An interview with Jenny Shimizu

Out modle Jenny Shimizu was famously discovered while working as a mechanic in California. It’s been two decades since she’s become a well-known face, and she’s taken on major ad campaigns, acting, a judging role on reality TV and a fashion line. Now Shimizu is going behind-the-scenes to become an agent at Women Direct Modeling Agency.

Shimizu recently took the time to answer our questions about her new career path, which she happens to have a lot of experience in already.

AfterEllen: What made you decide to make the jump from talent to agent?

Jenny Shimizu: As an agent, I kind of get to bring together the best choices I’ve made; I have a wealth of information about this business and moved back to New York a year ago and had opportunity to learn how to become an agent. Initially I wasn’t sure it was going to be a proper fit; the business is very difficult on both sides. I’m really glad i did it though, because just the fact that I can pass on everything I’ve ever learned about the fashion business and work with people I have connections with from being a model and now I am getting my girls to work for them.

AE: When do you start at Women Direct?

JS: I became an agent as of January, which, it usually takes two to three years before you start booking clients but I was really on the fast track because of my history of being a model so my connections worked out and I was able to move up really quickly; it only took about six months.

Tell me about Women Direct and what made you choose this agency over others.
Women Direct is a really great company and very respectable. They are one of the top agencies in New York so I have a lot of ties with this company already; so very familiar. They are also a smaller “boutique” agency, which I really like.

AE: Last we spoke with you, you had a new new line of T-shirt designs. Is that still something you are working on?
We sold out the first batch so now I have to get back to that. I didn’t want to make the same T over and over again so probably this time next year I’ll put out another two shirts because it was very successful the first go round and I think that’s one of the thing right now that models are doing; branding themselves and becoming more like a corporation. Models are icons and you can do business by just branding yourself — it’s a huge market for people who are fascinated with this business.

AE: You’re very out. How do you feel this has affected your career?
As far as I’m concerned, I am very fortunate because I never thought of it as being a hinderance or something negative; you see me and you know I’m gay. i think all of our differences and things that makes us unique are always strengths and that people should use it that was rather than see it as a difference. The more accepting I am of my lifestyle and how I look and what I do, the more others will be, too. It’s just part of me and I don’t want it to be a big deal.

AE: If your former pre-fame mechanic self met you right now; what would she think?
I’d hope that she would have respect for me, just for living my life as truthfully as I possible can and hopefully it would cause some sort of inspiration to her to just be youself and not really care what other people thought. It’s not our business what others think of us; it’s our business to act appropriately and honestly. I hope she would be inspired.

I’m really grateful … that I can be an agent in a business that is very difficult and be able to pass down the knowledge to new models that a look and a type is something that people need. So they either need your look or the don’t; it’s not something that you should take personally. It’s just a business like anything else.