“I really appreciate everything I was able to do these past 11 years of modeling. You have to grow up really fast when you travel but it makes you a stronger person.”
Ever since the 1960s with Naomi Sims, there has been a growth in diversities reaching the runway, appearing in front of fashion covers editorials internationally. Our latest series brings you mixes of all races around the world–the hottest new generation. Inspired by National Geographic’s Changing Faces article.
Mari McKinney, Brazil
Tell us about your upbringing and how did it shape the person you are now?
My name is Marianne fonseca, I’m from Brazil and I’ve model for 11 years now. I grew up with my little sister Luíza in a small town in Brazil. My parents are divorced since I was 9 and my mom got married again when I was 12. I grew up playing volleyball and dancing ballet, I’ve always loved sports and I was a very active kid, I also had good grades in school. Ever since u was a little girl I always had a dream of being a model. I didn’t even know what a Model really was but I remember watching fashion shows on tv and wanted to be like Gisele B. Our family is very religious and I would pray every night for God to make my dream come true. When I was 15 I had the opportunity to move to São Paulo and sign with a modeling agency.
Talk us through your modeling career
I started modeling when I was 15 years old, I left my little town in Minas Gerais Brazil to live by myself in São Paulo where I signed my first contract with a modeling agency there. My mom wanted me to finish high school so I would go to school in the morning and do my castings or modeling jobs in the afternoon. It was really exciting to be doing my dream and living without my parents in a big city but it was also very hard. I had to deal with a new school and new friends, trying to understand what the modeling industry really is, having to deal with agents that sometimes weren’t very helpful or having to constantly compete with other models. This is a very competitive career with a lot jealousy. People are not really interested in helping you and so many times I felt lonely and scared that I would never make it. After one year living in São Paulo and working there I got a taste of what being a model is like. I learned how to pose and how to bring the attitude the clients needed. How to be responsible and be on time, always look good, etc. Then I got an opportunity to travel out of the country for my first international trip. I went to china and I lived there for a year. Then I went to other countries in Asia like singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Hong Kong. I would always be back in Brazil every year to visit my family. Then I wanted to take a new step in my career and try the European markets. So I went to Turkey and then I went to almost every country in Europe for a couple months at a time. Germany, Italy, Greece, Israel, Spain, England and I also lived in South Africa. Living in Europe was an amazing experience. I shot some of the best photos of my career there. I also did a lot of magazines and learned so much about the fashion world. After Europe I had enough experience and photos to apply for an american visa and try to come to Ny which was my dream since I left Brazil to go to china. So I got my first visa four years ago and I’ve been in the usa ever since. I remember the first time I ever walked in Times Square and I saw my photos on the billboards for the Aerie campaign I shot a couple months before making it to the big apple. Being in the USA and making it here as a model is my dream come true.
Have you ever had insecurities with modeling from bookers/clients constantly critiquing your looks? If so, how did you overcome it and become thick skinned at a young age?
Being a model can be very intimidating especially when you first start. You don’t really know how to dress for castings, sometimes you don’t really have the attitude or confidence and people can be mean. I like to think that all of it was a learning experience for me but there were times where bookers would criticized me instead of helping me to look more like a “model” should look. As a 15 year old girl you don’t know how to have a healthy diet and exercise correctly without someone showing you.
I can still remember times when people were mean to me because of my looks in the beginning. But thank God I never quit. To all the bookers, clients and models out there, there’s no need to be mean to the young and inexperienced. This industry is hard enough without the extra negativity they sometimes bring. I learned the hard way so whenever I can help younger girls or friends that are having a hard time in the industry, I always try to help and be encouraging.
“Getting married and committing your life to someone else forever comes with a lot of responsibilities, but also being able to trust someone so deeply is the best feeling in the world.”
What have you learnt from traveling and modeling in so many countries around the world?
I’ve learned so much. I’ve experienced many different cultures in the countries I’ve visited. There are so many different markets and styles every country has for modeling and how fashion is expressed in their culture. When you’re young and traveling alone it can be scary but I was always more excited than afraid to see the world. I can honestly say that I’ve had a lot more good moments than bad. I’ve made lifetime friendships, met some of the most amazing people that helped me and I still keep in touch with, got to learn different languages and go to places that I’d never thought I would ever get to go to. For the rest of my life I will always have some of the most special memories from every country I’ve been to. I feel very blessed that I’m able to live my dream and travel all over the world at such a young age. I really appreciate everything I was able to do these past 11 years of modeling. You have to grow up really fast when you travel but it makes you a stronger person. Because of all the different cultures and countries I’ve experienced I’ve gotten a better perspective on life and what’s truly important. I’m a better person because of it and I miss so many places I’ve been.
Do you see yourself getting into acting after modeling?
Not necessarily after modeling. I never wanted to be that girl that starts acting when she gets older after her modeling career is starting to slow down. I think acting is an art form and beautiful. You have to learn a lot and have a heart for it because it’s a though industry and not something you can just jump into one day. I’ve studied acting some and I have shot a couple short films and tv commercials and I really enjoyed it! So yes, I would love to act. I’ve been having this desire more and more and I’m gonna give it a shot for sure, once I feel more ready for it. But not as a transition after modeling.
Do you feel that you have changed after you got married compared to while you were dating?
Yes. I feel like I have a safe place now because for years I was traveling by myself, lonely and not letting myself trust a lot of people. Getting married and committing your life to someone else forever comes with a lot of responsibilities, but also being able to trust someone so deeply is the best feeling in the world. My husband and I always talk about how amazing it feels to be with each other forever. It’s such a comforting feeling to be by each other’s side for both the good and the bad. We believe God brought us together and we are so lucky to find one another. We are best friends and we help each other through the ups and downs in our careers (he is an actor). Getting married to my husband was really the best thing that ever happened to me.
What is your perception on true love?
True love for me is simply to give. Give without expecting anything back. Love is selfless and I believe the most true love is when you give all you have and you are fully content with it.