How does one even begin to offer you a brief synopsis of Joan Severance’s life and times? She is and has been everything from small town girl to groundbreaking international model, to movie star, to entrepreneur and that’s just for starters. If you don’t know who she is then it would behoove you to read this and find out what great beauty, elegance, intelligence, professionalism and hard work can accomplish. And then of course there is this thing called longevity and staying relevant which are only attained when someone has the wherewithal to reinvent themselves as time dictates but constantly following their passions, no matter how diverse. Oops! Almost forgot, she just happens to be a gourmet chef as well which sort of ices the cake, pun intended.
At any rate, Joan was kind enough to speak to me and share her experiences from her past, present and future which is nothing short of admirable as well as genuine and inspiring. It would be hard to believe that anyone could forget such beauty especially when coupled with a mind that never quits. She remains a woman who has taken her experiences and evolved into so much more than just a memorable image on a page.
So now it is my pleasure to let you sit in on my chat with Joan Severance.
Jeffrey Felner: What was your most memorable moment/shoot during your prodigious modeling career and why?
Joan Severance: Of so many incredible shoots with super talented photographers, hair and make-up and stylists it is really hard to pick one that stands out and so here is one that I recall vividly; Couture Collections in Paris, shooting for Bazaar USA. If you know about collections, there is one garment that making the rounds of all photo shoots, so it’s a case of getting it first but sometimes by the time the garment is in such disarray that it can only be shot from a certain side or angle and then so many scenarios can happen like cutting it up the back so it fits a bigger model, wear and tear from working in it, stains from food and drink that have had a mishap. Well, this particular shoot was with the famed late Dick Ballarian who was a real character of a photographer. It was both of our last shoot for that day and it was scheduled at the end of the day. Meanwhile I had made arrangements to meet my dear friend George Newell (late famed make-up artist extraordinaire) at L’Orangerie on Isle St Louis...my favorite elegant place in Paris at the time.
Of course, everything went wrong, the dresses were super late, hair and make-up teams were late, the clothes were ripped and stained; I kept calling George to see how his shoot was and he had finished early and was resting up for our fun evening ahead. Meanwhile back at Dick’s I was exhausted from waiting around after an already 12 hour day and now was hungry anxious that I would not be able to get out in time for my favorite excursion but George kept the restaurant abreast of the situation and they held the table.
Finally all was being shot and as I recall 10 different layouts and now near midnight but I was finished and heading to the restaurant. My favorite place stayed open for us and we had private service at the stroke of 1 a.m. as we laughed, ate, drank and had a wonderful time catching up on the stories and such that are the Collections...
JF: Given the breadth of your career, what is your preferred medium and why: Runway? Movies? Editorial? TV?
JS: As a creative person at heart, any medium that allows me to express myself is my favorite. Modeling allows via a 2 dimensional format in print, acting is more of a 3 dimensional although pixelated into a 2D reality art, and design continues my expression in any manner I can think of but my meditations take this creativity out of the realm of what we all call “reality.” This is where I do my best creative work, as I see instantly how it will all manifest; Imagination is a must to be a great model, actress and artist of any sort.
JF: Do you have any regrets from your life as a model and why?
JS: I only wish that I had the hindsight to take time out for myself when I was in some of those incredible places shooting, instead of being booked solid for a 10 year stint. I am certainly not complaining, but now I realize that the profession of modeling allows so many other opportunities that can be missed if one is working all the time. There were incredible museums, galleries, villages, people, parties, history, events that I just could not attend due to work but if I could give advice to the girls and guys today it would be get the gig, do the gig and take 2 days off and discover the place you are in. Hopefully these are faraway places that you have never seen or may never be in again.
“Joan was and I’m sure still is the consummate professional; she took her job seriously and always gave 110%” Rick Gillette of hair and make-up, editorial and photography fame who worked with the best of the best during his illustrious career
JF: I would love to know what you think of fashion as it exists today in comparison to the times where you so directly involved. Any advice, story or cautionary tale?
JS: I am sort of glad that I am not young and modeling within the fashion today. I can’t recognize what is called “fashion” and how it defines itself today. To me, it appears that fashion does repeat itself but unfortunately the conglomerate mentality of the industry has most companies going for mass appeal ( in the USA anyway). That mass appeal here doesn’t seem to remember or know what fashion use to be. Fitted clothes vs baggy (so they fit everyone), incredible fabrics vs, stretch cotton (so they fit everyone), narrow to wide vs wide shoes (so they fit everyone), sizes that reflect “0” (so one feels they are small, when in reality that zero is an 8 of yesteryear)
Personally when the size of a certain company gets down to where I am wearing a ZERO, I don’t shop there anymore because I am worth more than that. My size hasn’t really changed since I was modeling, I still get into some of my clothes from back then but the size, indicated by a number, has changed and it is confusing to me. It seems that men’s clothes sizes have stayed the same--but women are being manipulated into believing they are smaller when in fact they aren’t. This could really be dangerous for one’s health is so many ways.
JF: if you could invite any 5 people to dinner... who would they be and why? Anyone at all!
JS: First on the list is YOU so we could talk face to face about the crazy stuff we all went through. Second would be Roger Verge so we could have a fabulous meal and learn a trick or two. Third would be Salman Rushdie so we could hear great stories and have little intrigue and excitement. Fourth would be Dominic Dunne so there would be a write up of the event to appear in Vanity Fair and lastly The Virgin Mary so we could get the real low down on that pregnancy.
JF: I have been told you are in development for a new board game and several other exciting projects ... anything you would like to divulge or tell what us what we have to look forward to?
JS: I invented a communication system/conversation piece/game - called TXTYLZ. In this game you use more than letters to say more than words yet proper English, spelling and grammar are not required nor encouraged.
As texting has become our number one way of communicating these days - TXTYLZ brings the method of texting (misspelling, using of icons, using of numbers to represent words etc.) to the table (for those who choose to interact directly with humans:)
This new method of communication allows for creative intelligence to be spawned within each who plays. It helps stitch all quadrants of the brain together and stimulates creative thinking/writing. TXTYLZ can be used as an ice breaker at parties, for brain storming at corporate meetings, for matchmaking, for therapy, for creative writing and just for fun to see how those around you think.
There is now a SXTYLZ version that incorporates sexual images, words, symbols etc. It’s fun to see how uninhibited people are when they play with these “tylz” in this manner. Texting and using devices to communicate across the waves does not allow one to hear laughter, to hear the little sighs but that can happen when one reads something or hears something but it does not allow one to feel the touch of the person they are communicating with or reaching out to. Is this what society has become?
I prefer the old fashion way of using my senses to connect as it seems to create a stimulation way before the actual sexual encounter would occur; one might say foreplay of sorts. I think that the old fashion way allows a better chance of “getting together” rather than the device method but feel free to read more at www.txtylz.com