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This veteran model is inspiring the next generation

PICTURED: Sandi Bass (Photo credit: James Lyon)

WITH MORE than twenty years of experience in the fashion industry, Sandi Bass is the definition of a veteran.

The Texas native - who got her big break when she was discovered by Hubert De Givenchy and went onto become a muse for Valentino - has seen it all, done it all and now she is using her talents to inspire the next generation of models.

From model to singer, fashion coordinator to model scout, we speak to the renaissance woman about modelling, diversity and the future of fashion:

Q: Where did your love of fashion begin?

Sandi Bass: Well I was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, and growing up I always loved fashion. Between my dolls and my mother, I had such a big love for colours, clothing, fabrics, photographs and i’ve always been draw to the arts.

Growing up, I knew Nashville was not the place for me to do what I want to do as a model and I must have been 10 years old when I knew I wanted to be a model. Plus, I was so thin and no clothes would really fit me. My mom had to make my own clothes and shoes because my feet were so narrow - so i’ve always been into what I put onto my body and loving what others put onto their bodies too.

Q: Was this love of fashion something that was nurtured by your family?

SB: Yes, definitely. My mother was a beautician and hair stylist and we couldn't really afford a babysitter so she would take me to her cosmetology class everyday. I would braid up the hair on the dummies and that was my foundation, it was my mom. She was so beautiful, she dressed impeccably when she’d come to meetings at school, and would look like a model. Not only that but it was how she carried herself and I think that’s important today.

Q: Now you’ve occupied a lot of roles in your time - model, singer, and now a model scout for Red Model management. What role do you get the greatest satisfaction from?

SB: It's what i'm doing right now - working at Red Model Management and changing lives. I find models in Uganda, Kenya, Atlanta, bring them to New York and these kids can be off to Paris in 6 months. They don't speak the language, they’re not working in McDonalds for eight dollars an hour anymore - I’m changing lives. I can help to teach and guide them because i’ve been there and done it.

Q: Do you think it’s harder or easier to be a model today?

SB: I think it's harder now to an extent. Right now, you have to have something else because a pretty face is not enough. The attention span is short for all of us. Longevity doesn’t last and everything seems to be short because everyone is running to get to somewhere but going nowhere.

Q: And social media definitely plays a role in that too right?

SB: It does. I’m a model scout and I do look at Instagram, and social media is huge today. That’s how a lot of the models are starting out. In the eyes of the advertisers, if you have a 100k followers and you select this model to wear your brand, that’s 100k possibilities that this brand is going to be seen. It's all about money at the end of the day.

Q: Now diversity has definitely increased in fashion, but so has the usage of blackface. How did you feel seeing brands like Gucci, Burberry, Moncler etc use that imagery to sell products?

SB: I am a woman of colour and I was brought up in the 1960s in the south. So I had to only drink out of the water fountain in the public which had ‘coloured’ written on it. Then when I would go to the movies, I had to go through an entrance to the back that said ‘coloured’.

So when I see racism and blackface happening today, it's discouraging to me. I’m very sensitive about it, and I think there’s no place in fashion and in life for it. There’s no excuse and I am highly offended by the use of blackface in any capacity.

But I do want to highlight that there are many looking to challenge this and shed light on diversity and bringing this to fashion. I am happy to support Angle Sinclair, founder of Models of Diversity, on her mission for inclusion in the fashion industry. She is an amazing person and she is doing a great job fighting for her passion on diversity and i’m am encouraged by others like her who are continuing to do this.

What are your plans for the year?

SB: My plan is to keep loving, keep healthy, keep inspiring, keep growing and all of those things are good things. I am also writing my book and I’ve been doing it for years and I want to continue to inspire, take care of my grandchildren and my daughter.

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