Full Name: Tess Finley
Based in: Chicago, USA
Current Agency: Factor Chosen Chicago-USA
International Agencies: Quest-Hong Kong, The Lab Models-Milan, Satoru-Japan, Factor Chosen- Atlanta, USA, Factor Chosen-Los Angeles, USA.
Star Sign: Pisces
How old were you when you started modeling, and how did you get into it?
I was 15 when i started modeling. I had never had any plans to be a model, and honestly never thought i could be. However, one early September morning in 2011 I found out I could be! My grandparents were visiting from another state and my parents and I decided to take them to a cool street in Detroit (Michigan, USA where i’m originally from). The street was made up of a bunch of old abandoned houses turned into art. The “exhibit” of sorts is called The Heidelberg Project. If you’d like to check it out here’s the website: http://www.heidelberg.org/
There was a photographer there taking pictures of models. I ended up taking pictures with him there, later that day he sent me the photos and told me that I needed to get to an agency, that I really had a chance at this.
So I found a small agency in Michigan that lead me to Factor in Chicago. As the year went on I dropped that Michigan agency and Mothered with Factor. The rest is history 🙂
What are your most and least favourite parts of the industry?
You know, there are a lot of different aspects that go into the industry that can be perceived as good and bad. The body image issues, the money, the glitz and glamor, ect…ect… so i can’t really say that i have a least favorite or favorite.
However, if i had to choose one of each i would have to say that my least favorite part of the industry is the negative image models put onto their bodies. This industry gives a lot of gorgeous beautiful girls borderline body dimorphic disorder. Undiagnosed of course. I see it all the time in the industry. A lot of girls look at their considerably perfect/beautiful bodies and consider them to be not enough according to an industry standard, and it breaks my heart.
My favorite part of the industry is some of the artistry is put into it. The editorials and fashion stories are so interesting. The vision that has to go into all of them is incredible, and the pictures are just so much fun to look at and be apart of.
What has been your career highlight so far?
There have been a lot of amazing things that I have been lucky enough to be apart of in my career, but I have to say the highlight for me is traveling to new places and getting new life experiences out of it. Learning about new cultures and immersing yourself into another way of life is probably one of the most important things people can do for themselves in my eyes.
Have you travelled overseas? If so, where to?
I have traveled overseas! The first time i ever left the country i was 17 and I went to Hong Kong. It was such a different culture that it was a massive change of pace. I was there for about two months my favorite part was probably the beaches that were set back into the mountains.
After that i went to Milan, a lot of models that I’ve met don’t really like Milan at all. That wasn’t the case for me at all. I loved Milan so much that I was there for five months!! I got to walk in Milan Fashion Week, worked for clients like Valentino, Dolce and Gabbana, Luisa Beccaria, worked on some editorials, and of course stuffed my face full of pizza and gelato.
My last excursion was to Tokyo! I was a huge nerd when I was a kid and was in love with anything Japanese so this trip was a childhood dream come true!! Japan is like a different world. The people are so polite and it’s so clean! There’s so much going on at night, and working there is amazing. It’s definitely a money market, I made bank while traveling there which sometimes never happens.
What have you got planned for over the next twelve months?
I actually don’t have a lot planned over the next twelve months as far as modeling goes. Just kind of working in Chicago, I might be traveling to Mexico city for a month or two to work at the end of August, and then my boyfriend and I are moving to LA in November for work. LA is a fun market, it’ll be a nice change of pace in the USA for modeling as far as i’m concerned.
You are currently based in Chicago, what is the modelling industry like there?
Chicago is a very commercial market. A lot of american department stores and clothing websites are shot around this area. So if you have the right look you can make good money here. However, if you’re more of an editorial face it can be tough. Chicago does have a good hidden pocket for editorial tests here. The market is smaller too, so there isn’t a lot of competition.
Where is your favorite place in the world to model?
My favorite place in the world to model….hmmmm….that’s a tough one. I’d have to say that Milan is my favorite because it’s one of the top places to be as a model. The industry is so far ahead of it’s time there, and lastly traveling to work there is so easy. You just take a bullet train to wherever you need to go and then you’re set!
What is your background?
I’m a big northwestern european mutt! Mainly Irish, with some french and english on my mom’s side. Dad’s side is Irish, along with some german and Scandinavian.
Who/what would be your dream client/job?
Ugh, Alexander Wang or Chanel! I DIE over both of those designers to walk for them in Fashion Week and shoot their campaigns…they wouldn’t even have to pay me, I would do it for a season’s supply of free clothes. The exposure alone would be enough for sure.
What is your worst shoot experience?
I haven’t really had a horrible shoot experience, I just hate when shoots drag on…and on…and on… and on…it’s the worst! You get there at 9 am and you’re there until 11 pm and you haven’t eaten anything, you’re exhausted and everyone is grumpy. Not fun at all.
Who is your style icon and why?
Probably Halsey, I don’t really try to dress like her that often, but she always just looks so amazing in everything she wears and i wish i could have teal hair like she had.
What is your go-to outfit?
My go-to outfit for everything is these distressed splatter bleached black jeans i made with a white v-neck, faux lambskin coat, and chelsea boots along with these hexagon sunnies. Sooooo cute!!
Do you have a signature look that clients tend to book you for especially? What is it?
I do! I’m more of an editorial girl. I get booked on the stronger, raw, more edgy shoots usually. I do, however, do some commercial work when I get booked for it, but usually editorial. I like it that way, it’s a lot more fun. 😉
What do you do to stay in shape?
I’m a pretty lazy human, I should be better about working out and eating healthy. When I do workout, I take hot yoga classes, try to run and swim. I eat healthier usually, but I do indulge in a cookie…or twelve when they are around.
How long do you plan to continue modelling?
I’ll probably model for at least a couple more years. It’s great money and a fun industry, but I don’t want to stay in it forever. I plan to move into more of the film aspects of things. I plan to go to film school in the next couple of years when things start to slow down with modeling.
What is your plan for after modelling?
I would love to creative direct music videos, and act in and direct movies. My dream school is NYU for film and i’m working now on getting into NYU. We’ll see! NYU is a tough school, but with hard work anything is possible.
How do you deal with the tough criticism that this industry is known for?
I’ve always kind of just let it roll off of my shoulders. It’s tough sometimes, but one thing you have to keep in mind as a model is that none of the criticism you get is personal criticism. The industry is all about timing, clients are looking for what’s perfect for them at that moment. I’ve always been considered shorter as a model, but that’s never stopped me from following my dreams. My Dad always said that when a door closes a window opens. Keep that in mind when you aren’t particularly what a client is looking for.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time I like to go to concerts, go to art museums, and just hangout with my friends. My boyfriend is a musician so i go to a lot of his concerts and listen to a lot of music. This time of year, however, there is never spare time!
What is on repeat on your iPod at the moment?
Right now I’m on a crazy Odesza kick. Odesza is an amazing electronic music group. Their sound is very etherial and beautiful but always fun. You can listen to Odesza for anything! Cleaning, dancing, reading, just hanging out…anything!! Ugh, love them!
3 Things you never leave the house without?
Three things i never leave the house without are:
My cellphone (which i’m sure every girl says but) seriously, my whole life is on that thing. My email, everyone i need to be in contact with, netflix because what if i get bored? I could go on forever.
Wallet- i need money to live my life!
Headphones so i can listen to music wherever i am.
Favourite holiday destination?
Anywhere tropical and warm!! Give me a white sandy beautiful beach, a nice mimosa, and sexy bikini and i am there in flash. Kicking back on the beach with a warm breeze hitting my face. Ugh, heaven.
If you could have dinner with anybody, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Audrey Hepburn, she is the epitome of grace, beauty, elegance on the inside and out. She was said to be a very humble and gracious woman who was always appreciative of everything she was ever awarded and worked for. The things she did for humanity too, she is truly an inspiration to me.
Do you have a partner? If so, how do you cope with traveling away?
I do have a partner, his name is Freddy and he’s in band called Louis the Child. He’s always away touring so I’m kind of used to being away from him. It sucks sometimes, but if you love someone you have to find a way to make it work and we do. Sometimes i visit him or vise versa, and when he’s home we just cherish the time we have together.
Whats the best advice you ever received and from who was it from?
The best advice i’ve every received is from my agent Jan, she told me that the best thing you can do as a model is be as nice as you can and always be yourself in a casting. Shying away is the worst thing you can do, having personality helps you stand out. Clients love to get to know the real you, models who are polite and quiet tend to fade into the background. However, if you smile crack a joke here and there and make conversation, clients tend to remember you. Clients love to know that the models they have chosen are going to be nice and easy to work with. This has always rung true for me of any casting, job, and runway show i have been apart of.
What advice would you give to a model just starting out?
The best piece of advice i could give to a model starting out is to stay with it through the first six months to a year. Sometimes it takes a while to get things off the ground, people don’t become super models over night. It takes practice, time, and hard work to get ANYWHERE in life. Modeling isn’t any different.
Follow Tess on Instagram @_tessfinley_