Esmeralda Seay-Reynolds is a dream within a dream. The 16 year old model, signed to NEXT, is casting a spell over the fashion world with her big eyes, white blonde hair and penchant for all things dark and fairytale...
"Whether this young girl was a human being, a fairy, or an angel, is what Gringoire, sceptical philosopher and ironical poet that he was, could not decide at the first moment, so fascinated was he by this dazzling vision." Although Esmeralda Seay-Reynolds is not the black-haired beauty we all know from The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, this excerpt from Victor Hugo's novel could just as easily apply to the wide-eyed, white-haired girl who's got the fashion world at her finger tips. Esmeralda Tatiana Athena Sahar Seay-Reynolds ("hey, you asked for it!") is the 16 year old model ("but we all know I'm a vampire, so who knows?") making decadent, gothic moodboards for her prom dress, posting smudged pencil drawings of doll-like girls on her Instagram and appearring doll-like herself in dreamy Tim Walker shoots and on dark beaches in the Marc Jacobs campaign alongside Miley Cyrus and Natalie Westling. The straight-A student has an obsession with Tim Burton and Alice in Wonderland. Human being, fairy or angel? You decide...
Where are you from?
My parents say Pennsylvania, most other people say Transylvania, but I say where I really came from is Tim Burton’s sketchbook.
How were you discovered?
I was approached about modelling for the first time at a funeral, believe it or not, but I was never “discovered by an agency.” I knew that I wanted this, and so I went banging on doors and emailing photos for almost a year non-stop until I found the one that would take me, I was a girl on a mission!
Describe yourself in five words…
Intelligent, creative, passionate, poetic and loyal.
What was it like on set with all the other models, Dan and Al for the i-D New York Now shoot?
It was incredible! I've been a huge fan of i-D for years, it’s concept of individuality and embracing peoples oddities gripped me instantly and when I was forcing my way into agencies’ open calls many months ago, the idea of working for i-D was one of my motivations, so to be there was very special and surreal for me, especially since the team was so talented and lovely!
"I've always been “blonde” just more of a Shirley Temple kind than Targaryen."
What was it like working with Miley Cyrus on the Marc Jacobs campaign?
In one word: wow! I actually had no idea prior to the shoot that Miley would be there, nor did I know as much about her as most others to be honest, since I never had cable growing up. Most of what I knew was what I heard people say on the radio, like “she did something at something called the VMA's and she sings well,” was my basic idea of her. But then, as I was in the studio, doing my math homework - bam! - Miley Cyrus walks up, somehow making a Chanel shirt work as a crop top with a pair of overalls, and was just like, “Hey, what’s up, I’m Miley,” and I was just like, “say what?” She turned out to be one of the nicest and also most intelligent people I’ve worked with and I now absolutely “ado-o-o-ore” her music!
And Natalie Westling?
My American homegirl! We've done a lot of work together - with Marc Jacobs, Katie Grand and anything looking for “doll-like girls,” so we got along and it was really nice to have a familiar face to hang around with.
Who are your best model friends?
It can be fairly difficult to get close with other models, since there’s so little free time (especially with my school work) and since most of us live far apart, but as I mentioned, Natalie Westling is a super cool girl, and I also like Hollie May Saker a lot, this new model Zuzu Tadeushuk, who I bonded with over Frida Kahlo, Caroline Scott and also Lily McMenemy. I like unique people who break convention, really anyone that's close to my level of weirdness!
When/why did you go blonde?
Well, I've always been “blonde” just more of a Shirley Temple kind than Targaryen, however I've wanted white hair for years because I adore extremes and anything ethereal, so I've always dreamed of having either Galadriel or Arwin hair, but I didn't actually take action until modeling - I wanted a bang!
How do you fit modeling around schoolwork?
My entire life I've wanted to work in fashion to meet Marc Jacobs, Grace Coddington, Tim Walker, Linda Fargo etc. so when I realised that I actually could, and could do so NOW, there was no way I was willing to give it up. However, I was also very adamant about the need for a good education, since I highly value intellect and knowledge, and also feel it is such a privilege to have the opportunity to be educated, since so many women cannot. With this in mind, I arranged a system of tutoring by my teachers from my school based around my modeling schedule. I am very grateful to my teachers for being so flexible and supportive!
What are your favourite subjects?
Art, English, and History! I am definitely a right half of the brain type girl. I do work hard to try and get A's in all of my subjects, though my heart will always belong to the humanities and Arts!
What do your friends think of your modeling?
Mostly they’re very supportive, but some of them... well, girls will be girls, however in those instances, if anyone acts uppity I try not to mind. I don't need anyone who doesn't need me!
What are you wearing to prom?
If I told you, I’d have to kill you, but I will say the inspiration is from the old Ever After movie with Drew Barrymore… think sparkly, think ethereal and think magical!
Who would you love to design your prom dress?
MARC JACOBS! I have been a huge fan of his for years! He's exceptionally talented, his show last season stole my heart, I actually bought two of the jackets from it (the tailcoat and the navy crop) and in addition to his incredible aesthetic, as a person as well he is wonderfully lovely, and especially so to me. Mr. Jacobs has been so incredibly supportive of me in my career from the very beginning, giving me the closing slot in his show for my debut and my first campaign. I honestly owe and respect him so much!
"I think the most random things when I’m walking the runway to try and distract myself, like “what color would I paint a cow if I could? Maybe pink or possibly rainbow?” If I actually thought about the fact that my childhood idols are five feet away, I’d start to cry and my make-up would run and we can't have that, so rainbow cows it is!"
What goes through your mind as you’re walking down the catwalk?
I think the most random things when I’m walking the runway in order to try and distract myself, like “what color would I paint a cow if I could?... hmmm… maybe pink or possibly rainbow?” If I actually thought about where I was and the fact that my childhood idols are sitting five feet away watching me, I think I’d start to cry and then my make-up would run and we can't have that, so rainbow cows it is!
What was your first ever show? Were you nervous?
My first show was Marc Jacobs last season and I can't even begin to describe my feelings beforehand. When I found out, I was exiting the FIT Art Museum and I was so excited I actually jumped and ended up getting run over by a bicyclist (yes, that actually happened). I remember, as people rushed over to see if I was ok, all I was doing was checking my feet, screaming “please walk, please walk,” - that excited! Eventually, all that excitement did turn to nervousness and for a moment I saw my life flash before my eyes, but as soon as I got on the runway (as cheesy as its going to sound) it all disappeared. It was a moment for me that will always live in my mind as one of the best in my life, because for years I’d been watching that show, and then suddenly, I was in the show. It was magic.
Who are your favourite models?
I love the Supers because of what they stood for - elegance, health, strength, confidence and persona, but, one can also never forget, “The Cod” (Grace Coddington) and Rachel Feinstein (the now amazing artist). If I had to chose one however, my heart is forever lost to Lily Cole.
Are you in love?
Only with my job.
How can we win your heart?
Normally I would say poetry and midnight picnics but in this case, i-D already has my heart.
In a movie of your life, who would play you, who would play your love interest and what would the soundtrack be?
Hmmmm… Well firstly, Tim Burton would have to direct - no question there. My love interest would either be Daniel Radcliffe or some version of Patrick Swayze. As for the soundtrack, Suddenly I See would have to be in there somewhere and, as this is now sounding far too tempting to resist, I would definitely have to play me.
What was the last good film you watched?
Captain Blood with Errol Flynn.
What TV programs do you watch?
American Horror Story, Game of Thrones, True Blood, Sherlock, Downton Abbey and tons of oldies - Dark Shadows, The Monkeys, The Avengers and my secret addiction and guilty pleasure... Buffy the Vampire Slayer - I LOVE YOU SARAH MICHELLE GELLER!
What songs get you on the dancefloor?
One word: MADONNA!
Do you believe in ghosts?
Only when I'm home alone in a thunderstorm... wait scratch that, as I typed it the lights in my house flickered (not a joke). Yes, I believe!
If you were invisible for a day what would you do?
Sneak my name onto the guestlist for the Met Ball and then wander around in Lulu Guinness's closet.
What slang or made up word/phrase do you use the most?
What are you doing this weekend?
Not a clue, but hopefully going out to brunch with my booker. We've been meaning to go out for celebratory post fashion week pancakes, but never seem to find the time.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing what you’re doing?
Optimistically, I'd like to say I'd be attending a masked ball but realistically probably reading a book about attending a masked ball. Sigh...
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Alice Kingsley: Do you think I've gone 'round the bend?
Charles Kingsleigh: I'm afraid so... you're mad. Bonkers. Off your head... but I'll tell you a secret... all of the best people are.
- Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Hopefully running from a fabulous photo shoot to a Tim Burton movie set (hint hint, anyone know how to contact him?)
What happened in your last dream?
This is my dream.