Catarina Santos @ L'Agence
Catarina is one of those people with whom you could talk for hours. Communicative beyond words, she translates the same dynamic energy once she is behind the camera. With an easily approachable personality, you won't find her insecure about what she wants in life - and she isn't afraid of going after it, either.
This is usually one of our first questions… did you always want to be a model?
But you’ve signed up for L’Agence’s contest, right?
Yes. I’m that kind of person that, while growing up, has heard “you’re so tall and so cute you should be a model”. And one day I thought “well... why not?”. At the time I chose L’Agence because it was the only agency that didn’t ask for bikini pictures... some people have photos in bikini at the beach, but I didn’t, so I chose L’Agence by luck, really. I signed up and didn’t think about it anymore...
You didn’t win, but stayed in the agency...
Yes, I started working immediately! The contest was in October, I stared working right then and in January I took off to Paris.
You’ve started Paris with Lanvin, right?
Yes! I signed with Women in Paris. I got lucky because even though I went to Paris when I was eighteen, I was still… young and immature! I went with Luis, my booker, to meet the agency, and they signed with me. I wasn’t expecting it. I thought they hated me! But they didn’t and signed with me! Then Luis came back to Portugal and I stayed there to do the Fashion Week and that’s how I ended up working for Lanvin, on their showroom.
Why did you think they hated you?
Because… in Paris they are very rigorous with the measurements! I was prepared, of course. From October to January I tried to get ready for their standards. I did a diet to go to Paris. I didn’t starve, of course, but needed to change my eating habits, because all my life I’ve eaten what I’ve wanted. Not gaining weight is a bad thing, because you start eating what you shouldn’t and the it reflects in other ways besides gaining weight. So, from October to January I had to learn how to eat properly, I had runway classes, learnt how to dress for castings… all so I was ready to meet an agency in Paris.
Did you find their way of working different in Woman Paris? Besides their rigor with measurements.
To start, it is a very big agency. For someone who had never worked in fashion, to enter the agency and find all the top models you look up to is weird. You are a little ant in the middle of all those beauties. And then, there are other things… the most basic one being the way you’re supposed to walk. In Portugal we do it wrong! We tend to walk, not in a sensual way, but so the clothes have movement. In Paris, it’s the opposite and they are very strict about it. You shouldn’t move the shoulders or the hips. So, when I got there they told me my walk was terrible… I was a bit sad because I had been practicing! On my first days in Women they taught me how to walk… there I was on the corridors of the agency going left and right walking so I could learn.
Besides Paris, you have also been in London. Which were the most remarkable experiences?
So far, my favorite capital has been London! I had my first international runway show in London… it was my first fashion week! Paris is harder, I guess.
What was your favorite thing about London?
People. Everyone is so nice… Sometimes I would get lost on my way to castings and, when you’re doing sometimes fifteen castings a day, it is good to have someone who can help you find the right address on the street. In this matter, Paris is more complicated, also because most people don’t speak English.
I mean, when I first got to London I was almost robbed… so I thought twice about staying there! I didn’t leave because my bookers and Elsa, my agency’s director, stood by my side, even being far away physically! The same happened with my agency in London. I really felt their support and that they wanted what was best for me. I’m glad I stayed.
How different is it to be a model in Portugal and abroad?
Abroad, when we’re going to castings, we are always alone. Here, in Portugal, we get to hang out a lot with people from our agency, but abroad things are harder. We can share a models’ apartment, but rarely get to meet. It is lonelier… Here we all know each other. In London, even if I ended up at the same agency as Maria Clara, that is on the same agency as me here in Portugal, the maximum that could happen would be to live under the same roof. We would rarely meet, because we wouldn’t have the same castings and works.
We have seen many examples of Portuguese male models that are making it abroad, and not so many women doing the same. From your experience, do you think it is harder for Portuguese women to stand out internationally?
Yes, I think so. We have many good male models… maybe more than women. And then the Portuguese man’s physiognomy fits international standards people are looking for. In that way, they work more than we do. The typical Portuguese woman tends to be shorter, have wider hips… I remember going to castings and saying I was from Portugal. They wouldn’t believe it! Because people abroad still think the Portuguese woman has a moustache! That’s not true. That is a stupid idea because we’re not all the same and we shouldn’t discriminate people who are different… people outside Portugal still think there is no potential in Portugal for female models.
Even with Sara Sampaio’s name standing out in the global fashion scenario?
I mean, she is short… And she works in a different field. She’s now doing haute couture, but started to become famous in a very particular segment, working for Victoria’s Secret. Agencies are much more rigorous with measurements and height in the high fashion sector. Models have to be very tall, very thin… and sometimesa bit weird. It is strange but sometimes people tell me “you’re too pretty”.
So, yes, maybe Portuguese women have a harder time standing out international, but there is also a question here… maybe men are more adventurous! We don’t have many girls trying their luck abroad… We have Daniela Hanganu and Maria Clara going abroad and succeeding, yes… but that’s about it! Who knows, maybe more girls will want to go abroad from now on! But then you have to meet their requirements and I, for once, will never starve myself just to work internationally. You need to already have a certain body type and keep healthy. You see Maria Clara’s example, who is always carrying food in her bag! I don’t see her starving, she is naturally thin! Of course this has only to do with priorities and to what people are willing to do. I know starving is not for me, but I’ve lived with models that would survive on an egg a day! They worked a lot, yes, but that is not for me.
What do you like the most about working in fashion?
I love doing runways! I like the mess that goes on backstage… with the hair and makeup and dressing and undressing and going back and forward!
Since you’ve walked internationally and you don’t miss one runway in Portugal, which are the main differences you find in runway shows? Besides what you’ve already explained about the different kinds of walk…
Everything is very different. Here we only have one casting for the whole fashion week. If the casting director likes you, you work at the whole fashion week. If they don’t, you don’t work. That’s it. Abroad you have a casting for each show. Sometimes the same casting director works for more than one show, but usually you’ll go to a casting for each. We have to go to a lot of castings and need to be in the city for about two weeks prior to the start of the fashion week. It is quite tiring, but that’s part of the job.
After doing fashion weeks in Paris and London you get a different perspective about things… Here in Portugal, during ModaLisboa and Portugal Fashion, people in the street maybe have no idea about what is happening on the runway sites. In London and Paris, the city stops! The cover of every newspaper is about the shows! Everything stops for Fashion Week. People really value fashion.
Do you think fashion is not taken seriously in Portugal? As an industry?
I don’t know… I mean we’re trying to be taken seriously! I’ve only started modelling two and a half years ago, but I already see an evolution! I have hope that we keep evolving and people start accepting different ideas so we can start become known! I’ve noticed, when I was abroad, that people didn’t even know we had a Fashion Week in Portugal! But since our designers are starting to show their work abroad, and people are buying Portuguese footwear, for instances, people will see work made in Portugal. And the more people we share our work with, the more we’re going to evolve!
Going back to your work: when coming across you during backstage moments, one could see you really like it, and also enjoy the social part of it. Is there any story you’d like to share about backstage moments?
There were so many moments… I mean there is a special moment for me because I met my boyfriend backstage at a fashion week. It was my first fashion week (ModaLisboa) and Bernardo’s first fashion week as well! I’m the kind of person that can’t stand seeing someone alone. I got there, started asking questions to know the time of the fittings and so on and saw a girl who was alone, so I started talking to her and asked her if she wanted to get lunch together. Everytime I see someone alone and a bit lost at backstage, I engage in conversation with them because I remember not liking to be alone. I mean I don’t mind being alone, but as I am very talkative, I like to find people to talk to. So, that day, I met that girl, we began talking and we saw Bernardo. That’s when I met him. He started talking to him as well and then we all went out for lunch! ModaLisboa and Portugal Fashion marks that time of the year when we all get together again! It’s like a party!
What about hobbies?
I love being home, actually. If I could, I will spend my free time at home with my cats! I have a lot of cats…
Hum… let me count…
Yes! I’m a cat lady! They were all abandoned. And so was my dog. I love animals! Back to counting cats… I have ten. No, eleven!!
Last question: goals?
I want to give my best in everything I decide to do. Whatever that may be!
photography Gonçalo M. Catarino
styling Catarina F. Pinto
make up & hair Anabela Gonçalves
model Catarina Santos @ L'Agence