Model Causing Mayhem
Recently, I was hired to cover the 3rd Annual Ducati Fashion Show, an event that puts on display the latest motorcycle-related clothing available from the Italian, speed bike manufacturer. After the shoot, in contacting each of the models regarding their photos, I found out a bit more about one of them, Michelle Niemiec, through her Myspace profile (myspace.com/Mniemiec22 ). As it turned out, she is much more than a pretty face. Michelle is the author of Industry Exposed, a book that provides guidance to neophyte models through frank discussing of her own experiences. In addition, Ms. Niemiec is also the founder of NationalTalentAssociation.org, an editor at Model Scene Magazine, and the Vice President of Women Against Sexual Predators (W.A.S.P.) Chicago. Upon learning all of this, I was naturally intrigued, and also very impressed (that’s a lot of achievement and involvement for a 26 year old). So, in the spirit of good blog journalism, I approached Michelle to see if she would be interested in answering some questions on behalf of D’ArteBoard; she politely obliged. Here is what followed:
Jason (J): How long have you been modeling, and what drew you to it originally?
Michelle (M): Modeling was something I wanted to do since a very young age. It always seemed like such a glamorous and exciting career. Growing up in a small town made it difficult for me to learn about the business and to get started. I fell for numerous scams at first, and then began networking online to build up my portfolio. Around the age of 19, I started booking some small jobs and slowly started joining different agencies.
J: Do you think that modeling can be interpreted as an art form, and why?
M: Modeling is interpreted differently by different people. To some models, it is just a job. However, many make-up artists, photographers, designers, and even models love making beautiful photos, and see it as art.
J: How has your direction, or your goals, changed since you began modeling?
M: I’ve learned a lot about the modeling business over the past 6 years. As a teenager, I had big dreams of being a fashion model and being famous. At some point, after being taken advantage of, sexually assaulted and scammed numerous times, I stepped back and faced reality. I wasn’t even tall enough to be a fashion model, and I learned that in smaller markets like Chicago you can still be successful doing commercial work, tradeshow work, and other smaller jobs. My biggest goal now is to help as many girls as possible avoid being taken advantage of like I was when I first started modeling. The internet makes it so easy for people to prey on aspiring models, and young girls just don’t know who to trust.
J: Who do you hope to reach with the message of your memoir?
M: I consider my book to be more of a modeling guide, not a memoir. Currently, I am in the process of writing a memoir that will talk about many of the same experiences along with some new ones, but in greater detail. Industry Exposed was written for parents and young girls to use as a guide on how to break into the modeling industry, the right way. I tell my intimate, personal stories of being taken advantage of and raped, as well as my struggles with bulimia. I hope that girls will learn from my mistakes, and not trust everyone who promises them fame and fortune. Parents can also learn a lot about what young girls go through by reading the book.
J: You have been integral to the development of a number of organizations that support young models, and young women, in the beginning stages of their careers. Can you talk about some of those companies that you are a part of, and what their individual missions plan to achieve.
M: I recently started a company called the National Talent Association (www.nationaltalentassociation.com) Originally, I wanted it to be a non-profit company where models and actors could go online to research agencies, photographers, etc., to find out if they were legitimate or not, and I wanted people to be able to make complaints through the website similar to the Better Business Bureau. After doing some research on non-profit companies, and realizing the legal liabilities of having such a company, I decided just to form a corporation and teach girls and parents (inexpensively) how to break into the business without being scammed or taken advantage of. I provide as much information as possible on my website, teach modeling workshops, and I will do personal consultations. I wanted [it] to be different than the modeling schools who charge large fees to provide useless information. My intentions are to sincerely help aspiring models learn about the business, without taking advantage of them.
After publishing Industry Exposed, I also got involved with a non-profit group called Women Against Sexual Predators (www.waspchicago.org). I had found them online while doing some research for the resources section of my book and sent an email through the website about volunteering. The president of WASP, Angela, was interested in meeting with me because she had some similar experiences as I did with the rape and modeling. I began volunteering by posing as an under-aged, aspiring model online to catch predators. WASP works with the authorities to report men who solicit sex from minors online. After a couple weeks of using myspace and AOL to catch predators, I was absolutely disgusted and shocked by the number of sexual predators online. There were literally thousands on myspace alone, and I couldn’t stop because I wanted to catch them all. My ex-husband and I would argue because I was spending so much time chatting online to catch predators, and he felt like it was hurting our relationship.
Shortly after I began volunteering for WASP, Angela’s partner passed away, and she asked me to be Vice President because she saw how dedicated I was to helping the cause.
I also work with a new magazine called Model Scene Magazine. Aside from being the assistant editor and event planner, I interview models on their experiences in the business and write some articles on modeling advice. Visit the “Industry Exposed” section ofwww.modelscenemagazine.com
J: In the future, do you see yourself as more of a model or mentor?
M: I already see myself as more of a mentor than a model. Nothing makes me happier than helping aspiring models break into the business, or informing a model of a scam before it’s too late. Modeling is great, but I prefer being involved with other aspects of the business like the magazine and my company.
J: Some of the trials that you’ve had in modeling have required a tremendous amount of courage and resiliency to overcome. What advice can you give to a young woman experiencing some of those things today?
M: You have to take your negative experiences in a positive way in order to learn from them and move on with your life. Rather than letting my experiences bring me down and ruin my life, I decided to use them in a positive way so that I can help others. Most people aren’t willing to admit that they were severely bulimic, had sex with someone that they thought would help them with their career, were date raped and sexually assaulted, and flew all over the country to meet with people that only wanted to take advantage of them. It was extremely difficult to share my experiences with the world and I cried several times while writing the book, but I did it for a good cause and I know that other girls will benefit from it. My advice is just to learn from your mistakes and realize that no one is perfect.
J: What is the best way for someone reading this to get a copy of your book, or to reach out for help?
M: My book is available on www.xlibris.com, www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com and many other sites. Anyone looking for advice on modeling or agency listings can also visit www.nationaltalentassociation.com or contact me directly.
If you would like to contact Michelle directly, she is available for comment through most of the organizations listed here: