In conversation with Mays Atti: A model’s FASHFEST perspective

Mays (third from right) at the 2017 model casting for FASHFEST – Anthony Caffery Photography

On the 4th June, over 400 hopefuls walked the runway of FASHFEST 2017’s model casting. I, too, had been keen to attend, as the event is the largest of its kind in Canberra. Unfortunately, in terms of my uni calendar, the FASHFEST model casting could not have come at a worse time. So, instead of joining the throngs of photographers and media at the casting catwalk, I was stuck at my desk with a mountain of textbooks and a huge case of FOMO. For the following couple of days, all I saw on social media were selfies and clips from what seemed like a great, energy-filled day at the National Convention Centre, which, instead of giving me insight, made me even more curious as to what it was like being one of the 400 walking the runway in front of the panel of judges.

If you’re anything like me, modelling has both a sort of elusive appeal and terrifyingness about it. As a self-conscious introvert, modelling is about as far out of comfort zone as it gets. However (and it probably shows why I’m doing a Psychology degree), I’m overly curious about the hows and the whys, especially when they involve a person’s story. I got in touch with Mays Atti (we go way back) to give me some perspective on what it’s like being a model, both in front of the camera and on the FASHFEST catwalk, and to explain what went down at the model casting this year. She walked in three shows last year for FASHFEST 2016, her Facebook modelling page has over 1000 likes, and her Instagram has 3 times that number. But even as her modelling career has boomed in the last couple years, it’s her fascinating story of growth from a difficult childhood, and her entrepreneurial spirit that has her constantly reaching for bigger and better things, that really hits home. In a world of beauty and social media, sometimes we forget: there’s a person behind the model. Check out my interview with Mays below!

Excitement before the FASHFEST model castings 2017 – HollWill Photography

Ronja: You’ve been to a couple FASHFEST castings before and walked a couple shows last year. What was your favourite thing about this year’s casting?

Mays: Seeing all the familiar faces, it felt like a family reunion!

R: Do you have any tips for first-timers or people interested in getting into the modelling industry?

M: Modelling isn’t for everyone. Yes, you get to see nice photos of yourself, but what comes with it is a whole different world. So be prepared for rejection and to work hard. A pretty face isn’t everything. Always be active and be on the hunt for jobs yourself.

Mays (second from right) at the FASHFEST 2017 model castings – HollWill Photography

The FASHFEST model castings for 2017 – Anthony Caffery Photography

R: What’s the best and worst thing about being a part of a show like FASHFEST?

M: The best would be connecting with new people, getting to know their story. It’s great meeting different creatives and seeing what drives them. The worst would be wearing heels. Yes, I hate heels. I have size 11 feet and they’re also flat, so it’s a nightmare for me.

Straight, No Chaser Photography

R: Obviously, there are lots of body types and ethnicities represented at the casting. How do you find confidence in yourself and your look?

M: Confidence is something I work on everyday. As some may not really know about me, I have a dark past. Long story short, I migrated to Australia at the age of 9. I felt like a foreigner and couldn’t speak English, so making friends was hard. I actually wore the hijab from the age of 8 until I was about 16, when I decided this wasn’t for me. There were lots of factors that contributed to my decision – from the brutal bullying, to the double life I was living as a teenager, trying to figure everything out whilst moving from foster homes to kids’ youth refugees. With bullies and negative people dragging you down, you feel miserable, ugly, unloved and abandoned. Photography and modelling was one of my escapes. Since the age of 13, I would take photos and sit on my computer for days, just editing. Making a fantasy world for myself. I made sure I kept busy, surrounded myself with supportive people, listened to my gut, kept going even when they said no. I still don’t have it all figured out, but I am on the path.

R: Here’s a fun one: if you got to choose any designer in the world to collaborate with, who would it be?

M: That’s a hard one. I love local designers. I am a big supporter of them. If I had to choose it would be Chachino Designs, Liberated Heart & DZO.

R: You’ve recently completed your studies in beauty and makeup and are launching your own business (congratulations!), so you obviously have passions outside modelling. If you could participate in any other aspect of FASHFEST, what would it be? Could you see yourself working in makeup for future FASHFESTs?

M: Thank you! Yes, I graduated last year. I’ve just recently launched Mays Atti Beauty, so I am excited for that. I have endless interests, so I can see myself being part of FASHFEST’s behind-the- scenes. It could be makeup – who knows what the future has in store.

FASHFEST 2017 is being held from 28-30 September at the National Convention Centre. Interested in participating? There are still hair and makeup opportunities available (check out my blog post on applying HERE or apply online HERE).

Catch more of Mays’s modelling work on her social media profiles (Facebook, Instagram), or through her modelling agency HAUS Models, or contact her beauty business Mays Atti Beauty (Facebook, Instagram).

*Where not specified, photos my own.