February 12, 2016


Q&A: One Of Kanye West's Models On Being Asked To Play a 'Starving Refugee'

JP Yim/Getty Images for Yeezy Season 3
JP Yim/Getty Images for Yeezy Season 3

Depending on your interests, you could've walked into Kanye West's sold-out Madison Square Garden event yesterday (or hit the Tidal livestream) looking forward to a fashion show or an album premiere party. But the two were masterfully intertwined; a couple minutes after 'Ye pushed play on The Life of Pablo, an immense beige sheet was lifted to reveal something like 1,000 models decked out in the Yeezy Season 3 Adidas collection.

Fuse was at the show, and we tracked one of the models—a Brooklyn native and St. Francis College senior who was selected from an open casting call—to talk about the experience. Ashley, who requested we only use her first name, spoke about Kanye's refugee-vibe vision, what the atmosphere under the sheet was like and the fascinating, contradictory, spectacularly precise performance rules, embedded below.

FUSE: How'd you get involved with Yeezy Season 3?
Ashley: I can't give too much detail 'cause I'm in still in an agreement with them. We applied through a production company. It's called Onset Productions. We just had to give them basic information and our headshots. We were told through email or text that we were chosen. The guy said 10,000 people applied—it was a public casting. He said only a thousand got to go through with it.

Kanye's three fashion shows in the last year have looked like such intense experiences for the models.
You're right about that, yeah. It's definitely intense. But we just did it, and it wasn't hard at all, because we came there to do what we came to do. And it was paid, too. It's like, we're working right now.

So the list of rules for the models leaked, it's wild. The last one made me laugh—"Do not ever look at the Jumbotron." Nobody was supposed to look into the cameras that were flying around, either?
Ohhh, yes! Oh my God, that was literally so hard for us. It's kind of like instinct to look at something that's coming towards you, you know? It was livestreamed, so if there's a model looking at the camera, that's not really a good look.

The list looked demanding, but it was also okay to sit or even lie down.
We were totally free to sit down and walk around. Some of the models were standing still and some were just casually walking around or sitting down—of course not for the whole show, only [for] like a minute or two. I sat down a couple of times. We weren't supposed to do it all together, it was just supposed to look natural. We were refugees, we were like starving refugees, so we were told to look kind of out-of-place...how do I describe this? We were told to just act like we were starving, we were tired, we were drained.

Oh, wow. Why do you think the refugee angle was the choice?
Honestly, I don't know. That's just the concept that Kanye wanted. It's in his mind.

How involved was he in giving the instructions? Was there a big speech, or...
It was all from the crew.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Yeezy Season 3
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Yeezy Season 3

What were you thinking on the floor right before that sheet got lifted?
That it's a big moment. There's so many celebrities in the building, so many legends. Naomi Campbell was there, Jay ZA$AP Rocky, the Kardashians and the Jenners, of course. We were just getting in the right mindset before the actual show started, be on our A-game and come do what we were prepared to do. Of course there's a sense of nervousness, 'cause you just wanna perform the best way you can. And definitely excitement, just to be a part of that whole event was just crazy. And eagerness.

It looked like Kanye got really frustrated when the last song on the album was playing. Was there something that was supposed to happen that didn't happen, some big finale moment?
Um...no, I didn't sense that. I honestly didn't see that, didn't witness that. He's a perfectionist, and it's his show, so he wants it on point. According to his Twitter it seems like he was satisfied with the show.

Oh for sure, he looked so happy. I was sitting pretty close and he just—
Oh my god, you went? Wow, wow, wow. I totally didn't know that. I thought you were just some random guy from Fuse TV. Did you enjoy it? 

It was amazing.
Definitely was.

Nobody knew what to expect at all, and when the sheet got pulled and we saw all of you standing under there, I gasped. It took my breath away. It looked like nobody had the same combo of clothes, either.
You're right, everyone had a different wardrobe. I had distressed overalls, gray overalls with holes, extremely distressed, and an army-green long sleeve top. I had sneakers on, white sneakers, Adidas sneakers. We were supposed to come in with no makeup on our face. We couldn't come glammed up, eyeshadow on, red lipstick. The hair, same thing pretty much.

What'd you think of the songs?
The music was great, the music was nice. I'm a fan of Kanye, so. All the collabs he did with all the artists, it was definitely good. I love the music.

All the models went crazy toward the endeveryone was just bouncing around and dancing to Young Thug and Travis Scott and Beyoncé's new song. Was that planned?

That was just totally natural. Once the celebrities left, you can kind of sense when the show is pretty much over. That was also livestreamed, us dancing and turning up. It was definitely fun. It was like a celebration of all the hard work that we put in the past two or three days.

JP Yim/Getty Images for Yeezy Season 3
JP Yim/Getty Images for Yeezy Season 3

What'd everyone do after?
Everyone went home after it ended. We were free to leave once we got our phones and belongings and changed, we were free to leave.

Had you modeled before? What's your day-to-day life like?
I'm from Brooklyn, I live by Flatbush kind of. I grew up in Windsor Terrace. I'm in school right now, I'm a college senior now. I'm literally on break—my next class is in a half-hour. I go to school for business management and marketing. This is my first modeling gig, but I have acted before. I like fashion, I like to consider myself pretty fashionable.

Are you gonna tell your classmates you were in the show?
Oh, they already know! I posted on Instagram, Snapchat once it was over. It's fun telling people about it.

What did being at the event make you think?
For me, I just look at life as stepping stones. So this experience will take you to where you want to go, this experience will take you to the next level in life. It's just about putting yourself out there, creating those networks, connections, I'm just really all about that. Just being an ambitious girl from Brooklyn.

For more, check out Fuse's Complete Guide to Kanye West's The Life of Pablo, which contains the entire history and a ton of music from the album.