'Model Squad' cast opens up about the pressures of the modeling industry, building their brands and more

Lights, camera, fashion!

As the fashion world gears up for New York Fashion Week to start next week, some of the world's top models are preparing to give their fans a proverbial peek behind the curtain of the modeling industry with E!'s new series, "Model Squad." Premiering on Tuesday, September 4, and running through Friday, September 14, the eight-episode docu-series is one of the first-ever reality series to give viewers a genuine understanding of what it's like being a top model.

Taped during NYFW in the fall of 2017, "Model Squad" follows Daniela Braga, Olivia Culpo, Hannah Ferguson, Ping Hue, Nadine Leopold, Caroline Lowe, Ashley Moore, Shanina Shaik and Devon Windsor as they navigate Fashion Week and beyond.

AOL's Gibson Johns recently sat down with a majority of the "Model Squad" cast to discuss their experience of filming the show, the mixture of competition and support within the modeling industry and why major gigs like the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show really do matter.

Below are excerpts from our interview:

On what it was like having cameras around during the filming of "Model Squad":

Devon Windsor: It’s different for them to be following you around at all times. At least when cameras are in front of us, you know that they’re just cutting and editing to make a commercial or whatever, but they’re not including every single word you say or every single facial expression.

Nadine Leopold: And every angle! [Laughs]

Devon: It’s hard to control everything that comes out of your mouth, too...

Shanina Shaik: I feel that, in general, we have cameras around us all the time, but then this [holds up iPhone] is also a camera all the time. We’re constantly in front of it and on social media, so the fact that we have a camera with us everywhere already in our phones, I feel like it’s actually taken a little bit [of pressure] off of our jobs, with social media. You’re going to see the real us, our true selves and what we really do. It takes us away from our social media and constantly being like this [holds iPhone in front of her].

Hannah Ferguson: If you think you’re seeing people’s day-to-day lives on social media, this is even more so because we’re not able to filter what the camera is catching. It’s even more of a look into our inside lives and what we go through and experience.

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On looking back at footage filmed of themselves a year ago:

Ping Hue: It’s like a time capsule! The stuff that bothered me on the show a year ago, I don’t think about anymore. I feel like it’s a different life.

Shanina: Things change! You just see life pass you by. For me, I was preparing for my wedding, and now I’m married. It brings back memories. I didn’t have my family there, so I was like, 'Maybe I should get married again with my family there.' It brings back those feelings. That was a hard time for me to prepare this big moment in my life and not have any family present. I had my girlfriends there, and you’ll see Nadine with me, but it would be nice to go back and time. It’s good to document those memories.

Caroline Lowe: It’s good that it’s coinciding with this year’s [NYFW], and it’s a comparison. It’s to compare and contrast with this time last year. Like everyone has said, we’ve all grown so much, and we’ve learned so much from filming the show.

On getting support from other models while navigating the industry:

Nadine: For me, Devon [supported me] even before the show. I remember I was really young, and I just moved here without a lot of friends. I had just started working with [Victoria's Secret] and my first year I didn’t get the show, and I remember I got the call on Halloween. I broke down, and I was so upset, but I remember Devon picked me up and she was talking me up and, even though we’re both blonde, I feel like I’ve never felt competitive with her. She was the biggest friend to me.

Devon: You want your friends doing it, you want them to have the experience that you had so much fun doing. You learn to be happy for other people.

Hannah: Obviously there’s a lot of competition within the industry, but with your close friends, you’re just happy for them for what they’re able to accomplish.

Shanina: It’s all based on looks, too, which is something you can’t change. Another model told me, "Say a casting director is looking for apples, and you come in and you’re a pear. You’re not going to get that gig. They want apples."

Devon: You have to seek guidance with your friends and your agency, especially when you’re young. I remember my mom didn’t really know anything about the industry. She was like, ‘Why don’t you reach out to Karlie Kloss and ask her some questions?’ Because she’s from St. Louis, too. And I was like, ‘Nooo way!’ It’s not like we have that guidance person that we can call whenever we’re unsure about something, so we’re just figuring it out on our own and asking each other things. It’s an independent thing.

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On whether or not there's too much weight put on landing the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show:

Caroline: I think it’s good to have that! If there’s not something to look forward to or to work toward… Look, you’re just as good as your next job. You can do something and you’re like, "How can I beat myself?" It’s always good to have a goal and those clients are a lot of people’s goals.

Shanina: It’s career-changing, too. That’s why a lot of girls have that drive to get those jobs. It changes your career. It's instead of hustling all the time. For V.S., it changed my entire job. You feel at ease when you know you’ve made it, and you have more control of your career.

Devon: What’s the point if you’re going to be doing mediocre jobs forever, you know? We want that makeup campaign or V.S. or [the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue], because those are the things that remind you why you’re doing it and what you’re working for. If it wasn’t anything major, it would be too easy.

Caroline: It would be like going to a job and never getting a promotion, with nowhere to go.

Devon: Yeah, and it can feel devastating when you don’t get it, but there are always other things. There are a million jobs that are also rewarding.

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On having aspirations beyond modeling and building their brands:

Nadine: The whole point of modeling is to put your name out there and open so many doors to do other things afterwards.

Devon: There’s kind of a time-stamp as a model. You only age and get older and older. You can’t be doing those commercial jobs all the time, and that’s money that you’re not going to make anymore. It's what Olivia [Culpo] does, she’s built her brand up to be "Olivia." She is herself, and not just a model, and that’s amazing because she gets hired for so many things that specifically want her. She can do anything: Designing, acting ... she even sings! Modeling, runway. She has capsule collections. And I think that’s the goal for any model who is thinking beyond what you’re going to do today. What do you want to do forever? All the top supermodels have built businesses around themselves.

Shanina: You don’t want to be tied to an agency, either. As much as they support and believe in you, being in control of your own career is liberating in that sense. You don’t have to rely on someone else to have to pick up the phone for you. You’ve created a brand for yourself, and you’re a name. The list is limitless of what you can do.

"Model Squad" premieres on Tuesday, September 4, at 8 p.m. on E!