Back in 2013 I first interviewed the lovely model Debi as she relaunched herself into the modelling limelight after a break from modelling in her teenage years to bring up her son and to pursue her love of music and dancing (she was known as Dancin’ Debi ). Nowadays, Debi is in front of the camera, on the fashion runways, behind the camera and is mentoring young ladies who wish to pursue the modelling dream. Hi Debi and welcome back to the blog!
Hi Linda, my name’s Debi Jones but I am also known as DebiJ – Classic Model…. (I think the word “Classic” is a polite way of saying.. “Mature”).
You started modelling as a teenager, and after a break to have your son and pursue other pursuits, you re-entered the modelling world in 2013 in your late 40s. I interviewed you in 2013 and am pleased that your career has taken off and other avenues have been opened to you too, including mentoring young newbie models and taking photos yourself. What a busy bee! So, when you was a child, did you hope to be a model or photographer or fashion designer or make up artist or dancer or something else?
Oooo, that’s a hard one…. as a child, I wanted to be a singer, sadly though, being tone death doesn’t bode well in that industry. I then went through a stage of wanting to be an artist as I’m quite good with a pencil… and then it was a dancer. Sadly, I was always taller than most of the girls and where ever I went to dance classes, I ended up being the male part; although I did a stint of dancing in night clubs for a while. I used to look at magazines all the time and “wish” I could be like the girls on there, but my body shape and face always held me back….or so I thought. I got a break and happy days, suddenly, I was one of those girls… despite the body shape, though mainly, it was my legs that were
What inspired you to try your hand at modelling as a teenager? What inspired you to re-launch your modelling career in your 40s?
Back in 1983, I went to Spain with my friends. We came home all sun tanned up, and decided to go for a night out. When we got to the club, there was a competition, Miss Elliots Lovely Legs… unbeknown to me, my friends entered me…. all these gorgeous, slim, barbie type girls were strutting their stuff on the catwalk and when it came to my turn, I danced my way up there with a smile (I didn’t know what else to do and was so embarrassed).. I WON! I couldn’t believe it. The prize was a photo shoot in Seven Kings with a fashion photographer, I really can’t remember his name. I was terrified, took a chaperone and everything – and despite looking like something out of Bananarama, it kind of went from there. This time round, I was approached on social media by a photographer. At first I thought he was a weirdo, but my son encouraged me to give it a go. As soon as I stepped in front of the camera, I realised how much I missed the buzz..the feeling of being anything from polished and pristine to rock queen… it was an escapism from the reality that is life. Looking back on the images now, my posing left a lot to be desired as did some of the actually photography ..but yes.. that was how I got back into it.
Have you been to any unusual or strange modelling locations? Have you had any strange/unusual/bizarre modelling experiences?
Oh yes… more than a few now lol. I’ve been stuck in underground bunkers with rats running round my feet and dirty water up to my ankles, rolled around in mud banks at the beach when it was windy and raining, in a pure white gown. Multi Storey Car Parks, up trees in very high heels, but the most amazing was the Coldstream Guards Barracks at Windsor Castle… that was an experience of a lifetime. Actually shooting with the Guards in their full dress uniform and then later me in their “action man” stuff… I admire those guys so much… that is one heavy outfit!
To date, what has been your most favourite photoshoot?
Hmmmm…. It would be unfair for me to say “which is my favourite”, truth is..out of 100 shoots, I enjoy 99. I have a few photographers that I work with quite regularly now and I love working with those as they are used to my madness and my ways and they let me express myself and try ideas that I may have, as well as their own… but I’ve also worked with some excellent photographers that I have never met before.. you just don’t know what you’re getting. I loved being a part of Mariana and Jilani’s Urban Angel Project last year. We shot in the Shoreditch and Brick Lane area of London. The actual shoot didn’t take too long at all but we spent the day up there. The concept of Urban Angels is, despite appearances, there are so many people lost in London, whether they live there, work there, they may look like they have many friends on the outside or a wonderful life, but we really don’t know what is going on in there head. I was the fallen/rebellious angel. I don’t smoke anymore but had to be smoking a cigarette and instead of the normal, innocent angel in virginal white.. I was wearing a black business suit..no shoes, sitting on the floor of the street with massive angel wings! We caused quite a stir. I really enjoy the shoots I do with my good friend, fellow model, Joanna Chamberlain and photographer, David Morley…. We go all out to have fun and make beautiful colourful images… One last year was the Mad Hatters Tea Party in the Magical Forest. Craziness! We are on hold with shooting at the moment this year as Jo organised a Vintage Catwalk Charity Show in support of M.E. in April. Jo also makes hats and she showcased those, along with some wonderful 1940’s/50’s attire… so for the first time in many years, I was back on the catwalk for that one!
Is there any style of photoshoot /modelling / famous photographer that you would like to try that you haven’t yet experienced?
Oh wow.. MANY photographers and styles I admire – I would have loved to have been in front of Helmut Newtons Camera… what a genius… the models he used were always sharp, edgy, sexy and quite severe! I’m hoping to get to work with a favourite photographer of mine this year as we have been discussing for quite some time, his ideas are madder than my own..but I really don’t want to jinx it so my lips are sealed.
When I first interviewed you in 2013, you had long curly brown hair and was tentatively dipping your toes, so to speak, into the modelling pool again; now, in 2016, you have a slick short blonde crop that is very edgy and your photos are very slick and polished. You have transformed before my very eyes – and you are looking fab! What do you feel you have learnt most about modelling the second time round as an older lady? Advantages/ Disadvantages?
Oh thank you, Linda. Well… I’ve had to learn what suits me for a start..and what I’m good at… I’ve learnt not to trust everybody’s word, I’ve learnt to be guarded when approached by so called “agencies”, I’ve also learnt to keep my mouth shut when someone asks for my advice, unless of course they specifically have come to me for mentoring. The advantages are, not too many people mess with me… they don’t try and take advantage as they now realise, I know what I am doing, and as much as I love it to bits and enjoy it (even more now)…. I also take it very seriously.. not myself..but the work. I still believe I’m quirky not beautiful..but… it seems quirkiness is liked. The disadvantages are, I’m watching my self age … I’m more conscious of body changes etc..it’s hard to embrace that when you’ve spent your life dreading it. I recently hit the menopause, the weight went on..my energy levels dropped.. the hot flushes were out of control.. and my hair became even thinner.. hence.. the change of style. All is under control at the moment and thankfully, I’m at a weight I’m happy with and I’m loving my hair!
You spend a lot of time helping and mentoring younger models – what advice do you give to those wishing to pursue the model path? Do you have any advice to those older ladies who are considering turning their hand at modelling?
OK… again, this is a really difficult question..it seems, through the magical world of the internet, everyone can be a model (so it is believed). In some ways, it is true, but because the local camera club want to take some piccies of you, it doesn’t mean you will be featured in the next Vogue! Don’t get ahead of yourself. NEVER hand over money to agencies ..well … people claiming to be agencies, and ALWAYS check their credentials.. I can’t emphasise this enough… I have seen so many people stung. LEARN and LIVE your trade, research! If you want to get into what I call the REAL world of modelling… it’s a whole different kettle of fish. It isn’t a case of going along to a studio or a location with a bag of clothes and trial and error. Whole teams of people can be involved, timescales are of the essence. You have to work really hard, be spot on, accept that “your makeup and hair may not be how you normally wear it” and do as you’re asked – don’t play the Diva! People are paying for your time and experience. It really gets my goat when you see people set up dodgy agencies or companies that state “Experience Model or Model Trainer, Catwalk Training”, when I know full well that some of these people have never been on a professional shoot in their life, they have never walked a catwalk.. they just have had their photos taken, very well sometimes… not so well on others.. and they’re trying to get an easy buck by taking advantage! Youngsters, please, beware. As for the more mature lady… the only advice I would give anyone if they wanted to try modelling is… “GO FOR IT, LOVE IT and most importantly, ENJOY IT”. Always remember though..we are now ladies of a certain age, and what looks good on a 20 year old doesn’t necessarily mean it will look good on us.. and yes.. I have made that mistake. A 50 year old model doing a tea-pot pose and sniffing her underarms in a spandex dress… isn’t ALWAYS attractive lol !
Hypothetically speaking, if you could go anywhere in the world for a photoshoot, where would be your dream location?
I’ve been lucky enough to shoot in Paris and last year Cyprus, but NEW YORK… I would LOVE to shoot in New York… and yes.. I’d definitely do my take on Audrey Hepburn at Tiffany’s… It would be rude not to!
You have an interest in photography – what photographs do you enjoy taking for pleasure?
HAHAHAHHA don’t tell the photographers I work with that! Lol. Yes, I love to take pictures. Apparently, I have a good eye for an image… right now the flavour is landscapes and skies, but my dog is becoming quite good with the poses.. and between you, me and your readers, I do like shooting people (with the camera), though I would never say I am anywhere near good enough to take it up, it’s just a little hobby.. I can’t wait for the weather to improve!
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing when not modelling?
Well, right now, I’m sitting in a sky blue all in one, and it’s not a onesie lol. It’s from River Island. Oh, and I have bare feet. At work I have to be smart, so it’s quite classic stuff, court shoes or boots depending on skirt or trousers. At home, there’s nothing better than to chill out in a pair of leggings and big baggy top! Comfort to the max.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
I do… I love Boohoo, Republic, Next. I don’t just stick with these though… If I see something, I like it, If I can afford it, I will buy it. Whether it be High Street or Designer… I will say, I’m partial to the odd charity shop too..you can get some excellent bargains sometimes if you shop in the right places, and not the same as everyone else is wearing!
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I recently saw THE most amazing catsuit – tailored, but with palazzo pants – it was white, with embroidery..absolutely stunning.. I can see that, this year, on me, in Cyprus with a great big floppy hat and sunglasses! Perfect… one problem though…. It was one of those pop ups you get come up when browsing a certain social networking site and for the life of me I don’t know the name of the company who made it… so,if anyone can help??? Lol
Boots or Shoes?
As much as I love boots, it will always be the same for me… shoes all the way. They make the legs look longer and with a good heel, the calves look shapelier.. I just love them!!
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can follow you and your career.
Ah Debi, it has been great chatting to you again and I’m so pleased that age has not been a barrier and that you can enjoy modelling once again. I think your photos look absolutely fab! The white catsuit sounds intriguing- I’m sure we’ll all be on the lookout for that -let’s hope you and it will be united soon! Dear readers, have you gone back to doing something that you enjoyed as a teenager after a gap of many years, like Debbie? Have you taken up netball or some other sport that you had once enjoyed? Do tell of your experiences…I’d love to know 🙂
All photos have been published with kind permission of Debi Jones. Photos are by Arrow Photography of London; Matt Allen; Paul Amey; Chris Mansfield; Marianima & Jilani.