Avidity: Scarlet Begonias

Photo Credit: Sam Emerson
Photo Credit: ValVicPhoto

There are several reasons on what makes a woman enticing, but a woman that’s driven and has dreams that she wants to accomplish is on another level. Scarlet Begonias is that woman, and so much more. She’s started from nothing and has grown as a both a model and a person. If you haven’t already, you’ll soon be in awe and aware of Scarlet’s beauty and personality.

What got you interested in modeling?

Scarlet Begonias: Looking back now, I can honestly say I had a burning desire to pursue my modeling dreams from the start, I just didn’t know it at first. I spent a lot of time alone as a kid- and one of my favorite things to do was to steal my grandmother’s lipstick, turn on my music, and practice faces and poses in the mirror for HOURS! I had a lot of self-esteem issues back then, and something about practicing different poses and changing the way I looked, even just a little, made me feel better. It makes me laugh now because I was just being a weird kid back then, but a lot of that practice comes into play in my modeling. I was training to become a model before I even knew it!

I have always loved drawing, painting, photography, and/or any sort of creative project I can lose myself in. As a college student, I took photography and art classes. I started modeling for figurative art classes, something my best friend had been doing, too. She and I would spend countless afternoons taking turns picking out wardrobe, and scouting new locations to shoot each other with her camera- and our crappy flip phones! It was always my favorite pastime, but I never had the self-confidence to ever even DREAM I would be living the life I do now.

Then, about 2 years ago, I was working a long shift as a waitress in New York, and a photographer scouted me for an editorial fashion project. I was so excited leading up to that shoot- it felt like there had been a shift in the cosmos as if the universe was conspiring to make way for something new. The images were published, I posted them to my social media, and things started to really take off. Ever since that first time stepping in front of the camera professionally, I felt like I found my place in this world.

When did you know that not only could you model, but be successful with it?

Scarlet Begonias: I knew right away that I would be successful on some level since the very first shoot. From the first time I tried it, modeling has made me feel alive, creative, inspired, at peace with myself. Even if modeling had only been a hobby for me, I would have considered myself a success for that reason. I came to my first shoot, hoping to learn more about myself as a person and an artist, and wanting a new avenue for creative expression- and I certainly found what I was looking for.

However, it wasn’t until I was forced to make the choice between pursuing a more conventional job and modeling, that I fully realized the scale of how successful I could be within this career- if I really went for it. For a short time, between my days as a waitress and before becoming a full-time model, I tried to work for someone in finance, as sort of a fall-back. Money had always been tight, so I needed to make sure I could pay my bills in some way while working on shoots to build my portfolio. My “boss” was controlling, and treated me with a very sexist attitude- constantly putting me down, telling me I needed him in order to be successful, and that I would never “make it” in any of my own endeavors. When he found out about my modeling, he became increasingly inappropriate with me and abusive of his power over me. He was a multi-millionaire, with a team of lawyers and powerful connections, and he made sure I felt powerless to fight the way he was treating me. There were times when his disparaging words and horrible behavior would get to me, and I was terrified I would always be under the control of someone like him, and never get the chance to pursue my dreams and realize my potential. So, I made a choice… and never looked back. 

I told him to get lost, and booked myself several shoots the next week, and spent sleepless days and nights working on the “behind the scenes” structure of my modeling business. I knew it was my only shot to get away, and I seized it with everything I had. I told my partner what I needed to do, and we made the decision for him to leave his regular job as well, and to start traveling for shoots full time, and giving my modeling career our all. I was terrified because we didn’t have enough money to comfortably fall back on if I failed- but even that first week, I started to make enough money to support myself, and then I started making more than I had while working for the person who told me I would never make it on my own. It took someone trying to take my dreams away from me for me to start pursuing them as if the world was on fire. 

Photo Credit: Edwin Soto

In your opinion: what is the most difficult aspect of modeling?

Scarlet Begonias: It is difficult to put yourself out there, subject to the scrutiny of the masses. You have to learn to grow a thick skin and to be secure in who you are as a person because the world will try to tell you who you are- without asking your opinion on the matter. Stay true to yourself.

Also, modeling requires discipline and a sense of professionalism to truly be successful. You have to know how to market yourself, advertise, manage social media, budget, plan extensive trips and travel plans down to the minute, develop a unique sense of style, be confident, and on top of that, be shoot ready and have an innate knowledge of your own body/face and how to pose- and SO much more. You have to know how to make a product, fashion style, or artistic concept come to life. 

You also have to know when it is time for a break and have the discipline to NOT overwork yourself and burn yourself out. I am a workaholic, so that is my personal demon right there- having the maturity and foresight to take time for myself so that I can continue to be my best on an everyday basis. Finding the balance is definitely something I still struggle with.

Did you struggle or have trouble with anything at any point during your modeling career?

Scarlet Begonias: I am going to be bluntly honest. I have struggled with every phase of my life, up to and including modeling. To say that any part of this journey has been easy would not be respectful to how hard I have had to work, both on my career and on myself. I still struggle with my mental health from time to time, although in general, I am a happy person and am doing much better overall mentally than at any other point in my life. I don’t think there is anything wrong with admitting that we struggle. I can tell you that through the tough times, I have found more respect and love for myself than I ever thought possible. I am the girl that gets knocked down 9 times but gets up 10.

Photo Credit: Edwin Soto

Based upon the photoshoots that you’re involved in, what kind of expectations do you have? 

Scarlet Begonias: I am involved in lots of different genres of modeling, and I like to keep a healthy variety in my portfolio to encourage people to book me for all types of shoots! I expect photographers and brands that I work with to be respectful and professional. I expect my boundaries to be respected and for my safety to be a priority for all parties involved- especially now, with Covid-19 making the discussion of any health concerns and observing of social distancing practices, part of a safe photoshoot. I don’t travel anywhere alone, and I always have several steps that I implement throughout the booking process to make sure that I will be safe during the shoot. (Checking references, discussing escort policy, letting them know that I will always have someone close by to help me if I feel unsafe at any point in time, clearly discussing limitations and expectations prior to the shoot.) 95% of people I have worked with have been professional and respectful, and have met my expectations. Talent is important of course because I want the resulting images to be the best that either of us have shot to date- but even more important than talent or level of experience is being a decent human being. 

Is there anything that you won’t do or will flat out turn down?

Scarlet Begonias: I won’t do anything explicit or that I find degrading to myself, or all women.

What has been your favorite memory in your modeling career? 

Scarlet Begonias: I have had so many amazing shoots and I have a wonderful network of friends in this industry. I love meeting creative minds from all over the world and coming together under an artistic vision to make something new and beautiful. There’s just this overwhelming feeling of syner when you are in the zone creatively with someone and the poses and shots are just flowing, like a dance.

I have a very supportive group of people who I genuinely love, and I get to creatively collaborate with them on a regular basis. I am especially proud of my model friends, we look out for one another and build each other up. It is so empowering to rise above the stigma that models are “catty” and to have a positive group of friends working together to keep us all safe. Any time that I have gotten to spend with these people is sure to be among my favorite modeling memories.

As far as a specific memory goes, I would say my first underwater shoot was my favorite so far. I had never been a very strong swimmer and had very little luck with diving, so to say I was nervous would be an understatement. However, I shot with a team of professional divers/photographers who made me feel not only comfortable but strong and confident. At the beginning of the shoot, I would struggle to even go down under the surface of the water at all. By the end, I was staying under (at the bottom, no less) for several minutes at a time, and LOVING it. I felt graceful and empowered, and so proud of myself for rising to the challenge. I love learning new skills and trying new experiences.

Photo Credit: GoodEggProductions

When you’re not modeling, what do you enjoy doing?

Scarlet Begonias: I love spending time with my friends and my long time boyfriend/business partner. Anytime I can be at a beach, I’m there. One of my favorite things to do is going camping or on spontaneous adventures. I love meditating, doing yoga, and working on myself, physically and mentally. I am all about self-improvement. Painting, drawing, and plants make me happy. I play video games on rainy days, and I am a huge Harry Potter nerd. I also really enjoy traveling and experiencing festivals/concerts with my loved ones, but all of that is on hold for now.

What motivates you to get out of bed every day? 

Scarlet Begonias: My drive. I didn’t get this far, just to get this far. I feel this sense of purpose in my soul, and now that it is has been ignited, I can’t stop it. I want to succeed, and use my voice to help other people, as much as I want to breathe.

Photo Credit: SpecofColor

How have you evolved as a person and as a model?

Scarlet Begonias: In so many ways! Anyone who knows me from before my modeling career knows that I am entirely a different person than I was 4-10 years ago- and I continue to change and grow with every new experience. I used to be a person who thought she was broken beyond repair and felt hopeless. I used to chase the next high, more than I would chase my dreams. I was quiet, let others speak for me, and gave into my depression. I was a doormat, essentially, and I hated being alive. 

I couldn’t be more different now. I still struggle from time to time, as most of us do, but I have so much passion and purpose. And anyone who knows me, knows that I am not quiet about how I feel anymore! 

What I have set out to do in this world is not for the weak, and I know that. I speak up about my struggle with mental health, and I am honest and upfront about the dark times I have been through, because I want to shine the light for anyone who is still in the darkness. 

I feel so much fire in my veins when I think about how far I have come, and the idea of helping other people makes me feel more alive than anything else in the world. I have found who I always was, deep down, all along, and I feel aligned with my goals and purpose in this world. And modeling plays into it all! I have a way to express who I am creatively, a platform to reach hundreds of thousands of people, and a message of self-love and hope that needs to be heard.  

Photo Credit: 15twentybeauty

What do you often see or hear about modeling that you don’t agree with? 

Scarlet Begonias: There are quite a few aspects of this industry that DESPERATELY need change. 

Something the general population probably doesn’t realize is that, within this industry, there are predators walking free and continuing to victimize models/people, because those who have been hurt in the past are threatened if they speak up. A photographer can do something as horrible as sexually assaulting a model, and if the model doesn’t have enough “proof” and the photographer is well-connected, oftentimes NOTHING will happen to the photographer. It comes down to a case of “he-said, she-said,” and the model can be sued for slander if he or she tries to warn others, and doesn’t have what the law considers to be sufficient evidence. I have heard of multiple cases where the victim has had video recordings and other such evidence of horrible sex crimes, and it is still not considered enough proof. Think about it, the person who is committing the crime has SO MUCH MORE TIME to consider possible evidence left behind and to cover up the crime, than the victim has to respond/pull out a cell phone to tape what is happening- and, even if they manage to do so, often times the evidence is STILL not enough. That is a broken system.

I can’t tell you the number of models I know who have been treated terribly by a photographer or someone else in the business and have tried to get help from the police with no avail. A lot of these predators are more well-to-do and established than the young models they attack, so they have more money for legal action, and more resources and connections to protect themselves. 

Some predators will shoot with accomplished models just to make themselves look more legitimate, and treat the well-known model nicely so she will support him within the industry. Then, they go after young, lesser-known models and do horribly inappropriate and traumatizing things to them, all under the guise of being “so and so….. he shot with (enter well-known model’s name here) and she said it was fine, so I’m SURE he wouldn’t do that….” 

I don’t have a perfect solution to this problem because it is a HUGE one. I don’t know how to fix decades of wrongdoing, and the machine that this industry has become. It is such a deep-rooted problem and there are no easy fixes because there is no “one size fits all” law or judgment that can apply here. Each case is very unique and should be handled as such. I know that occasionally (and this is ALSO a problem) a person will wrongly accuse another one of sexual misconduct at a shoot, and in that case, the person who is lying SHOULD face consequences for slander/damaging an innocent person’s reputation. However, in my experience, this rarely happens, compared to the amount that I have seen the opposite. I can’t count how many times I have seen a model not pursue legal action when an egregious crime is committed against her/him, for fear of being sued, or in danger. And the number of cases that I have heard of where a predator is let go because there is not enough “proof” is shocking and sickening. 

I may not know how to fix this problem, but I do know the first step is speaking up about it, and making it known that what is happening is being seen and is NOT okay.

In the next few years, what would you like to accomplish?

Scarlet Begonias: I want to continue to grow my platform and my influence, and continue to align myself with brands that share my values. I want to continue to build my career and pursue all of the acting and modeling opportunities that come my way. I love what I do, so I want to do as much of it as I possibly can! I am open to whatever the universe has planned for me as far as that goes!

I also have big plans when it comes to my business. During the pandemic, I have been putting a lot of work into branching out my business into the world of photography and brand promotion. My boyfriend and I have been acquiring and upgrading our photography equipment as we can and working hard towards the launch of a new website, which will be ready within the next few weeks. We shoot promotional content for all sorts of different brands- fashion, products/lifestyle, swimwear, lingerie, you name it! Depending on the product we are showcasing (and whether a male or female model is required for the shots needed), we take turns being the model and photographer, and then we edit the content together. We have quite the little set up for photography at home now and are always very busy creating new videos and photos for the brands we work with. We also create editorial and other styles of photosets for photographers who want to edit the content and put the collaborative work in their portfolios, and we have been using our equipment to also do virtual shoots with photographers internationally while we are not able to travel. I would love to continue to build this aspect of my business because it enables me to combine my modeling skills, my affinity for commercial work, my social media influence, and my love for photography/editing. It seems to be going quite well so far,  so I am going to go full steam ahead with building and expanding in that area! I have other ideas for additional, related ways to expand the scope of my business too, so honestly, it feels as if there are never-ending possibilities for what all of this could lead to.

Perhaps most importantly, I am going to be dedicating much of my time over the next several years to social activism. I have begun teaming up with charities, such as Food for Life Global, which is the world’s largest vegan charity and provides healthy vegan food to people in need. I want to help save the environment by teaming up with brands that want to do the same and organizing events, such as beach clean-ups and fundraisers. (@Bajallama and I are planning a beach clean up for this fall in Florida!) I want to speak up about mental health and addiction and help to shatter the stigma surrounding mental health. I want to help normalize getting therapy on the regular, even when you aren’t in crisis. I want to help raise awareness about the problems in the modeling industry and work to keep my peers safe. I want to continue to do more and more to help others, throughout my career.

Photo Credit: ColePhotoWorks

If you could get a message out to people, what would you say?

Scarlet Begonias: Be kind to yourself, and to one another. It’s never too late to start loving yourself and to be a force of love and light in this world. I spent a lot of time thinking it was already too late for me, that nothing mattered and that pain was all I was ever going to feel. If you are in that dark place, I am here to tell you that there’s hope. I think it is my purpose in life to remind people that you can totally, completely give up on yourself- and fall deeper into darkness than you ever thought possible- and STILL make a comeback and pursue your dreams.

What can people expect to see from you in the future?

Scarlet Begonias: Whatever the future holds for me, I can assure you it will not be boring. I plan to continue to focus on my modeling career while growing my business of lifestyle content creation for brands. I have done a few commercials and I have a few small acting gigs lined up, and I would love to try my hand as an actress in a role that really speaks to me. I plan to keep working hard and creating beautiful art while advocating for causes that are very important to me.

I want to continue to align myself with organizations that share my values. I love working with environmentally friendly/healthy/socially responsible brands, businesses, and charities and want to do so more extensively. I want to speak up about addiction, mental health, model safety, human rights, the environment, and so many other topics that I am passionate about, and I want to not only make my own voice heard but to use my platform and my influence to make the voices of others heard. I want to make a positive difference in the lives of those who know me, either personally or through my career. I want to spread a message of hope!

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