What am I Worth? An Artist’s Manifesto

I have chosen a career that is defined by my ability to create emotional responses through images. I have embraced it as a way of life, as a truth that cannot be denied. For me, there is no alternative, because this is who I was created to be. I have devoted countless hours and dollars into my artistic life, and it shows in my resume and body of work. Because I have spent the past eight years investing this vocation, I do not work for ‘free’.

The only potential exceptions for me to waive or reduce my fee are based on my code of ethics, my personal identity, and any current needs in my portfolio. I will do trade work with individuals who can add high-caliber, unique, imaginative work to my portfolio. Or if the content created has an opportunity to be published or create residual income streams. These trade agreements are considered on a case-by-case basis.


In my considerations, I take into account our shared ideals, the intended goals for the work, and also the social and political implications. I am a mixed race black woman, sex-positive, an activist, a feminist, and I identify as queer – projects that speak to these identities and the issues that face them will take priority when considering trades. I will contribute my talents to collaborations that positively shine light on the world that I live in and fight for. Most importantly, I am committed to creating opportunity and visibility for other individuals like myself.

My rates for modeling and creative work begin at $100 per hour. I require a minimum booking of two hours. I offer half-day (4 hr) slots for $350 and full day (8 hr) slots for $650. These are in the standard range of industry rates, and they are very reasonable. When performing at events, I negotiate either a flat rate, or a percentage of the cover charge. And with design/styling, makeup artistry, and graphic design, this is done at a flat rate for services rendered, which is discussed for each specific project.

Peep Show Burlesque and Variety - Dylan 2015-398

I will no longer undersell myself. It is a disservice to my experience and talent. I have dealt with too many flakes and individuals who do not respect the physical, energetic and emotional investment which creatives like myself put into their work.

I cannot count how many times I have experienced this – with organizations that expect artists to work for free or performers to pay to be a part of a show, individuals who undermine the cost of art and creative services, and of course, the idea that exposure is a main form of compensation.


If you are a hobbyist or amateur, I am happy to work with you for my stated rates,
as my experience will be a chance for you to learn and grow. If you are an established artist or we have a longstanding collaborative relationship, there is a possibility of negotiation for a lower rate or trade. If you are a professional approaching me about a project that is of merit, I will gladly discuss an agreement that works for both parties. But please understand that exposure on its own is not a measurable or consistent form of creative currency. Exposure is viable at times, and there are many projects that I will donate my time to, especially if they are in line with my stated principles. However, exposure as compensation does not pay my bills, nor guarantee me anything at all.

If after discussion, the content, style or rates for my work do not suit you, it is your prerogative to decline to work with me. However, it is not your prerogative to undermine my approach, tell me how to run my business, or to devalue my services.

deering oaks gaelle 3

At the risk of sounding egotistical, I will say this:
There are many amateur models that are pretty, photogenic, and have unique qualities. There are many dime a dozen models that will likely never learn the true art of collaboration with artists of all mediums. There are many hobbyist models who may or may not learn how to invest in and elevate their artistry.

I am not one of those models.

I am a personality, a force, a quadruple threat, a boss.

But first and foremost, I am an artist.

I am not solely a model. I am a trained performance artist, dancer, and licensed makeup artist. I create many of my own costumes and accessories. I do my own graphic design and social media. I have been published several times, in print and digitally. I spend a great deal of time and money developing concepts and working to advance my craft. I have stuck with these things long enough that I embody them at every moment of my existence, often whether I want to or not. That is a sign for me that I have a calling – one that demands to be honored. And I am hungry.

I may not be a traditional fashion model, however, I am able to walk between the worlds of fashion, fine art, performance, and nightlife culture, creating a persona that can’t be copied.

Braids Mirror_Aquarius_Web_sm copy

By no means am I invalidating anyone and everyone’s ability to be creative. I believe every single human should partake in creative outlets. I think every single human should have a chance to enjoy being photographed, a topic I plan to write more about. I believe that art is the single most rewarding endeavor that any human can participate in. And I believe that the artists and creatives who put in long-term work into their craft are worth every penny that they charge.

Being an artist is a never-ending path to self-actualization and enlightenment. It is a road to a higher form of consciousness that every individual deserves. It is also a legitimate career, for those who are passionate enough to follow an uncertain and (not always financially) rewarding path.


Looking at my body of work of the last 8 years, I have finally realized how much of a chameleon I am. I have modeled in numerous genres, from fashion to beauty to art nude to conceptual, and so much more. I have walked runways, performed in the street, walked in vogue balls, done burlesque & radical performance art, and created space for others like me to do similar things. I have consistently pushed the envelope, challenging the idea of a ‘normal’ reality for a long damn time. And as many times as I have tried to run from this destiny, the universe will always realign me to this path. It has reminded me time after time that I will never be able to hide who I am. I can’t just choose to be someone else, and if I did attempt to, I would live in regret my entire life.

As I continue to reinvent myself, on the cusp of my thirties, the work I envision producing is even more grandiose and iconic. Most importantly of all, it will represent the unapologetic truth that I have pledged to live each day. My presentation, my body and my art will always be politicized. This is not a reality I chose. In fact, it is a reality I ran from and lived in fear of, for most of my life. I made myself small. I undersold myself. I was afraid to make a statement. There are still situations in which I am afraid to be heard and seen. As I continue to shed that skin, and as my self-worth solidifies, I recognize more clearly the requirements I must have in order to remain in my strengths.


There are many situations where my look and aesthetic has kept me from opportunities I thought I wanted, and I gauged myself by those ‘missed opportunities’. There are many times I thought I would be better off if I had a different appearance. There were countless moments when I wished I could just give away all my talents to someone who deserved it. I wished away my awareness, my differentness, my oddities and my self perceptions. I saw all of those things as weaknesses, yet, as I see them now, they are the most potent strengths I could possibly have.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am not just the artist, but also the art itself. I am a living, breathing masterpiece in the making, and it will be a long time before completion. In fact, even on the day I leave this earth, I will remain unfinished.


I have made a pledge to show up for my art. I will renew that pledge again and again, each time with more conviction. I have committed to incorporating new disciplines, mediums and challenges into my life, in order to remain on a trajectory towards MY definition of success. I have acknowledged that the forces at work in my life, and they have made it clear what I can and should do, and even more clear what I cannot and should not do.

I have a calling. One that will lead me through narrow roads and wide-open pathways. One that will navigate me to the heights and depths of human experience. One that will allow me to leave this earth content with the truth I lived.

The end is far from near, and I’ve got a damn good start.

Cover Image – Liam Carleton
Images in Order – Michael Wilson, Dylan Verner, K Tyson Perez, Gaelle Robin, J. Robert Photography, Kareem Montes, Liam Carleton, Varial Studio

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