Name: Sasha Payton
Claim to Fame: Sasha has lent her beauty to some of the coolest streetwear brands in the game including Facetasm, and Section 8. She’s also made a name for herself behind the scenes as an experienced producer employing her fellow model friends.
Sasha Payton was “born and raised a city girl” but the model and producer didn’t find true inspiration until she stripped away the constant hustle of home. In an exclusive interview with Hello Beautiful revealed her motivation for rejecting the New York rat race to live in the city of lights.
“I was working for a company in fashion production and I had been working for them for quite some time,” explained Payton. The former CUNY student who had pursued her education while working in high end retail full time was seeking a leg up in the company when she felt a personal shift taking place. “I was like really fighting for a certain position. I felt like things weren’t really going the way I wanted to. I finally got the position and at that time I had already decided I was going to move from New York.”
https://www.instagram.com/p/Bv13sWBFoVB/Leaving a coveted position in one of the most competitive cities in the world might have scared some but after finding clarity in West Africa, Payton was left doubt free. “I made this decision when I took a trip to Senegal and I was in a pretty like really disconnected place, I mean around people that are living really simple. They didn’t have technology around them. I had my cellphone but there was no service. So, I was able to kind of remove and really think what kind of changes I wanted to have in my life. Did I really want to continue to stress and like fight for something that kind of made me happy but there was room to be more happy? Did I want to continue on this New York City 9-5?”
Payton’s stirrings of discontent were amplified by more than her remote surroundings. As she was discovering who she was, an adult, the French Caribbean mother she had spent her childhood caring for was slipping away.
“My mom she got really sick at the same time. When I returned back to New York it was a really, really difficult time. She ended up passing a few months after that and all of that kind of contributed to my decision of really living my life. I grew up taking care of my mom, you know and this kind of life change really makes you think what you really want to do, how you want to spend your time. There were many factors that went into it but that was kind of the main decision being on my own, being able to remove myself from social media and what everyone else’s idea of happiness was and really understand what I wanted for myself.”
Payton had no idea that pursuing what she wanted would lead her to a life of bringing designer’s visions to life not only behind the scenes but on the runway as well.
“So the funny thing is I didn’t come to Paris with the intention of modeling. I came to be a producer in fashion,” she explained. Before she was lending her luminous skin to Esteban Cortazar campaigns and stomping the catwalk for cool brands like Koche she was putting a loose plan in place to secure her future.
“There was a lot of thought that went into it though was I would say it was kind of a half-baked plan. I saved up my miles and bought that one-way ticket on Delta. I kind of I planned a bit but at the same time I left a lot of room for error.”
That room for error included the possibility of accepting a job that was less W Magazine and Marie Claire and more make it happen any way you can.
“I knew that it wasn’t gonna be super easy I knew that I was gonna have to do some odd jobs in the mean time to make sure that I was able to live.” Fortunately, her mother had secured her a French passport allowing her to bypass snags in the employment process experienced by many expats.
Her talent and professionalism shone and soon she was fulfilling her passion in production setting up shoots and shows when the limelight found her. “I was actually an assistant producer at a haute couture show. On set I was actually getting the models in line and going through the practice when a model, her name is actually Debra Shaw, she’s my mentor I love her, she was like ‘what are you doing with that headset on? You need to be in line! You’re not walking? What? You don’t model?’”
Shaw had no clue that Payton had briefly entertained a career in model back in the states as a teen. “I tried going to the agencies. I tried paying for photoshoots which I shouldn’t have necessarily out of my pocket. I tried working with some photographers some great and some just like okay this is kind of like pointless.”
Without the support or wisdom, she needed to weather the storm she soon defected for what she saw as a steadier course she was just as passionate about. “My parents they’re Caribbean they definitely weren’t really with that. It’s not a job to be a model for them or at least not at that time. So, it was something I was kind of pursuing that I had no knowledge about.”
She doesn’t regret getting her break in Europe after kicking off her production career maintaining that she might not have been ready for the realities of the industry. “These teenage girls they really need some guidance. They really need good people around them, people to support them because it can be a tough industry and I don’t know that I would have been ready then.”
“You hear the word ‘no’ a lot and you don’t realize it from the outside, like an outsider wouldn’t understand it. They just think it’s beautiful and glamorous but in order to get that one job, in order to get signed, in order to get whatever that major thing is it’s so much hours and hours so much work that went into it even into this one yes. I think I wasn’t ready for that and I wish someone had told me that like ‘Yea you were told no by this agency but you need to go back in 6 months because you’re gonna grow and you’re gonna change and if they say no try another one. I think I didn’t have it at that point.”
Told she “has it” by not only Shaw and her bookers but also a casting director who stopped her in the street after being distracted by her beauty, today Payton uses her status as a working model to foster connections that further her work in production and allow her to create opportunities for others.
“I do both sides of it now and it’s like when I’m on set I’m able to meet great hairstylists, meet great stylists, meet great photographers and connect with them and kind of figure out if its other ways that we can work with each other outside of when I’m modeling on the production side of things.”
She is meticulous about keeping track of these connections. “I kind of keep like a little catalog.”
“Like there’s been times where I’ll produce a shoot and it’s like ‘Oh this guy he was really great on my hair!’” Having someone who knows what they’re doing is imperative for Black models and Payton is in a unique position to speak up for them on set because of her own experiences.
“I’ve had to do my hair or walk someone kind of through it. I’ve had to bring my products to shows. I would say on set people have been doing a really good job making sure the person is knowledgeable and well-rounded in afro hair, but it’s been mixed. I’ve had some really interesting experiences. I’ve definitely had my hair burnt I was asked to come in hours earlier so that they can start on straightening my hair to them end up having a water based gel put on it so then it curled right back up and then that person attempted to put a flat iron back onto my hair.”
She often refers to her ‘catalog’ of professionals when openings for gigs appear. “So, it’s like ‘Okay I remember him. Let’s work with him on this project because we need someone who knows what they’re doing on set.’’’
Payton looks forward to extending her catalog to different countries. She is seeking representation in Milan and Japan as well as other locations so that her modeling career can afford her the chance to grow her production business.
“It’s cool to see your friends and put them on the runway and let them see you in a different light. I’m producing and creating work with the people that have done things on me that are kind of cool and really fun.”