It all started on September 4th… and it’s been ONE CRAZY MONTH!!
First off, I’ve been impatiently waiting to post this! I wanted to have one spot where people can read my story. I’ve had so many of you asking what’s going on, how did it end up, and where I will be going from here after all this. Most importantly, THANK YOU for all your support! I seriously love everyone in my life, and that means the most to me. I have wanted to fill everyone in so bad, but had to wait to get the photos approved before I could post them. The approval is in, so here we go! For those of you that don’t know my side of the story, here it is:
I was asked by the lovely and charismatic Miss Nancy Upton, to take mocking photos of her so she could submit them for entry into the American Apparel plus-size modeling contest entitled “The Next Big Thing”. My parents were in town visiting me for the Labor Day weekend, and I without hesitation, agreed to take Nancy’s photographs. I saw a creative and boldly crazy side in Nancy that made me have the urge to use my talent and do something out of the ordinary — something less traditional. While I love photographing a beautiful wedding, capturing smiles on newly engaged couples, or the defined, adorable wrinkles only a 1-week-old newborn can boast — something deep inside me said “Shannon, you’ve always been creative, funny and self-expressive….Why not bring this girl’s visions to life as well?” I was pretty much sold, because Nancy wanted to do something different, and was making an intelligent point for society at the same time. So….I showed up to her mother’s house and we embarked on our 1-hour session. While snapping away, we joked, laughed and tossed around the thought of “What if these photos got approved to enter the contest?” For some reason, that was the last thing on our minds, as we set forth into taking some rather creative and satirical photos.
After our session, I immediately went home to find my parents asking “So…did you have a good photoshoot?” I kinda chuckled, knowing that it went great, but didn’t give them any details, because I didn’t want them to freak out. Since the contest was ending 3 days later, Nancy asked me to send her the photos that night so she could quickly enter. I turned them fast, and she was thrilled. You can view the photos here.
The next day, my mom and I went out to grab dinner, and I receive a text from Nancy saying “I’m #49 of 800+ contestants so far. We [really] nailed it.” I kinda screamed and my mom was immediately asking questions…knowing the expression on my face wasn’t stemmed from disappointment. At this point Nancy was only hours into being approved for the contest. I guess this is when I should’ve started to freak out, but it wasn’t until 2 days later, when Nancy was holding the #1 spot, that me and her were shocked that the world had voted for her. Of course we knew that upon entering there was a chance…but really?!? Winning the popular vote worldwide? CRAZY.
So within the next week, Nancy and I are getting bombarded by media venues all over the world. The story and Nancy’s success was gaining popularity in the UK and other countries and spreading like wildfire. Both of us were receiving and answering hundreds of emails daily; mainly photo crediting and print release questions on my end from newspapers, online blogs, and other mediums. I’ve never talked to so many people with such beautiful dialects and accents in my life. Some of which I couldn’t understand. Sleep was minimal, and my mind felt like mush. I seriously couldn’t think straight for days on end. Media venues in the US, and even Dallas, were the last to pick it up. Everyone we were talking to was across the world it seemed, and their idea of communication was at 3 or 4 a.m. central standard time.
During this media fiasco, Nancy was contacted via email by Iris Alonzo — the Creative Director for American Apparel. The email was rather insulting, wordy, and overly insensitive to the point Nancy was trying to make. Iris also informed Nancy in this letter that she would not be awarded as the winner, even though she received the popular vote by a landslide. The choice phrases and ironic rhetoric housed within the letter created yet another media uproar. It lacked a professional tone, and was neglected of proper proof-reading (one of which you would think would have to go through a corporate PR department). Two days after the letter went viral, and the world cringed at AA’s reaction, Iris reached out to Nancy and proposed to fly me and her out to LA so we could tour their factories and office and meet them. Of course, most would label this as a publicity stunt, or them trying to ‘save face’. We agreed to the trip, as long as Nancy could interview them and get her questions answered, and I could photograph what I saw….uncensored.
One week later, I’m hopping aboard my swanky Virgin America flight directly set to land in Los Angeles. In my past, I have spent a lot of time out in LA, so it was exciting for me to return…with a new focus and light to shed on. There are no words that can describe everything we did, and the feelings that were involved. Outstanding. Scary. Nerveracking. A need for speed with the top down. Palm tree-lined streets cleaner than plates I’ve eaten off of. We had an amazing weekend full of meeting with many people and companies. Attended a photoshoot at Pinup Girl Clothing in Monrovia, had a photoshoot at the Old Zoo in Griffith Park (photos posted in previous post below), wined-and-dined at amazing restaurants including Chateau Marmont with Levi’s Jeans, and met a world-reknown fashion photographer. We had the whole weekend to basically do whatever we wanted, as we didn’t meet with American Apparel until Monday.
It’s funny, because I look back now as I am writing this and remember how Nancy and I never expected any of this. To me, that was the best part. I honestly never thought that a small, funny, 1-hour shoot would morph into something like this…
To find out what happened since we’ve returned from LA, check out Nancy’s tumblr. (I honestly couldn’t word it better myself. Simply put.) There is also more in store for us :). We will be working on a book together, and I look forward to photographing the majority of the pictures for it. I look forward to things going back to normal, and continuing to do what I love. I will remain true to myself, but I thank God everyday that I was able to experience this with Nancy, as I have learned SO much about every aspect and the business. Maybe I’ll write more about that later, but for now…let’s get to the good stuff!
I have so many photos I want to share. I will keep this post for the AA photos only though. I will post another entry soon with some fun, random stuff Nancy and I did.
So below, you will find images of what I saw as I toured the American Apparel factories and headquarters. I wanted to capture the vibrance, the corporate-love, and also the unglamorous sides of the company. I wish I knew what lied beneath the thousands of gallons of fresh white paint quickly slathered on the walls… only hours before we arrived. I guess we may never know. I wanted to capture it all. And that was what I agreed to when I said ‘yes’ to going on this journey. So with THAT being said, enjoy.