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Jessica Silverman - Model Behavior
08/23/2010 - By Chad A. Safran
Photo: McKay Imaging (mckayimaging.com)
Holmdel ís Jessica Silverman is Nancy Drew and more...
Have you ever walked past an advertisement thinking that a particular person in the photo looked familiar? Or picked up a book and thought you recognized the person on the cover? Itís entirely possible since many of those models are people in your neighborhood, and Holmdelís Jessica Silverman is one of them. For five years, Jessica has been a regular in newspaper and magazine ads for retailers such as Sears, Dillardís, and Bobís Stores. She has also appeared on many book covers, including being the face of Nancy Drew since April 2007. The 2010 Holmdel High School graduate spent numerous hours traveling back and forth to New York City for auditions and modeling jobs while balancing her scholastic requirements. Jessica also spent three years as a varsity member of the cross country and track teams at the high school, helping lead the team to strong performances at the sectional and state level.With the support of her family, Jessica has been able to maintain a well-balanced outlook on life as she prepares for her future as a freshman at Lafayette College. She recently sat down with Living In Holmdel to discuss how modeling has helped turn her into the person she is today.
LIH: How did you get started in modeling?
JS: My mom and I would always go to the mall and I walk by Glamour Shots and want to get my picture taken. One day when I was in fourth grade, my mom finally gave in. I took some shots for home. The cashier asked me if I had ever considered modeling. I never considered that. I was so excited. He told me about this program and we went. They wanted you to put a lot of money up front. It was kind of a scam. My mom knew that.We ended up finding a program in Ocean Grove called Model Team. A bunch of people tried out. I was one of 20 kids out of over 100 who were selected.You have to pay for classes but at the end there was a show at the Arts Center where a bunch of agencies came and watched. Nothing came from that. That was in fifth and sixth grade.
My mom told me nothing was going to come of this unless we went into New York. So the summer of sixth grade I wrote a letter to six or seven main agencies. I took a bunch of pictures, too and sent them out with the letters. I didnít hear back from any of them. Thatís the whole thing with modeling; itís a waiting game. If you have your heart set on it, and donít hear anything you are just going to be disappointed. I heard back on Valentineís day. I got a phone call fromWilhelmina Models and they said they didnít understand why no one got the letter until then but they wanted me to come in for an open call.
LIH: What did you say in the letter?
JS: I personalized each one and just kept it short and simple and told them who I was and that I was really interested in modeling. I told them I had a little bit of experience and that I ran cross country. The pictures were nothing professional at all.
LIH: What happened when you showed up at Wilhelmina?
JS: So I went in and there was this huge, long line but I got to walk right up. I went with my aunt, and we walked back to the kidsí department. Right then and there they handed me a contract and said ďDo you want to take this home and sign it?Ē It was a great feeling.
LIH: Do you feel you got lucky?
JS: I do, because of how many opportunities out there where you will see this huge line and all these other girls hoping for something. After I left, they actually told all the girls in line to go home.
LIH: After signing the contract, where did the modeling career go from there?
JS: I went out on ďgo-seesĒ (modeling auditions) and would get jobs. Once I got older and taller, I got more and more jobs.
LIH: What was your first modeling job?
JS: It was actually through Model Team for McGraw Hill textbooks. It was a health textbook. I was doing situps. Once I got toWilhelmina, I was being sent for catalogs, book covers, magazines, mainstreamthings everyone has heard of.
LIH: What was it like getting future jobs?
JS: Itís a lot more competitive. Sometimes you go out on a go-see, and theyíll sit down, talk to you, go through your portfolio, and ask you questions. Kind of like an interview. You could be in there for 10 minutes or a half hour. Other ones you go in a room packed with people, take a Polaroid, drop off your resume, and you leave. The shortest one I was actually in there for 30 seconds. You go all this way for nothing sometimes.
LIH: What other opportunities were you getting booked for once you had signed with Wilhelmina?
JS: Basically all print, which includes magazines, newspapers, and book covers. Once I got into eighth grade, I started being sent out for television commercials. I always hated those because I would always get nervous. My mom told me that I had nothing to lose. I always had to get myself pumped up for those. I remember going on one for these little action figures, and a lady there could hear in my voice how nervous I was. When I got home, I asked myself why I was always so nervous.
Then I went on another one, and the agency sent me the script so I knew what I was saying. I practiced in front of my mirror. Then I went there and was a little nervous and was not doing it like I practiced. I could not understand why I kept doing this. When I first started modeling, I was shy and didnít like talking in front of people. I remember waking up not feeling well for one where I was going to have to pretend I was singing because I was scared. Through that I realized I couldnít keep doing this and I really started to like acting. I forced myself to like it.
At the end of my sophomore year, I realized I liked acting in front of people and being funny. I started taking some acting classes and became more and more comfortable. I began getting callbacks for commercials. Then at the end of that year, I tried out for this program called New Stars. A lot of people try out and I was chosen. I did that for fun, but through that I met some guy from Monsters Talent (which is based in Los Angeles). He wanted me to move out to L.A. I was so excited by it and wrapped up in it. Then my parents kind of broughtme down back to Earth. They let me know that this was going to tear our family apart and I needed to finish high school. I realized that I wanted to graduate high school so I stayed here.
LIH: It seems like you learned a lot from that experience.
JS: I actually wrote one of my college essays about how I used to be shy and through modeling one of the best lessons I learned was how to deal with disappointment. You go on so many of these things and itís not about how many times you are on a book cover or how many times people see you in something; itís about how many times you are rejected and what you learn from it. Thatís made me a stronger person. Now when something doesnít go my way I just forget about it and move on.
LIH: Have you made it into any television commercials?
JS: I made it into one. It was for Senario Toysí Huru Humis. I was chosen with some other main girls to be the spokespeople. There were many other kids in the background. Many of them I had done previous jobs with so I knew a bunch of people on the set. It was shot at a school in New York. We were split up into five different groups and we were extras when we were not talking. Then after lunch it was time for the fifth person to talk. So I figured that was going to be me but then they gave an extra my part. Then when she was done they said that was a wrap. I was so confused because I went on the audition and went to the call back. In the commercial, I am a red blob in the background. You canít even tell itís me. When I got home, I was very upset because it was my first commercial and I wasnít even in it. Now I feel I should have said something, but all these experiences have made me stronger as a person. It hurt really bad to know that I was chosen then to find out otherwise.
LIH: What was the first book cover you appeared on?
JS: The first one was The Mother-Daughter Book Club. You only see the top of my head and my eyes.
LIH: How many covers have you appeared on?
JS: I have been on 18 Nancy Drews and probably around 30 total. With the Nancy Drews, they shot a bunch of them at the same time so I donít know when the next one is coming out..
LIH: So how does it feel to be Nancy Drew?
JS: It feels good because itís an older series and a lot of people know about it. When you say the name Nancy Drew, everyone pretty much knows who that is. My grandpa was so excited that I was Nancy Drew, telling all his friends.
LIH: Does it feel weird?
JS: It felt weird at first. When I saw it online, it wasnít so weird because it was just my picture, but going into Barnes & Noble and asking the lady where the Nancy Drew books are and they will hand me the book not even realizing itís me. I donít say anything. Itís kind of surreal.
LIH: Has anyone at the bookstore recognized you?
JS: Once. Some lady I asked if she had The Otherworldlies book. She was looking it up on the computer and asked if it was me.
LIH: Modeling has many stories of kids and teens who are very arrogant. How do you keep yourself humble?
JS: My family and my friends help. Knowing I donít dedicate my entire life to this. I have never just done this. Freshman and sophomore year I ran cross country and track. Many times I would have to let down modeling because I had a meet. If you are not at practice the day before a meet, you canít run. Because I was in the top seven (varsity) as a freshman, my coach would say that the team needed me. Many times I had to turn down opportunities. It just reminds me that my total life is not modeling. People tell me I am a pretty girl and I can make it far. I have done it more for the experience, not for the job.
LIH: It must have been tough to choose between running and going on a modeling shoot.
JS: Many times I had to miss a workout or miss practice to go to a book cover job, something that was mandatory. My coach would be mad or upset. So I would have her text me miles that I would have to hit. I remember my mom taking me to the track when we got back from New York to do mile repeats. My mom would sit there timing me. It was really hard balancing it all.
LIH: How did you manage to balance school, modeling, sports, and the rest of your life?
JS:It was hard, because say itís a go-see which means itís an hour and 10 minute train ride one way. Throw in another half hour for subways. And then you could actually be there waiting. Potentially I am gone four and a half to five hours. If itís a job, then I have to miss school or not even go to school at all. I would always do my homework on the train. Instead of bringing the textbooks,my mom would photocopy the pages for me. I would try to do it all on the train, because sometimes I would make it back for practice. Then, after I was dead tired frombeing in the city all day and running, the next day I would have a Spanish test or a calculus test. I couldnít really hang out with friends on the weekdays. I was okay with that. It was exhausting. It was multi-tasking for two years.
My junior year I didnít run. The New Stars program required me to miss every other weekend in the Spring during my sophomore year. I am not going to lie - I let them down. I was one of their top 800 runners. I hit my best time during winter track and my coaches were so excited. But I wanted to do this so badly, so everyone was kind of upset about it. I was able to go to the city more and more since I had no obligations other than school. I did miss running though. I sat next to my friend in honors English and I would always ask how they did. I felt sad that I didnít do it. I canít say I got more jobs from giving up cross country.
LIH: Did you do the same thing for your senior year?
JS: Right before my senior year, I leftWilhelmina. I decided I had dedicated my entire junior year to modeling and acting and it was only fair that I dedicate my senior year to cross country since I like that better than track. I knew it was going to be hard getting back into running. And then applying to college and writing all the essays, it was going to be such a handful. So I stopped modeling then to focus on school and cross country. I am extremely glad that I did.
LIH: Do you regret your decision to dedicate your junior year to modeling and acting?
JS: I do, because running is something you will have forever.With acting there is talent, but with modeling, you sit there and they make you look how they want you to look. There is some talent needed - you canít sit there frozen - but your talent is what you bring, what you look like, which is not a good image to be sending out to girls my age. Cross country is something you will always have with you. Looking back on it, I kind of wish I did it.
LIH: When you were actively modeling how much school were you missing?
JS: Sometimes I would miss all day. Once I had to do a two-day shoot because after doing one day, they realized they did it using the wrong pajamas. So we went back the next day. Then two weeks later, the art director wanted to change the pajamas so we had to do it again. I would not miss school every week but I would leave school early a lot. Because of that, I had to go talk to my principal. People were always wondering why I wasnít there.
LIH: At this point are you done with modeling or do you see a future career in it?
JS: I canít say I am done, because since I left Wilhelmina certain photographers still knew me and had my momís cell phone. That was kind of good because then I didnít have to pay my management any percentages. I am not going to do it in college because I want to focus on that. I donít want my career or my future to be a model. First of all, because I am not really tall enough; I am five foot three. I still look like a kid. They always use older people for younger things. I donít want to focus my life around it. I was thinking maybe after the summer of my freshman year to look for something new, something different. I donít want to ever have to rely on this because itís not steady income. It gets kind of dry at certain times.
LIH: What would you tell girls and their parents who want to go into modeling?
JS: One would be not to get your hopes up because you canít think you are going to get every single job. You still have to stay positive though. Also, donít ever change for them because they have models who are a little bit larger or a little bit taller. People get so obsessed with an image. Be happy with who you are and what you look like. Itís a very cutthroat business. They donít care that just because you are younger they are going to be nicer around you. They are ruthless. Itís hard.You canít take anything personally or itís just never going to work.Yeah, itís fun when you get a job and doing it for the experience. You have to believe in yourself.
LIH: What has been the highlight of all the modeling you have done?
JS: Doing the Seer of Shadows by Avi. I was so excited when I got it just because I had been reading his books since second grade, and also because this was shot at the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. It was a freezing day, and all they said was to come in curlers. I did not know what to expect. Many of the workers who were supposed to come didnít show up because they were scared. I would hold graves and have my face right near them. They actually had me stand on top of a mausoleum. I would stand inside them too or put my back to a gate with a coffin from the 1700s on the other side. It was kind of creepy. It was extremely fun. I loved it because I like ghosts and spirits.
LIH: Are you happy you chose to pursue modeling?
JS: Yes, I am. I donít have any regrets. Itís taught me a lot of lessons. People always think itís so cool. Theyíll text me that they just saw me on a book cover or ask if that was me in this newspaper. Friends I used to go to sleep away camp with would send me messages on Facebook asking if that was me. Yeah, itís cool but I am not so impressed with myself because I have done this.When my book covers came out, I really didnít tell anyone about them. Not a lot of people knew about it until they discovered it themselves. It taught me how to deal with disappointment and rejection. I am definitely glad I have done it.
The Melting Pot
Alternative, The Beatles
Know it alls
Three people for dinner:
Katie Couric, Oprah Winfrey, her grandma, Gloria Silverman
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