An army brat, Ms. Ray has bounced from state to state. For what could be described as a life of constant change, Ms. Ray handles it with a graceful ease. The Arkansas girl made good and has been featured in Show Magazine. Not bad for a woman who was considered just a cute tomboy who loved to play sports. Now, Ms. Ashlee Ray sits down with Beauty & Brains as she talks to us about stereotyping within the industry, how her life will be a sitcom and how she had an issue with Cassidy.
Beauty & Brains: Howíd you first get involved with modeling?
Ashlee Ray: HonestlyÖ how it all got started was that someone told me that I was pretty and that they wanted me to take a picture. When I was little, you know, I did pageantsÖ but that was all my parents doing. I moved from Little Rock to Edgewater, New Jersey and a lot of it had to do with me wanting to be independent. I had never thought of modeling. I was more into acting and my classes that I was taking. I was also doing some voice over work. But, everyoneís gateway into the business is kind of similar; I started doing work as a promotional model and I loved being in front of that camera.
B&B: Did you find anything awkward about posing with no clothes on?
AR: My boyfriend says that Iím an exhibitionist. Iím not easily made at looking uncomfortable.
B&B: So, you like all the eyes on you?
AR: No. Iím not that type of person. This modeling thing is not for the eyes on me. Itís never been something that I wanted to pursue, but the camera and I have a thing that goes on and when itís on me, I know what to do.
B&B: How do you get through the shoots?
AR: It was easy for me, really, it was. My first real experience was working with Sean Cummings. I had participated with Smooth Girl Magazine for a contest they were running. Being in front of the camera came naturally for me and it wasnít anything that required me to just focus too much on what I was doing and I just went and did it!
B&B: Has there ever been a time where youíve been taken by surprise while on the job?
AR: Definitely! It actually happened during a video shoot. You know, stuff happens all the time, but I had actually got into an argument with Cassidy.
B&B: [Laughs] ÖCassidy?
AR: Yeah, artists need to understand that without a pretty girl in the video, things get rough. I wish that some of the things that they say or want to do is totally unnecessary. I just turn all those advances down because it wouldnít serve me no purpose.
B&B: In a male driven industry, do you believe that youíre an asset to the game or a liability to who you are as a woman?
AR: I just had a conversation about this... I feel that if we, as a group of models, if we donít get smart together then weíll never be able to do certain things within this industry. People will call us for jobs, knowing that weíll take it, no matter if it pays or not. Personally, I wonít take free jobs anymore. I feel at some point people have to allocate a budget to these girls. At some point, someone has to say that theyíre not going to do that sort of stuff. As long as I know what my ultimate goal is Iím not going to veer too far the left just to be noticed. I may have never wanted to model, but I always want my respect.
B&B: Have you ever been stereotyped for being a dark-skinned model?
AR: Of course! Oh, my goodness... Nowadays itís such a surprise. If someone looks at you and youíre dark and pretty, they feel that you have to be mixed with something else. Just for the record, my grandmother is very dark-skinned and I feel very insulted that they have to think that there is something else inside of me. There is a small part for the dark skinned girl in this industry. If you donít have the big butt and/or that specific ďblackĒ girl look, then itís harder for you to navigate this industry. When I show up for things, I look at if this thing is looking just for people or talent. If theyíre looking for talent, then Iím there. This is an industry where you hear 50 ďnoísĒ before you hear one "yes." You cannot get down on yourself. Everyone is not going to like your look, but there is someone out there that is going to love it. So, I just say that you got to keep going.
B&B: So, do you think the black men that you deal with in the industry exude some sort of self-hatred towards their female counterparts?
AR: Yes. I definitely think so. You have your Latina craze within the industry that is interesting to see, but most of the men that I have dated have this thing against dark skinned women. If you donít like it, then just stay away from me. Iím not here to judge anyoneís preferences; I just think that with black people, period, we come in so many different colors and itís beautiful. I just think that that beauty should be appreciated greater than what it is now.
B&B: Well, a lot of the readers here arenít going to take it easy on you with their comments. What keeps you going through all the criticism and doubt?
AR: Iíve been through criticism my entire life. You know what they say, though, ďIf no one is talking about you, then youíre not the business.Ē My ultimate goal is to get as much acting in as possible. But my mind isnít just set for bright lights and stardom, I also want to help teenage women and foster kids. I know a lot of women who have led or lived the life that I went through and I want them to know that there is a bright light at the end of that tunnel. Nothing is going to deter me from accomplishing my goal. Not even the haters or ďinteresting commentsĒ that are on this site. The hateÖ I love it! Itís just like what Katt Williams says about haters, and Iím looking to add a few to my roster.
B&B: If you had a chance to do something different and unexpected with yourself and your career Ė what would you do and why?
AR: I would want to write, direct and produce a sitcom about my life. Not my life now, because itís a lot better than it was five years ago. So, it would be able my life five years ago. I think that it would be naturally funny. The things that I have gone through are relatable and I think that it would help people out. I am a military brat. I have never spent more than two years any where. My mother, sheís not only a vet, but she was an addict, too. I was a teenage parent, caring for my child and I hit the ground running with my son. I have lived in homes, at times, with five to six girls and weíre all out here just trying to make it. There are a lot out there who are going through the same things that I have gone through. I want to let them know that things truly get better. Itís not because of anything other than hard work and Godís blessings and Iím thankful. I feel like I am a good person to be a role model and you can take what Iíve seen and apply it to your life.
B&B: As 2008 keeps getting deeper and deeper Ė would you find yourself back into a relationship or would you continue to cut your teeth in the modeling scene as a single lady?
AR: My boyfriend is a writer for Smooth [Magazine]. He understands the business. I am a non-drama type of person and heís the same. I have been single plenty a time before. But all in all, when I am in a relationship, I am a very private person. On my Myspace page, it says that Iím single, for a reason, and he understands that. Iím not going to cheat on him or sneak around on him. I just am very private about what I do within my relationship. Heíll be there while Iím doing an event or a shoot. Itís a respect thing between us and we have an understanding about that and one another.
Like the style of Ms. Ashlee Ray? Be sure to check her out on Myspace [click here].