Interview with Model Rebecca-Jo Dunham

Rebecca-Jo Dunham is a Canadian model who has appeared in high end fashion editorials including for Vogue. She loves new wave cinema, punk sensibility, hotel pools, listening to NPR, and baking vegan treats. In this article she shares her insight about her experiences shooting and travelling in China.

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You’ve had experience modelling in both China and the West. Do you notice any differences in the approach to fashion shoots and project management?

There are differences in approach to fashion shoots and project management. I won’t pretend to understand all the nuances because, in China, English is not usually the language spoken on set. One of the greatest and most obvious differences is time management. Catalogue jobs in China are paid by the hour, so in order to stay on budget the client will rush along everyone working on set. In other countries, the payment is generally a day rate or usage rate, which means no matter how long or little you work you will be paid an agreed amount.

You’re a committed vegan and baker. Tell us about your favourite recipes.

I love pancakes! While I’m travelling I miss pancakes the most. I came up with an easy, healthy pancake recipe while I was homesick in Shanghai one morning. It’s a combination of oats, ripe bananas and soymilk. All you do it mash it together with a fork, or if you are fancy you can blend it. When I’m feeling indulgent I’ll add chocolate chips or cinnamon.

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What’s the toughest part about modelling?

The toughest part about modelling is feeling homesick and waiting. Travelling all year round means I miss my friends, family and dog all the time. When I move so frequently and my social network is scattered worldwide it’s easy to feel lonely. Being in a new city every three months or so can feel overwhelming and isolating. Then, there is the waiting. Models wait backstage, wait for hair and makeup, wait for contracts from agencies, wait for payment, and wait for clients. It can cause a lot of boredom and down time. The best thing to do is have iBooks and podcasts loaded on your iPhone at all times!

What do you enjoy most about fashion and modelling?

I love how dynamic modelling and fashion are. It is constantly changing and seems to be a living thing. With some other creative and artistic pursuits, the product of your labour can take years to see results. With fashion everything is now. There is something so current about the speed of fashion.

What I enjoy most about modelling is meeting so many fascinating people and being able to participate in an industry filled with creative and passionate people. I’ve had experiences that are beautiful and unique.

Tell us about your experiences in China – travel and work-related. How have they changed you as a person?

The most memorable experience that I had in China was on a small fishing island. I was hired to shoot Outlook Magazine in a remote part of China. We drove nine hours from Shanghai to arrive at a seaside village with one paved road. We took a fishing boat to our two-day location, carrying thousands of dollars of clothes in the trunks we sat on. On our first day the village girls came out to meet us and practice their English.

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Later, the same day, I needed to use the washroom, but there was no public washroom. Some of the village residents had been watching us work throughout the day, particularly a very curious older woman. When we asked her where we could use the bathroom, she invited me into her home to use her private washroom. Inside she showed me furniture that had been in her family for generations.

As we thanked her for being so generous and graceful, she was so busy knitting a fishing net. When I told her I also knit, her face lit up and she decided to teach me how to knit fishing nets. Being able to interact with people from all over China, and seeing the culture in such a mosaic of ways has given me profound respect for the Chinese people and culture. I’ve even picked up quite a bit of Mandarin!

Where do you see yourself going next?

In terms of modelling, I’ll be taking a break from Asia for the next little bit and will be focusing on working in Europe and New York. While I was in Shanghai last year, I began visiting the fabric markets on my free days and working with a tailor to make my own clothes. What started as a weekend adventure has led me to working on my own clothing line! We just shot our first lookbook and are starting to look into selling and manufacturing in the USA. 

What shoot are you most proud of and why?

I am most proud of my Marie Claire Editorial because I got to work with one of my favourite stylists, Kiky Rory, and because I love Marie Claire magazine! The clothes were perfect and I just loved the mood of the shoot. We had a great team in a beautiful location!

What shoot did you learn the most from or get the most out of?

The shoot that I learned the most from was my shoot for Vogue China. I was so nervous and excited before the shoot that I allowed my nerves to get the better of me. It was a group shoot and I was so preoccupied with my nerves that I felt like I had underperformed all day. At the end of the day I had a fitting until 2am. Sitting in the taxi on the way home, sleep-deprived and having to start work in a few short hours I called my mom in Canada crying.  I allowed my nerves to get the best of me and have since learned that clients choose you for a reason: So don’t doubt the client – or yourself!

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What’s your greatest beauty secret?

I credit my veganism and yoga to my beauty and (of course!) my parents. Eating healthy helps to keep your body and skin beautiful. Yoga relaxes the mind and body, allowing your body to cleanse and strengthen. I use all organic skincare and, when I’m at home, I make frequent trips to my favourite organic Spa, Qi Tranquility Spa and Laser.

Photography by Regen Chen and Makeup by Jen Yang. 

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