Mannequin du mois d'avril

April Model of the Month

Neomi Elbaz

Nineteen years.

Originally from Barcelona, Spain

Lives in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

So, where are you from, Neomi?

I came from Spain and now I live in Montreal.

Okay, Neomi. Tell us about yourself.

Talking about me! (Laughs) It's hard to talk about me because I don't fit into a mould or a specific group or any other form of description. I like a lot of very different things from each other. I come from a lot of different places. I grew up in a multicultural family and I find it difficult to define myself precisely.

Where are you from?

I am Spanish, Jewish, Moroccan and Gabonese. On my father's side, his mother came from Spain and his father from Morocco. So when Israel became an official country, he was one of the first immigrants who arrived there. So he received his citizenship. My mother came from Gabon. A country in the West/centre of Africa but it seems that many people don't know this country. (Laughter)

Okay! How's the whole blending thing working out in your family?

I think so because they all look alike and they're all warm. So they're all fun and friendly in their own way. They have strong family values based on education and respect and I like that because it has forged the person I am today. My parents' upbringing has allowed me to have some morals, to define myself as an individual, to have confidence in myself and to be the person I am today without being shaken by remarks like ''oh, society works that way, I have to take a picture of my ass'', you know. I've always been taught to respect who I am and respect my body. It's definitely helped me in a lot of ways. It's taught me to become a good person and to be happy with it.

That's good. That's good. Despite the fact that you were raised with self-respect, you still decided to model. Why? (This question was asked in this way, taking into account the prejudices that some people have towards this profession).

Modeling started for me when I was 16. Someone had randomly asked me if I wanted to participate in a photo shoot. I'd always been told not to do that. I had never really thought about doing it because I didn't really know what it was except what my mother said about it and she said a lot of negative things about it.

What kind of things?

You know, the kind of stories you'd hear in the '60s like ''That photographer tried something weird.'' and people still have that image of the model with eating disorders. At 16, I was going through this rebellious phase, so when I was offered the opportunity, I took it! It was nothing inappropriate. It was for a gun catalog. I took my friend there because I was scared and I didn't know how it would go. It was fun! I didn't know what to do and I was really weird. But the pictures came out really well!

Did you say a gun catalog? Are we talking about the gun?

Yes, if you scroll down to the bottom of my Instagram page, you will find a backstage photo. I never published the official photos because I was insecure at the time. My early teenage years were hectic. Modeling helped me regain my confidence. The company I modeled for was Halloware, I think. But yeah, guns in the Midwest is a big deal so I didn't think it was controversial. It could have been today and I would do the same thing because I don't do anything wrong, you know. Guns are only bad if you leave them in the wrong hands. At the end of the day, I'll do the job as long as it doesn't harm me or anyone else. Sure, I've done some risky work, but nothing offensive or vulgar. I like to be creative.

All right! So what are your modeling experiences otherwise?

I started when I was 16 in St. Louis, but I moved there when I was 17. I've been in Montreal ever since. When I arrived, I had problems with the model. I met people who seemed to be nice and who made me believe that they would help me, but I saw the reality. Sometimes the world can be brutal, you know. Not like what my mom explained to me, but it was pretty rough. People take advantage of you. I was so little and so young, you know. Some of them did things I didn't agree with.

What were those things? So that the models would know where they stand and how to react.

I worked with someone who tried to kiss me and I quickly let him know that it wasn't okay. He reacted by saying that I had shown him signs of interest and I made him understand that he had made a mistake. He was much older than me. I'd say twice my age. Nothing happened after that, but it sure put me in a frightening position. I was alone and I was 17. Afterwards, it all backfired. I was supposed to have more photo shoots but he obviously messed up my reputation and I lost the contracts.

Wow! Ok I see...

I've had some negative experiences, I've met some pretty weird photographers. I've known people who argued a lot and ended up creating rumours about me. If you need to know something about me, just ask me! I'm a fun person overall and I've met a lot of great people. I have worked with some very good photographers, makeup artists and designers. People come from different worlds here and it has helped me grow in confidence and as a person.

Do you have any inspiration?

At first they didn't, but now I can say they did. I'm my own inspiration. The creativity came from myself but for sure because my name is Neomi, it was said that Neomi Campbell was. It was not the case. She does good work and all, but I wasn't watching her any more than that. Actually, I got a lot more inspiration from watching Ru Paul's Drag Race. A show featuring drag queens. I think what they do is really cool and they're more feminine than the women themselves. They're good at makeup, they're talented, they're confident and they do all these really cool things and they're beautiful. Drag queens in general have been an inspiration to me in my creativity and being comfortable with the fact that I'm different, having a different style and not trying to look like Kim Kardashian or Kylie Jenner.

Yeah, I've seen a lot of that.

I'm not devaluing them. I go on Instagram and I see all these girls that look like Kylie Jenner and yes, they are all beautiful, there's no doubt about it. But if everyone looks the same, what is beauty anyway? The world works so hard on external appearance that it seems like there's nothing to see inside the individual. I'm much more interested in personality... You can't have a good life if you don't have one.

That's very true! What are your clothing preferences?

I love loose clothing. I wear a lot of men's clothes. I'm the kind of guy that takes really loose T-shirts that look like dresses on me.

That seems to be the trend right now.

It's always been like that for me because proportionally speaking, I'm weirded out. I'm 5 foot 1 inch tall and I've always exercised. So I have body parts that are large and I have muscle mass. Even with the jeans I'm wearing right now you can tell. I like to wear tight clothes, it's beautiful at times. And I like that. But, if I go out and I'm alone, I like to wear Hawaiian shirts or those bohemian pants as they're called. You know, those baggy pants. My fashion sense comes from my big brother. I even think a lot of who I am is influenced by my brother. It's normal, you know. Back in St. Louis, I didn't have a lot of friends, and I wasn't the most popular. St. Louis is a pretty racist place. So I didn't have a lot of people to talk to. But, you know, I have my brother to thank for giving me that fashion sense.

What-is the best city when it comes to the fashion world?

I've been to a lot of places. I wouldn't say they were fashion capitals, you know. I haven't been to Milan, for example. People would say New York, but I go there a lot, and people look very much alike. You won't see there what you see here in Montreal, like, people who have their own style in the streets, you know. Yeah, you'll see people dressing normally and that's normal. However, in the neighborhoods around which I gravitate, you'll see all kinds of things. Maybe it won't be a style that you will appreciate, but it's diversity and individuality and I like that. I like the fact that people dress the way they feel even though it may not be attractive and it doesn't match or whatever... Just the way you want it.

Is there anything you noticed as soon as you arrived in Montreal?

I lived here when I was young and I used to come back and visit often and I really liked the diversity. Coming from diverse backgrounds, I didn't feel like I fit in no matter where I went. In the United States, I definitely didn't fit in in St-Louis. In my other countries of origin, I also felt different from others and that's normal and understandable. But here, everyone is a foreigner, each person is unique, each person has their own story. When I came here, that's what I noticed. I appreciate that very much. Even though it wouldn't be my style, I appreciate the diversity and you can find all your interests here. You just have to look around. I've definitely seen all kinds of facets of this city!

Which city best represents the art world?

(Laughs) It's quite a difficult question because each city has its own artistic approach. Every city interprets art differently and Montreal has a lot of talent. The problem is that none of these talented artists stay in Montreal. As soon as they make a name for themselves, they leave. They don't stay or they don't focus on the city. You see Drake, Toronto is made big because of him. People didn't care about Toronto before that. So he's talking about his city. I've been there. Personally, it's not for me. I felt a very materialistic atmosphere. But, sure, for a tourist drink, it's a great place to visit. Coming back to art, every city has its own identity. If I go to Tel Aviv, since I am also Israeli, you will find incredible artists, painters, musicians and people from all over the world. Montreal has a great jazz scene. Most of my friends here are musicians and Montreal has a pretty big jazz scene. There are some very good artists that few people know and who are undervalued. But I think they are very good artists.

I don't think there's a better city to represent the art world. I think it depends on what you're talking about. Every city has its own art. Every country has its own way of representing its culture, its arts, its diversity and its expressions. You won't find something that was made in Jamaica in China. There is beauty everywhere.

Cool! Have you ever bought something you didn't like?

No! It hasn't happened to me. I like saving my money because I definitely know what it's like not to have any. If I don't like it for sure, if I'm not obsessed with it and I can leave the store without it, I won't buy it. I don't need all this stuff.

What is your favourite colour when it comes to clothing?

Obviously, I wear a lot of black, and it's because it's friendly and it goes with everything. It'll go with any other color, but I've discovered that pink suits me very well! I also like burgundy red and forest green. I also like bright colours like blue and turquoise because of my skin tone. It makes it stand out and gives a tropical look.

You're really going to love our next collection!

I can't wait, you know! (Laughs) The sweater I wore during our photo shoot gave my skin a nice tint.

Who's your favorite designer?

To be honest, I know it's not typical of models, but I don't look at brands that much. I have a lot of cheap brands. I have van-like shoes that only cost me $14 at Target and I didn't even buy them and it doesn't matter as long as they look good. I wouldn't say I have a favorite designer. There are several that I think do a good job. If you look on the high fashion side, yeah, it would be cool to work for big brands as a wannabe model. But, can I say that I'm obsessed with the idea of having a Michael Kors bag? No. My purse is from Marshalls and I don't even use it.

Who's your favorite celebrity when it comes to fashion?

I don't really follow the life of celebrities. Not even on social networks I don't really follow them. If I try to find out about them, it's not to see what they like. I try to see their visions to make sure I can't stand someone who might oppose my visions of things. There's a lot of racist people out there, you know. A lot of them have said racist things in the last few years. I don't want to put up with that kind of person. So I don't pay too much attention to what they wear or how they wear them. I'm going to like their music or their art and not worry about what they're wearing.

You seem to be very concerned about the whole racism thing. Have you experienced anything special related to that?

You're predisposed to be when you live in St. Louis. That's where the Black Lives Matter movement started. I can still remember when the whole Ferguson thing started. I remember being in school and seeing it all on the news. I remember trying to get into town. It was chaotic, you know. I remember the first time the police pulled me aside during the riots. I was scared for my life for no reason. They pulled me aside for a very small matter. A routine check... but I was scared. I've faced a lot of racism in my life. It's really something I had to get used to because I come from many different backgrounds and I guess there are a lot of things that are not accepted in this world. I am of Israeli origin and the country doesn't seem to be popular. Being of mixed race also means that a lot of black people don't see you as their own. In fact, I've been mocked as much by blacks as by whites. Mentioning celebrities when talking about racism is just one example. That's why I want to know their opinion. I want to know what they believe in so I can't put up with corrupt visions.

Yeah, I know what you mean.

You have to be careful who you idolize and who you take to power. Look at what's going on in the world. Now we idolize people just because they look good or say something funny. And now, look, Trump is president. That says a lot.

It's really interesting! I'd like to know something. If you had to compare St-Louis and Montreal when it comes to racism, what would you say?

It's much better here. St-Louis is on the border between north and south if you consider the confederate era. But I think that border is still in effect. If you go up north, you'll face less racism but you'll also find fewer blacks. I've been upstate and they won't talk to you based on skin color. I've been to Alabama, and there I was afraid to go to a gas station. I don't think it's like that everywhere and it's everyone, but it's much more common there. Here, I've noticed that when I talk about everything I've experienced in St. Louis or in my life in general, people are really shocked. Here, because there is so much diversity, there can be racism, of course! But definitely a lot less. I don't walk into a room feeling like I'm being watched because I'm brown. There is racism, but nothing like what I saw in St. Louis. I don't do bashing towards the city of St. Louis. There are positive things there. I don't think that my bad experiences that I've had don't have to look on the bright side. If I hadn't gone through all that, I wouldn't be the person I am today.

Perfect! Here's the last question. What do you think of the Black Pearl since you've worked with us?

Well... it's not something people necessarily think about, but most of the brands I buy online are just based on looks, you know. But your sweater, which I'm wearing right now, is really cool. It's warm and cozy. I wore it during my exams because it was very comfortable. It's something that I put on while looking like I'm making an effort. There's a design on it and that design has a positive meaning. It puts a lot of things forward. It tells you about history, it tells you about strength and that's really important. Even for people who don't know who's on the clothes, including me before. You told me about it, you told me about their accomplishments and why they mattered so much. Even though I'm not Haitian, it's a good thing. There's a message of strength and pride and I think that's important. Another thing that I liked very much was the fact that you were selling cropped tops and other things. A lot of companies only sell t-shirts and kangaroos. That's nice! But if I want to order something from you, I want it to be nice clothes. As a woman, I want to wear a cropped top because you can wear whatever you want with it. Even though I like sweaters, sometimes I want cropped tops, other times I want accessories. I like the variety offered by your brand!

Wow! That's nice to know. Thank you for your time and I'll see you at the next photo shoot!

You can follow Neomi on Instagram:

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