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Beauty behind the Model with Mollee Donovan – From BVI to London


Part of growing is discovering who we are through fashion.  As far back as I can recall, standing in front of my mirror in a dressing room always puts a smile on my face.  I specifically loved when there were multiple mirrors as this allowed me to get a better picture of how the garment laid on my body.  I’d spin and twirl, vogue and pose.  I can see a full reflection of what others see.  Maybe we each have a little fashion model in us.

While several industries are struggling to find their way during the pandemic, Beyond Beauti connected with Mollee Donovan to get the ins and outs, as well as understand how she is navigating in this industry, day to day.  She shared her journey from the BVI to London, and how she and the industry she works in are doing during these times. 

BB How long have you been modeling?

MD: Since I was 15 years old (8 years ago). My first modeling job was Summer Sizzle BVI. But, I have only been working full-time as a model for 1.5 years.

BB: When did you realize you wanted to model?  What sparked your interest?

MD: I became interested in modeling when I was 16 (during my second Summer Sizzle show). I was interested in the travel aspect, as well as being able to work with really creative individuals in the industry. Fashion is art and full of so much artistic expression. Growing up, I have always had a passion for the subject of art and design (I went on to do Art and Design A levels in the UK).

BB:  Tell us about your first show.  How did it come about and the role that opportunity played in your career today?

MD: My first fashion show was for Summer Sizzle BVI. I attended a local model casting along with other people from Tortola. In terms of my career today, at that time, doing the Summer Sizzle fashion show sparked my interest in becoming a model.

BB:  Talk to us a little about your journey. What shows have you participated in and what countries you have worked in?

MD: Before 2018, my only experience of modeling was doing the Summer Sizzle fashion shows. After completing my degree I signed with an agency in London, where I began to work full-time.

I’ve only done fashion shows in Tortola. Typically models who do fashion shows tend to be on the taller side being 5’10-6’. As someone who is 5’9 as well as having a more ‘commercial’ face, I tend to do alternate jobs.

I have worked in: Tortola, BVI. London, UK. Milan, Italy. Puglia, Italy. And Paris, France.

BB: Why London?

I moved to the UK to complete my A-levels when I was 16. At 18 I went to university in Oxford where I studied Anthropology (Bsc). After completing my undergraduate degree in 2018, I moved to London to work. I have lived in the UK for 7 years now, so choosing to work there was only natural as I already had a life in the UK.

BB: What are some of your most memorable moments?  What are some of your worst?

MD:  A memorable moment was getting to go to the Alexander McQueen, Fendi, and Marni Showrooms in Milan, where I got to wear the clothes that were worn on the Runway for Fall 2019.

I also got to listen-in on an interview where I saw Isabel Marant was being interviewed about her 2020 collections simply because I was working in the showroom.

Being an ethnic minority comes with it the issue that makeup artists/hairstylists often don’t know how to work with your hair and skin as they would with other models of different ethnicities. This has happened to me on multiple occasions. They “should” know how to work with a diverse range of models, however, my experience shows that this isn’t the case, and it needs to be improved through education and awareness.

Sometimes people forget that models are people as well. However as a model, if you are having a bad day, you have to deal with that on your own time and simply work. You can’t show that emotion.

BB:  What has modeling during the pandemic meant to you, and how has the pandemic affected your work?  How many calls/shows have you had during this time?

MD: From March to June 2020, I returned home to be with my mother during the height of the pandemic. At this time there was no work for a majority of models. As a model, unfortunately you cannot “work from home” like other jobs. Most of the time you have to physically be there for the shoots and to wear the products. This led to me, and others, having no work or income; as we are classified as “self- employed”.

I returned to the UK at the end of June. After quarantining, I began to work in July. In the UK, the fashion industry has fallen into a “gray area” where there are no specific Covid-19 guidelines to follow, so companies have created their own safety measures, which tend to vary depending on the job. I have been working regularly since the beginning of July. As the fashion industry resumes, they are “playing catchup” with all of the product back log that needs to be shot and put onto their websites.

In conjunction to the Covid-19 Pandemic, we also saw the rise of Black Lives Matter (BLM) movements in the US as well as countries in Europe, including the UK. I believe that in light of BLM, there has been a push for diversity within many industries and the fashion industry is no exception. As a POC or ethnic minority, I am becoming busier due to the demand for ‘diversity’.

BB:  What agency are you signed with?  How did that come about?

MD: I am currently signed with Zone Models in London. I did open-walk-ins to various agencies to see if they would be suitable for me. Zone ended up being my choice and I am very happy with them as they put me forward for good jobs and also are caring and communicative.

An open walk-in or open call gives people the chance to go into agencies to see if they have the right look for that agency.

This was not an easy task. This took various weeks of planning as I went to over 10 agencies in London before finding Zone. London is highly competitive and you will always face rejection.

BB:  Is this your lifetime career?  If not, what is?

MD: Absolutely not! I am a pragmatic person as well as a realist. I do enjoy modeling as I get to work with creative people every day within the fashion industry. However, it is also tiring and many models tend to “age out” of modeling. Meaning that they become older and have trouble booking jobs because of this.

Modeling is not a long-term career, and I want to pursue other interests. Some of my interests lie within the creative industry, such as potentially becoming a set designer or working as a fashion/film stylist. I also am interested in investigative journalism, and attaining my captain’s license. Additionally, I am interested in working within the field of marine biology/sustainability. I also plan to go back to university to complete a masters in a few years.

BB:  Dispel any myth that is known in the modeling industry?  What is your overall experience within the industry?

MD: Myth: Models make a lot of money- When you work as a model, you often do not book jobs for a while when starting out. You have to build up a client base, as well as your portfolio to begin to work more. You may have to work off debt for shoots set up by your agencies for your portfolio.

Myth: You have to be tall to model- What it means to be a model today is definitely becoming more diverse. In commercial modeling, a lot of people are under 5’9. Curvy/Plus size markets are also becoming more common.

Myth: Being a model is a glamourous job- As a model you work long hours where you stand all day. You often are in uncomfortable clothing for the whole day (I’ve modeled future winter collections this summer already. Being in 4 layers of wool as well as a winter coat under hot lights in the middle of a heatwave in London, with poor air-conditioning is not glamorous!). Modeling is mentally and physically exhausting as you often have to change up to 60 times a day; you have to be professional and interact with new people as well as be efficient at the job.

Myth: The harder you work, the more successful you will be- This is one career that even if you work extremely hard, you may not book jobs. It is simply out of your control. This is one thing that I learned and now understand, putting me more at ease. As someone who took my university degree very seriously, I came out of university with an attitude of “working hard will always land you success”. This is not the case for model/acting. Sometimes whether you book a job or not, it comes down if one casting director likes you over 50 other girls who look similar to you going for the same role. A lot of people who model tend to have other lines of work/hobbies as sometimes it’s not best to solely rely on it as your main source of income. You may have great years where you work really well, and then others where you struggle.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my experience in modeling as it has sparked my interests to work within the creative industry in the future. I have also met so many interesting and talented individuals. I’ve learned a lot about businesses in general.

BB:  What do you miss most about home?

MD: I miss my friends and family. I miss the small community of Tortola as well as the culture. I miss the food and better tasting fruits and vegetables. I also miss swimming, snorkeling, fishing and all the BVI has to offer in a natural context.

Living in London is tiring, sometimes unfriendly, cold, and not the best for you in terms of your health. Living at home for nearly 4 months this year taught me how important it is to exercise and take care of yourself and that I am so lucky and privileged to be from a place as beautiful as the BVI.

BB:  What’s next for Mollee?

MD: I’m just trying to survive and work this year as it’s been very difficult for everyone!

BB:  Words of wisdom from “Mollee’s Perspective” for aspiring models in the Territory and world wide.

MD: You have to be confident with yourself and be aware that you will have to face a lot of rejection. You will, and should, develop a ‘thicker skin’ to criticism about you as everyone has an opinion, that may not necessarily be correct!

Once you become familiar within the industry, you may even become even more confident within yourself and know what you want to take out of it (that is different for everyone).

For bookings, contact Mollee’s booker Natasha at: natasha@zone-models.com

Follow Mollee on IG to keep up with what she’s doing and to follow her career.

To be featured, email us at beyondbeautivi@gmail.com.