Model Ashley Emiko in Nick Von K’s recent Goddess collection imagery. Image supplied.
Radiant model and content creator Ashley Emiko has a big future ahead of her. The confident 20 year old has amassed an ever growing social media presence on multiple platforms including Instagram and TikTok, and has recently worked with leading local brands Bendon Lingerie, RUBY/Liam and Nick Von K, with her beautiful face and incredible figure gracing some gorgeous imagery. Ashley is one of a growing number of models and entertainers who is also a content creator, making her own appealing images and videos for a growing number of brands, and of course, her many followers.
Her unique look comes from Ashley’s Māori, Persian and German heritage and she grew up in Hawkes Bay and Te Mahia. While still relatively new to professional modelling, Ashley’s curvy look and confidence is increasingly in demand as brand’s embrace more inclusive imagery to better represent their customers and their size offering. Ashley is currently represented by Belle Models in New Zealand and Bella Management in Australia.
To introduce Ashley as a Māori wāhine, here is her pepeha:
Ko Kahuranaki toku maunga,
Ko Waimarama toku moana,
Ko Ngaruroro toku awa,
Ko Ngāti Kahungunu me Rongomaiwahine toku iwi,
Ko Korongota toku marae,
Ko Ngati Poroporo toku hapu.
We caught up with Ashley to find out more about her take on modelling, what representation means to her and who her favourite local brands are?
How did you first get into modelling?
I started off by doing a campaign photoshoot for a fashion boutique that a relative owned. From there I walked in a runway show for her brand and ever since then I’ve developed a deep love for modelling. My mum owned her own modelling studio back in the day so she taught me a lot about catwalks, posing etc.
How has your upbringing, culture and identity shaped how you view and have handled the fashion industry and how do you keep it in perspective?
Growing up in a Mormon household often made it hard for me to take on work that was somewhat frowned upon by the church and my mum (at times). Many people in my hometown talked badly about me but I don’t regret taking the path I have chosen for myself! If anything I have more confidence, I am fearless, stronger, and have the ability to express myself freely!
I’ve had some very unpleasant experiences in the fashion industry when I first started out. Being a proud Māori woman with a fuller figure seemed to upset many people. Thanks to the love and support from my mum, the negatives have never held me back for long.
My mum has been my rock growing up. She has taught me to be strong, stand up firmly for who I am and what I believe in, and always remember my roots, no matter what!
What do you enjoy most about modelling and what has been your favourite job so far?
I enjoy the freedom to express myself, it helps me become more confident with myself in my body. With that comes room for growth, which gets me out of my comfort zone! Having the ability to connect with brands and other creatives is also a huge part of it which I enjoy!
I don’t necessarily have one favourite. But some of my favourite jobs were working with Bendon Lingerie, Fredericks of Hollywood, Nick Von K, and RUBY. The teams were awesome and so welcoming. I’m all for body positive and size inclusive brands!
Ashley modelling for RUBY/Liam (left) and as a content creator for Pretty Little Thing (right).
Diversity is definitely a buzzword in fashion but actual change has been a bit slow, what are your thoughts on it and how do you see fashion changing to be more inclusive?
I agree, change has been a bit slow! However, I think the push from many online creatives on social platforms has contributed immensely to the way societies and brands are now moving towards diversity and inclusivity!
People just want to be seen, heard, and represented. Having an actual understanding of what representation really means, and how it is directly connected to the issue of inclusion and diversity, is how I believe brands will be able to be more inclusive.
I have high hopes for the future of the fashion industry! With myself playing a part in this push, I see many other creatives using their voices to spread the importance of inclusivity! Choosing only to work with brands that truly value and include us will motivate the brands that don’t to get with the kaupapa!
A big part of diversity is representation, seeing people that look like you in the media and magazines, what does that representation mean to you personally?
Seeing people that look like me being represented is super important to me. It gives myself hope, confidence, and the motivation I need to love who I am even more, and appreciate the way I look!
It tears down unrealistic beauty standards and shows me what real life and authenticity is. This is what I LOVE! Seeing them represented makes me think to myself, if they can then I can too!
Social media has become a significant part of being a model and you have grown a large following across multiple platforms. How do you feel about being visible and the role it plays in your career? As an active social media user how do you find interacting with your followers?
I appreciate all of the support from my followers, the kind messages and those that come to me to help build their confidence. It is an awesome place to connect with others!
I love how social media has played a big part in my mahi. Building my platform from the bottom up has been a journey over six years, and has given me many fulfilling opportunities that I’m so grateful for!
At the same time, having a social platform can be quite daunting and overwhelming. I try to stand back and take some downtime when I feel it’s starting to weigh on my mental health. I’m an open book and often forget that so many people are watching what I do. I have to remind myself to keep some things private and don’t be too trusting as there aren’t always good people out there!
Who do you look to for positive inspiration in terms of modeling and in general?
In terms of modelling, I find inspiration from many people! Some of my favourite icons are; Bretman Rock, Monique Jones, and Emma Breschi. Ashley Graham is one of my top inspirations especially for size inclusivity in the fashion industry. She has made such a massive impact on the industry for the better! A major icon for many young women indeed.
In general, most of the people I follow on Instagram are always inspiring me! Pinterest, friends, other creatives on social media and influential people such as Rihanna always give me confidence and motivation.
My mum is my biggest inspiration of all! Her love, ethic, and values has taught me so much! She has shaped me into the woman I am today and I’ll forever be so grateful for all the sacrifices she has made for my siblings and I.
Ashley modelling for Nick Von K (left) and Frederick’s of Hollywood (right).
Who are your favourite local designers and brands?
RUBY, Nick Von K, AWWA period care, and Skip the Boat are some of my ultimate favourites!
How would you describe your personal style?
An ever-growing experiment! I’m always experimenting with my style. I typically dress according to my mood but I love trying out new ways to look quirky and cool.
What’s your advice for anyone who wants to get into the fashion industry?
If it’s something you really want to do then go for it!
Start taking photos of yourself, ask your whānau/friends to help you or snag up a tripod and start snapping yourself!
Building an Instagram platform is super important in my opinion! It’s like a virtual portfolio. Brands get to see your work, your personality, and your values!
If you’re wanting to be represented by an agency take some digitals and send them to agencies you think you’d love to work with.
Most of all, stay consistent and don’t worry about what others have to say about you! There will be times where you may feel like it’s too hard, but keep pushing through and don’t give up!
Looking ahead, how far ahead do you plan and what makes you excited for the future?
I’m always planning ahead and I enjoy staying on route however, most of the time life likes to take me the other way! As much as I enjoy solid plans, I like to see where life takes me too.
I’m very excited to see more representation of diversity and inclusivity in the fashion industry, and more creatives using their voices to push for this kaupapa!
I look forward to achieving the goals I’ve put in place for myself and cannot wait to see where life takes me five years from now!
Ashley modelling for Frederick’s of Hollywood.