One of the hardest things about growing up in a small town is dreaming big while still being expected to stay practical. I can’t tell you the number of people I encountered before/directly after my high school graduation who asked what my plans were and then immediately shot me down. In a place where things stay pretty much stagnant day after day, no one could understand where I was coming from, and many of them had never even heard of half of the ideas that I had. A dream career in event planning/ interior design was impractical to them, and they pushed me to follow something more lucrative. Being young and naive at the time, I foolishly listened to them, initially going to college for pharmacy, something I had never before had interest in. Two weeks in I realized my mistake, reapplied to Syracuse and quickly fixed it, but in the end my passion had won out and it would have been better to have realized this from the start. I guess the moral of the story here is that if you have a goal, pursue it. Especially while you’re young, you have plenty of time to make mistakes, but I guarantee following your dreams, although sometimes difficult, will not be a mistake.
One person I have huge respect for not giving up on her dreams is my really good friend Joely. The girl is only 17 years old, grew up only a few miles down the road from me in small-town CNY, and she already has a crazy successful career in modeling. GOALS. I’ve always been in awe of how she built herself and her brand from the ground up and the huge fan base she now has across the world. It makes me so genuinely happy to see my friends getting out and doing great things with their lives, and her story is the epitome of taking a chance and just rolling with it. Today she’s signed with IMG Models, the number one modeling agency in the world, has starred in a movie, and is currently spending the summer out in Los Angeles. Having just spent 4 months in LA myself, I know that this is a huge stepping-stone for her career as the culture on the west coast is entirely different than back home in NY. Anything is possible in Los Angeles, and I say that without the least bit of exaggeration. The opportunities that exist out there are endless, and opportunities will present themselves that you would have never imagined even possible. With that being said, I couldn’t be happier that you have this opportunity Joely, and I hope you achieve everything you’ve ever dreamed of!
Anyone who knows just where exactly she was born and raised will know how incredibly unique her story is, and I recently was able to interview her to get her take on everything that has happened thus far. So for those of you superfans out there, here’s the inside scoop!
GIJ: Did you always know you wanted to pursue modeling?
JL: I started modeling when I was 5 years old, and surprisingly, I think I knew after my first photoshoot that I wanted to model for the rest of my life. The feeling that I got when stylists were doing my makeup and hair, and posing behind the camera, gave me such a rush to know that I loved the feeling and wanted to have that feeling for the rest of my life.
GIJ: How did you manage to land a big agency like IMG Models coming from such a small town? What did that process look like?
JL: Dream big and work harder than you ever thought you could. Just because you are from a town that no one has ever heard of, does not mean you can’t strive to be known in the world. One of the biggest tools is the Internet. Using social media and networking with people is key.
I also got the chance to model with supermodel Gisele Bundchen. Being signed with IMG Models has always been a dream of mine so I knew, since IMG is the number one modeling agency in the world, that in order for them to sign me, I needed something big. I wrote to Gisele and the next thing I knew I was shooting in NYC with her. That got IMG’s attention. They called me in their NYC office and asked me to do a test shoot and the next day or so I was signed. Plus, my mom posted me in the “We Love Your Genes, IMG” Instagram account, which helps discover new faces.
GIJ: Do you ever have moments of doubt/frustration?
JL: Not going to lie, the modeling industry, in my opinion, is the toughest in the world, but this is what I want to do. I want to be a supermodel so I am giving it all I got. I also have my mom and she has kept me so strong. My family does so much for me and is helping me accomplish my goal. I know there are a lot of people rooting for me. One day I want people to flip through magazine and look at billboards, and I can tell them that I did it.
GIJ: What is your favorite part about modeling?
JL: The feeling that you get when you are posing behind the camera. The feeling of the photographer saying, “we got it!” after a couple of shots gives you the biggest adrenaline rush. The whole feeling you get when you are on set is what I live for. When you, or me as the model, walks onto set, it’s almost like you can feel kind of famous for a second with the makeup and hair, and the photographers saying things like, “she’s here!” The whole experience makes you feel golden. I love it.
GIJ: Tell me a little bit about how you became involved with Irrefutable Proof and that whole experience.
JL: As many of you know, I landed a role in the movie Irrefutable Proof. The movie actually got picked up by Shoreline Entertainment and is expected to be shown in theaters worldwide. I got the casting memo sent to me by a woman that I had previously worked with on a TV show pilot, which was all free. Biggest tip- you should be willing to work for free when you are first starting out. Again, networking is huge, that’s how I met this woman. Research and the internet.
After the casting notice, I filmed a self-taped reel with my sister and mom that day. I just went to a public place, created my own script and acted. A few days later, I got a call back from the director of the movie asking to send in a clip to act out from the actual script. Next thing I know I get a call and the director told me that I got the part out of thousands of girls. I started crying, overwhelmed as I was. Hard work was slowly, but surely, starting to pay off. The whole experience from that point was life-changing. Meeting the cast and crew was so fun. For about a month, every day we read and learned our lines and went to script rehearsal. After that came the actual shooting, and that was even more of a thriller. People will ask a lot how I memorized my lines, and I tell them my mom taught me to make them into a song first because it’s so much easier to remember. I turned my lines into a Drake song and that helped me a lot!
(Fun fact: the movie was filmed in Syracuse!)
GIJ: What does your day usually look like?
JL: Always exercising. Thinking about modeling. Modeling. Thinking more about the future. Finishing up college online. Going live on different apps and chatting with my fans. Waiting for the phone to ring. Tanning. Beach. Always trying to further myself by networking.
GIJ: Do you follow any specific diets/have any special physical training?
JL: Everything is diet and exercise. In the model world your body has to be in tip-top shape. I am currently trying to go vegan to switch it up, because your body always needs change. Mainly, tons of veggies, lentils and water! Daily exercising and busting your butt with HITT (high intensity interval training) and running is key. Trust me, you gotta sacrifice and really want it if you’re going to make it, but it’s possible!
GIJ: Is there anyone in particular you look up to? What other models do you admire?
JL: I look up to my mama. The way she looks at live and keeps me striving for the biggest things in the world makes me want to be able to tell her one day, “WE made it.” She has never given up on me.
I also look up to my scout from IMG, Jeni Rose. She has also never given up on me and has given me the opportunity of a lifetime, to grow in the modeling world. She has a huge heart and to be able to call her a scout and, more importantly, a friend, is really a gift to me. I really want to make it for her, too.
GIJ: Advice for those pursuing modeling? Or any big dream in general?
JL: WORK HARD. Life is not easy. Being lucky is one thing, right timing is one thing, but if you are going to make it, it’s going to be hard work. But nothing is impossible. Nothing. Network, make connections, use social media!! Social media is everything so use it to your advantage. Get on every popular app and promote yourself. Strive, go big. Pour your heart and soul into something, believe it will happen, surround yourself with a great support system. Things take time so don’t let time push you down. Keep going up! If you want to pursue modeling specifically, check out my YouNow (@joelylive) for some great tips because I talk about it almost every broadcast!
GIJ: What is your goal 10 years from now?
JL: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. Calvin Klein. Victoria Secret Runway. And to be the ambassador of so many companies. I also really want to inspire girls and give them someone to look up to. I want to help people around the world and encourage them not to give up, because things can happen if you pour your heart and soul into everything you do.
I can only speak for how well I know Joely myself, but she is honestly one of the most down to earth people I know. Even though she has had a plethora of amazing experience in her life all before age 20, she hasn’t let the fame get to her head and is so dedicated to helping her fans. I’ve joined in on a couple of her YouNow broadcasts and every single time I’m amazed by how many young girls in particular look up to her already and are so vocal about showing their love! I think her experience is a true testament that the environment that you were born, regardless of whether it be the inner city, a rural town in the middle of nowhere or the at the end of a culdesac in the suburbs, does not in any way define you, and we are all the masters of our own fate.
To keep up with Joely’s career follow her on any of the following social media:
Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, YouNow: @joelylive