Interview with Vel Jones Founder and Owner of VULGAR CITIZEN

I was the first African American model to be highlighted solo on this billboard owned by CBS. What could be better than this? I made the decision then to retire from the business and start my own company.

Vel Jones, fashionmodel,

Photo by: Bruce Talbot

What inspired you to start your business?
I was inspired to start my business by the brilliant, exceedingly capable, and confident women that I am fortunate to have in my life. Whether it was to build companies or brands of their own, work their way up the corporate ladder, or create art that is among the most striking and thought-provoking in the world, many of them did their best to not only strive but succeed in male-dominated fields without men to help them do it. I am constantly blown away by their creativity, their drive, and their focus to accomplish magnificent things on this earth. What is especially wonderful is that there is not one type of woman I am referring to. From medicine to photography, from law to acting, I am surrounded by the best of the best in a variety of fields.

Quite simply, I wanted to do my part. I wanted to establish myself as a formidable contemporary who could start her own movement. I wanted to help other women look and feel their absolute best by promoting self-assuredness and individuality. I wanted to create a world where your “flaws” are your strengths and your “limitations” are your selling points. Fashion calls for a type freedom that is absolutely extraordinary because it can only be restricted by your imagination. I researched how conceivable it would be to create a brand that did all of the above and more. Three years later, VULGAR CITIZEN, my baby, boutique, and business was born.

Can you tell us about your modeling career?
I started modeling when I was 16 years old. I put the business on hold to attend college but still modeled part time in New York City to help pay for school. Once I graduated, I moved to Asia where I continued to pursue the business before eventually settling in Los Angeles.

Hollywood is far more commercial than where I had worked in the past, so television also became a focus of mine. I appeared on 90210, Comcast’s Get Up & Dance, and Syfy’s Face Off. I have shot for Apple, Budweiser, Nike, Kia, and Adidas in addition to being featured in issues of Men’s Health, People, French Photo, Essence Magazine, LA Weekly, and Papercut Magazine among others.

About 2 years after I had arrived in Los Angeles, I was featured on a prominent billboard in Hollywood representing photographer Sylvie Blum’s work at the world-renowned Fahey/Klein gallery. I was the first African American model to be highlighted solo on this billboard owned by CBS. What could be better than this? I made the decision then to retire from the business and start my own company.

vel jones

Photo by: Sylvie Blum

What is the biggest myth people have about models?
I can give one particular example that sums up the answer to this question beautifully. Back when I was modeling full time about 3 years ago, I had fallen into the ever so typical small talk that is unavoidable when you first meet someone. This individual, whom we shall call Mr. Graduated College With Honors, announced to me that he, you guessed it, had graduated college with Honors. Awesome. Side note: Who in his or her mid-twenties leads with that declaration when first speaking with someone who is not a school admissions rep? I digress. What really annoyed me was that he said this as if it were his badge of honor, something that he says to the little people so as to let them know that he thinks he is intellectually superior. I sensed this and replied immediately with, “Yeah. Great. So did I. NYU. Cum Laude.”

This shocked him. “But, you are a model.” Right then, at that very moment, I realized that someone this daft who assumed so much about me simply because of my job was truly not worth the effort to fully educate. I quickly corrected him on his astounding stupidity and the conversation ended soon after. He is not alone though. Unfortunately, his reaction is fairly common. “All models are dumb. All doctors are smart. You are what you do and I’ll be damned if I let you out of that box.” We are a society that thrives off of unconditional statements after all. As if to say, we are only defined by what we do or have done and will never be anything besides than that.

No.

I do not fit in any box. I refuse to. Some of the most kind-hearted, sharp, and talented people I know have modeled, are models, or are in the entertainment business in some way, shape, or form. Myths can be harmful and assumptions tend to do more harm than good. When you judge a book by its cover, be primed for the fallout.

Modeling is an insanely tough business and fashion modeling is the toughest of them all. You will be told what is wrong with you constantly. You will be criticized for things you cannot change continuously. There are no guarantees.

 

What advice would you give to people that are trying to break in the fashion industry?
Be prepared to fail because you will. Be grateful for your success if you achieve it because it is fleeting. Rinse and repeat. I mentioned earlier that assumptions are usually damning. The #1 assumption regarding this business: Modeling is easy. No, no it is not. Modeling is an insanely tough business and fashion modeling is the toughest of them all. You will be told what is wrong with you constantly. You will be criticized for things you cannot change continuously. There are no guarantees. Most fashion models make very little money in the beginning or ever because the competition is that high. Editorials (photoshoots you see in fashion magazines) do not pay as much as you think. To make the big money, to be the featured model in an ad campaign, is rare so make sure you have another job lined up to pay your bills.

While this business has brought some incredible people into my life, has taken me all over the world, and has afforded me amazing opportunities, it came with a steep price. You have little control with this occupation. You have even less say once on set and are rarely asked for your input. You are an object. You are a hanger. Furthermore, racism and sexual harassment are common.

Freelance modeling is somewhat different but if you are a high fashion agency model, the ride is a challenging one. You must have a thick skin to be able to deal with all of this. If you do, it can be an incredibly rewarding business.

Where can our readers find you online?

My clothing boutique can be found at www.vulgarcitizen.com and we ship worldwide!

The official VULGAR CITIZEN social media websites are:

www.facebook.com/vulgarcitizen

www.instagram.com/vulgarcitizen

www.twitter.com/vulgarcitizen

https://plus.google.com/+Vulgarcitizen/posts

www.youtube.com/user/vulgarcitizen

www.vulgarcitizen.tumblr.com

Check out the website and enter PROMO Code: modelonamission for 20% off any item!

Be first to comment