Name: Shaun Stephens
Agency: TMI Model Firm/Seeking Additional Representation
Claim to Fame: Stephens has appeared in the celebrated web series Pregame.
Shaun Stephens has a knack for meeting people where they are. Raised in a deeply religious household, the model was instructed by her mother to find commonalities with strangers to teach them about God.
The personable nature she developed to sing God’s praises serves her well in a variety of situations including sitting backstage as a model who often looks different from the rest of the room.
“I’m pretty adaptable to any environment,” she told HelloBeautiful. “Wherever the environment is, I’ll match. I’ll act with that person or in that environment.”
Her experiences proselytizing to people, and her willingness to afford them an uncommon level of grace also afford her the ability to dismiss the naysayers who make ageist remarks about her being 37.
“I’ve had even an ex of mine telling me, ‘Oh, you’re too old, or you, you know, it’s, it’s too late. You know, you know, you, you know that you shouldn’t do it. You know, I’ve, I’ve heard that flat out,” she said. She happily let those comments shatter against her sharp cheekbones continuing to believe that she has what it takes to stand out.
“Growing up, I had mixed feelings about, ‘Hey, should I pursue this?’ You know, do I want to be famous? Like, does this come with the territory? Can I be, can I be successful and not be famous? ‘Cause I like my privacy.”
In the end, she decided to go for it. “I just think me and my own, you know, beliefs have taken me this far, right? Because I believe in myself.”
She even manages to not react with hostility when her androgyny attracts side-eyes.
“The first fashion show that I did, for instance, I noticed there were some stares and looks by the end of the night, these people have become my friends,” she said good-naturedly. “I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was because they judged me about how I looked like I was going to act a certain way,” she continued.
“I’m androgynous so I get mistaken as a boy all the time. I’ll get crazy looks on the runway. I’ve looked back at old videos and I see people looking like, ‘Hey,’ like it was bad, and I caught it.”
She remains encouraged and just continues to be herself. “I laugh, I kind of giggle at it cause I’m like, this is my superpower. The fact that I don’t look like anyone on that runway. So, yeah, I mean, I think that’s, that’s awesome. I love it.”
Her unique context for understanding the value of visual representation gives her an advantage as a model. Like painters and Kalah Christina, and Ashley Chews she has a special reverence for the full vision of a project and not just her place in it.
“I studied the Bible a lot, so everything was illustrations,” she continued. She was instructed to use them to connect. “Like, ‘Hey, make sure when you’re talking to people use illustrations to this day, I do that, which is probably another reason why I’m so visual.”
Her flexibility and visual perception are useful when she is working on sets. “I take it back to modeling, like everything in my mind. I create, I look it up, I take screenshots of it, I make all the treatments of my photoshoots and it’s all visual. So it kind of circles back to my upbringing.”
Some models prefer not to engage with the person snapping their picture unless expressly required to by their employer but she takes another approach.
“I really get along well with photographers. I’ve had all different types, um, only men ironically, but, all different races. The thing that I think we always kind of have common ground is just the fact that we both love art because photography is art too. And if, if you’re shooting me, I want to be, you know, the canvas,” said Stephens.
Those skills translate to her day job and alarm burglar salesperson. The profession compliments her goal careers of being a model and actor. She can get in, make her sales and get back to the grind.
“I’m very hands-on it and have a lot of flexibility in my schedule. That’s the beauty of it. I don’t think I could be a model and have a nine to five because, you know, there are times where you gotta go quickly to a casting call or something like that and you can’t do that on a normal job. So, this one is so flexible. I love it. That’s one reason why I took it.”
The freedom Stephen’s job provides lets her network and move her career forwards.
She recently signed to a boutique agency called The Model Firm but shortly after she committed, she was faced with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately as soon as I signed with them, the COVID-19 hit,” she revealed.
The nationwide pause affected her bookings in magazines and her ability to promote her appearances in a promising web series.
Working on the series, Pregame, was a great experience for her and it was an example of how building community with fellow go-getters has aided in her goals.
“The writer (V.A. Patrick Slade) is a gay man. He brought me in. He kept seeing me out at West Hollywood parties and he’s like, ‘Hey, like come on and I want you to be a part of this. ‘Do you act?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, like I’ve been trying to.’ So that was my first entry into, being on a film and learning scripts and things like that.”
She voiced appreciation for Slade’s willingness to include her in his project and expressed her intentions to be as selfless with any resources or opportunities she is charged with.
“I don’t think you can get to the top without a team. So if you’re a selfish type of person, most likely you won’t make it. You know, you, you do better with it, with the team. You can’t do everything by yourself. So I think it’s important to create jobs for your peers and bring in all the people that you know that that’s the vision,” she said.
She holds onto that vision despite the pandemic’s threats with the support of friends who provide “pep talks.”
“They’ll tell me to keep going. I have a good support system. I have to say. They’re like my backbone when I’m so like, okay, this isn’t working out. Somebody will hit me,” she said.
She isn’t worried about COVID-19 stalling her opportunities or breaking her connection to her network and community. She believes the bonds she’s building will hold.
“The ones that are real are gonna stick. The ones that aren’t, they’re going to fold. as you’re starting to progress in your career, you’re going to notice who’s gonna, who’s who,” she said.