Beginning her career as a ballerina, Claudia Mason has always had a love for performing. At the young the age of thirteen though, she was discovered by a scout from Elite Modeling Agency and it was then that her love for performing shifted from dance to modeling. From there, Mason went on to become one of the worlds top models working for some of fashion’s biggest names, does Karl Lagerfeld, Versace, or Oscar de La Renta ring a bell? She’s also been featured on the covers of fashions biggest publications such as Vogue, W, and Elle and has worked with every notable photographer from Steven Meisel to Mario Testino.
Now with many many years of experience under her belt, Mason has launched her very first book, FINDING THE SUPERMODEL IN YOU, The Insider’s Guide to Teen Modeling, which came out just a few days ago. Mason's book offers an inside look into the world of modeling and is a must read for anyone hoping to make it in the industry. Here, Mason gives us a behind the scenes look at her time in the modeling world and her best advice for Making it in Manhattan.
1. You started your career as a ballerina, what inspired your love for dance and where did you study?
Ballet was my first love! Ever since I was 4 years old and my mom first took me to see the NYCB…I fell completely in love with the art form that night. I studied at NYCB’s School of American Ballet at Julliard.
2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in the modeling industry?
Actually, the modeling industry discovered me at age 13 via a scout who worked for Elite Model Management. Up until that point I hadn’t a clue about the modeling industry, and was only concerned with ballet, school and boys!
3. What was the first job you ever booked as a model?
4. What was the most valuable thing you learned from that first job?
To be myself in front of the camera.
5. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone about to begin a career in modeling?
Don’t compromise yourself because the camera, and the industry professionals, won’t buy it. Be your authentic self as best you can. Hold fast to who you are and learn to grow your confidence by following the guidance I offer in my book.
6. Who have been your biggest mentors in this industry and what is the best advice they have ever given you?
There have been so many. Mario Testino is certainly one, and he used to tell me that I took direction well; he would make a certain facial expression on set that he would want me to imitate, and he delighted in my ability to give it back to him and perform it for the camera the way he envisioned it. I got more confident from working with Mario since he always made me feel great and was so complimentary to me as a model, which partly led me to move on and include actor on my CV. Monique Pillard, the former vice president of Elite Models was a big supporter of my career from the get go. She didn’t say much to me in the way of advice, but her strength of character and conviction were instrumental in growing my own belief in myself. Also Gerald Marie who was the president of Elite Europe. He told me to enjoy it all more, he’d say - after all fashion is fun, enjoy growing into your womanhood and let your full self shine in front of the camera, own it! – and so many more amazing experts along the way.
7. What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?
I remember doing a benefit fashion show in New York when I was a kid, 14. It was a massive star-studded event, with celebrities both in the fashion show and in the audience. I had to walk down the runway with an older male model and since we were wearing outfits that had a money print on them, the designer wanted us to throw fake money out to the audience as we walked up and down the runway. I didn’t quite hear the direction with all the backstage noise and craziness and I ended up handing the fake bills to those in the front row – ya know, leaning over to put it in their hand! Ha.
8. What has been the most memorable or rewarding moment in your career?
Oh boy. Impossible to pick just one. The moment that just came to mind was when I was shooting the Fendi campaign with Karl Lagerfeld at his house in Monaco. It was one of the most glamorous, exciting and fulfilling experiences. Karl is well read and he showed me his library and he enjoyed talking about the arts and culture. The meals were exquisite as was his house and his selection of music – and the views of the city! Just incredible…I wanted to move in with him and never leave.
9. What is one of your favorite parts of modeling and what is one of your least favorites?
One favorite part is the ability to express myself freely in front of the camera, especially on the more artistic shoots such as a recent one I did where I got to dance around all day with 3 male dancers while the photographer snapped away. A least favorite part is all the time spent waiting around for the set to be ready or the light to be adjusted. Such is the case for all work that is done on film (whether digital or not), for still or moving cameras.
10. What would you say are some vital skills or characteristics to have to make it in the modeling world?
Perseverance. A belief in yourself. The ability to have fun and be sexy. Joy. Gratitude. Professionalism.
11. If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
Live it and be present in it. Find the joy always even when the challenges are great.
12. The fashion industry has changed so much in the past few years, what’s the best advice you would give for staying ahead of the curve?
In all of life, change is the only constant. Every model needs to stay true to herself and find out what her unique qualities are and shine them out into the world no matter what social media app is the current vehicle. It’s Instagram today, but it will be something else tomorrow so as long as you’re being authentic to who you are and showcasing your strengths on whatever piece of technology is hot, then you’re good.
13. What inspired you to write Finding the Supermodel in You, The Insiders Guide to Teen Modeling?
I wanted to provide an excellent guidebook from an actual supermodel – me. There isn’t anything out there on the market like this, and it’s needed. My words are also relevant for people of both genders and all ages.
14. Was writing a book always something you’d hoped to do?
Honestly – no!
15. What advice would you give to someone hoping to one day make it as a supermodel?
Buy my book immediately and read it cover to cover! It’s all in there.