El Bosquejo meets the winnersMore than 24 hours have passed since I left New York, and the three days that I was there still seem a furious blur of colors, people, and places.
Sorting them out, one of the things I most remember are the short but intimate conversations with the winners. I was able to snatch a few quiet moments with some of them between their media interviews and photoshoots.
Lorenzo, aka “Plastic is Fantastic”, who hails from Turin and now lives in Rome, was one of my early favorites. Meeting him personally did nothing to disappoint my perception of him. Of course, my first question was why the name? He said he wanted to be as flexible as the material, to become whatever he wanted to be – or all of them at the same time – in all the colors, forms, and shapes that he deems suitable for the moment.
After Lorenzo I chatted with Abdou, a fellow Italian who has heritage from Senegal. A little more serious than Lorenzo, he said he wants to save his earnings from fashion and advertising so he could study law and come back to Senegal to help his country. Though he was not as fluent in English as Lorenzo, I saw in his eyes how passionate he was about his endeavors.
Another duo I was able to interview were Tereza aka Prage Girl and Natalchou, both living in the Czech Republic. (People often mistook Tereza for Patricia, especially since the two were always together – and were in fact friends already before the end of the competition.) Carefree and charming, Prague Girl does illustration, with works as kooky as her own personality. Natalchou, who was originally from Kazakhstan, also loves art, in the form of painting. She said her friends call her Natalchou to make her original name sound more Czech. She is a surprising mix of things: half-Ukrainian and half-Russian, from Kazakhstan, living in the Czech Republic, and now wanting to learn German (her boyfriend is German) and Italian, and maybe even live in another country!
A native of the US, Janelle is as volatile and unpredictable as mercury – gangster, street, preppy: you name it. Suits her well, as she is a true lover of fashion, with its fast pace and ever-changing trends. Like Abdou, she is also in the industry, but in merchandising, and dreams of being a buyer for one of the big boutiques. She is definitely one to watch. Who knows in what form we’ll encounter her next?
Elizabeth, who lives in Hong Kong but spent much time in Bangkok, told me that all this came as a wonderful surprise, and now she looks forward to the things that she would be enabled to do because of the opportunity Benetton gave her.
The same goes for Kiko, a fellow Filipino, who told me that it was only after years of soul searching that he found who he was, and it was this realization that enabled him to join the Survivor reality contest and Benetton’s IT’S MY TIME casting campaign. Can you imagine him in preppy threads and working in a corporation? He told me that’s what he was doing before he had dreads.
I was also lucky to have met the highly spirited and multifaceted Melanie, who at first sight – just by the way she moved and carried herself – confirmed my suspicion that dancing was a major part of her life. She told me that she not only performs various dance genres, she also teaches her moves to amateurs. Lucky for those who can feel the warmth of her beauty and personality like the rays from the sun.
Soraya is another multitalented winner, who like Melanie (whose dad is African-American and mom is Swiss) benefits from a rich mix of influences. She herself says she has a strong passion for fashion. But as she dreams to become as big as Tyra Banks, she is already doing her own unique bit. She told me that every time she comes back from Ghana (she is half-Ghanaian and half-Jamaican) to London, she takes with her indigenous African fabrics that she then gets tailored into contemporary pieces. And she does this over and above her studies in accounting! Wicked indeed, and not so much a balancing act, but getting the best of many worlds.
Quiet and composed Magali was another surprise. Her dad is a Frenchman born in Morocco and her mom is Vietnamese, but Magali was born in Canada and now lives in Paris. Seems complicated, but I found that it was that rich mix of cultures that influenced her sensibilities. Under her subtle beauty, I found an artistic soul passionate about things – about the colors and textures that go into her textile designs and the soft and restrained music by her favorite pianists. She has a strong French aesthetic made even more subtle by the spirituality of her Asian roots.