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Daily Inspiration: Meet Scarlet Begonias

Today we’d like to introduce you to Scarlet Begonias.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I got started with my modeling career when I was scouted for a project by a photographer in New York. I was working a long shift on Father’s Day as a waitress in a restaurant. One of my customers was a photographer and told me if I had never considered modeling before, I should do so immediately. (I had done some figurative art modeling for drawing classes in college and modeled for my best friend’s photography just for fun, but never even DREAMED of modeling as a career. I never had the self-esteem.) That first shoot was one of the most exciting days of my life, and I felt alive and inspired in front of the camera- like I was immediately in my element.

The images were selected for publication by a magazine, and once I posted the images to my Instagram, the requests for more photoshoots started coming in from other photographers. I worked hard, travelled, shot non-stop, built my portfolio and websites, and have thrown myself wholeheartedly into the modeling world for the past two years. I eat, sleep and breathe modeling. My whole life really revolves around making each shoot better than the last. In addition, my business/life partner, and other half, Sean, has been hard at work learning photography and has shown quite a natural talent for it. We taught ourselves to use Photoshop and I greatly enjoy editing our photos and videos. We have been producing content for brands together, especially since COVID 19 caused traditional photoshoots to be shut down for several months. We offer a convenient and affordable option for brands and companies to quickly receive high-quality promotional content. We have shot everything from swimwear and fashion accessories to coconut water, beauty products, lingerie, apps- you name it, we can shoot and promote it! We especially like working with companies that share our values of being kind to others, promoting mental health awareness, saving the environment and just generally doing good in the world. We also really love to work with local brands and companies, so we offer a discount on our services to other Orlando-based businesses!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I don’t think any part of my life could be described as a “smooth road.” My story is an intense and emotional one. I didn’t have an easy childhood in that I spent a lot of time feeling very alone. I won’t go into the details here, but I was a sad child and withstood quite a bit of emotional trauma. I begged my parents for therapy, but all I got was a dismissive response. Middle and high school were even worse, and by the time college and my early post-college days rolled around, I was a high-functioning drug addict with crippling mental health issues. Nearly five years ago now, I was getting sober after drugs almost killed me. I had nothing- no money, just left a toxic relationship, no job, no place to live. I only had one friend left in the whole world- my best friend, Steph. I drove to her house in my broken down car (with $72 dollars to my name) and started a new life, sober and living on her couch. She had a newborn baby and I’ll always be thankful for the chance she took the night I showed up on her front step, crying and apologizing, promising I would do better if she helped me pick up the pieces. She let me stay, fed me, loved me, and borrow clothes to get a job.

I met my partner, Sean, about two weeks after that- he worked in the first restaurant I walked into to find a job. We quickly fell in love, and although at first, neither of us had a place to live, we spent every moment together from the start, sleeping in his car and crashing on friend’s couches together for a few months. Eventually, we saved up enough to get a place and worked our way up to a better-paying restaurant- the one where I was scouted for that first photo shoot. When I told Sean a photographer had come in and wanted me to model, he was very supportive and told me to go for it! He helped me get ready for that first shoot and every other one since. We moved to Florida while still working in the same restaurant (same company, different location) and after my first photoshoot in New York. We had already planned to move somewhere warmer, no matter what our jobs were (we hate the cold), but I feel like we really moved to Orlando because the universe was conspiring to make way for bigger things in our lives. Unbeknownst to me at first, the photographer who scouted me up in New York was from Orlando, which is such a strange coincidence at a very pivotal point in our lives.

By the time we made it down to Florida, I already had several other shoots lined up to continue building up my portfolio. It was anything but a smooth road going to modeling full time. I experienced my fair share of setbacks- including a horrible experience when I tried to “upgrade” my second form of employment from waitressing to working in an office setting. My new employer made it his mission to exploit and control me- even ordering me to quit modeling. I was terrified because I wasn’t ready to believe in myself- to have faith that I could succeed if I just focused on the modeling and left the supplemental income of a second job behind. One day, the aforementioned employer took it way too far and I decided that was the last time I would let him or anyone else treat me that way. I quit and got the heck out of that job, but I was feeling broken. I was left to decide between modeling full time and pursuing my dreams or picking up the shattered pieces of my career and trying to find another 9-5 that was actually decent. I’ll never say what he did to me was a favor because it was not, but it did cause me to throw myself into modeling with a desperation to succeed and a refusal to take “no” for an answer. I applied to every casting and agency, I booked shoot after shoot. I started taking increasingly good care of my body.

I enrolled in therapy to help me process everything that has lead up to this point. I decided I would never rest until I was successful and never looked back- and I never will. Modeling itself is no easy job and requires complete dedication and lots of hard work. I make almost all of my money through independently managed bookings, despite being signed with a few local agencies. This means that in addition to actually modeling and running my business, I also take on a lot of the responsibilities of a model manager. I am a hustler and a professional, and I know I will succeed and overcome any setbacks I face. I am driven and I have a vision for my future. I am very proud of the person I am becoming. Being an entrepreneur can be difficult, especially now, with all of the uncertainty we face in a country currently plagued by a pandemic and political unrest, but I am confident that I will rise above the struggles and succeed.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
For me, modeling is the purest form of self-expression. I feel myself come alive in front of the camera in a way I cannot fully put into words, and the creative side of my brain just takes over. I get carried away by the energy exchange between photographer and muse, lighting and environment. Many photographers I work with have noticed that I get into a rhythm of creating with them, almost like a dance. The exchange of creative energy allows me to anticipate poses the photographer is picturing and really become “one” with his or her artistic vision. Creating in front of the camera is therapeutic for me. I feel like my personal struggles have actually made me a stronger model. I am an emotional person, and I channel my familiarity with a wide range of emotion to get into the “mood” of a shoot with my body language, eyes and facial expressions. I pride myself on my versatility as a model and am always challenging myself to build my skillset and improve in any way that I can. I accept work in a wide range of genres.

I love modeling fashion, swimwear, for commercials or lifestyle advertisements, and in projects that incorporate yoga, especially, but it is impossible for me to choose a favorite style of modeling because each reflects a different part of who I am, a different piece of my personality. I enjoy the variety of modeling as well, so for that reason, I prefer not to limit myself to any one style. I’ll be all glammed up in high fashion for a studio shoot one day, the next I’ll be covered in soot and ash, trudging through the mud and wild undergrowth of Florida, for a creative editorial about a female warrior- then, at the ocean, to shoot swimwear after that! I like creating in a range of mediums as well- I’ve done everything from underwater shoots with full professional scuba set-ups, to standard digital photography and video, to the original form of photography- film. I’ve modeled for paintings, drawings and sculptures. I think what I am most proud of is how much I have overcome to be here. I was not always a good-looking person- and as a result, I was bullied incessantly as a child and had a really rough time. Back then, if you had ever told me how different things would be in the future, I would have laughed at you and never believed it. Sometimes when I get nervous about the future now, I just look back at the past to remind myself that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.

I am also very proud of myself for choosing to stay vulnerable and honest about my journey. Back when I was at rock bottom, I was dreaming of a life where I would never have to tell anyone about the bad things I had been through. Now that I am here, I feel differently about it. I tell people about my past on purpose- even though it still scares me to do so- on social media, on my blog, in interviews like this one. I keep it real because I think it is important. I want to become an advocate for mental health, recovery and normalizing therapy. I talk about going to therapy to anyone who will listen to me, and I have been helping the people who are drawn to what I talk about find resources. It makes what I went through make more sense if I can help other people with the empathy I gained. I always want to do more to help. It seems I have a lot to be proud of because I would be remiss if I did not also mention how proud I am of Sean for picking up the camera and absolutely rocking it. When COVID-19 shut everything down earlier this year, it was a very nerve-racking time to be self-employed. We didn’t receive unemployment- it just never came. So we needed to be resourceful, and as a result, our own little content-production team was born. I am impressed with his natural ability and willingness to work hard to learn and improve. His images are really good and I love being able to create together. As far as what really sets me apart from others, I would have to say the main thing is my resolve. I may get knocked down 10 times but I will get up 11. In the famous words of W.E.B. Dubois, “There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise.”

Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
My advice to those just starting out would be to believe in yourself and your potential. I spent a lot of time doubting myself and thinking I could never accomplish my goals, and now I know that I was wrong. I had a lot of elements of my early life working against me, but the biggest obstacle in my way was my lack of confidence and self-love. I also would advise taking the time to build relationships with like-minded people who inspire you to be a better person. I would be nothing without my inner circle, as they have helped me bounce back from some of the hardest things I have had to overcome. Having a network of positive-minded people to lean on is so important. I am eternally grateful to my friends, colleagues and partner. Another important thing to remember, in all industries but especially the one I am in, is to take proactive steps to protect yourself and be safe. I personally don’t go anywhere completely alone.

I always tell someone in my inner network exactly where I will be, who I will be with, when I will be back, and I make sure that someone who is aware of those three things is within 5-10 minute of me at all times. I check references and I do background research on people I will be working with. I make a plan ahead of time of how to try to deal with a situation if I feel unsafe (escape plan, emergency contacts, etc.) If something seems “off,” it probably is- trust your gut if you are starting to feel unsafe in any type of situation. It is better to be safe than sorry and not everyone has the right intentions. The last piece of advice I have, is to pay attention to your mental health and learn to know yourself. Therapy has helped me immensely and looking back, I know I would have had such an easier time of it if I had been able to get help sooner in life. Even if you are not struggling with mental health issues, therapy can help you be more successful, more happy, more centered. I think that normalizing therapy and encouraging people to go even when they are not in crisis could completely change our society, if not our world. So many people have pain that they are trying to hide, but instead, it is affecting their behavior and leading to more problems- at work, in their social lives, within their own inner dialogue. It is standard practice of people t0 go t0 check-ups and routine physical exams with doctors for physical health, but many scoff at the idea of going to a “mental health” checkup, until they are already in crisis. I think a proactive approach to counseling would help so many people, so much.

Pricing:

  • Modeling rates – $100/hr and up, depending on the project
  • Content creation services – $50 for 5 professional images, discounts on larger quantities OR starting at $75/hr
  • Social media promotion – Starting at $20 for a story shout out

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Sam Emerson, Charles Guthrie, Edwin Soto, Gregory Mohn, Sean Miller, Al Salazar Private Portraits, and  Lathala Studios (15twenty Beauty Campaign)

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