Rachel Zader is an American model, she grew up in California and she learned how to be strong, and how to work hard for her dreams.
We make her an interview to know more about her career and how everything started.
Where were you born and what was your pre-model life like?
California. My parents divorced when I was young and I grew up mostly working class, so I had to toughen up early. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I was fascinated by political science and punk rock, so I always assumed I’d end up doing something a little unconventional – and today, it looks like that translated to having one foot in law enforcement and one foot in the modeling industry.
How have you been discovered?
I was stopped on the way to classes by an agent. I actually first avoided agencies for years, thinking they’d ask me to lose weight.
When did you decide to become a model?
I think I was 17, in college.
What has been one of your favourite career experiences so far?
I don’t know I could pick one! Some that stand out:
I met American portrait photographer Todd Hido after he reached out about a concept he wanted to capture – women’s strength and victory. It so happened that I had just been raped several weeks before. I was petrified about continuing work as a model, but I decided to do the project. In a society that still has so much anxiety toward female anger, I knew that through Todd’s unvarnished and suggestive style I could take off my mask. We set up in a dark house, and he photographed me to create this raw series of vulnerability and trauma. Knowing I was immortalizing a part of myself like that was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had.
Of all the styles I model, I love doing fine arts. I still paint frequently, so I love working regularly with artists like Jeremy Mann and Kemp Remillard, especially because they imbue a little surrealism in their work. I’m an artist myself, but pursued criminal justice in college, so a part of me gets a little vicarious satisfaction by working with painters.
I think one of the most interesting projects I’ve done is modeling for the iOS game War Dragons, which involved very real armor and real weapons. After 12 hours in freezing weather, throwing a heavy sword around, I was so exhausted that I dozed off on our film crew’s equipment cart. But later being able to watch myself command a CGI siege of dragons was totally hilarious, and made it worthwhile.
Did you have an interest in modeling or fashion before starting as a model?
In a roundabout way, yes – I was certainly interested in offbeat fashion as a kid. (I had been fortunate enough to grow up late enough that most of the immediate post-Columbine anxiety about kids in all-black clothes had blown over.) I remember being drawn to designers like Vivienne Westwood, going thrifting for Courtney Love-era satin gowns and motorcycle boots.
What advice would you pass along to those starting out in the business?
Ask questions. Do your research. And I mean that in regard to the people you’re working with, because with any business with more lax regulations and structure, you’ll run into more sharks that were attracted to the industry because they can exploit through those qualities. This might just be the fraud investigator in me talking, but I do wish I had been more vigilant when I started out.
Get realistic with yourself about what you want for your career, and where you want your content (meaning your image, sexuality, portrayal) ending up – if you’re in a professional industry like I am, or plan on being in one someday, you might consider taking steps to plan for this. There are some antiquated beliefs that still exist regarding how much skin women can show before they no longer deserve respect, and some employers might feel entitled to reject potential employees like you based on this, regardless of it being relevant to how qualified you are for that accounting job. Many modeling agencies also will refuse to sign models who have done nude or fetish work. That’s the state of things, and it’s something to be aware of.
You have become successful for many reasons what do you think the top few are?
Persistence. Modeling has become more and more difficult for me personally, thanks to personal circumstances. I’m quite vocal and open about sexual assault, and the adversity I experienced in my attempts to advocate for myself afterward; I would say modeling served as one of those platforms, in a way, for me to reaffirm ownership of my own body and image.
I also think being curious about the background process has also truly paid off. Over the course of about five years, I’d say that paying a fair amount of attention to things like why a photographer was fiddling with a certain light or setting eventually translated to a good deal of practical knowledge that I regularly find myself drawing from in my everyday life.
What is the ultimate goal of your career?
Create content that makes people ask questions. If I know I can make people look twice, I’d like to put enough brains in my content that people also think twice.
That, and to not wind up with waitress syndrome once it’s over!
To know more about Rachel, pleas visit: Rachel Zader