*more photo's of this Nica model at the end of this post...
I wouldn’t really classify this as a full-on blog post, but I haven’t written in a while and this is a pretty sweet tale to share...
This story begins in a sleepy little fishing village off the North-West coast of Nicaragua called Asseradores. For those of you who have been following me around the world on my travels will know by now that this is pretty much my “sweet spot”. Cumulatively, I’ve probably spent around 6 months in this tiny village, which is quite a chunk of time considering I’ve only been travelling for 18 months (at this point).
Here the beer is cheap, fish is fresh, surf is world-class (minus the crowds) and life is pretty much a perfect semi-charmed kind of existence. In a nutshell, it’s my Neverland.
*this pic below is at a "secret" beach about an hour from the village that has some of the best waves in Nicaragua...but only the locals know about it and I've been to sworn to secrecy...:)
However, for those of you who are familiar with the tale of Peter Pan and the world of Neverland, you’ll know that Neverland is not always the paradise it appears to be. Dangers can lurk deep in the sea, native rivalries keep local grannies busy with gossip, and leaving this enchanted paradise is virtually impossible.
For the foreign visitor or investor, it doesn’t get much better than this, but for a local born native, opportunity is scarce and life can be hard. Education is nothing more than glorified day-care and unfortunately with the influx of foreign investment, locals living here have little resources with which to compete with foreigner business owners who are slowly taking over the area. For those who don’t speak English and therefore can’t get a job in tourism, their prospects are bleak.
Last year while I was here I met a young girl named Xiomarita (pronounced Za-marita). Xiomara (Za-mara) (what everyone calls her) is a tall, twiggy, green-eyed, café con leche skinned, 16 year old who dreams of becoming a model one day. Pretty hefty dreams for a young girl who has never travelled for more than a few hours outside her village. As soon as I met her I knew I wanted to photograph her. Unfortunately, although I spent a number of months here in the village, surfing and napping in a hammock seemed to pre-occupy most of my time and I never got around to it. Luckily, this time around, I made it a point to connect with her and schedule a shoot.
We shot down by the beach house where I was staying. It was the perfect location. The beach house has kind of a rustic, cool surfer vibe to it. Plus it was completely empty so we had it all to ourselves.
Xiomara showed up bright and early with her cousin/assistant in tow. She brought with her a pair of silver glittery platform heels, a poufy turquoise tulle dress (straight out of highschool musical prom edition) and a silver sequence number that I had actually given to her in the last time I was here. Not exactly beach shoot attire. Luckily I am a clothes horde and have been travelling with half of J.Crew’s spring line-up throughout Central America.
Shooting with Xiomara was a fun experience. My "Spanglish" is definitely limited and her English is pretty much non-existent, so there was a lot of hand gestures and me demonstrating poses that I wanted her to do. I think she was nervous, as this was her first real photo shoot and she was a little tense to start, but by the end she managed to relax a little bit and have some fun! The best shots were the ones I took when she thought I wasn’t looking.
Becoming a professional model will be a difficult journey for her. It’s not like she’s going to get discovered whilst feeding the chickens in her yard. She attends a small university in Chinendega, which is the closest city to Asseradores. But, Chinendega is very much a working city, it’s not touristy, it’s not glamorous, and there are no modeling or talent agencies there. Furthermore, teenage pregnancy runs rampant in the village.
The main industry in the village is fishing - which is pretty much solely a man’s profession here (as in many places). Women have very little prospect of getting a job and making money for themselves. Some manage to get jobs as a cleaner or cook for some of the rich Nicaraguans or foreigners who own houses on the beach. Otherwise, most girls meet a guy between 14 to 16 years of age, move in with them, get pregnant and become a housewife. If Xiomara gets pregnant, then any chance of becoming a model is pretty much over. Her best bet, (in my opinion, not that I’m an expert) would be for her to try and find an agent in Managua or Costa Rica. Alternatively, she could go to Spain where she has 2 aunts working there and get a student visa to study and try and find an agent there. However, that costs money, which her family doesn’t have. Her dad is a pastor at the local church and her mom works occasionally as a cook for some of the foreigners at their beach houses. Her family’s monthly household income is probably in the $300 range. Furthermore, the village that she comes from is extremely religious and her dad being a pastor is even more of an impediment, as modelling can be a very “provocative” industry – something she has never been exposed to and something her parents are sure to disapprove of.
That being said, stranger things have happened and that is the reason why I wrote this blog. Social media is in its heyday and it changes lives every day so why not try and change this girl’s life. If you like this story and think this girl deserves a shot, please share this post! Wouldn’t it be fantastic if she gets “discovered”?
Here are the photo's from our shoot!