An interview with Ebony Fashion Fair model Andrea Keesee
Determination and dues
to focus on modeling. Even if you were part time, you were constantly working. When a casting came up, it was hard to get off work because they felt that their
job was your life. ‘Why are you trying to model? This is what you need to be focused on.’”
The casting call came out for ‘American Gangster’ starring Denzel Washington when Keesee was at work. She made up a story about a family member being
sick and went to try out for a part. By the time she got there, most of the parts were already taken, but she still managed to land a part as an extra.
“Denzel was a very cool, down-to-earth person,” Keesee said. “We filmed one scene for 13 hours that was about two minutes in the movie. You get kind of
tired standing around. Denzel and Cuba Gooding Jr. were both in the scene. They were saying their lines over and over again. So Denzel tried to make it fun. He
went around and talked to people and made us feel more comfortable. It was freezing cold in the winter time. We were doing a club scene and I had on a little
miniskirt and leather vest. I was freezing cold. He asked me what was wrong. ‘You should be smiling and more excited.’ I told him I was excited, but I was just so
cold. He actually gave me his jacket in between takes so I could warm up a bit. So I was very appreciative. I was ‘Oh my gosh, he is so cool.’ Even though we
were filming for 13 hours, it was fun to watch someone who is such a great actor doing their job, doing what they love with no complaints about how long it takes.
He knows the business. He knows what he is doing. And he was doing it and having fun.”
Keesee decided to try and get more acting gigs. “I booked Hair Trauma,” Keesee said. “It was for Ellin LaVar’s show. They were looking for girls to do
different styles with their hair and put on a fashion show for one of their friends who was an up and coming designer. We did our hair and a little mini-fashion
show in the shop. It was a little taste of reality television. If a funny moment comes up and the camera misses it, you have to do it again. So you see how ‘real’’
reality television is. That was a great opportunity as well. Ellin told me ‘You are a great model. You have a lot of confidence. I know I am going to see you again.
You can model for me anytime.’”
It was difficult even being an extra in movies being shot in New York. Except for large budget films like American Gangster, the extras had to furnish
everything. “I was finding extra parts that I had to provide clothes and other props for the scene,” Keesee said. “I didn’t have all of my things in New York. I had
one suitcase of clothes and that was it. For one of the movies I was considered for, they wanted me to dress as an upscale person in the 1960s. I didn’t have any
clothes for that. I only had clothes to work in.”
After about two years, Keesee moved back home and was fortunate to get a spot again with Ebony Fashion Fair, which is the largest venue for African
American models. Being an Ebony Fashion Fair model isn’t all glamour. It can be very rigorous, doing 189 shows in as many cities during one season and, for
the most part, staying out on the road.
“Basically on a show day, we might be coming in from one city having driven 3-5 hours,” Keesee said. “We leave in the morning around 10 a.m. and get
there 1-2 p.m. depending on how long the drive is and get checked in. We head to our rooms and we are free from 2-7 p.m. During that time, you have to get
ready for the show. 7 p.m. is our call time to get back on the bus to head for the show location. You have to come hair and make-up ready with a nice outfit on
with some heels. When you get to the show location — if we have to be ready by 7 p.m. that means the show is at 8 p.m. — we have to set up our shoes and
accessories and just prep for the show time. We do the show for about two hours. After the show, we have to meet with the audience for about 30 minutes. After
that, we head backstage, wait for the bus to be packed and hop on the bus and head back to the hotel and either go to sleep or hang out. The next morning, we
do the same thing all over again.”
Keesee hasn’t given up on making it in New York. “My ideal scenario is to complete this tour and not have to look back and get out there in New York,”
Keesee said. “New York is my dream place to live. I really love New York. I would like to be out there modeling, acting, singing, whatever it takes, and really make
it and not have to look back and be able to appreciate where I came from.”
To make it in the modeling business, you have to try, try again … again … and again. Keesee has the determination to make it there. Now she only needs
that special opportunity in old New York.
By Jonathan Gramling
Part 2 of 2
While modeling may look luxurious and easy — how hard can it be to walk down a runway in the latest
fashions — it is a demanding profession that is extremely difficult to break into. It seems that models who do
make it in the business follow the age-old maxim “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again … and again … and
Andrea Keesee, an Ebony Fashion Fair model who appeared in Madison last December knows the kind of
dues a model has to pay. After an initial two-year run as an Ebony Fashion Fair model back in 2004-2006,
Keesee headed for New York to try to break into the fashion industry.
At first Keesee stayed with a cousin for two months before staying with her mom’s friend’s place. She
eventually rented her own room in someone’s apartment. That lasted two days. The roaches and the general
filth drove her out and her mom came up from Maryland to move her back to the friend’s place before Keesee
landed in a place in New Jersey.
“I was up there for almost two years moving from place to place, working from one retail job to another
retail job,” Keesee said. “I got some modeling jobs from an agency that was trying to start up called ‘Her Game
Too,’ which was also a clothing line. I would do things with them all the time. But other than that, I really didn’t
get real modeling jobs that could pay the bills. I was basically stuck working all of the time and not really able
|Andrea Keesee has been an Ebony Fashion
Fair model for three of the last four tours.