Dear Diary... My First Paid Model Gig


Dear Diary,

As I laced up my Nikes to go for a run, I was reminded of my first paid modeling job. I had just signed with my agency and was told I had booked a job with Nike. At eight years old, I was so excited, I barely slept the night before. The details of the job were a mystery as my call sheet was pretty sparse. I just knew I was booked for the afternoon.


I showed up to the Nike campus wearing... Nike! My agent told my mom and I ahead of time that it would be in poor form to show up wearing any other sports brand. Living in Portland, this is not as easy as it sounds since we are home to Adidas, Nike, Columbia, and Converse. The Nike campus was so beautiful and very intimidating. I was nervous knowing how many greats had been on the grounds: Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Christiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, and Michelle Wei. I was really hoping to get a glimpse of one of these icons, and had even dreamed I was being photographed with one of them!!


The Nike photography studio was so impressive! They had couches everywhere, cool young adults wearing beanies, cardigans, and Jordan shoes. There was even a taco buffet! I was greeted enthusiastically be everyone. Fun music pumped through the space and after my arrival I was asked what I wanted to listen to ( ummm, Justin Bieber please). I was immediately taken to hair and makeup. Everyone was super chatty and asked me tons of questions about where I went to school and what my hobbies were. At that time, I was immersed in aerial arts (think Cirque du Soleil). My exposure to team sports had been pretty limited to whatever I did in my PE classes at school.


With my hair braided back, I was given a girls basketball uniform to wear for my first look. I was then led in front of the cameras and handed a basketball. The photographer introduced himself and said “I heard you are a baller.” I smiled nervously and nodded yes. UH-OH. He then asked me what position I played. I gulped and answered, “I play every position.” FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT.


The photographer asked me to run forward with the ball, dribble, and look at the camera. Easy enough for a baller, right? I, however, had to concentrate on keeping control of my ball while running. Kind of like chewing gum and walking, or hopping on one foot and rubbing your stomach. I was told numerous times to keep my head up and eyes forward. Every time I took my eyes off the ball, I lost it. Someone would have to retreat the basketball and hand it back to me. It was embarrassing how long this went on but I never gave up and tried my hardest to not appear frustrated. After what seemed like an eternity, the photographer switched it up. He now told me to try standing still and dribble the ball back and forth between my legs. PANIC. Why did I ever say I was a baller?? I think we all can imagine how well that went. LOL. That said, it took forever but we finally got that iconic Nike action shot. It was time to move onto the next look.


For my second look, I was given a cool sweatshirt and long spandex leggings. Now I knew that Nike always casted muscular, strong fit models. In contrast, I was so skinny (tall girl problems) that after a brief discussion by wardrobe, it was decided my loose spandex would be pinned in. It was pretty horrifying. I believed at that point I would probably never get cast by Nike again. Thankfully, the second look was not an action series, so I finished the shoot, said my thank yous, and headed home. My experience was not quite what I had imagined in my mind and I felt pretty defeated by what I thought was a difficult day.


My agent checked in with me the next day and said I did a great job. Much to my surprise, two months later, I was live on the Nike worldwide website!


My pics were used for the girls sports header and basketball page. I remained on the site for over six months.


Looking back, I have to smile and laugh when I think about my first experience. And as funny as it was, there was a valuable lesson there as well. I learned that no matter how intimidating the shoot, it is important to stay focused, remain positive and professional, and give it my best. After all, my agent believed in me enough to submit me for the job, and the photographer saw something special enough in me to cast me for the project. In the words of Phil Knight, JUST DO IT. And by the way, I’m happy to say I got my second shot at Nike a few years ago and I totally rocked it.


This installment of Dear Diary is a first-hand account from teen model, Liv Cavano, of personal and professional events in her life along her modeling journey.

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