When blessed with an unexpected opportunity, sometimes the best thing to do is enjoy and embrace it — and that is exactly what the Jersey bred Ciji Michelle is doing. With her entrance into the modeling world happening accidentally, Ciji has embraced the camera and is having fun while doing so.
Ballerstatus.com was able to catch up with the admitted computer geek to discuss her entrance into the modeling world, what she looks for in the opposite sex and how making fun of her can lead to a possible date.
BallerStatus.com: So, I’ve never met a Ciji before. Can you explain the name?
Ciji Michelle: Well, Ciji is my real name, Michelle is my middle and Carr is my last. My mother got my name off of a soap opera called “Knots Landing” and there was a character named Ciji Dunn (she got killed off though). There’s actually a forum out there with people named Ciji. I have met a couple different Ciji’s. Ciji means a “bearer of light.”
BallerStatus.com: What nationality are you?
Ciji Michelle: African American. My name is Polynesian, but I’m African American.
BallerStatus.com: So how did you get into modeling?
Ciji Michelle: Well I was working for a local magazine at the time, and they had me as a model scout. I went to school for cosmetology, so I was doing work behind the scenes, and I’ve had a lot of people in my family who’s in journalism. So I worked with the magazine and I was scouting for models and one day we had a shoot, and we needed a dark skin model for the shoot and I found a girl. She was beautiful and she was ready to do it, but the day of the shoot she didn’t show up and didn’t call. We desperately needed someone close to her complexion, so I filled in and I haven’t stopped ever since. The cameras came on and I fell in love.
BallerStatus.com: So you were talking about Journalism, and I saw that you do some writing of your own, what’s the deal with that?
Ciji Michelle: There are two magazines that I currently work for. The first is Da Book magazine based out of New Jersey and the other is DOMM (Dimed Out Military Minded Magazine), so anytime they had interviews they sent me out. My first interview was with a bunch of football players. I’ve interviewed a couple of people. It’s been a real fun experience.
BallerStatus.com: Did you go to college?
Ciji Michelle: I went to community college and then I went to the University of Phoenix campus in Philadelphia. My major was marketing.
BallerStatus.com: How has it been trying to balance everything?
Ciji Michelle: I live by myself, so I don’t have too many responsibilities as far as taking care of a child or anything like that. So my time is separated and I’m able to do work and I’m able to add in my modeling schedule. Because with modeling, photo shoots come as their offered to me, so I add it in wherever I can fit it in. And it’s extra money, so it’s good and it’s fun at the same time. A lot of my energy goes towards school, so it seems to all work out for me.
BallerStatus.com: What publications have you been in?
Ciji Michelle: My first real exciting website thing was being a “BET B-Girl,” which was basically girl of the week. I have done Da Book magazine, Domm magazine, Flava Magazine. I have done Black Men runway shows, I recently did a shoot for Hype Hair magazine. And for videos, I have only done one for a girl from Philly named Jamie Knight, called “Can’t Play Me,” featuring Jay-Z, and the guy in the video was Gille Da Kid. I played his new girlfriend, so that was fun as well.
BallerStatus.com: What are your goals and aspirations with modeling?
Ciji Michelle: For me, I basically want to just have fun with it, and as jobs come along, I’ll definitely take them. My regular work is as a web developer. I’m a computer geek and most of my days are spent on computers. The modeling takes me away from that. It’s my distraction from destruction. I get to have fun, I get to go into different characters and I get to work with good people, whether it’s artists, directors or people behind the scene. So I can’t say I have a place I want to end up because I fell in here by accident, but I never want to stop having fun with it. I never want to lose that drive and I’m happy where I’m at now and if it goes further then it goes further, but I’ve definitely had fun doing it.
BallerStatus.com: So for you what do you think is the key to getting in the major publications a la KING, Black Men, etc.?
Ciji Michelle: It’s really who you know. There’s a million girls who are beautiful who can’t get in a magazine. It’s how much you show too. Now magazines are bending a little bit. I saw KING has a spread with Esther Baxter where she’s fully clothed, so now their allowing you to be sexy and classy at the same time. There’s a way to do that. Sometimes you can look classier with clothes off than you can half naked. But honestly now, the more you show, and who you know, is really what will get you into the magazines.
BallerStatus.com: So what have been your personal experiences with modeling?
Ciji Michelle: I’ve had a lot of good experiences, but I have been turned down as well. I’ve been turned down because of my skin complexion. Maybe I wasn’t what the director wanted at that time or because my complexion was too dark. They judge you more, they test you more. Sometimes it can be a good thing … I’ve gotten noticed because of my complexion. And for me, I’m naturally thick, so it takes more for me to stay in shape. I have to work out … crunches are my friend. Sometimes you slack off and let yourself go. But I’ve gotten chewed up — I’ve gotten told I needed to tighten up.
BallerStatus.com: How has your experiences been with managers and people like that?
Ciji Michelle: It’s tough. 80 percent of the people around you have different agendas. They may not be getting jobs, so you may have to let them go for that or their trying to get with you and their whole purpose to be around you is something different. And most of the managers for models are men. I actually have an advisor now who’s a female, but really it’s mostly men. I mean a lot of people think it’s the artists who will say stuff, but really it’s the casting directors or the talent scouts. But it’s tough because you need to network with these people. And these people will pretend to be in your corner. And there’s so many people who will tell you they can do this or they know this person, and they really can’t do anything for you. It just makes it so you have to handle your business on your own.
BallerStatus.com: So what are you currently working on?
Ciji Michelle: I should actually be in Hip Hop Weekly real soon. I’m having a feature in the magazines I work for coming out and I have a couple interviews that I recently did with artists that should be coming out soon in Domm. The interview that I did with Lil Wayne and Baby is running right now. And I just picked up a couple of web development projects. I also just did a movie called “Expendable” that was shot in Philadelphia. It featured Gary Sturges (“Daddy’s Little Girl,” “Pride”), Gille Da Kid and Omillio Sparks.
BallerStatus.com: How was the movie experience?
Ciji Michelle: Well I went to the casting and the casting director liked me and so I played a police officer in the movie, actually I played a crooked cop.
BallerStatus.com: That’s a pretty attractive police officer.
Ciji Michelle: Yeah, it’s crazy. The best part is that it was a new experience. And I didn’t know what I was doing. But it was definitely a learning experience. Everyone there was great to work with. I really had a ball working on that movie. I am also reading for a couple new parts now.
BallerStatus.com: So is acting in your future?
Ciji Michelle: I mean it can be. It’s not something that I went after. Of course if they bring it to me I am going to work hard at it. But I am not an actress and I’m not trying to take anything from the people who have studied and worked hard for this craft. If they want me, I will take the opportunity though. Now, with the modeling I have had many offers … I’ve had offers to do bisexual scenes.
BallerStatus.com: Have you had any offers for any roles that you wouldn’t want to do?
Ciji Michelle: Yeah. The bi-sexual one. They wanted me to play a go-getta, drug dealing girlfriend and there’s two orgy scenes. I get offers to be a stripper, do porn, take complete nude shots and it’s not really good. I have to be selective as to what and what not I want to do. It kind of comes with the territory.
BallerStatus.com: Do you have any secret talents or hobbies?
Ciji Michelle: No one knows that I’m computer geek and that I spend all my time on the computers. And no one knows that I love to dance and that I’m a dancer.
BallerStatus.com: An exotic dancer?
Ciji Michelle: (laughter) No, not at all. I grew up dancing. Every female in my family loves to dance. I’ll wake up and dance in the morning before I go to work. I’ll come home, lock my doors, and dance for hours. It’s kind of like a distraction from my life. I love music too. When I’m upset the only thing I can understand is music. I also love to cook, I’m a wonderful cook.
BallerStatus.com: So seeing as you’re a computer geek, what do you think of this whole MySpace era?
Ciji Michelle: Myspace was a brilliant idea. And seeing it from the web development side is crazy. Anyone can have a website and their basically getting all their money from advertisements. It’s going to be around for a while too. And online is what it is now. I don’t know how much longer print will be around.
BallerStatus.com: So lets get into your personal life … are you single?
Ciji Michelle: No, I’m not single. It’s complicated. I’m not single, but I’m not in a relationship. I was in a relationship for 9 years.
BallerStatus.com: That’s a long time!
Ciji Michelle: Yeah, it started when I was a young girl. We’re very close and he’s the only person in my life right now. And right now I wouldn’t put anyone in that situation where I would have to choose between being with someone and being friends with him because I would have to choose him.
BallerStatus.com: So that means you have no juicy stories for me?
Ciji Michelle: What kind of juice you want?
BallerStatus.com: How about your turn ons and turn offs?
Ciji Michelle: I love lips and you have to smell good and you have to have your own swagger. I look for class in a person, and I also love a chase. Actually last week I went out. I met this guy, we made eye contact all night — he was my club boyfriend (laughter). He was the only person that I was looking at that night. I gave him my number and we started talking and come to find out, he was the boyfriend with a family friend, so I don’t even want to go out anymore. Everyone is taken. And my turn offs are poor hygiene, loud people, braggers and name droppers.
BallerStatus.com: What’s a name dropper?
Ciji Michelle: It’s when a guy says “Oh I know this person and that person.” And I don’t know why men do this. I just want a man to show me what he has and what he brings to the table. I hate men who brag about how much money they have and I can’t stand somebody who doesn’t take care of their children. There’s a lot of turn offs, and in the Jersey/Philly area they all got the same story.
BallerStatus.com: What has been the most interesting way a guy has come at you?
Ciji Michelle: A guy came up in Philly one time and it was in front of a lot of people and he said “I need a big headed girl in my life and you damn sure got one of those!” So I stopped and looked around to see if he was talking to me and all these people started laughing. So he got down on one knee and said, “I need to talk to you girl!” And I was embarrassed, but I couldn’t help it because it was funny. I had to give him credit though because he came all the way from across the street and it caused a commotion, but it was something different so I liked it.
BallerStatus.com: So the real question is did he get the number?
Ciji Michelle: Yeah he got my number (laughter).
BallerStatus.com: Shoot I may need to try that.
Ciji Michelle: Yeah, being funny works!
BallerStatus.com: Have you had any industry dating experiences?
Ciji Michelle: I’ve thought about it, but I’ve mostly turned away from it. Their schedule is crazy and I require a lot of attention. And I’m not a party animal, but I require attention. If I can’t see my man I throw tantrums. My thing is … I’m low maintenance, but when I want to see my man I want to see him. But if I can’t get what I want, I throw a tantrum. I’ve had situations where I’ve thought about industry dating. It’s weird because people don’t seem to look at it in the way I do. If you’re in high school for example, you date amongst your peers, the kids your always around. In modeling, they date amongst their peers as well, you date who you’re around, which includes artists, directors, managers. But if it’s made public, you’re looked down upon. And to be real, they’ll call you a video hoe and all that. But if a man has swagger and you like what he’s doing then you can’t help that.
To check out more of Ciji, visit her on Myspace at MySpace.com/CijiCarr.