Yollanda Musa talks candidly about modelling
This post includes a candid interview with photography model Yollanda Musa (at the bottom there is a link to download Yollanda’s “app” which includes a link to a special model portfolio offer from myself).
As a photographer I work with many models
As a professional photographer I deliberately keep my work varied. Most of my work is family photography (ie families, children, maternity, babies and dogs) but I also do commercial photography and some fashion photography.
In the course of my work I meet quite a few models. I don’t think it is possible to generalise about models, but I am somewhat fascinated with what motivates people to become models. I prefer to be less visible, so I would find being a model very challenging indeed.
I want to do a series of occasional interviews with models who are happy to talk to us. That is to say models who are willing to give us an insight into what their work involves. I am very pleased to say that Yollanda Musa is the first model who has agreed to be interviewed for Circle of Life Photography.
Yollanda Musa is one of my favourite photography models
We all have “favourite people”, and Yollanda Musa is one of mine. We have collaborated on a number of photo shoots. Yollanda is very beautiful (with the caveat that beauty is always in the eye of the beholder) but she is also honest, caring and modest, and she has a very professional work ethic. A successful model’s personality and nature really are just as important (in my opinion) as what they look like.
“Pandora’s Box” photo shoot
I first met Yollanda Musa on a photo shoot organised by Samantha at PortraitX. Samantha asked me to do an interpretation of the theme “Pandora’s Box”, and the resulting images were published in Secret Eden Magazine. You can read a blog post about the Pandora’s Box photo shoot elsewhere in my blog.
I saw Yollanda’s potential immediately and I invited her to model for me on a photo shoot that was inspired by the film “Battleship” – or more specifically her role was inspired by the character in the film played by Rihanna. Since then Yollanda Musa and I have worked together on a number of photo shoots.
Interview with Yollanda Musa
Yollanda, thank you very much for agreeing to talk to us. My first question is why did you become a model?
My initial interest in modelling came from watching America’s Next Top Model. This is a reality TV series that gives you an insight into the models personalities, as the models are filmed behind the scenes and in the models house. The models on the show are hard-working, and determined “go getters” just like me. So this really inspired me.
A key moment for me was when the models were asked to face challenges such as cutting their hair. The models’ passion to succeed meant they were willing to take on this challenge.
I have always loved taking on a challenge. For example at school I struggled with maths, so to challenge myself I chose to study an Economics degree, knowing very well that I would have to complete modules with advanced maths. The thought of tackling this challenge excited me and my greatest achievement was attaining a 2:1 degree in Economics.
After graduating in 2014, I decided to also take on the challenge of pursuing a modelling career despite doubts I had about being “too short” and not standing out in a saturated industry.
I was inspired to apply for a UK modelling reality series called Born to Model UK which was similar to America’s Next Top Model and this was one my first proper modelling experience. I was the shortest model on this series and I reached the top 5. I am really proud of this achievement and this was the start of my journey as a petite model.
How has modelling influenced your self confidence, your self esteem, and anything else relevant?
My journey as a model has been about facing challenges and with this my confidence has grown. Public speaking is something I used to hate. I used to hate delivering presentations at university or even answering questions in class. I participated in my first beauty pageant in 2015 and delivered a speech on empowering women through education and enterprise. I really surprised myself by going up on stage and delivering this speech with confidence. My friends and family could not believe this was shy Yolly on stage!
I have also gone on to model swimwear. I decided to do this because I lacked confidence in my body shape growing up. My first experience modelling swimwear was at the Miss Pride of Africa UK beauty pageant in 2015. I did a lot of research to find the right swimwear to match my bodyshape. This was really important as choosing the right swimwear meant I felt comfortable and looked confident on stage.
Do you enjoy doing the modelling? What are the things you like most and dislike most? (your answer may address different kinds of modelling)
I enjoy fitness shoots the most as I have always been passionate about sport and keeping fit.
I did a Battleship movie-inspired shoot with a fitness theme with photographer Ian Trayner. [Ian writes; Yollanda’s role in the photo shoot was inspired by a character played by Rihanna in the film – young, small, feminine and tough. I split this shoot into two blogs posts which you can find here and here] This was my first fitness themed shoot. The results from this shoot were amazing and really highlighted that I was well suited to do fitness shoots. The images really showed off my toned body and I received such positive feedback from people saying I was in great shape and should model for brands like Nike or Adidas. I realised that the modelling industry is actually quite diverse and I found a category of modelling that is well suited for my body shape.
My least favourite thing about modelling is the long waiting hours. In particular at fashion shows where sometimes you arrive at 10am for a show starting at 7pm. Makeup and rehearsals take up the most part of the day. I have learnt to use this time effectively by using this time to network and take behind-the-scenes material for social media.
Can you give us a list of awards and things you have won please?
I was nominated for Petite Model of the Year and Hardworking Star of the Year at DC Hotshots Awards.
I was nominated for Social Media Influencer of the Year at The Black Awards 2018.
I won Miss Hertfordshire 2017 Sports Award.
I won a Woman of Purpose Award in 2017.
I won the Miss Pride of Africa UK 2015 Southern Region Princess title.
I was a finalist in Top Model UK 2016 (Commercial Category).
Why do you enter these pageants etc?
My reasons for entering a pageant are different for each pageant as pageants usually have a mission statement unique to each pageant. I am often motivated to apply for a pageant based on how passionate I am about the mission statement.
Miss Swimsuit UK’s mission statement is to “Be Confident, Be Fun and Be You.” This motivated me to apply as the swimwear pageant encourages women to be confident in being themselves.
[Yollanda has her own blog, Diary of a 5 foot 2 Model where you can read more about her entry into Miss Swimsuit UK, 2019]
I understand that your original sponsor for Miss Swimsuit UK fell through for some reason, and that is why I stepped in at the last minute to sponsor you. I know that some people regard all beauty pageants, and swimsuit competitions in particular, to be degrading to women. But obviously many women want to participate, and presumably do not feel degraded by the process. I would welcome your thoughts on this?
I have never entered a swimwear competition before so this is a new experience for me. So many model castings have requirements for models of a particular height or size which restricts models from entering if they don’t meet those requirements. Miss Swimsuit UK welcomes women of all shapes and sizes as there are no restrictions on height, weight or body type. I find this empowering rather than degrading.
I would like to say a special thank you to my sponsor for this event Ian Trayner. Not only did Ian sponsor me; but we actually had a discussion prior to me submitting my application where Ian gave his expert opinion on my potential as a model and this motivated me to apply. It also helps when I review the swimwear images for the Afrokini swimwear shoot that I did with Ian which were amazing. I believe a strong portfolio has been a key accelerator in my progress.
What are your plans for the future? I mean in modelling, but you can expand to include life in general if you want. And how can someone contact you?
I have a background in business development where I have developed marketing, networking and client management skills and used these skills to develop my modelling career. My goal is to set up a platform to connect business owners in the creative industry and support them with developing these essential business skills.
The best way to contact me is via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My website is coming soon so keep an eye on www.yollandamusa.com.
Please do also follow @YollandaMusa on Instagram , Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Linked In.
And subscribe to my blog to follow my journey as a model Diary of a 5ft 2 Model.
I have experience in marketing and business development so I collaborate with individuals and brands who are looking for promotion, or looking to be connected with other professionals in the industry.
I also provide mentoring for upcoming models. Specifically I have mentored a few models participating in beauty pageants or modelling competitions. [Ian has put together a special photography offer for aspiring models who need some high quality images for their portfolios – see the link to Yollanda Musa’s app below].
I also do hosting, backstage interviews and behind the scenes social media videos such as Instagram, Facebook live and snapchat for events. Get in touch email@example.com if you need that added feature at your events.
Yollanda, thank you very much for talking to us. I am sure many people will find your experiences very interesting. Personally I am very impressed by the way you are willing to take on things that are difficult!
Download Yollanda Musa’s custom app with a special photography offer!
Ian and Yollanda have brought out “Yollanda Musa’s model app“. You can view it online or you can download it to your phone. Currently the app has;
- More photos of Yollanda Musa
- Yollanda Musa’s contact information
- A link to Yollanda Musa’s blog
- A link to a very special photography offer for aspiring models who want high quality images for their portfolios. This is an offer from Ian Trayner at Circle of Life Photography, based in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey.
The first time you open the app on a mobile phone you should be asked if you want to install the app, or just view it online. If you install the app it should update every time you open it (if you are connected to the web). I believe different types of phones handle the code slightly differently from each other.