A Model of Excellence at the Runway Bootcamp

Model Charleston Pierce
If you attend any of the top fashion shows in the Bay Area, most likely you will see Charleston Pierce.  He has a charismatic presence and after talking to him, you’ll realize he has a deeper involvement than just being present at them.  He is often times is recruited to work the shows in providing his expertise and guidance with the models and backstage production.  Charleston began his career in the entertainment industry in the early 1980’s as a student at the San Francisco School of the Arts.  With a background in performing arts including theater and ballet, Charleston was primed and ready when discovered by Larry Hashbarger and signed with Jimmy Grimme’s modeling agency in San Francisco. Charleston later signed with Stars Model Management, where he is currently represented, and would enjoy a consistent modeling and acting career for the next two decades and into the present.
In addition to his countless appearances in national billboard campaigns, print advertising spots, commercials, fashion shows and movies, Charleston was the first actor to portray the Japanese superhero, PepsiMan.  In San Francisco, Charleston is most well known for his dynamic presence on the runway in the Macy’s Passport annual fashion shows where he appeared as a model for 16 seasons.
Charleston at Macy’s Passport.
In 2005, Charleston was appointed model coach and runway trainer by Macy’s Passport.  He also took on the honored role of training the member/models in the Junior League of San Francisco’s annual fashion show fundraiser from 2007-2010.  In May 2010, Charleston joined The Plus Academy Bay Area and taught a 4 week series on runway basics.  
Charleston has just launched his own Runway Bootcamp, where models can work on their runway walk as well as learn how to break into the modeling industry and book jobs.  I was able to find out additional details from Charleston on why he started up his bootcamp and the impact it will make within the fashion industry.
Michele:  Why did you decide to launch your bootcamp series now after so much experience within the industry?
Charleston:  Basically I hope to meet a demand.  I meet and talk to a lot of people both folks that are in the modeling/entertainment industry and people who aren’t, and people are always asking me how they can learn runway, how they can develop a strong walk, how they can build confidence. Not only that, but they’ve seen what I do and have asked me straight out to teach them.   I decided that a workshop or class would really help a lot of people out.
Michele:  What is your experience on the runway and what type of training did you have?  
Charelston:  I appeared on the runway in Macy’s Passport in sixteen shows.  This is unprecedented because Macy’s likes to change things up every year, but I managed to keep my look fresh and always deliver what they were looking for. I didn’t make the cut the two times I auditioned, but I kept coming back.  Beyond that, I’ve done more runway shows than I can count. 
In high school I trained as a dancer and actor so I was already confident, I just needed to learn a runway walks and model posses.  I mainly learned from trial and error and by studying other models and watching my own video footage and taking advice from mentors.  I only wish I had taken a runway class so that there wouldn’t have been so much trial and error.  But I figured it out eventually!  You must have a student mind set.  Find the best and learn all you can.  The good and the bad.
Michele:  Is training recommended for most models and if so, why? 
Charleston:  As with most things, if you want to achieve excellence it is best to have a coach or a trainer.  Think about professional sports, artists, musicians, actors, business, high-finance … sure you can rely on raw talent and develop with experience, but anyone you can think of who has reached the top has had some kind of training, coaching or mentorship.  Everyone should have a coach.  We were not made to work alone. 
There is much more to modeling than just showing up and looking good.  You have to know how to portray a character and how to exude a presence.  There are a lot of ways to learn, I’m just offering one option. 
Charleston coaching models for a fashion show.
Michele:  From what you’ve seen at runway events, what are areas that amateur models or designers need help with?
Charleston:  First of all, anyone who gets out there has my respect and admiration because I know how much courage it takes just to walk the runway.  Beyond that, a lot of models can work on connecting with the crowd, showing energy, knowing which pose to deliver and when, how to work the clothes, and how to deliver what the designer wants. The designer and model must be on the same page.  One common vision.
I’m not coaching designers, but the main issue I run into with some designers is that they want to show every piece they have in their collection.  Its better to show a teaser of your collection and leave the crowd wanting to see more… hopefully when they come to your showroom, store or web site. 
Michele:  What are some runway “no no’s” that you’ve seen at fashion shows in the Bay Area?
Charelston:  The worst thing a model can do is get caught up in the idea that it is about them.  Models are doing a job and the job is to be a walking coat hanger.  If the model isn’t delivering what the designer or producer has asked for, they aren’t doing their job.  Some shows call for a lot of dancing, and smiling, some shows require that you keep it serious and just walk.  A model’s job is to find out what is required and deliver it.  Keep it simple.
Michele:  This is recommended for other people as well.  How would this benefit public speakers?  Would it benefit production managers for runway events to attend and why?  
Charelston:  Anyone can benefit from model training because it teaches confidence, poise, posture and presence.  It’s the same as taking an acting or an improv class if you are a public figure. You learn how to present yourself and how to connect with an audience. 
Michele:  I’m not familiar with runway work.  I’ve heard of the “New York walk”, “Brazilian stomp” and other terms being tossed around.  What are they & can you describe a little bit about each one?
Charleston:  There are many different walks and it is all about what the model has been asked to deliver for the show, a walk can be fun and energetic, slow and serious, romantic, theatrical; there are many variations.  It’s very similar to acting in a play, or maybe ice skating.  The model must be ready at all times.  That what I cover in my workshops. Be ready and stay ready.
Michele:  Great.  I like how you’re going after a signature walk for the individual instead of confusing them with different styles.  I’ve noticed a lot of independent models don’t know where to start in terms of getting into an agency.  Will this be covered at the event?
Charleston:  We won’t go into a lot of detail on this in the first class, but anyone who begins to work with me will have access to this type of information and much more as our relationship continues.  Its like joining a family, and I want to be a teacher, a mentor and a coach to my students.  I will also offer my students opportunities to appear in my fashion shows when they are ready or recommend them for other jobs when I hear about them.  I have a working relationships with SF and LA modeling agencies.  If a model comes to me with that goal.  We will work to make that happen.  I always believe all things are possible.  The model must make it happen.
Michele:  What type of impact do you want to make with your bootcamp?
Charleston:  As with my events, I definitely want to strengthen the fashion and modeling community in the Bay Area.  I want to produce quality models who can go out and make a name for our community and show that clients don’t have to go to LA or New York to find great models.  We have talent here in the bay. 
Charleston Pierce’s Runway Bootcamp starts tomorrow, Saturday, June 12, 2010 from 12:00 to 2:00 PM at 1661 Tennessee Street, Suite 21 in San Francisco.  Check his website at www.charlestonpiercepresents.com for additional details and future Runway Bootcamps to attend.
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