The Model Mayhem Interview: Jaylynn Mitchell (JEM)
Jaylynn Mitchell, otherwise known as JEM, is a freelance fashion, glamour, art and body paint model. Her discovery by a photographer in Minneapolis launched her career and took her to Chicago, Philadelphia and finally San Francisco. JEM has worked with hundreds of photographers from all over the world. Her work has been featured in galleries across the US and published in countless magazines.
MM Edu: Tell us about your journey in the modeling industry, from how you got started to how you made it here?
JEM: I was 18 years old and attending Aveda’s cosmetology school in Minneapolis when I was randomly found (while drinking coffee) and picked to be a runway model for a show. That show led to my first photoshoot, with Dean Johnson of MM, and then with numerous photographers around the area. I began traveling and working with some really amazing photographers. I then moved to the Chicago area to pursue modeling full-time. I started traveling all over the country for shoots with hundreds of people. I was working my butt off and that hard work paid off. I moved to the Philadelphia for a couple years to be on the East Coast before finally settling in the heart of San Francisco. I couldn’t be happier with where I am now or the path I took to get here. I still travel full-time (it’s almost 7 years now) and plan to do so for several more years.
MM Edu: How difficult was it for you to make it as a freelance model, what challenges did you have to overcome?
JEM: It seemed impossible at first. Even though I started getting paid work from the beginning, I didn’t really think I could actually make enough to be able to travel full-time without another job. It took me a year or so to finally be able to afford my own traveling up front. In the beginning I relied on many people to help me, and a lot of great people also helped me build an amazing portfolio. As soon as I started traveling around, I found that I actually did really well for myself and I always kept moving forward, even if some trips failed or didn’t go as well I would have liked. To this day, not every trip works out the way I intend but it’s all part of the game. You win some, you lose some but you just gotta keep moving forward and keep at it.
MM Edu: Do you have a preference for any particular genre of modeling?
JEM: I do all types of modeling. I shoot anything from commercial, fashion, swimwear, glamour nudes, art nudes, body painting and even pose for many different types of artists. I am experienced in all types of modeling and enjoy shooting everything. I prefer to have a more “open” concept, as I can be freer with my emotions and posing, but shooting for a specific project is always inspiring as well. I just love to shoot!
MM Edu: What do you consider the major achievements in your career to date?
JEM: Well, besides working for numerous companies and designers I admire, I have worked with many top photographers/teams and got the chance to travel the country shooting and walking for many different people. I have worked for HBO (which was HUGE), many different magazines, top designers around the world, and some of the best body painters in the world. I am proud of everything I’ve accomplished. Each job is so different and unique, and requires a lot of hard work and effort. So, I couldn’t choose just one thing.
MM Edu: And, what’s the most unusual or unique shoot you’ve done?
JEM: I always love doing the body painting shoots and conventions/competitions. Not only are the people amazing, but the talent and the imaginations are out of this world. Although it is tiring to have to stand still and get painted for hours (usually anywhere from two to ten hours), the end result of being fully painted up makes it all worthwhile. Being a moving, living piece of art is always empowering and inspirational.
MM Edu: How do you prepare for a photo shoot?
JEM: After shooting for so long it’s become second nature. I always get lots of sleep (every model needs her beauty sleep) and I never starve myself or anything like that before a shoot. I find it unhealthy and can leave you lacking energy. It’s better to eat healthy, take vitamins and to have a certain “photo shoot diet,” rather than to not eat at all. I always shower, wash my hair and exfoliate my skin before a shoot, so that it looks healthy and clean. Other than that, just being mentally prepared is always important. Make sure you are happy, healthy and well rested. Your mental state is much more important than anything else.
MM Edu: What’s your dream modeling job?
JEM: I think my dream modeling job would have to be a Sports Illustrated photo shoot at some exotic beach location. I have always loved the magazine and I admire the way they show the sexy side of the models without being trashy. I would love to do the body painting for the magazine as well. Not to mention working with the awesome photographers they use for their magazine as well… but that’s just a given.
MM Edu: Who or what inspires you?
JEM: There are many girls who inspire me, and some of the models on MM are always inspirational. The photographers and all their amazing images too. Just looking at everyone’s work is always inspirational for me. Between the models, photographers, artists and body painters, even the makeup and wardrobe people; there are just so many talented people around. The more I look at other people’s work the harder I push myself to be a better person and model. It also helps to stay humble and to realize you can always be better. It’s important as an artist to constantly challenge yourself by continuing to step outside of your comfort zone. Challenging yourself in all types of modeling will make you a better model and push you to take your skills to the next level.
JEM: The best is seeing your pictures all over the place and being able to say, “Hey, that’s me, I did it!” It’s always exciting to see your success.
The worst is the stereotypes and gossip/rumors people start. It’s hard to ignore sometimes. People can be mean, but you will go far if you just stay true to yourself. It’s important to try not to get too involved in the drama of the industry. Focus on yourself and what you have to do to succeed, while staying out of all the drama. It’s usually one of the hardest things to do, but keeping a positive image for yourself is much more important than becoming “friends” with everyone.
MM Edu: You travel extensively, often spending only a day or two in each city, what’s your secret to looking great despite all the traveling?
JEM: I really try to take good care of myself. It’s important not to overwork yourself, to eat healthy and to get plenty of rest. I do push myself too much sometimes and I end up getting sick or tired. So, try to be aware of your body. You can only do so much. Push yourself, but also know your limits and do what’s best for you.
MM Edu: Outside of modeling, how do you like to spend your time?
JEM: If I am not traveling, when I am home in San Francisco, I spend most my time with my lover and friends in the city. I’m often preparing for my next trip. I always have tons of emails to get to, travel plans to prepare and so much more to do. Modeling is definitely a full-time job. I enjoy shopping (DUH!), and designing, so I tend to always be stretching my creative mind in some way. I’m a big foodie and enjoy eating out in different places. There is such a wide variety of foods in San Francisco. I also enjoy wondering around and exploring this beautiful city. It’s fun and always inspirational. There is so much to see and so many things to do.
MM Edu: What do you having coming up that you’re most excited about?
JEM: I plan to head overseas early next year. I’ve been out of the country but never been to Europe. I plan to see Barcelona, Milan and Croatia. I’ll be shooting in such beautiful places, but I still plan to have a lot of free time to explore and learn about each city. I am SUPER excited!
MM Edu: Do you have any advice for up-coming models?
JEM: DONT GIVE UP! It’s hard and painfully difficult sometimes, but always keep moving forward. You will feel discouraged many times but it’s important to remain focused on the goal. Be safe, check references, and always be prepared. My best advice is that if you want to start traveling, JUST DO IT! The first couple of trips might not work out exactly as you hope, but you have start somewhere. You have to get your face out there in different areas and let people know who you are. Network, network, network, and it will all fall into place eventually.
MM Edu: What does Model Mayhem mean to you, on a personal and professional level?
JEM: Model Mayhem is where I got started. I know so many people on the site and I wouldn’t know any of them if it wasn’t for Model Mayhem. It’s a great community and it’s also where I met most of my close friends. I’ve been on the site for more than five years now and have gotten so much out of it. Besides being a Gatekeeper for the site and working on it, it’s been the main way I have gotten to travel around the world and meet such talented people. I don’t feel that I would have made it this far without Model Mayhem. The site has definitely given people another option besides agencies in this industry, and it has given so many members exposure and the chance to show off their talent. It’s a hard industry to make it in, but MM has been a stepping stone for me and many other successful people.