ACT 1: a '3-in-1' look into Ricky Owen's Modeling
TC. How did you discover modeling? Or would you say, "It discovered me!"
Granmahsboy. New York-based fashion photographer Joseph Bleu--may he rest in peace--saw my pictures online. He invited me to do a test shoot for an agency in New York that would become my first. My homie's girlfriend at the time needed some people for a photography project, so she ended up shooting me for it. Those were some of the same photos that Joseph actually saw online that actually got me the test shoot. He ended up getting in contact with me, asking "Would you be interested in doing this [photoshoot]?" I thought about it as my chance to get into acting. I've always wanted to be an actor. I thought, "Hell, that'll be cool!" I didn't know sh-t about what to expect or what was going on... how to do it! I thought, "Here's something that would get me to New York to be an actor!" So I seized the opportunity. About four months into modeling, I ended up booking a Ralph Lauren campaign. So it was pretty sweet from there.
TC. Did you think about becoming a model when your were growing up in Akron, OH? Did you hear people say or ask, 'Man, I think you should become a model!' 'Are you a model?' 'You must be a model!' Or anything like that?
Granmahsboy. I never really thought about modeling before that because I was always into sports--football and boxing mostly. Before taking boxing seriously, I played football in high school and college, so I was always a lot bigger and heavier. After college, I took a break--a semester off--and I started boxing. At that time, my boxing coach was Kenny "King" Porter, the dad of sports commentator and former professional boxer Shawn Porter. It was really exciting working out with the "father-and-son" team because of all the dope stuff I got to do being a part of the crew, considering that Shawn was about to go pro. While I was doing that I ended up losing a lot of weight, weighing in at a 178 weight class. The timing was perfect because it helped me look camera-ready for more high-end luxury campaigns. So part of the process of looking great for the pictures was me losing weight, which I believe helped me book the Ralph Lauren campaign.
TC. What is it like working with icon fashion photographer Tarrice Love (pronounced Taurus), who has not only played an invaluable role in shaping and developing the books of models, but also their trajectories as models and artists, all while creating his own canon for shooting as well? I mean his images are truly incomparable. He's genius level! His images have a distinct, signature look and feel to them. You know what I mean!
Granmahsboy. A lot of times when you shoot for a photographer to update your port or book for casting agents and directors as well as designers, where their pay is minimal to modest comparative to the bigger budgets of a national or internationally recognized campaign, you can pick up on the level of their investment. With Tarrice, the thing I love about working with him is the fact that he's invested regardless. When you walk into his studio or set, it's clear that he takes his craft seriously. He's sketched, planned, and thought creatively about the vision he or his client has in mind. I've never gone there and he's like 'Just throw on these blue jeans and this tee or sweatshirt and let's shoot!' He always has something innovative and iconic going on! His direction is one of the best I've experienced. In this recent photoshoot, for example, he had me jump and pose in the air, and that was really cool. My first thing when it comes to modeling is posing, especially when I started out about eight years ago, My first booker told me "Yeah, you know, you should just go to all the newsstands and shops and just look at all the editorials to get ideas about the kind of poses you should collaborate into your images... eventually it'll become like your own little thing."
I actually started working with him through an agency relationship. 'There's a dope photographer you really need to work with!' is how I was introduced to Tarrice. Once I saw his work, I was like 'Yeah! Cool! I'm definitely down for that!' At face value alone, just doing my research, I learned that he had pretty much shot all of the big models in the industry. It has truly been an honor and privilege to know and work with the icon Tarrice. Ideally, I would love for the images he's captured of me to go out into the world to create and leverage other opportunities with high-end commercial clients such as Tom Ford, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren again. When it comes to editorials, I would love for the images to be used and seen as part of helping to book me some sweet editorials.
A '3-in-1' moment for me was getting a surprise call from Tarrice to shoot. He came up with the concept for the shoot. Right before getting his call, I was actually in New York for the weekend to record one of my songs, so I wasn't expecting to shift gears to do the modeling thing. "I got an idea," he said on the line. "Come over and shoot!" A lot of times, you never know which part of your career will get an opportunity. What direction you'll be thrown in, so to speak. You just have to be open and ready to move, listen for, and take advantage of it when things like that happen. It was perfect!
TC. Wall Port Media Group focuses on not only artists we believe in who will one day become icons based upon one or more of their performances in entertainment, but we believe that part of being an icon is learning about and understanding what other iconic figures have done to make them forever memorable and timeless in our socio-cultural, political, and economic imagination. Are there folks you look up to, to better understand your craft and purpose for modeling?
Granmahsboy. Part of what it means to be iconic is knowing the history of modeling and studying the craft, to understand and 'borrow' from the greats who came before you. I first started watching Anja Rubik, Emily Didonato, and Simon Nessman. Its kind of cool because I took their different poses and remixed them to make them my own--Laura Stone's, too. I think this makes me an iconic model because my poses definitely borrow from some of the best models, especially in terms of posing. They're not hyper-masculine but play on what might be culturally viewed or defined as verging on the feminine side of things... gestures, energy, movement, etc... I don't mind doing that because every single time that I'm modeling and posing, even going back to the jumping that Tarrice recommended, I'm trying to do stuff that stretches and expands the artform, to show that no one else has done it, or at least that something like that hasn't been done or seen just like that before. The way we pose as models really is one of the few things we have to separate ourselves from one another. We may all look similar in a way, as human beings, but more specifically in terms of our aesthetic proportions, from cheek bones and jaw lines, to the size, scale, silhouette, skin hue, and proportion of our other physical features. So I try to find those little tiny details to separate me from the next model.
That's one of the reasons I like working with Tarrice. I have those little details in my mind of what I want to accomplish, and he has little things, too, to help improve my game. It's a great collaboration in that sense. I always walk away better than I came in the door. It's fun! Plus, I get dope professional, iconic images that I can be proud of, that can used for other opportunities.
TC. In what way would you say this shoot was collaborative with Tarrice, who not only photographed the different looks, but was also a '3-in-1' as creative director and wardrobe stylist?
Granmahsboy. To that, depending on the lighting techniques, it's important as a model to understand the different angles you have to work with, and the space in which you have to work to get the best shots. Based on his creative direction, I knew that I could stand on my tippy toes and jump; he would see that, get inspired with his own thoughts about 'the Next Thing!' that would be cool to do. It's improvisation in a sense. When you work with a great photographer like Tarrice, with whom you have a good relationship and trust their judgment, collaboration is an important part of the process. I have a similar kind of relationship with Hadar Pitchon as well. Based upon what I know they're going to do, the vibe and lighting they're going for, I'll know how my face is going to look, where the shadows are going to hit on it. That's what makes you a good model, being able to know and think about 'the next best thing' based on the collaborative and improvisational process, what you can do within any given space, and understanding the different ways the technology, the camera, lighting, set, etc... can be used to enhance those ideas and tell the best story possible.
Granmahsboy. Tarrice is an iconic photographer in part because he really cares about making the model look their absolute best. The selects he chooses at the end of the shoot are always going to be good. I never worry about that! Especially with Black guys and the BIPOC community of models, he takes pride in making us look and feel as elevated and upscale as possible. A lot of times, we may just be wanted as 'body models ' or something like that, Even if the focus is on the physique of a model, Tarrice's photography always captures more than that. It's fine art! It always has some type of creative, tasteful, innovative and artistic edge to it that makes his images and portraits stand out, unique, distinct. That make them his! For example, he had this one set of images where he shot this one guy with a squid on his face. You appreciate the guy's physique but you also the artistry and creative genius of the innovation. Who comes up with putting a random piece of art [the squid] on a model's face! Tarrice! LOL!
TC. What kind of images do you enjoy shooting? Editorials, campaigns, commercial, etc...
Granmahsboy. In a perfect world free of financial responsibilities and pressures, I would love to do more editorials because I consider doing editorials as being free to tell a story. Your own story. With body movement and the clothes you're wearing, modeling is like being a mime; you get to tell a story without saying any words. For the most part, when you're shooting commercial stuff, you're pretty much doing whatever they tell you to do. That's still cool, and in some cases, this can leave room for some creativity and storytelling from the model's perspective. Because the primary goal is to sell the product, oftentimes your creativity or input is less important. There's not as much room for creativity because everyone comes in with a certain standard of how they want things done. As they should, to get the best job done as possible to sell a certain image of a product.
TC. How long do you see yourself working and being interested in modeling? Is there a cutoff point for you, or do you see it as an extension of the other aspects of your '3-in-1' creativity and purpose as an artist?
Granmahsboy. I would love to have as much longevity in this industry as possible. I don't necessarily see a cutoff point for me in it. However, I do feel the only way to stay popular and last is to keep reinventing yourself. My trajectory, which has more to do with the freedom I have to express myself as a human being and artist, right now is about the way in which I can make use of and maximize my modeling to segue into opportunities to grow, develop, and distribute my music. I then see that turning into opportunities to develop and explore myself as a serious actor. My status in television and film would then lead to greater opportunities and recognition in fashion, placing me in a better position to command a higher rate as a model. I'd be like Johnny Depp in a fashion campaign, not just a model in the same.
I really love modeling, and it's been good to me. A picture of the perfect career in the entertainment industry takes into account three aspects of my life: modeling, music, and acting. "3-in-1." I see myself now using my love for making music to reinvent myself as a model, to show that I can express myself in different mediums of art. And to use this to transition into acting. I see myself having longevity as an actor, but none of these things are really all that separate from another. They all work together to make me into the person and icon that I would like to become, and how I see myself not only developing as an artist but also into the best man and human being I know I can be.
TC. What's an obstacle or barrier in the world of fashion that you've had to overcome or learn from?
Granmahsboy. Trust in any kind of relationship is important to me. I was in a situation where I was told that a client was trying to get in touch with me, trying to book me for an opportunity, and my agency at the time seemed slow to take notice or advantage of it, saying 'He's booked!' and I wasn't. That took a huge trust factor away from my wanting to work with agencies. I've gotten past that now, realizing that you can't let one bad experience or misunderstanding with a person or organization destroy or rob you from trusting others.
TC. What have you found to be the benefit of working with modeling agencies?
Granmahsboy. Representation and being a part of a network of client relationships local to particular regions of the modeling industry. For example, my agency in Milan, I Love Models Management, I know that the people they work with are face to face with them, the clients I want to book jobs with. The same goes for my agency in New York, Major Model Management.
TC. What advise would you give someone just starting out as a model? To someone who might think, 'That's easy!' 'I can do that!'
Granmahsboy. Don't think you're too cool to do research. Whenever, I go for a job, I always do my research, which helps me know something about the people I'm about to work with and, at the very least, to be able to have "small talk" and conversation on set with the photographer, creative director, producers. For example, if you know you're working with a photographer who normally shoots athletes or something like that, you know going into it what to expect. You won't go out drinking the night before [he laughs]. You know what I mean! Yeah, always do your research. You can't be too cool for that! Part of that research is looking at publications and other media of the type of work you're interested in booking. Learn from the best, and don't get into the hype of socialite success. There's a lot of skill and craftmanship, like any other serious line of work, that goes into modeling. I've been serious, fully focused on modeling for about five of the eight years.
Granmahsboy. Though it's pretty common in modeling not to get booked at the highest paid level as a model as you get older... when you get a couple of wrinkles, which comes with an expiration date, I would like to see myself using every opportunity to advance and change people's opinions about what it means to work and be creative according to your purpose in life, and not just some preconceived or fabricated notion about who you are and what you can aspire to be or become in the entertainment industry at certain age. Whether you're a model, a musician, or actor, having a good life doesn't mean you have to let go of one for the other. There are just too many platforms and channels in media to have to choose one for the other.
ACT 2: Ricky Owen's fashion-to-music
TC. Is there a certain role or purpose that music has in your life? How would you describe its function in your overall career? That '3-in-1'!
Granmahsboy. Since being diagnosed with a mood disorder over the past winter, producing music has been therapy for me. I've been using it as a way to express myself. It may sound a bite cliché to say because right now in our culture it feels like everybody is saying that. For me, and this is why I feel music is such an integral and meaningful part of who I am, it gives me permission to be authentic. To speak and give voice to my thoughts, ideas, and inner-most drives, impulses, feelings without inhibition, without feeling like somebody is looking over my shoulder or monitoring every move that I make. To be your best self, to be your best creative self, you have to feel like there aren't boundaries or people or things holding you back. Or, if there are, there's a greater force of love and support to make them worth overcoming.
TC. Do you feel like people are taking your music seriously, not just thinking of you as a model trying to be just another singer or musician?
Granmahsboy. What's funny and frustrating at the same time is My Ricky Owens IG page (@ricky__owens_) actually reaches more accounts currently than my "Granmahsboy" account (IG. @granmahs_boy), which people seem to engage as an information page for other artists or other people, rather than taking my music seriously or seeing me as a music artist. They really have yet to see me as the main source of entertainment, or as someone that a manager or record label might hire as an opening act for another artist. I can't wait for the day that people start seeing me as a serious music artist, in addition to seeing me as a runway, editorial or commercial model for some pretty incredible luxury designers and more commercial brands. For the most part, I've been focusing on my music.
TC. In what way do you see your "3-in1" being used for philanthropic or charitable endeavors? What initiative do you support or desire to?
Granmahsboy. A big thing for me is being supportive and caring about others. While I was diagnosed with a mood disorder not long ago, and that's a pretty important thing for me personally to manage, it's equally important, for example, for me to support other causes. "Not Just October," for example, is a not-for-profit organization started by my friend, Lavar Jacobs, who initially was thinking about the ways that fashion has been and can continue to be used to raise awareness, educate, and fund research and technologies that help to save lives and end breast cancer. Initially, he wanted to make a fashion line, but then was inspired after his mom's passing due to breast cancer to extend love and help others. Around Christmas time, he took on four families battling the disease, bought their children Christmas gifts, supplied rides to and from treatment, and kept up with their landscaping and yard work, giving the families more time together and helped to lighten their load as they were caring for their loved one battling the disease.
Granmahsboy. Echoing the way I envision the three parts of myself working together purposely for whatever job, project, or innovation as a model, musician, and actor, I also see myself making a difference around various causes. There's no reason why I can't, in this case do both--support initiatives of mental health and breast cancer with the same level of commitment and love for families and communities suffering, working through, and healing from things because someone they love has battled or lost their life due to a debilitating or life-threatening illness. My friend's story about his mom's battle with cancer actually won an Emmy. His win, after experiencing a great loss, has inspired me to make every attempt to live my best authentic life to the fullest. As I've stated before, music is that medium of self, inner-most expression for me.
TC. I was impressed with your recent Members Only campaign. It has that ephemera of the 80s I love, capturing the brand's signature and popular lite-weight summer-fall jackets. I remember saving money from my summer job to walk down to the main shopping district in what is now Old Town Pasadena to purchase one from what was then Broadway clothing store. I can totally see you starring in sitcoms from the 60s-70s-80s eras appealing to a '3-in-1' market share of Baby Boomers-Gen X-Millennials! You have an iconic aesthetic, a popular mass appeal-look that plays on and triggers nostalgic moments of the different eras. Though those times reflect the lack of BIPOC perspectives and experiences, I think you could star in some leading role adaptations of some shows. Look at the "Barbie" franchise. There's no reason you wouldn't make a cool Ken! lol!
Granmahsboy. No, no! It's pretty wild, but you're right! The aesthetic the Members Only campaign was going for had that Barbie & Ken, over-the-top, comedic performance in mind--somewhat cheesy... somewhat serious and playful overtones often associated with sitcom television of those times. I feel like that was one of the references before the Barbie movie came out. That's what I hear you saying is me being cast for some of these rolls. I would totally love that. A full party at the beach also is reminiscent of the 1963 comedy/musical "Beach Party," starring actor-singer hyphenates Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.
ACT 3: Derivative '3-in-1' works of art from music to fashion
TC. Now I want to talk, and be sure to transcribe your ideas here for copyright purposes, to ensure that you receive the proper credit for what you are about to express and tell me as your non-exclusive representation in the entertainment spheres of music, television, and film. So that we're clear, you already have representation in modeling, specifically and most notably in the New York, New York and Milan, Italy markets.
Granmahsboy. I see myself and others in the music industry creating derivative works of art in music, specifically our sound and digital recordings and performances that become a substantial part of the meaning and substance of a runway show for example. What I offer to both the music and fashion worlds, especially when they come together to create experiences and performances for their buyers, retailers, and consumers to enjoy and be moved by, specifically to purchase a garment, a pair of shoes, or accessory, has everything to do with my story, my personal story, being relatable to others, who feel drawn or connected to the brand and its category of products and services. My experiences as a musician have been shaped by my experiences of being a model and being in New York, primarily. The content of my music, lyrically and sonically, share in and come from this reality. They cannot be separated. Thus, my story becomes a substantive part of the brand identity as well, or at least for a category of product, that is being showcased on the runway both live and in-person, but also through the various streaming and digital recordings used to chronical the event and reproduce it for millions of people to feel connected and purchase its products and services on a global scale.
TC. The one event and the various processes that go into it. How do you think your experience as a model, which can be seen as a composite representation of so many other experiences of model, is unique to you?
Granmahsboy. A person right now owns the copyright to the image they take of you. It's weird because a lot of times, I don't just want to rely upon my image or likeness, but in the culture we live in, that's one of my biggest selling points. Before the live performance of the show, there's typically a campaign rollout, unless it's a private event for a select group of clients or friends of the industry. Since my image is being used with the purpose and intent of getting people into the seats, it would be important for me to be compensated accordingly for that event and any reproductions of my visual or sonic content. For example, I would love to see a long intro or interlude of my song or medley of songs as part of the opening act. The first thing that gets people to take notice that the show is about to start or begin. A lot of my songs, something that makes my music unique and special, have a long or extended intro. This would be the theme music for the show itself as the models make their way onto the runway. The music would change, one song segueing into another, depending on the different looks and their transitions that the designer has in mind. It would be pretty substantive for me to actually create meaning in the show by me either beginning or concluding the runway presentation, in an Act 1, 2, or 3 set up or arrangement. By the time the lyrical content happens, right before a certain segment of the show starts, I would then proceed to sing the song, the first time the lyrical content is expressed, at the moment of the show that I would've walked to the end of the runway. That would be kind of sweet. No one would really expect it.
TC. So, let's just say, using your substantive idea about creating derivative works of art in the music industry and lending them for a similar purpose and intent of telling your story, narrative, however conceived--whether based upon your own personal narrative or one more "fictionally" driven by your imagination, or a combination thereof--let's say the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is doing a show that celebrates and honors iconic performances and icons of the music industry wanted to hire or book you to perform, what would that presentation look like? So, in this instance, your role would be as a producer or creative director of a particular performance or set of the show as a whole.
Granmahsboy. That would be awesome. Based on the substantive performance I described above, and doing my best to implement it for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame performance in Cleveland, OH, for instance, it would include include me or the inductees walking on the runway, symbolic of the journey of our lives in getting to his moment of our lives. Once I/we got to the end of the runway, I/we would start performing a song or a medley of songs for which we're recognized and have been instrumental both commercially and personally for our success. As I/we move to the middle of the runway, symbolic of the middle, turning-point, or greatest challenge we've faced in the industry, the show would continue as other artists and people walk down the runway. This would be symbolic of the different systems and levels of support, including those in which our fans have played a huge part, that inspire and keep us focused to stay on our journey as musicians and artists. The stage would be in the middle, the centerpiece, as the models/artists/musicians walk to the left and back up/forward to the right side of the stage.
TC. As we close out the interview this time around, similar to the recent installation of Jay-Z's "The Book of HOV" at the Brooklyn Public Library, what might an exhibit that celebrates your life's work and achievements look like?
Granmahsboy. It would be called "Granmah's House." It would look like someone's grandmother's house. I would include all of the different things that I would want to represent, symbolize, or remind them of me scattered throughout the replica of say, my grandma's house. There would be live performances scheduled in the backyard. So people would move through the house, in a scavenger hunt kind of way, searching for things that remind them of me, things I've used a part of my own ephemera as an artist, It would be likened to the set design of Kevin Hart's special during COVID.
For "Granmahsboy" Media, Press, Licensing & Bookings:
Follow, Stream and download "Granmahsboy" now
For inquiries to use or license photos used in this article:
Email. Tarrice Love Photography at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donate to "Not Just October," "Granmahsboy's" favorite charity