By Manna Zel, she/they
For artist Emma H. Azari, modeling and photography go hand in hand. Initially creating behind the camera, Azari transitioned into modeling when her photographer friends needed a subject—subsequently she was “discovered” on Instagram by her current agent. Now a full-time model on a self-imposed hiatus from photography school, Azari is putting her energy into things like modeling, cooking, loving her cat, and running her first art shop on Etsy.
Here, Azari, who recently shot with Youth To The People for our 15% Vitamin C + Clean Caffeine Energy Serum campaign, talks all things modeling, art, energy, and dreams.
MZ: As a model, an artist, a photographer, what drives your definition of beauty?
EHA: I find beauty in the way people look at certain things. I can’t lie, when I was younger, I think I was pretty judgmental. I would choose who's beautiful based on the way they appealed to me. But as I get older, I see that it really doesn't matter how you look—it's how you behave and how you treat people. I think I'm at a point in my life that I find beauty in everything and everyone.
MZ: Can you tell me more about your art, and where your inspiration derives from?
EHA: During quarantine, I started my own online store. It's like an Etsy store. I've been drawing my whole life. I think I got [the] talent from my mom. I’d never really taken a class before, but my classmates always complimented me and everything, so I thought it was about time I do something about it. I'm really into frogs. I think they’re really cute, so I came up with this character, which is a frog, and I started drawing him in different situations. He's my main character. I would constantly see photos of frogs on Twitter and Instagram and started drawing frogs. I remember I was at work and like every time I had a piece of paper, I would start drawing the frog and then I just came up with it.
MZ: So between modeling, your art shop, and photography, what does your day to day look like?
EHA: Day to day, I wake up first thing in the morning—well, recently I haven't been sleeping really well cause I got a kitten and I don't know why she only plays at night, at like 12:00 a.m. She starts running around the house, like last night she was just jumping on my head. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do [is] drink a glass of water and make sure to do that. I do [a] ten-minute meditation and then I do my workout, um, like fifteen minutes or twenty minutes. And then the most important part of the day is my breakfast. I always plan my breakfast the night before. And then during the day I draw on my iPad. If I have a shoot, I have to wake up pretty early, so I get ready in the morning and I reserve an Uber the night before. On the days that I have photo shoots, when I get home, I'm really tired—so there's not much that I do after. On the days I don't have [a] photo shoot. I have time to catch up with my store, draw more, clean around the house, play with my cat.
MZ: Tell me about your cat!
EHA: I reserved her when she was one week old, but the owner said that she wanted to keep the cat with her mom until she was around eight weeks old. I got her the day after Christmas, so she was my Christmas gift from myself. I’ve always wanted a cat. And the only reason that I could get it, the main reason, is because I recently moved out for the first time, so I finally had a place. It's a fun kind of hectic.
MZ: You recently shot with YTTP for the 15% Vitamin C + Clean Caffeine Energy Serum, and we’re really honing in on this concept of energy. Can you tell me a bit about what energy means to you and the role it plays in your life and your art?
EHA: I've been really into learning about energy in the past year; I would say I really tried to study on it. I believe that everything has an energy. It's not just humans. I feel like even objects can have energy. When I meditate and everything, I try to attract positive energy. I feel like most of [these] feelings come from the outside and it can really affect everything around you.
I feel like as long as you have a positive mindset, like as soon as you wake up, you decide that your day's going to be a good day, you're going to have a positive energy. That's going to affect everything around you and everyone around you. I can feel it when I'm around someone who has positive energy or negative energy. I feel like it's to the point that it's like even physical, you can feel it that someone [is] positive or negative.
MZ: Something I've been thinking about a lot lately is the way that your words and your thoughts kind of manifest your reality and create what's around you. You mentioned waking up every morning, setting these intentions and then deciding that you're going to have positive energy. How do you continue to do that even when it feels really difficult or when it feels easier said than done?
EHA: I say every day, but there are days that I wake up and I just don't do it, but it’s just that you have to decide, you have to accept the fact that it's for your own good. You have to love yourself enough to do this thing for yourself. It's not like it takes a lot of time or energy. Even if it's five minutes in the morning, just put it aside and dedicate that to you, to your body, to your mental health, you know? So I think it depends on how much you respect yourself as well. You have to respect yourself enough to, you know, even if it's hard to get up, if you're having a bad day, you get up and you're like, I have to do this. This is something that I have to say, you know. It has to be like the vitamins that you have to take every day. Do this as well.
MZ: You mentioned that you meditate as well—can you tell me more about that practice?
EHA: I actually had gone into it because of one of my friends. We kind of had the same type of struggles and he told me that he has been using this app that is like guided meditation. I still don't do my meditation by myself because a lot of people just go on, but I'm not there yet, you know, I can’t be that focused. So I use an app that is like guided meditation and they talk you through it. They're like, “Okay, now focus on your breathing. Focus on the sounds around you.” It really is so much easier than doing it by yourself, but I feel like the more you practice, the easier it's going to get. It's not easy in the beginning at all. Your mind is distracted all the time. So yeah, that's how I do it, I would just use an app, and they have like a bunch of voices.
MZ: Now that you’ve moved into your own space for the first time, do you find that there’s an energy shift in spending more time alone? How has that been for you?
EHA: I love being alone. I'm not saying that I hate being around other people, but I enjoy being by myself and I feel like that really helps you to get more focused. Moving out is just that, like, you have to take responsibility. You wake up, you have to cook for yourself, you have to do your laundry, you have to clean. So I think it's an important part of growing up. At the end of the day, when you look back, you see like, Oh, I did it. I washed the dishes. I cooked for myself. It makes you feel really good about yourself. My whole life, my parents spoiled me, so I really wanted to move out to feel the need to do some stuff by myself. When I was back home some days I was like, “I want to cook.” And my dad was like, “No, no, I'll cook for you.” And it's nice, but some things I have to learn to do by myself.
MZ: What are your greatest dreams and wishes for yourself—and, on a larger scale, the community you come from?
EHA: I've been taking my modeling pretty seriously ever since I started. I didn't know I was gonna like it this much, but I love what I do. I really want to get to a higher place with my modeling career. But I think my great goal is to be at peace. I want to live as if I don't have to worry about anything, you know? And obviously health. My family is really important to me, so as long as my family's happy [and] they're doing well, that's also a great deal to me. My friends ask me this, but I'm not [the] type of person to really look into the future. I'm not a type of person that’s like, “Oh yeah. In five years I want to be there.” I really look day-to-day because you really don't know what happens in the future. But if I want to talk about this year or the next few months, my dream for myself is to work even harder to get where I want to be as a model.
MZ: So five years ago, did you ever dream that you’d be where you are now?
EHA: Oh, my God, no, not at all. I wasn’t born here. I wasn't really raised here. I moved to Canada [from Iran] when I was 15 years old, so I could never think that I’d get here. I remember I’d be in the stores shopping and I would look at the photos like those girls are really cool. I never thought I'd be here. I'm at a point in my life that I know that a 15-year-old me would look at and be like, “Oh, this is cool.” And that's good enough.
MZ: You’re based in Montreal, right? What is the modeling scene like there?
EHA: The modeling scene has changed so much. The year after [I moved here], I met my current best friend and she's a photographer too. Both of us started meeting other photographers and my group of friends, they mostly do photography. They kept telling me, “You should try to be a model.” At that time I tried, but, surprisingly—or not that much of a surprise—whenever I checked on the modeling websites, it was mostly like Caucasian models and maybe like two Asians or like one Black girl that was it. Like there wasn't even one brown girl. I was really insecure about that. I remember I tried for three different agencies. They all rejected me and I stopped trying, but thankfully it has changed in the past two years, I would say. I kept checking on the same website just to see if they changed. Obviously the rate is still not the same, but it's getting better and I'm happy with how it's turning.
MZ: How does energy unite you with the world around you?
EHA: When I look at people around me—even though I don't know everyone, you know, on the street—I make up scenarios in my head. Even if someone is rude to me or they're mean or they're nice—I'm not going to lie, I've been having like, mostly positive experiences so I just think about the good side and I think about how they were all alike. They're just living their life too, you know, we're all doing the same thing. We all want to get to the same point. We want good things for each other. And the thought of that, it just makes me happy that we're not alone in this. Even during this time with a pandemic and everything going on, knowing that I'm not alone, my family is not alone, my friends are not alone. We're all—the whole world is—in it together. It's just so comforting, you know?