So last weekend, I was invited to attend FFFWeek’s final model casting, here in NYC, so I could interview the founder, Ms. Gwen Devoe, and that’s exactly what I did! I also ended up volunteering to help out after my interview, you can read more about my entire experience here.
Sanaa Brooks: So everyone knows about your successful fashion career and how you went from model, to model coach, to founder of FFFWeek. Can you tell us something we don’t know already? Do you have any hidden talents?
Gwen Devoe: I’m a basketball player, I’m a former basketball player. You don’t know that, but I’m sure your readers may know that. Yeah … college and high school basketball player. That’s what I did first.
Sanaa: If you weren’t producing fashion shows what would you be doing right now?
Gwen: Definitely not playing ball. If I wasn’t producing fashion shows I’d probably be traveling around the world, to educate and encourage young women that want to own their own businesses. I really like that. I like the public speaking aspect of what I do and I also like the whole empowering young women who want to own businesses. I like that and that comes along with this territory so I like it a lot.
Sanaa: Was modeling always your dream career?
Gwen: Uh, no it was never the dream at all. I kind of fell into it after I stopped playing basketball. Um … I gained weight and then my coach kind of kicked me off the team and I was like okay, what do I do next? So I started party promoting. So I was a club kid here in NYC and then I met … I think I went to an event and a designer, independent designer from New Jersey said you should model for me. And that was kinda like how I got involved into it. I never saw modeling as a career because even though I didn’t know about the modeling part, the organizing was always what I have done, [it was] always part of me. You know, [it was like] um we need to throw Sharon a birthday party, call Gwen. You know how you always have that someone in your circle like that? You see that’s me! So this whole [thing], even though it’s fashion, I can see myself spiraling off into anything that’s event management or something like that. Fashion just happened to be where I landed.
Sanaa: As a former model coach, you must have tips for walking in heels. I know I suck at it! Do you have any tips for me?
Gwen: Oh I suck at it too. Um … you know my model coaching has been really limited. I can do it, but I prefer to pass it on, onto other members of my team, like Sharon Quinn. Sharon has a lot more experience working the runway than I do, cause I left, probably to do this whole production thing, quite a few years before she actually stopped, so she’s still like the runway expert. But if I had too … I do have tips that I can share. There are a lot of women who want to model that are knock-kneed and there are tips on how to walk without making your knees knock. So I can show people how to do that. Um, I’m bowlegged, so I can, you know, figure out around that, you know, but basically I think that for audition purposes, keep your walk clean. And amazingly so, there are a lot of people who just have a great walk. Like people always tell me when you walk into a room you have presence. They’re like stop it! At my job, they’re like stop modeling down the halls and I’m not modeling, that’s just the regular. I think it’s about having the confidence, holding your head up, and not slouching. Hey if thats modeling than work it!
Sanaa: I didn’t attend last year, but I might attend this year.
Gwen: Wait, what’s the might thing? You know what, I’m done with this interview. *laughs*
Sanaa: No, nooo, I mean I will! *laughs* But what should we be looking forward to this year? Any special appearances or events?
Gwen: Well yeah, we have added, we’re trying to add, I should say …
Sanaa: See, and you’re talking about me with the might? No you’re adding!
Gwen: Listen, it’s all about the finances! But there [are] some things that we really, really wanna do. One of them is [that] we’re trying to bring back all the veteran plus size models that really started this thing.
Gwen:: Some people will recognize others, and say omg I didn’t know she used to model! So we’re bringing [them back] .. and there’s one big celebrity that I met this past weekend and she has said that she will close our show out and you guys are gonna be like [OMG] because everyone has so much respect for her, in terms of what she’s done as an actress and in the entertainment industry. So I’m really, really excited. We’re also trying to bring [in] a number of additional workshops. We’ve partnered with some of the small businesses to bring more education, because you know Full Figure Fashion Week is a lot more that just fashion and I think that’s what makes us unique. So we’re just trying to throw a mish mosh of a lot of different things in there to keep it fresh. Events need to be kept. Annual events, need to be kept fresh every year.
Sanaa: In high school, I got to help with my schools fashion show, so I know a bit about what goes on backstage. How do you stay calm?
Gwen: Actually they keep me from the back …
Sanaa: Oh they do? *laughs* just because ?
Gwen: Just because I’m a stickler for processes and I tend to, uh … come out of character a little bit when people don’t do what we ask them to do. But I realize that it’s a high energy location and I realize that not everything you plan, even if you plan to the second and to the tee …
Sanaa: Is going to work …
Gwen: Right .. because you can plan, but in your planning process you are dependent upon the actions of others and I’m a virgo …
Sanaa: Me too! What day?
Gwen: August 28
Sanaa: Sept 9
Gwen: … and Virgo’s, we’re like …
Gwen: We want things like this, and we’re perfectionists. and as I got older, I realized that in order to [absorb] some of the stress that I get during production I have to realize that I have to let it go. When a process depends on the actions of others you can organize yourself, you can organize paper, but there are times where you can’t organize people, ya know?
Sanaa: Has anything ever gone wrong backstage where you were just like OMFG I can’t believe this is happening right now?
Gwen: OMG, yeah! Every year! Every year there’s something new, but the joy comes in realizing that it doesn’t continue to happen every year. I don’t mind if something new happens every year but I don’t want the same production mistakes to continue to happen again because [then] that’s an epic fail. You know, you have to plan that something is going to go wrong, so I don’t stress that when it comes. I stress in the moment, but I don’t like fire somebody over it, ya know? Cause things happen … but don’t you do that same thing next year!
Sanaa: *laughing* .. because then your gone!
And that’s it you guys! I had a lot of fun interviewing Ms. Devoe and now that I know I’ll be attending FFFWeek this year, I can’t freaking wait! It’s going to be uh-mazing! I can already tell. Whoop whoop! So glad I went and did this interview, even though I was nervous as hell the night before.