By: Vanessa Kungwane
Sometimes staying true to yourself and not giving up on your dreams, or settling for the next best thing, just may be the best decision you’ll ever make in your life. Small town girl turned international model, Carmen Solomons, tells us why.
Rocking a white dress and barely any make-up, Carmen met up with LIVE to chat about her dizzying ride from Kraaifontein to modelling mega stardom over lemonades at Cape Town’s trendy café, Skinny Legs and All.
At the tender age of 20, Solomons stands out wherever she is. Even in Cape Town’s searing summer heat, her delicate poise and cool character contradicts the cliché of models as high maintenance and stuck-up.
“I wasn’t really keen on modelling because I was more of a nerd, I wanted to study further,” says the young lady who was discovered by Boss Modelling Agency at the age of 17 while watching a fashion show in a mall. “But my mother, who was the inspiration behind everything, told me to rather just go for it and see how it is,” she says with a powerfully infectious and affirming smile.
The modelling industry is known as a cut-throat jungle where only those with the thickest of hides survive. “I felt really intimidated” Carmen confided. “I had to grow up really fast. My agent only travelled with me the first few times and stayed for like, two weeks, and then he was like, ‘Go my little butterfly,’ and I was like, OK, mommmmmy!!! But I don’t regret anything. It made me who I am today,” she says.
When she was only 17, Carmen dazzled the modelling world with her chestnut hair, pale skin and the sulphurous glow of her green eyes. At such a tender age, she was already travelling abroad alone, walking the ramps of India Fashion Week, and relishing the opportunity of being made the show-stopper.
“Because I’m not very tall to be on the runway – you have to be like a tree, you have to be like a building – I was very nervous and scared, but that took it all away,” she said of her Indian soirée, which she says dramatically improved her swagger.
“I was a very shy and awkward person. My comfort zone meant the world to me. At the time I never in my wildest dreams thought I could ever accomplish this much with just my looks — the same looks I was always being teased for.”
Her striking features can force just about anyone to look twice, but her beauty doesn’t abide by conventional standards. She’s definitely unique; not just another brick in the modelling wall. However, in spite of her phenomenal success — she now spends most of her time overseas doing major gigs in places like London and New York – not all the critics are convinced that she’s the real deal.
In fact, to let you in on a little secret, even choosing her for the cover story was not at all an easy decision, as some of our colleagues at LIVE had hesitations about her unusual features and the fact that she’s not your typical “well known” model. One colleague, a non-believer, went so far as to call her looks “weird” and not meant for the modelling industry, while another described her as “too Khoi-San.”
Carmen has learnt to roll with punches. “I step into a room and some people they love me, some people hate me. They’re always like, ‘What are you? Why is your hair red if you come from South Africa?’ I’ve learned to deal with it,” she said.
As a child, she says she never thought she looked different. “My brothers have really dark skin and I never saw that, I never saw the colour difference. It was only when I started growing up that more people noticed, they always asked me am I adopted, and I’m like, ‘No, I’m not!’”
Then came the cover shoot. Solomon’s luminous presence, angelic face and persona that so clearly comes from humble beginnings left everyone in awe and the critics on our team eating their words. Solomons is every bit as versatile in her job as the word implies: she can pull off any pose or character and the camera truly loves her.
“Apparently I don’t look South African. Some people think I’m part Asian, so I’ve always had to explain my looks to people. SA is very conservative, while overseas people are more creative and don’t judge so easily,” she says.
Solomons feels being different carries just about as many advantages as it does disadvantages. “It’s nice being different, but what’s normal to me may not be normal to someone else. You won’t always fit in.”
Today, Solomons says, she has built character and a more solid personality through her experiences.
Though she’d love to snag a Guess campaign, modelling isn’t the end of the road for Solomons. She’d still like to pursue her dream of being a dietician while continuing her modelling as a hobby as opposed to a career.
She’s a young and ambitious soul. Ramming through all barriers that have been placed in her way, she has grown while remaining humble and true to her. To this day, when she’s in Kraaifontein she still does dishes in accordance with the family timetable.
One can only admire and respect the strides Carmen has made as a young woman; living a life filled with goodie-bags of success, she’s never attempted to change herself for others.
“Some people will love you or hate you. I’ve just learned to take it with a pinch of salt and continue striving for my dreams,” says Solomons.
A few things you’d never guess about Carmen Solomons
- I talk in my sleep.
- I still wrestle with my brothers.
- I sleep with the light on because I’m scared of the dark, and with both legs covered just in case that scene of paranormal activity might take place!
- Me and my best friend have burping competitions (o_0)
- I am really a man. LOL joking about that.
- I often quote Trevor Noah jokes and expect people to laugh all the time because the way I said it was funnier.
- I find Afrikaans words funny, like aartapel lmao!
SIDEBAR 2: Another side to Carmen
Your favourite movie?
At the moment, the first Hangover.
What kind of food do you like?
My fave food is pizza. Any kind of fast food makes me happy and anything sweet.
What do you get up to on weekends?
On weekends I am hanging with friends. Mostly spent with my best friend or catching up with old friends. Beach and braai… Sundays is church with my fam.
The coolest thing you’ve seen overseas?
The coolest thing I saw overseas… Well, in Gran Canaria the beaches are amazing. In New York it was the Flatiron building and the Empire State building. London, the London eye, and even their public transport amazed me. The architecture in Zurich. Everything different amazes me.
How do you keep your body in shape?
I don’t have a hectic work out regime. I do yoga now and again.
Well my beauty secrets are not much of a secret. Don’t sleep with makeup, don’t smoke. Drink lots of water and not too much sun. Oh, and use cold teaspoons for tired eyes.
If you were president for a day what would you do?
Hmmm, I will lower petrol prices, give away cars and bursaries to the less fortunate and deserving. Make abortion illegal and bring back the death penalty.
If you had one wish what would it be?
My one wish would be that I could have ten more 😉
What cartoon character do you resemble?
Most people say I resemble Pepper Ann… But I prefer the lil’ mermaid.
Are you single?
I am in a relationship, I’m very much taken:-).
A BANNER / TAG FOR YOUTUBE “BEHIND THE SCENESNB FOR DESIGN: PLEASE INCLUDE ”
Pull quotes (can choose which ones to use):
“I step into a room and some people they love me, some people hate me. They’re always like, ‘What are you? Why is your hair red if you come from South Africa?’ I’ve learned to deal with it.”
“I never in my wildest dreams thought I could ever accomplish this much with just my looks — the same looks I was always being teased for.”
“My brothers have really dark skin and I never saw that, I never saw the colour difference.”
“It’s nice being different, but what’s normal to me may not be normal to someone else. You won’t always fit in.”