Photography by Michael Donovan
In a world where uniqueness is embraced and oxymoronic paradigms are something of the norm, enter Casey Legler… Beautiful gal turned male model. Candis Alicia Hickman of DrinkBlackWater discusses with Casey Legler life as a model and artist. View the full feature after the jump
Q. Firstly, can you tell us a little about your background? What motivated you to become a model?
Casey. Sure thing. I’m a former Olympian (I was born and raised in France and competed in the 1996 Olympics for my country) and am currently an art-maker in NYC. Living here and creating a community for myself I’ve inevitably become fellows with art-makers, movers and shakers, and just generally speaking, really rad and bad-ass folks. One of these wolverines happens to be Cass Bird who, one day back in July, happened to be shooting a piece for MUSE magazine, she happened to think I fit the part she was looking for and I happened to be free that Friday. The rest is what’s been happening since. Emily Novak at Ford saw the pictures and I was in the office and signed within a couple of days.
Q. We hear that you model under unique circumstances. Can you tell us a little about these circumstances; how you came to sign a contract with Ford Models – Mens, and the joys/pressures of this assignment?
Casey. I love that you call it ‘Unique Circumstances’. Sounds like an after school special or an episode from Degrassi Junior High: ‘Unique Circumstances’. The message for the show would be (nodding to Kafka, of course): what to do if you wake up one day under (there would be a sophisticated montage of some sort here): ‘Unique Circumstances’. In all seriousness though, while it absolutely is a radical leap and something totally fierce, being a Ford Model on the men’s board has actually been a combination of two fairly pedestrian things: a natural progression out from the body of work I have as an art maker and just being myself. These two things (and the fact that biology has made it so I look fierce in a dress as well as a suit) has happened to embody something that people resonate with right now. I celebrate that.
Q. How would you describe your professional interests? Where do you envision your future leading?
Casey. Like I’ve mentioned, I’m an art-maker. I work in many mediums: video, still photography, painting, pen and ink work and large 3-dimensional sculptural pieces to name a few places the work has landed. The common thread, I suppose, is that the human form is present in almost all of my work. Similarly to when I was an athlete, I definitely still use my body as vehicle and inspiration (for those of you looking, this is one of the places where you connect the dots between modeling and my body of work). (wink)
Photography by Michael Donovan
Q. Models are artists in their own right. What is your understanding of being a model, and how do you adapt to the demands of the industry whilst remaining true to yourself as an artist?
Casey. Firstly, I’d love to make one thing clear: I love modeling. I love being in front of the camera, I love the clothes I get to wear, I love performing. All of this is present in my own work. But when I’m modeling, it’s all about my fellow designer’s, photographers and stylists. This is their show, not mine…I’ve just been invited to play because they happen to think I fit the part. I celebrate that majorly. The awesome thing about this particular set of circumstances is that I get to avail myself to another artist’s vision and my own work gets to take the back seat. I get to participate as a fellow art-maker in a project that is not my own. That is extraordinarily exciting and a privilege. I get to go back to my own work at the end of the day.
Q. Being a model, I imagine, can be very tiresome and involve many lifestyle changes. How does being a model impact other aspects of your life?
Casey. I hate to disappoint, but it doesn’t really. It pleasantly folds into the rest of my life. How could it not? I get to dress up and perform and vogue and then go home and hang out with my friends, cook for them if I have the time and then work on my own stuff. In all seriousness, that’s just a really privileged gig to have as I see it.
Q. What activities do you engage in to relax and unwind?
Casey. I spend a lot of time with my friends and in my studio. I’ve found the best source of solace to be a continued effort and commitment to my own work…again, similarly to having to show up to the pool every day and it adding up to the Olympics, I feel similarly to working as a model and art-maker. I enjoy it and find great pleasure in it. I also always love sneak dates to the movies with a pal or two (they know who they are). It always feels like we’re getting away with something and even after all these years of being in the US, pop-corn and soda in a big movie theatre still feels like such a novelty to my foreign ass.
Q. We know it’s not all glitz and glamour but can you indulge us a little?! What is the most fabulous part of working in the fashion industry?
Casey. Hands down: the people. There’s this great band who at the end of one of their songs goes through a list of all the radical feminists who have allowed them to get to where they are (a calling out of names if you will); I feel the same about fashion: it’s the people, the people, the people. Fashion is the creatives, those bad-ass models, the boys, the girls, the queens, the agents, the ideas, the courage, the work, the sweat, the disappointment and the joy. At its best, fashion is one of the gorgeous, exciting places where Art has landed to be made. FashUn: Third celebration.
Q. What is your most prized work to date? What has been the most exhilarating shoot or show of which you’ve taken part?
Casey. I think I will always have a soft spot for the MUSE shoot with Cass Bird. That’s what started all of this. I’ve also been ushered in by two of my other pals: Ryan McGinley and Michael Donovan. Let’s get serious, this is radical: a woman on the men’s board is pretty fierce. Its success has in part been a result of other creatives and folks on the ground, in the street, getting that and supporting it. The truth is that this thing has made people happy. The freedom of it hits a chord. I am absolutely delighted to be a part of that.
Now, everybody, shut the door…and go kiki for a sec.
She better werq.
Photography by Michael Donovan
To view Casey’s model portfolio:
For a sample of Casey’s work as an artmaker: