images.

I am really intrigued by interesting people as well. Capturing that building emotion on an intriguing face is really inspiring to me. I always say the coolest part about being a photographer is the people you meet. I’ve met models from all over, California, Texas, New York and even this small country called Slovenia. Aside from meeting models, you really get an inside view on so many things being a photographer. You are let into smaller worlds that are closed to most outsiders.”

California must be the perfect spot for his inspiration in surf scenes and exotic people, am I right?  “Being in LA has been amazing for my career and I really have only been here a few months. I think I have taken 21,000 photos here since March, and most of my portfolio now is photos from the past few months.

In terms of actual shoots, I have been to some pretty cool places within the US. I have found some cool places in California that locals haven’t really been to; sand dunes, sea caves, various deserts. I am more intrigued by finding the extraordinary in the “ordinary.” I think growing up in NJ, which doesn’t exactly have mind blowing locations, has helped me appreciate anywhere I go a lot more.”

So he has the vision, he has the scenery, but does he have the brands? “I have done a few jobs here and there for companies, such as the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals), but honestly, I am so focused right now on building my portfolio and refining my style. I will do test shoots to try to imitate a shoot such as a Ralph Lauren or Dolce & Gabanna campaign. If I want to get hired by companies like this, my images and style should relate to their companies.

In terms of models, I have worked with a lot of agency models. Ford, NEXT, Nous, la models and Fusion are some of the agencies I have worked with. It’s really good to build up your portfolio this way, but honestly you don’t need “professional” models to build a great book. One of my favorite girls to work with is Alessa Pomerantz, an unsigned model from NJ. She’s not signed yet probably because of her height, but that really means nothing when you are looking to capture some stunning imagery and emotion.”

Well, we are very familiar with and aware of the talents Ms. Pomerantz possesses. And if he is common with Alessa Pomerantz, then he must know his way around this business. With all he knows about this business, he must be pretty set on his aspirations. “I love shooting surf, but I think it’s really just a means to an end for me. I’m really striving to shoot commercially for clothing companies. I want to build a style of photography that is super recognizable. A unique style is part of branding yourself and I think its a huge component of success. I think like everyone, I have dream clients. Red Bull, Nike, Nixon, Oakley, D&G, Ralph Lauren…It’s a pretty spread out list, but I don’t really want to pigeonhole myself. “

With the talent Christopher DeLorenzo possesses, I’m sure that these aspirations are, not only certainly attainable, but are in the very near future. So, the next time you are in California, pay Mr. DeLorenzo a visit, who plans to make his mark there for a very long time. For me, I know that if Christopher DeLorenzo is behind the camera, my photos will look fantastic, as does his future.

Chase Denison: Shady Business

Throw away the Ray-bans, discard your Oakleys, and snap your Maui Jim’s, because this rising-star has some new shades for you.


In fact, calling Raleigh-native, Chase Denison, a rising-star, might be a bit redundant, for his mark has been placed on the world for quite sometime now. Mr. Denison is the founder and creator of Vybe, a customizable sunglasses company, completely unique in itself. Soon to be on his way to New York to study International Business and Investment Banking at NYU’s Stern College of Business, he was able to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule to give some insight into his extraordinary company.

So, how did this amazing idea even originate? “The day before my older brother was graduating from high school, our relatives were in town. Of course, my grandmother wanted to take us shopping. We went to the Oakley store at the mall. I walked in looking for a very specific pair of Oakley Frogskins that were 100% matte black. I learned in the store that all their Frogskins at the time had a white logo, and weren’t available in any “matte” color shade. When I asked a sales rep about what I was looking for, the store manager overheard me and came over to us. He told me they actually just got two or three “misprinted” Frogskins that weren’t on the floor for sale because they were misprinted. He said he would go grab them from the back, and they were 100% all matte black, even the logo. He said he could sell them to me “under the table” because they weren’t supposed to be for sale since the Oakley factory misprinted them, but he just charged me the same price as the other Frogskins. In total, they were $160, because I wanted polarized lenses too. When he was checking me out at the register, I asked if they happened to have any all matte white shades in the back, and he told me no, having these misprinted all matte black shades were rare enough, because Oakley normally doesn’t send out misprints. He told me maybe you can email an Oakley rep with your ideas because they are always looking for “young gun designers”. I went on their website and I was already familiar with their “Custom Shades” but they still didn’t have what I wanted on their, so I emailed a rep. They replied with a cliche form letter saying something along the lines of like “Hey Chase Denison, sorry, but we don’t take special requests from random people”…basically I was a nobody so they had no interest in making me a special pair. At that moment, the idea just came to me, the epiphany moment. One of my Uncle’s was in town, who owns a yacht brokerage, so he has the entrepreneurial blood running through his veins as well. Since, he is also young, he understood the idea, and that night we spent hours working on the design, even though neither of us had any engineer experience. By the end of the night before my brother’s graduation, we had countless sketches of the idea sitting on my kitchen table. He recommended me a site called oDesk, (basically a Craigslist for design services), to seek an engineer outside the US because it’s cheaper.

And thus, Vybe was born. But Mr. Denison was just a High School student…how did he even know where to begin an entire company? “I looked up “product development/design raleigh” in google. Came across a place called “The Product Farm”. I met with the owner, Fredrik, who has been a great help to me since this very day. He’s never charged me a dime for anything, and has always just been wanting to help wherever he can. I told him about my Uncle mentioning oDesk, and he said go for it! So, I interviewed various engineers, and settled with one from Canada who made the design. Took about 7 3D printed prototypes (site called Shapeways) to get it done, but after about 1.5 years, I had the final design. After that, we settled on a factory overseas, and paid for the injection mold, and they sent us the final product. Now, the glasses are in full production.”

Such incredible ambition and knowledge. Safe to say that I would have been lost just purchasing the sunglasses, but nonetheless, it is a fantastic idea. So, how do these sunglasses work? “Glasses are fully customizable and interchangeable unlike anything on the market. The ears, arms, frame, and lenses all can be interchanged with various colors. Most sunglasses just have interchangeable lenses, and a handful of brands let you change the entire side arm/temple, but no one has added the earpieces and put all 6 of these pieces together. Not to mention, no tools are required.”

Absolutely brilliant. And so when will I be able to purchase some of these magic glasses? “We have been in talks with numerous investors, and are in final negotiations with a pair of them, that we are hopefully signing the operating agreement early next week actually which is very exciting. We are getting a big capital investment, and giving up equity. One of the investors is actually a former Maui Jim Sunglasses Global Controller for 10 years. He started at Maui Jim when they were at about $8-9M in revenue, and left at upwards of $200M, so we have someone who has already been in the space on our side. We did a crowdfunding campaign and raised over $13,500 which is where we paid the down payment for the factory to start production, and part of the investment will cover the rest. We should have the glasses by the end of July, and be fully operational at that point!”

Well, I will be anxiously checking their website, till then. It seems as though Mr. Denison has this entire company panned out perfectly. What are his aspirations to come? “We see this thing growing like crazy, especially in the college/high school markets. Different colleges all have different colors, and our glasses seem to fit in well with that market, price range, and style. We have high hopes for the company, but in 3-5 years we could be bought out, license the technology (patent pending), or just keep growing the Vybe brand. We have a ton of ideas in the works that I would prefer not to share about the company and its ideas, but some really cool stuff is in the works, and we don’t want to sell just sunglasses, we want to become a BRAND.”

With that tenacity, that drive, and that knowledge, I’m sure Mr. Denison is going to go above and beyond his expectations. In fact, his talent is already being recognized. “We’ve been invited to Sundance, MTV VMAs, Oscars/Academy’s, Nick Teen Choice, and the BETs. We’ve also been featured in various news outlets. At the Charlotte Venture Challenge (largest startup competition in the southeast) we placed second in undergraduate ventures, and pitched the idea in front of corporate reps and 100+ investors. Immediately, after pitching at the Char. Venture Challenge, this organization who runs a “summer startup accelerator/incubator” offered us a spot even though applications closed months ago. We got a ton of interest from that event, plus I was the youngest person there, still being in high school at the time.”

All of this success, this planning, and he just graduated from High School. Not to mention, Mr. Denison abandoned a profitable, a $40,000 profitable, clothing line he had created his freshman year. Juggling school, companies, sports (soon to be playing on NYU’s NCAA Baseball Team), and the sudden death of his father, it is incredible as to how determined and ambitious Mr. Denison has remained. The product will be out soon to purchase on his website, but in the meantime, like their page on Facebook, and keep an eye on this star to be.

Montana Anderson: Southern Heartthrob

Sculpted biceps, rock-hard abs, and a face to melt any heart, Montana Anderson is bringing the heat to the south.

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A Cleveland raised boy turned southerner, Montana Anderson is a sight to behold (but with those chiseled biceps, I’m guessing you already knew that). Yes, this now-southern beaut is taking Savannah, Georgia, studying Fashion Design at The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and managing to model in his spare time, no big deal. I got to know Mr. Anderson when he took the time out and answered some questions about his oh-so-intensive life.

First things first, he’s a fraud. Who’s this ‘Tyler’ person and why does he have a place in his email? “Tyler is a generic name, Montana is interesting and catches some attention. Plus, it made social media names somewhat easier to come up with!”

Creative, different, definitely useful characteristics in the fashion world, a world that many people aspire to be in. What were his aspirations? “I’ve always aspired to model, but at first, it was a just a whatever dream. But, I always had older people questioning me about it, so I started pursuing even more and now its starting to pay off.”

It certainly is paying off, with jobs becoming more abundant to him each day. What was his first modeling job like? “My first real shoot was for South Magazine, which is based in Savannah, Ga. I wasn’t really nervous, because I’ve shot with the photographer before and I’ve done plenty of test shoots before hand! It was just really exciting to know it was going to be published in a magazine. And actually, some people recognized me from it, while I was at work.”

And with a face like that, who wouldn’t recognize him? Will we be seeing him in any other work, any time soon? “Not at the moment, but things are happening and I might have some in the near future!I’ve done a lot of work with SCAD designers, which is about it.”

Well, with such major success in store for modeling, is there any chance in branching out? “I am a design major, so I want to branch off into creating clothes for people who have my body type: tall and slender, who can’t seem to find clothes at fit properly.”

I think I speak for all when I say that finding clothes that fit properly is like finding the holy grail, so I must commend Mr. Anderson on that. Wow, so much ambition, it’s hard to imagine what type of goals he has for the future. “One of my aspirations with modeling is to inspire others, really. Coming from a small town, I want to show that a dream can come true if you stick with it.”

“Sticking with it” is definitely something that Montana Anderson should do, especially if he hopes to one day work with H&M. But that dream is surely possible with the talent he possesses and the drive he holds. Hats off to you, Mr. Anderson, and my anticipation grows, as does my excitement, to one day see you in brands across the world.