The handsome Manolo Vergara Gonzalez was initially known for being the son of superstar Sofia Vergara. In recent years, Manolo already set himself on a path to a success career as an actor/writer/director in his own right.
Manolo’s career includes TV shows, commercials and movies. He’s currently playing the role of Preston on “Guilty Party” and in post-production for “Vandal” directed by Jorgi Lobo. Manolo also is a host for a number of events when his schedule permits and for this shoot, photographer Walid Azami wanted to be the first one to really put Manolo on that fashion map with a raw street photography styled shoot.
Together with their mutual friend and Producer/PR Rep Don DeLeon, Walid & Manolo met to discuss the possibilities of their upcoming collaboration. Let’s go behind the scenes to this street fashion shoot for Manolo Vergara Gonzalez and break down the how’s & why’s behind the imagery.
“I think that shadows are equally as important as the light”
THE GOAL OF THE SHOOT
The overall goal of the shoot was “to showcase Manolo in an on-trend setting, show him as a sex-symbol and lay the groundwork for brands and other magazines to take notice of this star-in-the-making”. That’s what photographer Walid Azami said was the goal, and what was discussed over lunch at Soho House (West Hollywood) with Manolo and their mutual friend Don DeLeon (Producer/PR).
Walid also said, “Manolo was completely open to the idea of a new image for him, something that wasn’t his norm. I had lunch with him and Don, and I pulled out my laptop to show him the mood board that I had made. I also promised he’d look extra sexy and people would talk. I don’t know how one can promise that, but I feel that we accomplished it”
That was the goal, to showcase Manolo’s good looks and bring in a professional team that would give him something outside of his usual. Over a casual lunch, Walid showed what he had envisioned and Manolo showed some of his recent photographs. The star was looking for something more cutting edge and fashion-forward. With that, the challenge was accepted and Walid formed his small but hardy team to put together the Manolo photo shoot in Downtown Los Angeles.
Don DeLeon thought matching the two together would create something special and he orchestrated the project by introducing the idea to Manolo. “I’ve always had the ability to see the outcome of something before it even takes place. You have to do that for a successful career, see the end-product before it starts. I was talking to Walid on the phone one day and he mentioned something about helping new talent bloom and the idea was born right there!” - Don explained that he immediately got on the phone with Manolo and the idea snowballed.
To the veterans in the industry that’s no secret, ideas are born anytime/anywhere and the key is to jump on them before it’s out of mind. Don explains that for talent wanting to enter the field, don’t sleep on ideas. Write them down and start the first step because that is how a snowball forms.
“Looking at Manolo in this photo set, it gave me very 90’s DKNY, Calvin Klein and Marcus Schenkenberg.”
Andrew Philip Nguyen
KEEP HIM NATURAL, KEEP IT MOODY
The photo shoot took place outside of FD Studios in Downtown Los Angeles, on the street where they utilized the low winter sun for that fashion light. It also created long shadows from nearby buildings which were used to help disguise and hide parts of Manolo until he felt more comfortable.
Stylist, Andrew Philip Nguyen called this outfit a “no hanger appeal” ensemble and promised not only to the photographer but also Manolo that on him it’ll look amazing once it’s photographed. “Sometimes clothes have no hanger appeal and they look blah hanging up. I think Manolo’s denim look at no hanger appeal and we had to convince him that it’ll translate on camera and on his body” said Andrew.
Walid & Andrew decided to start Manolo in the shade first because “The shadows were used more as art dept., something to add texture to the scene, kind of like props. I think that shadows are equally as important as the light, and with Manolo we sometimes had him standing half in the shadow of a building and half in the midday sun. That’s how we got the strong shadows, and in some ways it helped him get used to the outfit which was a slight stretch for his current style. I felt that hiding him in the shadow would help him feel comfortable at first and within a few minutes, we saw that he opened up and got comfortable in his own skin. So we kept it moving and went into the full sun", said Walid who spoke about his method of getting the talent comfortable with a new look.
To add comfortability and something familiar, hairstylist & groomer Victor Mendoza opted for a more natural look for Manolo. Feeling comfortable in a new look requires hair that the star could see as familiar. Victor said, “I wanted to not go against his natural hair, I just styled it in a way that would give him a little movement”.
Victor explained that to him, “going natural” means being able to decide the natural texture of the person’s hair. In this case Manolo has really straight heavy hair, so all I did was mist it with a bit of water, used a water-based gel…just enough to create a natural texture and I think it worked perfectly.”
THOUGHTS ON STYLING AND HAIR
Andrew mentioned that he wanted to take him somewhere he hadn’t gone before, and in the past his fashion has been quite clean. “We wanted to kind of obnoxious - it wasn’t anything Manolo had done before. Manolo wore Paraval from the Mason Privee.” The stylist also went on to say, “I wanted some irony in there, he filled it out well and it made him look very on trend. I think we took the original goal and took it beyond that, we made him look, ya know?”
“Looking at Manolo in this photo set, it gave me very 90’s DKNY, Calvin Klein and Marcus Schenkenberg. He has the classic male model look and we don’t see that as much, or lately. Manolo brings it back to the 90’s era and that’s what this photo set reminds me of”
Not to ignore hair, Victor Mendoza explains how thoughtful analysis can help the subject feel more about home and feel natural. “Manolo was very open to the idea of the shoot, obviously he already knew the process…but I went through the general questions that a professional stylists asks. What I did do was analyze his hair, feel the texture and find out what was natural to him. The goal was to keep him natural but just make sure that movement was a part of the equation”.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO NEW TALENT?
Victor/Hair: “My job is to support the overall visuals with what I do best. My advice for any up & coming professional that wants to work on set is, not to take things personally, learn to communicate what you need to have success and ask questions. Also sometimes it’s OK to be invisible, just be close enough to know what’s happening but also allow other professionals to do their job without interference.”
Andrew/Stylist: “Stylists need to learn communication. It’s important to express your needs to not just the client but also the photographer. Our job is to create something visually appealing, something that hopefully the viewer will notice and pause for. We are not mind readers, and I feel that building your communication skills is key. Ask the photographer what they may want, ask more questions if you don’t have the full picture yet. Each set is different and learn to adjust. Hopefully the photographer will also speak up with you if something doesn’t translate on camera as it does in person”
Walid/Photographer: “Rely heavily on instincts. It’s a team effort but you’re the one leading the effort and your team want leadership. Lead the direction, direct the shoot! But also know when to step back and let the professionals in their field give you advice on fashion, on hair, on makeup or whatever else there might be. Also if you aren't seen as someone open-minded then you’ve set yourself up for failure. Your team should never be afraid to approach you about a concern or a slight change in direction within their expertise. Don’t hire yes-people!”
HOW TO FIND EVERYONE
TALENT/Manolo Vergara Gonzalez Instagram
PHOTOGRAPHY/CREATIVE DIRECTOR/Walid Azami Instagram
PRODUCTION/Don DeLeon Instagram
HAIRSTYLE/GROOMING/Victor Mendoza Instagram
STYLIST/Andrew Philip Nguyen Instagram
EMOTIONAL SUPPORT DIVA/Baguette Gonzalez Instagram
Photographed at FD Studios Downtown Los Angeles