Hometown: Trumbull, Connecticut
Current Location: Los Angeles, California
Nickname: My childhood friends call me Meli, and my father calls me Tweety.
Tell us your story in a nutshell? Who is Melanie?
I am a little fairy princess, moonlighting as an actress and model. An artist above everything.
What's your ethnic background?
I am Filipino, Chinese and Slovakian.
You mentioned briefly from our shoot that you are part Filipino. Share us more about this fact about you that not a lot of people know about.
My mother was Filipino and Chinese! My father met her while he was stationed in the Philippines during his time in the Navy. Not many people can recognize this about me due to my lack of hair and fair skin. My eyes used to resemble my mother's before I had eyelid surgery (due to ingrown eyelashes) when I was a toddler.
Where are you from originally?
I am from Trumbull, Connecticut.
Tell us about your hometown.
Trumbull was a typical Connecticut suburban town, just over and hour or so outside of NYC. It was quiet and family oriented. It was very much like The Breakfast Club.
Where are you based now? You think you would stay there for a while?
I am all over the place at the moment and basically bi-coastal between NYC and LA. I'd like to settle down for real in a city soon, needed a change from the last few years in NYC but not sure where I'll go in a few months!
What inspired you to be a model?
Growing up I was always an artist and loved high fashion photography as sources of inspiration and reference. I posed for my own life sized drawings and paintings while I was in art school so modeling came naturally to me in NYC when I had the opportunity. Alexander McQueen's designs specifically inspired me when I was in NYC. I just thought I belonged in his clothes.
How long have you been modeling?
I have been modeling for about five and a half years now!
Tell us about your Ectodermal Dysplasia. How do you think it helped shape you as the person you are today?
It is a genetic disorder which effected the way my body formed during development. As something not being a choice or something I can control, I think I've had to learn personal acceptance and strength from a very early age.
Tell us about your earliest modeling gig. Can you still remember it?
My first shoot was with a photographer I had met in the NYC club/fetish scene, Adrian Buckmaster. He was a commercial and portrait photographer who had beautiful photos of brides and wedding gowns haha. I enjoyed the overall juxtaposition of his photography and wrote to him. He asked me to pose for him after seeing my self portraits and artwork. I was crazy nervous but him and his wife were very relaxed and helped me feel comfortable! It was very professional and I found the shooting process to be very therapeutic in the end. I came home to find a film shoot occurring in my basement by my boyfriend at the time and sat in the scene surrounded by candles for his project.
What’s your favorite part in being a model?
I love traveling and be able to connect with such amazing and beautiful artists.
Tell us about your most memorable experience in modeling so far.
My most memorable experience so far is shooting with Tim Walker for Love Magazine. Shooting with Tim was my second dream after modeling for Alexander McQueen. It's still an awe-inspiring shoot for me.
You have been a highly positive and inspiring figure to a lot of people especially when it comes to embracing and loving who you are. How did you do that?
Thank you, I think through years of practice I've been able to face and release fears, boundaries, other people's opinions etc. It took a lot for me to get to this point but the breaking point was quite easy for me when I started modeling, I just didn't want to care anymore. So I don't worry about judgement etc and found there is a whole world out there outside of what I had previously thought it to be. Perspective is a beautiful thing, it makes me sad for so many people don't even know how beautiful life can be. It is a positive force all in one split decision to be a positive person.
How do you manage your time as a model?
I treat it as a regular job and am very serious about it. I used to book myself as much as I could, but now I am a little more relaxed about it. I shoot in the day on the weekdays usually unless I am travelling or on a long project. I give myself weekends off to decompress and rest or otherwise have a life outside of work. When I travel I shoot constantly because I ride on adrenaline. Being a foreigner in new cities is my excuse for being a work horse during this time haha! Even though you can kind of know you'll be back, you never really KNOW if you WILL be. Or if you'll ever meet these people again! A lot can happen in a little bit of time, I like to be as opportunistic as possible regarding geography haha.
What are the usual misconceptions about you and how do you deal with it?
Hm quite a lot of opposites I find! If people know me from my photos specifically many people think I am intimidating or super serious. If people know me from Instagram many people think I am super goofy in real life because of my selfies etc and they think I am just lucky or shoot with really great photographers etc. I think people just need to understand that there are many facets to a personality and situations. I very much am "Melanie the Model" but it's kind of the way I choose to "deal" with the world and my response to it. I'm constantly evolving as are my photos. I hate being limited or put in a box just because of what people have seen me do before etc. Unless people actually talk to me in a real human to human encounter, they don't really know anything. I don't find anything fun about being a bitch or condescending to anyone (cough cough majority of fashion people) nor do I think that is any way to live a life. When I walk on set a lot of people think I'm just this weird random little sick girl or something. At the end of the shoot they all want to take pictures with me or follow each other on instagram.
If you can compare your modeling experiences with your favorite movie, what would it be?
I have no idea, my favorite movie changes constantly!!! I love Amelie, Studio Ghibli and Pulp Fiction, so....
Your favorite food.
My favorite food is definitely avocados <3 <3 <3
I heard that you love Neil Gaiman. Which of Neil Gaiman's stories is your favorite and why?
I always loved Neverwhere the most, it's a fun but intellectually stimulating Alice in Wonderland to me. It is dark and whimsical and very much like a modern day fairytale!
Tell us about your favorite Studio Ghibli Film Titles and why.
I love My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Spirited Away and Kiki's Delivery Service. Totoro and Spirited Away are probably my most favorite, but I watched Kiki's Delivery Service like an obsessive amount. They're sweet, charming and easy for me to watch. They have a strong sense of childlike wonder and family orientation that resonates deep within me as well!
Fashion or Fine Art? Why?
Fine art completely. But I could never specifically be one way or another. Fine art is completely creative and from the soul, fashion has specifically money and the masses involved which is obnoxious, and annoying. I like playing with the two.
Book that you’re currently reading.
I just reread White Oleander by Janet Fitch which was my favorite book as teenager. I was feeling lonely and needed a good reminder about the human condition haha (in a not so terrifying way). I used to read all of the time, nowadays I think I deal with so much bullshit I honestly don't need to feel so intense or serious all of the time.
What else keeps you busy aside from modeling?
I love animals and creating. If I wasn't modeling I would definitely be working in film production.
What comes next after modeling?
I've been merging more into film now. I started acting very young and partook in alot of plays and performing arts. I always thought I wanted to be on a big screen or billboard. I didn't know how but I knew I wanted that. As I started modeling I did alot of fashion films, music videos and short films. Now I'm working on larger titles and hope to continue on larger productions.
Any advice you can give to any aspiring models out there?
Hustle hard and do your thing. There is no right way to do something, just be yourself and live your dream!
Tim Walker was seriously my dream forever. I would love to shoot with Mert Alas and Marc Piggot and especially with Alexander McQueen. I want to live on in his legacy <3
All of the above!!! Also, Vogue and to become a Love Magazine regular. Kind of funny but definitely Victoria's Secret, some way somehow! I want to do it all.
Tell us a secret.
I have little webbed feet and fairy hands.
What's next for Melanie? Any new exciting project that we can expect from you?
Nothing I can publicly announce so far hehehe please keep a look out though!
If you’re gonna have a book what title would it be?
My tag line from an interview with Style Like U, "Beauty is a State of Being."
If you will be given the chance and opportunity to help a specific charity, what would it be and why?
I would love to create my own network for children and adults with ectodermal dysplasia, to help unify people worldwide and the medical field. I would also definitely help the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasia as well as Operation Smile. I never had any help from organizations growing up, and even nowadays when I meet other people that have ED or cleft lip and palate I am shocked at the medical decisions doctors make nowadays etc. I wish the medical field was more unified and informed, people with ED are forever guinea pigs it seems.