#GramGen is a series profiling the most radical characters in youth culture, who continue to shape trend behavior and spark controversy through their avant fashion sense and candid social media personalities.
Ashley Smith has been killing the modeling game for quite some time now. It’s been almost nine years since she was plucked from the crowd at an Austin punk show and encouraged to take up modeling. Shortly after, the Texas native signed with agencies in NY, London, Milan, Paris, and more, quickly learning the industry inside and out. From that point on, Smith has worked in film, design, and music, lending her talents to a range of creative opportunities thrown her way.
Despite Smith’s undeniable success in the modeling world, from shooting with Italian Vogue to landing Playboy’s Miss November cover last year, she won’t be pigeonholed as your typical “model.” After years in an industry that seems to praise the idea of conventional, uniform beauty, she was inspired to see change. In turn, Smith launched her own boutique agency, “NO AGENCY,” signing models, artists, and creatives that tend to challenge the typical standard of beauty and bring something unique to the table. With Smith’s quirky interior and admiration for individuality, she’s inspiring models who aren’t afraid to just be themselves — “Perfection bores me, but that’s just me.”
We caught up with Ashley to learn more about how she got started in the industry, being herself on social media, and the secret projects she has lined up.
What’s your occupation?
I would still consider myself a model, but through the name I’ve built in the modeling world, I have become involved in other projects in film, design, and music. I have even started a boutique agency in NYC called NO AGENCY, which represents talent that are “not your typical type of model”…more muse and artist than model.
Where are you from, and where are you currently living?
I’m from Texas, I moved from there in 2009 to NYC, and I lived there until six months ago when I moved to Los Angeles.
How did you first get into modeling?
I was just minding my own business at a Punk show in Austin, Texas when this couple came up to me and said I could model. I was three months away from graduating high school and just kind thought, “sure, I mean, ill give it a try, what do I have to lose?” From there, I ended up joining agencies in NYC, Paris, London, Milan and LA. I traveled all over the world, I even lived in Paris for a full year around 2010 to 2011. Now I am based in Los Angeles working with Two Model Management.
How has growing up in Texas influenced you?
Growing up in Texas made me tough, open minded and warmhearted. I’ve got that southern hospitality where I’ll make you a warm meal even if I don’t know you, but I also got the guts to get out the shot gun if I gotta. You know? I’m not sure if it was Texas or just the way I was raised, but I grew up very independent and not afraid.
Describe yourself in three words.
ONE GIANT DORK! Is that what you mean?
The modeling world has changed immensely since the onset of social media — do you think social media has played a role in your career?
I honestly don’t think social media had anything to do with my success in the beginning, I was just good at my job, that’s why I succeeded. But I totally believe in Instagram as a tool. If used correctly, it can help someone’s business really take off.
You’ve garnered quite the following on Instagram — what’s your stance when it comes to posting? Dos and don’ts?
I’m just myself on instagram, that’s what works for me. Everyone is different. Personally, the people I want to follow are the ones doing something interesting and a little off the beaten path. Perfection bores me, but that’s just me.
What’s one thing you want your followers to know about you that they might not?
I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist, and I love horror films. I hope one day to play a great villainess.
Last year, you were featured as Miss November for Playboy magazine — tell us about that experience.
It was great! The shoot, the release of the magazine, the response from my friends and ex-lovers. I was really privileged that I got to work with such an amazing team. Zoey Grossman and I always make magic together. It was super cool that I got to do it when I had my pink hair as well.
What are some of your favorite jobs you’ve landed thus far?
The T by Alexander Wang campaign with Diplo, Diesel Fragrance campaign, shooting in my hometown of Austin for the cover of RUSSH, my capsule collection with RVCA, Agent Provocateur campaign, Italian Vogue, Benefit Beauty campaign, and obviously cover of Playboy.
What’s one brand, designer, or publication you’d love to work with that you haven’t yet?
I’ve always loved SELF SERVICE magazine, but I’ve never had the pleasure. It would also be awesome to shoot with Nick Knight one day.
Your favorite brand or designer at the moment is:
I really am into brands like Undercover, Adam Selman, Eric Schlossberg, and Sandy Liang.
What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
I am working on a bunch of creative and business ventures at the moment. None that I can say much about at this time, but keep an eye out on my instagram @THEREALASHSMITH.
For more on the modeling industry, check out how in 2017, runway has been too slow in embracing body positivity.