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Interview with Stacy E. Walker

Stacy Walker belongs to the rare species of famous female models for romance cover books. Before she started her career as a romance book cover model she modeled for many years for fantasy books and became very popular. She has a very successful website where she also presents tons of her cover  works: http://www.stacywalker.com

With Cherif Fortin

Could you tell us something about yourself? What are you hobbies, what do you like/dislike, where do you come from, where do you live now, something about your family etc.?

I was very fortunate growing up as my father loves to travel and owns many homes in different parts of the states including, Miami, Las Vegas and Hawaii. We would visit different islands and things during the winter and went to Europe many summers. This is where my love for art really serviced. Not just the painting, but the architecture, the sculptures and the wonderful fountains and castles. I learned more travelling with my Dad then in school. I now live in New Jersey as much of my modeling work is here in New York. I go to visit my dad as much as possible and take advantage of his beautiful homes and go last year I started going to Europe once a year by returning to Italy. I will go again this year for the Christmas and New Years week.

My hobbies are collecting art books, comic books, and Barbie dolls. I take all types of dance classes and even started fencing which I really love and look forward to learning different types of fighting techniques. I also consider physical fitness a hobby now as it is something that has to be done on a daily basis and I am always looking for new and interesting ways to work out.

Why and how did you start to model? I heard that you worked for KISS? How was working for them like? How have you been discovered as a model?

I started to model for illustrators as soon as I found out that you could actually do this. That many painters look for their muse in their models to bring their work to life. As far back as I can remember all I wanted to do was look like the women in the comic books or the art and sculptures I saw in Europe and this was a way of doing it. I started to seek out illustrators who use models and I was lucky enough to have one of the best and most famous use me first. This was Boris Vallejo. A master and true icon in the industry. I learned so much from him and he was always encouraging me to follow my dreams and to make the most of my creative nature. Then when he married Julie Bell I started working for both of them and they were the greatest teachers and friends I might add to have as the first illustrators I worked with. I had actually contacted Boris for a friend who was interested in having him paint album covers for the bands that he managed. I almost passed out when we first met and he told me how much he liked my look and would love for me to be one of his models. He only has a handful that he uses on a regular basis and I became one of those as I have been with him now for 11 years. Once I felt like I had done enough work to establish myself, I began seeking other illustrators to work with and once the knew I worked with Julie and Boris and saw my work they would hire me instantly.

I worked for Kiss in the late 80s. They were my favorite band, it was an amazing opportunity to get a job in their NY office. It was my job there that really made me hunger to be an illustrated fantasy character. People would laugh at me, but here were four guys doing it and doing better than anyone. Being around that creative force each day and watching ideas develop really gave me the push to enter the same realm and to take it larger than life just like KISS. They were masters at creation, marketing, and merchandising and I learned as much as I could while I was there and I can say that KISS really was one of my biggest inspirations and still a big part of all I do. I hope to work with Gene Simmons in this area sometime in the near future. I would love to produce projects with him.

With Ryan Storm (Mr. Romance 1998)

Something that really interests me is how a fantasy cover is made. They look so fascinating and I always ask myself where the artists get their ideas from and how they realize them. Do you know in advance how you will look like when the artwork is finished (e.g. green skin etc.)? Do you know something about the painting process?

The creativity of the artists always amazes me. Sometimes if it is for a specific book cover they have strict guidelines to go by as far as looks, costumes and background. Other times when it is for an original painting they show me a rough sketch and give me the idea of the piece so I can get into that character and give them the life they need to make it work. I look at them all as small acting roles as each one is different from the other and for that hour or so I become that character weather it be an evil ice goddess or a romantic figure in a 15 the century gown. You always get an idea of what it will look like but it never compares to the final image. Most of the time the process is a rough sketch, photo shoot and then they paint. Once in a while I sit for the artist to do the sketch and that takes a bit more time. The imagination of these artists is was makes them all so special. The ability to constantly come up with new and outrageous ideas is truly spectacular.

How did you start to work as a model for romance covers? Did you went out and market yourself or have you been discovered by someone? How did you get involved with Romantic Times Magazine?

After doing so much work in fantasy, I really wanted to do romance covers and some of the art is very classical and beautiful. Plus you get to work with all these great looking guys. But mostly it is my love for my work with the artists. It is what I love doing most in this world. So the more artists I can work with and in as many areas the better. I was doing a magazine signing at a book store and a women who works for Romantic Times came in and started to talk to me about their magazine and the industry. I called her and she told me about the convention and I decided to go to learn about the industry and meet authors and publishers. Romantic Times really got behind me and gave me a great deal of promotion and sent me to meet the #1 illustrator in the field "Pino". They liked my look and booked me for 2 cover instantly. Then through the other models I got the names and address of other illustrators and went to meet them. 90% of the work is here in NY. I also met the team Fortin and Sanders at the show and we hit it off instantly and we do a great deal of work together. I love their style and they are great to work with. Meeting them was a great plus because not only are they great illustrators but photographers as well.

With Rob Ashton (Mr. Romance 1995)

Can you tell us something about a typical romance cover shoot? How is it done and how long does it usually take? Who provides the models with the costumes? Are their special hair stylists, make-up specialists etc.?

There are two types of romance shoots. The illustrator picks the models he wants to use and usually the photographer calls to book you. They rent the costumes when they need very specific things and they will always ask you to bring something so it is good to have your own things on hand such as corsets, big skirts etc. I have a good collection as I like to wear my own things as they fit best. They do not pay for hair and makeup so you need to be skilled in this as well. They tell you the title you read the description from the publisher and you get in front of the camera. The entire shoot usually only takes about an hour. Illustrators such as Fortin and Sanders like to find locations, use real horse and build elaborate sets. This is quite fun as it really sets the mood. They will usually shoot for what the cover needs and then do shots for their own stuff. This can take hours at times but I really enjoy it.

I mention Fortin and Sanders so much because they are truly unique in the field in how they work and the style of art they do. I have learned a lot from them. At times it is more like we are shooting a movie rather than books. They have been so supportive in my work and opened up a door to a whole new area for me. My work with them helped to inspire many of my original stories that I am currently putting together. They helped me to bring romance and fantasy together to really give my stories and characters the edge I was looking for. The have been a huge influence in my work. I wish I could tell you more about the book we started to shoot for (The Saracen) but until they get a publisher commitment they don't like to talk about it to much. But feel free to ask Cherif about it in Texas as I am sure they will have some photos from the shoots. There are quite beautiful. When this book gets published it will be breathtaking and it is a great story.

Why are female romance cover models are so unknown? Is it that the readers of romance books are mainly interested in the guys? Would you say that it is a "sexistic" business, therefore?

I think the main reason the female cover models are unknown are as you said, they are mainly interested in the guy on the cover. However, they can't do those sexy erotic poses without us next to them. I don't like to think of it as a sexists business, it is just male dominated. As on the other hand fantasy and comics is totally female dominated. I have many fans from the romance industry that email me and love to talk with me about my work as they feel they can get the inside scoop and feel a part of it. The are very supportive and are always enthusiastic when I meet them at the conventions. I just wish that the press would be more equally interested in us.

I know how possessive romance readers are with the cover boys. Have you ever been (verbally) attacked by them or experienced their jealousy? I can imagine that it is not always easy to deal with romance readers because I got the impression that many readers think that these models belong to them and fear popular female cover models (or every attractive woman that is close to the models) and regard them as "competitors".

It is unfortunate, but at a few of the conventions there are always a few bad apples in the bunch. Those who are threatened for no reason and resent my relationship with the guys. But for me it just that some of them are my close friends and we work together. It is nothing more. We have a lot in common and several of us are really good friends. We talk on the phone, we hang out together. I guess at conventions the fans feel that it is their time, but some us live apart and though we talk on the phone it is our once a year time to hang out as well. To be honest the guys don't like when the fans get crazy and possessive. That is not what they are there for. I even had one of them throw a chair at me. It was so obvious and it only pissed people off to see such a child like reaction. We are all good people and we are there to meet with everyone and have a great time.

With which cover models have you worked with? Do you have some favorite partners? Is there a special cover shoot that will always stay in your mind?

The best models I have ever worked with were Rob Ashton and Cherif Fortin. Two of the best looking guys as well. Rob does not do much in the industry anymore and that is a shame. He has an amazing look and was great to work with. So Cherif is #1 in my book. He is special because he not only models, he is part of the photography team and the creative side as well. The shoot I did with him and his partner Lynn for four days on the shores of Oregon was the best experience I have ever had. They made all the costumes, rented horses and everything. We were jousting along the shore, climbing sand dunes, rescues in the ocean. Like I said before it was more like a movie set. It was a time I will never forget and always smile when I think of it. I think we both have photos of this in our wallets as it was such a special shoot for all of us.

 

Have you ever made the experience that men regard you as easy to pick-up due to your modeling? Or do they feel intimidated by your looks?

I would have to say that most men are intimidated by me and my looks. Which is crazy if you really know me. I have had friends and family try to get me to change, but that would be a lie. The image I project is a big part of who I am and I am not going to fake it for someone. I have had guys at conventions say they almost didn't come up to my table but after seeing how easy it is to talk with me they are very glad that they did. Some of them get a little to into the image and really think I walk around in rubber suits with swords and slay dragons in my spare time. Once knowing I am the girl in the painting they really want me to be all that they see.

What do you personally think about Playboy shoots and pornography/erotica in general? What do you think about that still more women than men are presented nude in erotic magazines? Would you like to see more magazines with nude male models like the Playgirl magazine?

I get asked about Erotica a great deal. As I always say, there is a big difference between erotica and pornography. I do not consider Playboy to be pornography either. The human body is an amazing work or art and beautiful nude photos or paintings I find to be the most beautiful. There is so much out there for men to live their dreams and fantasy and I would like to see more for women. That is way with the erotic fairytales I am putting together I want to give women something really special. I have even thought of getting someone to produce favorite scenes from Romance Books for women. I think there are plenty of women out there that would love to see some tastefully done erotica especially if it was favorite characters as well. I also like the many new men's magazines that have come out like Maxim, Stuff, FHM, They do very sexy layouts without showing any full nudity and sometimes that is even more sexy. The hard core stuff is not for me, but if you are into it fine, just don't force it my way.

I bet a lot of people tell you that you resemble young Raquel Welch. Is she an idol for you?

Yes Raquel Welch is an idol of mine. I love her look along with Sophia, Anne Margaret. These were the women I most wanted to grow up and have the same look. And of course Barbie. I think I have done a good job. I love when people tell me you look like Raquel and Sophia, it means I am doing my job and doing it well. They are real women. However it is Lucille Ball who is trapped inside my Raquel body.

Do you hear from foreign fans, too? How do you stay in contact with your fans? Are they mainly male or do you also have female fans? Do your female fans tell you what they see in you and why they like you so much?

I hear from fans all over the world. Thank god for the internet. I answer tons of email each day as well as regular mail. Email is the heaviest traffic. Through my site we send newsletters, tour information and all the hot news as it comes in. My fans are mostly male but I have a healthy number of women as well. This I am very proud of because I work hard not alienate myself from female fans. I want them to see what I do and enjoy just as much as anyone else. I really love hearing from women that say they love my work and that they look up to me for getting out there and doing what I do. That is very inspiring to me.

How do you stay in that great shape?

Staying in shape is a great deal of work. I really need to get a good hour and half to 2 hours in each day and it gets hard these days trying to juggle everything. So I have made a deal with myself to do at least one thing each day weather it be cardio or weight training. I have really guilty when I don't workout enough. Plus I really have to watch everything I eat and I hate that because I love fine food. If all goes well I like to get in 40 minutes cardio 15 min on abs and then 20 min on weight training doing upper body one day and lower the next.

With the Bartling brothers

Do you read romance books, too? Do you have some favorite authors? Do you have a favorite cover among the covers you have modeled for?

I have not read many romance books. I tend to stick to the classic mythologies of all kinds Arthurian tales and I love Robert E Howard stuff. I enjoy the work of Heather Graham and Bertrice Small is great. She is a great lady as well.

I would have to say the Bridegroom is my favorite cover so far. Lynn and Cherif and I had a great deal of fun on our first shoot together and I think we got a great shot with a very unique look as far as the classic clinch goes.

Would you recommend modeling for romance book covers to other women or men trying to break into the field? What are the advantages and disadvantages in your opinion? What do you like most and what least in your job as cover model?

Modeling for Romance covers is great to do. It is a large business with many covers to be done. Plus it is not very time consuming. Each only taking about an hour, you can do several in one day if you are lucky enough to get the bookings. It is a great way to model and not have to be 7 ft tall and weigh 100 lbs. Plus you don't have to spend hours in hair and makeup. The only disadvantage is, is that it does not pay as much as people think, but if you can do several a week it adds up and can work out very nicely.

I cant say there is one thing I like most about what I do except that I love working with the artists. I don't just view it as a modeling job, I love the creative force that comes along with what I do and when you see an artist get inspired by you to create it is just the most wonderful feeling. Working for artists is what I love more than anything. The only dislike is that I don't get booked everyday. I wish I did as if I could work with someone everyday that would be great.

Can you tell us something about your future plans? Will you try to break into other fields like making films? Where do you see yourself in some years?

My future plans are jammed packed. I want to publish erotic fairytales fully illustrated, comic books, design and market merchandise to go along with them, yearly calendars, trading card sets, and I would like to get a story going in animation and most definitely live action fantasy and sic- if film and TV is a huge goal of mine. I would love some of my characters to become shows like Xena and I would like to play roles in this genre media as that is my target audience and fan base. I even want to develop live shows in Las Vegas and those films for women taken form romance books as well. I just want to produce the highest level of quality entertainment to be enjoyed by people of all genders and ages. I hope this is what I will be spending the greater portion of life doing and always working for illustrators.