Model To Watch: Rielle Li
1. Who is Rielle?
Rielle is a collector of ideas. I was really sheltered growing up - my mum homeschooled us all the way through high school and I ended up starting college at the age of 13 with no real life experiences. But college students have stories to tell. So I started collecting their stories, perspectives, and oddities. Everything I create has to do with stories that turned my world on its head.
2. How did you get your start in modeling? What pushed you to jump into fashion?
Modeling was a side effect of my art practice. Everyone in college needed models for their projects and I found out I had a knack for modeling. Within it, I found a new form of creative expression! Moving from fine art into fashion was very organic - I love the aesthetic value of fashion editorials. They draw a wider audience. What I want to do is bring the critical concepts of fine art into the luscious imagery that is the world of fashion. Whether it’s making Valentine's day editorial into a commentary about domestic abuse or exploring perpetuating model standards within a body-positive movement I strive to bridge the worlds of art and fashion together.
3. What is your favorite part about photo shoots or walking in a runway?
There is nothing better than being around inspiring creatives backstage and on set. Those creators bring their own visions together to craft objects that couldn't be achieved through one perspective. It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to be apart of those expressions. Some people say models are just coat hangers, but models are no longer fitting the molds of cookie cutters. The unique contrapposto of each model can bring complexity to a designer's concept with different representations of self. I love channeling what I wear into the way I hold myself. It’s like wearing a different version of me.
4. How do you prepare yourself for a shoot or fashion show?
Packing my model kit the day before a shoot or show always saves me. But, no matter how prepared I am, I'm always scrambling the day of, a shoot or show to get ready. Packing ahead of time just means I'm missing 5 items I need instead of 15. Even though I'm usually in a rush I try not to change up my routine close to a show or shoot. It's easiest to maintain myself with my own habits and skincare routine.
5. Tell us about your fashion journey thus far? Any highlights you'd like to share?
Before last April, I had only done fine art modeling and modeling for photography classes. Then I found an open casting by accident and thought I'd try it out, but things just took off. The show got my face out on the market for designers and the community in Phoenix is very tight-knit. From that first show, all the incredible models I'd met were sending me castings for other shows they thought it is good for. I have so many people that are responsible for my career and I think the positive culture in Phoenix is what inspired me to want to connect markets in different states together. One of my favorite moments was being in an editorial for Nazila Couture this year and realizing that I was the only model that wasn’t 5'10". In that editorial, my skill was able to overcome my height and it was the best feeling in the world! I think the reason I love modeling so much is that I'm fighting an uphill battle against height standards, which makes each milestone that much sweeter. Best. Feeling. Ever.
6. What advice do you have for up and coming models and models of color?
Challenges are what makes the journey exciting. Modeling wouldn't be exciting if everything was handed to me. Work to connect with people and inspire them so they need you to be a part of their vision. Collaborating with people is my favorite way to meet and create. It leads to modeling is a legitimate revenue source. As a model of color and a half breed, I get passed over by pure Asian and pure European roles, but I still find so many more people looking for something different. If it’s not your face or body, you can find something unique in the way you move and express yourself. I love my oddities.
7. We love your determination in connection fashion over state lines - what inspires you to make those relationships happen?
It started as a desire to find adventure, but when I found myself in new markets I was overwhelmed by the mass of talent I found. Denver is dripping in flavor and it's nothing like I've found in Phoenix or LA. But unless you're in the top percentile, everyone sticks to their home market. That's why when I came to Denver Fashion Week, I brought designers from Phoenix like Bunny Gerritt, Sam Hamati, Leonor Aispuro, and Runz With Scissors with me to wear on the red carpet and connect with photographers locally. I want to do the same with the Denver talent - I've got some of your models coming my way for Phoenix Fashion Week this year!
8. What are your goals as a model and fashion enthusiast?
Short term goal is Tokyo Fashion Week. That's where I'm headed next. I know my limitations and I plan to push past them. Long term, I want to turn worlds upside down. I'm collecting people's brain cells and using them to create new perspectives. Like some mad fashion scientist.