Modelling for over three years now, self-proclaimed “Road Warrior” Echo Nittolitto has traveled the world, worked with creatives across the globe and featured in Italian Vogue. We catch up with her to discuss a life on the road and the highs and lows of the modelling world.
Was modelling something you had always wanted to do or did it happen by chance?
I definitely always wanted to be a model. In high school I was the scrawny girl with pearly white skin and big pouffy hair that everyone deemed the “future model”. I'm sure I let that go to my head a bit.
You describe yourself as a “Road Warrior”, (which we love!) what does this mean?
I actually learnt that word from shooting with many people across the US. I would show up to my shoots and during conversations I would have many of the photographers describe me as a road warrior. No one ever actually gave me the definition of what a road warrior was but I didn't need them too. As soon as I started to hear it more and more I began to realise what it meant, at least for me anyway. To me (and I’m sure it’s different for each model who is one) a road warrior is a free spirit not tied down to any one place. We go where the work is, creating our own lifestyle and living life the way we choose instead of settling. We are always on the road travelling, meeting new people, gaining new experiences, and enriching the lives of others with our tales and energy, and they do the same for us. You catch a fever when you decide to go on the road for a living. It’s like a travel bug; once you start travelling you can’t stop. I think it’s a wonderful thing though when I do give myself time off (like right now I've given myself a month) because I become so restless. Going back on the road dominates mostly all of my thoughts and I even dream about it. I feel useless when I'm not travelling.
Travelling across the world so much must get pretty lonely at times?
Well, I do get to meet a lot of really wonderful people. A lot of times when I'm in major cities like NYC I even do three shoots a day so that gives me a ton of opportunities to interact with people. Even though I am constantly busy and meeting new people daily, most times when I am alone I feel pretty lonely. But I chose doing this over having any real personal relationships. It is definitely worth it because I am so in love with what I do but it’s silly to say I am not lonely.
How would you describe the role of the model within the creative process?
A friend of mine gets mad each time I say this but she takes it the wrong way. I would say for me as a model I am a slave to the photographers vision. I get so deep into the creative process, figuring out exactly what it is they want to achieve so I can take on that role. I become that person or character completely. I want to think the way that character would think, move the way that character would move, look the way that character would look, feel the way they would feel. I dyed my hair red for a long while and completely took on the identity of a redhead by learning how to cover myself in freckles with makeup for shoots. Sounds silly? Look at my portfolio. I bet if I didn't tell you that you never would have guessed. I get really into it and when that happens the results are usually pretty explosive. To me the model is an actress.
What do you do outside of modeling, are you interested in any other creative areas?
Other than modeling I really enjoy writing and painting. I’m currently compiling notes on my travels to write a book which I’m pretty excited about.
It is no secret that modeling can be a short-term career, what are your plans post-modeling?
I’m definitely going to try and model for as long as I possibly can but once my time is up I think I’m going to mainly focus on writing. I don't think I could really hold a normal job because I'm not a fan of routine.
What struggles have you had to face as a model?
There are so many I hardly know where to begin. Being on the road constantly and not having a steady income is hard. There is no security. I also have to deal with so many different personalities a day that it’s hard to find any kind of balance. Not having a personal life, being a different person everyday and a lot of times three different people a day. These are just some of the struggles. There is also the struggle of finding time to myself and actually enjoying it. I’m sort of a workaholic. It is all worth it though, every bit of it.
Being 5’4 is certainly not short in the real world, but do you find your height limits the way in which you work as a model?
Not in the way I work as a model at all but it does give people a pre-conceived idea of the way I work. A lot of people assume that because I am short I must not be serious. This sounds silly but I have met a ton of people who just didn't think I was serious about being a model because I am short, even though I didn't decide to be short and have no control over it. I actually had a fashion photographer try to bully me into doing erotic styled work when I originally discussed head shots with him. When I denied he got very upset and said “Tell me... Please, entertain me... Why should I shoot anything other than explicit work with you when you’re at least three inches shorter than industry standard?"(Of course he was actually far meaner than this and I’m sugar coating it). To me it’s really interesting that people feel this way. They have put themselves in this little box which is so strange to witness. The world is too huge and there are far too many unique/beautiful people to be restrained by such simple barriers. I received reactions like that more earlier on but now not as much. I used their disbelief in me as fuel. I work all day every day and so I think a good work ethic shows in your portfolio. If you take yourself seriously eventually others will have no choice but to take you seriously too. Although I rarely get a negative reaction anymore, some folks just can’t get out of that mindset no matter what.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I am constantly making goals to work with certain people and when I reach them it’s like an all time high and I then scrounge and research trying to find the next person who will inspire me.
How has the modeling world changed you as a person? The way you think about the world?
The biggest thing that has changed about me since I began modeling is that I have finally figured out who I am. All my life I was pulled in every direction possible, not knowing who I was, who I wanted to be, what I wanted to do or even what I wanted to wear haha! I was clueless. I believe a long life of uncertainty gave me the benefit of being able to mould into different characters so easily. My nickname from a lot photographers has been “Shapeshifter” or “Echo the Chameleon”. Somehow, though, through modeling I've figured out who I am. Being on the road and being a model forces you to grow up pretty quick. I went from being an anti-social pushover to being a strong, socially active person. Each day you’re on the road changes you. I've become more patient and also more aware of the kind of life I would like to live.
Who do you look up to in the industry?
There are so many models and photographers I look up to in the industry but mainly I look up to anyone who gives girls like me a chance. Now that is inspiring.
Travelling a lot you must see some great places, which has been your favorite so far?
So far my favorite place I have traveled to is LA. I only ever heard bad things about LA, like how the people are really fake, the photographers are flaky, it’s really hectic and its all about porn. My experience there was far different than that. I did notice that personalities there were definitely very "Hollywood" but I found something real in a very unlikely place, South Central. I got to collaborate with Aaron Hawks, an established artist/photographer who lives there. We rode around the city on bikes, eating burritos the size of small children from trucks on the side of the road and shopped at ghetto mexican grocery stores where oranges were .79 cents for three pounds and no one spoke English but smiled at you as they walked by. He showed me a side of LA that was far more inspiring than Beverly Hills (where I did most of my shoots). South Central is amazing and deserves a lot more credit than it's given.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone considering a job on the road?
Stick up for yourself for sure. Don't put yourself in a box and don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Once you get a hang of it it’s the best experience I can imagine one having! Oh, and you know that saying "If you stand for nothing you'll fall for anything"? It's true and those words should ring in your mind daily.
Images: Header: John Klukas; Article images in order of appearance: Toney Veloz, InkBlotch, Julian Humphries, Julian Humphries, kennysweeney, UrbanDecayChris