In the world of modelling, the French model Dji Dieng is famous for having the longest legs (125 cm), and in Serbia for helping orphans in Belgrade. Since the beginning of her career she worked with the masters of Haute Couture. She has a number of successful campaigns and editorials. Meet Dji!
WANNABE MAGAZINE: How did you first get into the industry?
DJI DIENG: I got relatively late into the industry due to my linguistic journeys in USA and Italy. In my late adolescence I had been approached many times to become model due to my very tall size, called “Giraffe” at that time. While shopping in Paris a Model-Scout of an international Model Agency invited me for a casting. I talked to my parents and together with my mother I attended the casting and I got immediately booked for the Haute-Couture Shows in Paris. And today the “Giraffe” has become the “Black Panther” and ate all those mocking about the “Giraffe”! (Big Smile)
What’s so far your favorite thing about being a model?
Being a model means for me to be at the source of fashion, visiting many countries and cultures and people on all five continents. And precisely these different cultures and people enrich my life and I have learned many things from other cultures, such as tolerance, respect, discipline, being humble and modest.
Who are some of your favorite all time models and for what reason?
Each of the Supermodels has achieved different things in their career. None could be compared to the other. And in our league of top models I never have considered the other top models as competitors because we are each different. Supermodels I met and know like Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista made the fashion business world-wide known and lived in the golden era of modeling. I admire and respect all of them for their achievements. Today the modeling business is not the same anymore as at their golden times.
What is your favorite photo set?
I am glad you did not ask who is my preferred photographer, because that would not be right. Each of them is an artist for its own and I honor their work. Truly, it is very difficult for me to choose my favorite photo set. But maybe the one together with the two yellow python snakes, each 27 kilos heavy. Giorgio Balmelli was the photographer and I thank him for his great shooting. We made this great photo shooting a few years ago, much earlier than what Naomi Campbell copied this year. It was not easy to pose with these two yellow pythons as they moved and squeezed. And after a pause I came back playing with my dog Booster I forgot to wash my hands and the pythons got very nervous as they smelled some “snack food”.
What would you say the most important element of the shoot is for you?
The most important element of a photo shoot is to pose natural as possible. Therefor it is important to have confidence into the photographer. To a good model the photographer has not to tell how to pose.
What is your typical day on a photo shoot?
A typical day of a photo shoot depends on how professional the photographer and their team are. My day starts early 7 to 8 o’clock, taking a bath or a shower. Then a healthy breakfast and the must of an Espresso.The choice what to wear to attend a photo shooting is to wear easy cloth, as I have to change cloth several times for the photo shooting. Normally the shooting preparation starts then at 10 – 11 o’clock. If it is a new photographer then to make knowledge of his personality is important, and vice-versa. He or the client, who most of the times are fashion magazine editors or brand managers, will explain the content and theme of the photo shooting, showing the cloth and accessories. Then it turns to the serious part of make-up and hair styling.
During the make-up and hairy styling it is generally a relaxed ambiance where we chat all together, and sometimes TV interviews are made with me while these preparations. The shooting itself can take up to 5 hours non-stop depending of the intensity of the shooting in between the photographer and me. Once I was booked for 2 hours shooting, at the end we finished after 5 hours non-stop working. The result was a wonderful series of photos. Normally the shooting is finished at 15h or 17h. After the shooting I return to the hotel or if it is still early enough, I take a flight to return home.
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is the variety of faces. My company already got calls where clients asked to get two of our models. But we don’t have more models than me. The photos look so different sometimes those clients believe we manage different models. Maybe it is a chameleon style, which is liked by the clients, as I look never the same.
You have the longest legs of all top models. Are they your favorite part of your body?
Indeed, with 125cm it seems I do have the longest legs of all top models. But my favorite is my ravishment smile. I love to smile out of my heart.
Do you watch America’s Next Top Model? Who is your favorite judge?
Oh, I have to disappoint you. I don’t watch these artificially made model shows. I prefer to watch news, cultural reports and sport. To become and work as model has nothing to do with these shows. These shows are commercial focused shows for the shows themselves and the moderators. Have you ever heard about the former model winners as from America’s Top Model or Germany Next Top Model from Heidi Klum?
To get model and making the living out of it is extremely difficult. Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Berlin’s fashion designers pay some 250 to 450 Euros to an average model for a catwalk performance. If a model is lucky she makes two catwalks. Now calculate. How many Fashion Weeks the industry produces: One in spring, and one in autumn. These “Top Model TV Shows” make dream many girls to become model, without showing how difficult it is to be in that business. But of course these TV shows are great pure entertainment. Without my personal discipline, determination and a lot of efforts and the support of my own great management I would never had reached what I achieved in my career, including the Awards for my social engagements.
Any words of advice for a young lady who aspires to be a model?
Sure, with pleasure. To become a model it is not only about your beautiful look. You have to have an inner beauty, charisma and somehow a lot of luck to get to the top. Discipline, training, determination, insisting, but remaining realistic about the possibilities to make your living out of it. And never forget the legal aspects of being a model. Sign contracts limiting the use of your personal rights with photographers, agencies and clients. As model you do have also many rights, but no one tells you about it.
Associations as SYNAM – Syndicat National des Agences de Mannequins could give you some advice. I had to learn this all alone in the beginning, and once I created my own management company I was better protected. Model Business is plenty of tempting “Glitter and Glamour”. Never let you blind about these things. Stay with your feet on the ground. Oh it sounds horrible to a newcomer or outsider what I say, but I still can say that it is one of the greatest jobs in the world! I would do it again. So go for it, but not blind!
You give support to orphans in Belgrade. Also, you are a part of many humanitarian projects. How do you balance all your charity work with modelling?
Yes I support a lot of humanitarian projects, and for my social engagements I god honored with the Award for Humanity, the Leading Ladies Award, the United Nations Volunteer Award, the Diploma of UNESCO City Kotor, Montenegro and other distinctions. In Belgrade I visited and supported the House for the Children without Parental Control “Drinka Pavlovic” and with my help different companies sponsored cloths and food for these kids. I hope to come back to Serbia for some more social support.
My own company is managing my agenda and this in harmony in between Fashion Show, Product Presentations, Interviews, Photo Shootings and Humanitarian Assignments. To be engaged for HIV/AIDS Prevention, Tuberculosis, and Malaria or in favor of orphans and tsunami victims is for my absolutely natural, and I don’t consider it as an obligation. I am aware that not everyone can help, whatever reason it might be. But I am one of those who help from the heart. My Grandparents already supported the poor in providing food once per month for free. So I was raised with social responsibility, and I try to assume it as best as I can.
The list of your editorials and covers is endless. What editorial and cover do you like most?
Yes truly the list is very long, and I am one of the very few supermodels with editorials, articles and interviews on all 5 continents of our planet. I am very grateful for all the great journalists I met from New York to Paris, London to Milan, Hong Kong to Jakarta, Cape Town to Vienna and many more places. Probably I am the most accessible Supermodel and interesting to write about because I am not only focused on fashion, but also on music and humanitarian causes, what is interesting for the readers. The most memorable cover is of course the first of my career with Divas Magazine because the beginning was not easy and it will always be a highlight for me.
You have had an incredible career: what was it like working with all those amazing creative photographers?
Oh I hope that I not have had an incredible career, but that I still have and will have an incredible career. I still would like to achieve a few things as supermodel. (big smile) I can certainly say that the works with all these creative photographers, but also with the Make-Up Artists or the Hairstylists were great human experiences. Many friendships had been developed and we maintain it by Facebook. The day I will stop modeling I will miss these creative professional people a lot, but we will remain friends what is most important to me.
People love to say that New York is the Center of the Art World, but what do you feel that New York is to Fashion?
First to say that Berlin has more Art Galleries than New York, and became leading Art City of the World in the last years. But in regards of Fashion there are different centers and each different to the other. New York creates some Hypes but London for example has become the leading city for fashion newcomers, and Bangkok Fashion Week or Shanghai Fashion Week show the great potential from Asia. Milan has become more important than Paris. But for me the real creative creations are coming from emerging countries as from Africa, South America or Asia. There the creative potential just begun to be commercialized and they will have a great future. Same as the very innovative designers from Eastern Europe with their amazing collections. I made wonderful discovering in Serbia and recently at the Ukrainian Fashion Week. These designers deserve more PR and I support them with passion.
You have already walked for Dior, starred in a Vivienne Westwood campaign and other great designers. Do you have your favorite designer and runway show?
Two words: Alexander McQueen. Great collections and accessories. Unforgettable. R.I.P.
As a model, are there any things you are excited about for the future?
Oh certainly there will be some exciting challenges to come as model but also for my humanitarian engagements. I and my management will focus more on the public relation support of Fashion Shows in emerging countries. I love the discovering of fashion spots other do not know so well, yet. And if my agenda permits, I give full PR support to these “exotic” Fashion Weeks and Designers.
EURO 2012 Events
Poland and Ukraine will host the next UEFA EURO 2012 Football Championships. Recently I was welcomed at the UEFA EURO 2012 Ukraine Headquarters this to discuss different public relation co-operations. I decided to support UEFA EURO 2012 in Kiev. My company and brand “Chili Palmer’s” together with Ukrainian Fashion Week will organize the biggest EURO 2012 Fashion & Music Events. The first event in Kiev, Ukraine will be the EURO 2012 After-Draw Party at the honor of the official UEFA EURO 2012 Final Draw in Kiev of 2nd December 2011. Fashion Rocks Sport, the biggest Fashion & Music Party of EURO 2012, welcoming the UEFA delegates and VIPs, including the representative of the 16 European National Football Teams. In summer 2012 different EURO 2012 Fashion & Music Events, including some social projects will take place in Kiev, supported by me.
Of course there would be still a lot to talk about, but then you would need to make a special edition with your magazine. Thank you for the interview opportunity. It was a pleasure to reply to you and to reveal a little fraction of my career to your readers.
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Katarina Vesin je budući novinar. San joj je da proputuje svet i napiše putopise. Oduvek piše prozu i poeziju, inspiraciju nalazi svuda oko sebe. Veliki je ljubitelj rep i r&b muzike, nepopravljivi je optimista i borac, obožavatelj životinja. Voli modu, a posebnu strast gaji prema obući. “During your life, never stop dreaming. No one can take away your dreams!” (Tupac Shakur)