Aponi Kai and the business of modeling

Originally published in Taos News

Though you may not know Aponi Kai in person, it is very possible that you have seen her face.

She was the image for Gertrude Zachary Jewelry, displayed on billboards and on the side of buses throughout New Mexico. She has also modeled for Fuller Cosmetics and the Wall Street Journal and has had television spots on E! Entertainment as the face of different spas.

“I routinely model for Cowboys and Indian Magazine, Aspen Magazine, Silver Creations from the Southwest, Vintage Collection Designs and many jewelers like, recently, Claireworks from Arroyo Seco,” she said.

She has also modeled for clothing lines and done catalog work for various beauty products.

“I never sought out to become a model because I was focused on my music,” she said. “Eventually, I needed more income and so I accepted jobs. It started when people would see me out and ask me to model their clothing, jewelry, or make-up line; it all began very naturally.”

Small jobs turned into bigger jobs, she said, and what started as references and word-of-mouth became a lucrative career.

“I am not very tall so the focus is usually on my facial structure and petite frame,” she said. “That’s why I have done more print work than runway, which requires a taller frame.”

Working with agencies

Aponi has worked with national and international agencies. Many are Miami-based, like the Green Agency, but she has also been represented by agents in Mexico, Italy, New York City, Los Angeles, and here in New Mexico.

Connections to modeling jobs have often come about in conjunction with her singing career, as both industries are linked in certain aspects.

“Sometimes work came directly through designers or photographers themselves who spotted me on the street, or through friends, and I acted as my own agent,” she said.

When models represent themselves, they do not pay the standard 15 to 20 percent fee to the agent, depending on the agency and the state.

“I’d say that it is not necessary to have representation,” she said, “but it certainly helps a model, because it connects her to the industry.”

Necessary skills

When asked about the skills that a model should have to make it in the business, Aponi mentions discipline, flexibility, patience, punctuality, a sense of humor, self confidence, and self care.

“A fitness regimen, good diet and nutrition, and taking care of skin, hair and nails are all very important issues,” she said. “Emotional and spiritual balance, humility, and being able to take directions from photographers and designers are fundamental too.”

She recommends being open-minded as to how a model’s image will be presented to an audience.

“The model has no control over this,” she said. “Artists are using the model’s image to create an idea, and modeling has less to do with a personality and more to do with creating a message. The model is an element of a total message, so he or she must remain fluid, open, and take directions well.”

Models need to keep a sense of humor about it all.

“I remember sitting on sharp rocks in the snow in the freezing cold, hungry and covered in makeup, powder, tape, fabric and gauze…and trying to look attractive and alluring while people were fighting and disagreeing on an artistic direction,” she said.

Preparing to shoot

Like all models, Aponi prepares herself carefully before shoots, which means that those days she doesn’t eat as much as she would like to. She works out, rests, takes supplements, eats more protein and green vegetables than usually, and avoids sugar and alcohol.

“I also do yoga, walk, do all the classic things to look beautiful like getting manicures, pedicures, hair treatments and facials,” she said. “As I get older I am more relaxed about it though, because the female form is most beautiful in its natural happy and healthy state.”

Her most memorable shoot happened with Nico and Nena, her hybrid wolves, when they all were modeling for Cowboys and Indians Magazine.

“We could not get them to stay in the poses and they wanted to chase rabbits, yet Nena, who is now 17 years old, was a natural model,” Aponi said. “She loved to be in all the pictures. I just couldn’t keep them from howling and stealing food on the set.”

Focusing on her art

As a singer— her number one calling, as she describes it—, Aponi used to perform other songwriters’ work, but she is now in a different stage of life.

“Like so many artists, in Taos or anywhere, I am focusing on my own art, rather than singing someone else’s music,” she said. “I am writing my own songs. I’m in the process of fulfilling a dream of completing my own CD, Arroyo Woman, that embodies all the things I love about New Mexico.”

She will launch a Kickstarter campaign when she is ready for the final stages of recording.

                                    The Mexican connection

Hands-on work south of the border also holds an appeal for Aponi Kai. She is director of Dos Manos, a nonprofit organization based in San Pedro, Mexico.

“I am collaborating with Mike Odom, the founder of Dos Manos,” she said. “We are focusing on improving education, delivering clean water, and supporting sustainable agriculture to indigenous villages in the mountains of rural Chihuahua.”

To know more about Aponi Kai visit her website http://aponikai.com/