Becoming Tino | Interview with Tinotenda Mushore
Tino, you are a model, an actress and a dancer. How did it all start?
My mother has been my biggest supporter for as long as I can remember. She is a former model. She is the reason I did fashion shows, photoshoots, voiceovers and television and radio commercials in Zimbabwe as a child. She signed me up for ballet as soon as I could walk. I come from a very creative and talented family. My mom and my aunt are both singers and actresses. Creativity pretty much runs in my veins. My maternal grandparents, my mom and her sisters would always end up singing in whichever restaurant we were dining in. Being creative is the path I was meant to walk, I guess one could say, it was inevitable, (I had no choice).
You moved from Zimbabwe to the Netherlands when you were 12. How did this new experience shape you and your creative career?
My mom felt that it would be a great opportunity for me to experience a different culture and learn a new language. I naturally wasn’t thrilled with the move as it was a huge culture shock for starters. I was fortunate enough to arrive in summer (if one can even call it that) I still haven't gotten used to the cold and the unpredictable weather. Every winter I wonder why humans don’t hibernate?
Living in the Netherlands, I encountered a completely different way of existence and living. For example, the vast difference in houses. I had a rude awakening and realised rather quickly that houses were a great deal smaller than the houses I was accustomed to and lived in Zimbabwe. I recall when I first saw the house we were to live in here, my main concern was how small the garden was. I actually remember saying, "Mommy, how am I going to be able to pick flowers for you?“.
It is safe to say it took me a while to get used to the culture and the country (if I have gotten used to it at all). But I got lucky with the people I met! Everyone made a conscious effort to speak English to me and translate conversations for me until I had learnt to speak Dutch.
I think moving to the Netherlands at such a pivotal time in my childhood and coming from such an amazing country, Zimbabwe and a supportive family that believed in me and always told me I could conquer and excel at whatever I chose to, helped build my confidence and creatively broaden my perspective, seeing as I experienced the "best of both worlds" so to speak (Africa and Europe).
What is your experience as a Black model in the Netherlands?
I remember when my mum and I saw Zwarte Piet for the first time, we were stunned. I recall being in a class when he walked in handling things and I just didn't know how to act, I was literally paralysed. And I was looking around trying to comprehend why everyone in the class was so happy. Because for me one thing was clear: this is not cool. I didn't feel comfortable being around Black Pete although people were trying to convince me that it wasn't racism. My mum wouldn't even take me to school on a Sinterklaas day until my last year there.
There are of course some slight changes regarding this nowadays. But we need to be realistic as it is not something that can change overnight. It is something that maybe I won't even see changing in my lifetime. The change that is happening now seems more like a trend. It is something that you have to do in 2022. Like, we will make sure we have at least one black girl in the campaign or we will hire at least one black person for the company.
Being a Black Model in the Netherlands, many times I am picked for diversity reasons. Even when I am picked based on my skill and talent, people do not take into consideration that they are working with a model of colour. For example, I had a shoot for a hairdresser who was doing a hairdressing competition shoot. When I arrived, I realised that she clearly didn't know how to do black hair. She neither had products nor the right tools. I ended up brushing and styling my own hair although it was her shoot to show her hairdressing skills. It is really bizarre if you think about this, but I am also the one who brings foundation to the shoots because I know that the makeup artist probably won't have the right tone for me.
What changes do you see in the representation of models in the media and modelling agencies in the Netherlands in the past years?
I do not see many changes going on at all but the changes I do see I hope are genuine and will become the norm instead of a trend. I still feel that the industry and media tend to portray two types of black women, they are either (lighter) features that are perceived as similar to the norm/Western features or (darker) features that are perceived as African (across the board "deep darkest exotic African)". It is such a pity seeing as there are so many different types of Black Beauty, however, the industry portrays just a mere fraction.
It can be extremely damaging to one’s self-esteem and self-image and only serves to create a (detrimental) divide. I strongly believe that the misrepresentation further encourages colourism within the black community. Maybe it is because it is human nature to receive validation from others before taking a risk or going against what is considered the norm.
What is your biggest challenge in being a model?
Other than my skin colour, my height has been one of my biggest challenges. I have always had to work that bit harder to get a booking, sometimes even having to convince people that they won't even notice my height. I have had to make sure my walk and poses are extremely strong.
Another challenge, of course, is rejection. The number of times you sit, waiting for bookings that you thought you would be perfect for and then finding out that they went with someone else. That can be hard to deal with. But this is also a huge part of modelling. It is important to stay strong and not to take it personally and move on to the next potential booking.
Many of our readers would be curious to know about a model’s typical day. Could you describe yours?
It usually begins with It's usually an early wake-up call. The travelling time varies, depending on the location of the shoot. I jump into the shower, skip my breakfast (something that you should not do!) and as I am on my way, I mentally prepare myself for the day.
I am lucky that I am a naturally outgoing person when I want to be and I enjoy meeting new people, which is a also large part of modeling. You have to get used to meeting new people all the time, it isn't a job for introverts (not saying introverts shouldn't model). So as soon as I arrive on set, we have a meet and greet and discuss our goals for the day. Whilst the photographer is setting up the lights and preparing the set, the makeup artist does my make-up and the hairstylist my hair. After hair and make-up, I get dressed and voila! - It's my time to shine and do what I love.
I tend to try and give the photographer a different pose every time I hear the camera click unless I am told to hold the pose. I usually don't need that much direction but it is always appreciated. What is most important is to have a clear understanding of what the client is looking for to ensure nobody's time is wasted.
In 2020, photographer Bastiaan Woudt released the book “Tino” (published by 1605 Publishers) dedicated to the many years he has collaborated with you. Could you describe how it feels to have a book named after you and the photographs of the publishing house’s bestseller?
I was terrified when I was shooting with Bastiaan for the first time because I lied and told him that I had done a nude shoot before. I saw his announcement on Facebook and responded informing him I had experience in shooting nude, knowing full well that I had only had a topless shoot once in my life. But as soon as I saw his mood board, it directly spoke to me and I immediately knew I wanted to model for him.
I of course did get nervous the night before. I remember thinking: "Schweppes, I am going to do a nude shoot!". When I arrived at his studio and met Bastiaan, I immediately felt more relaxed as I realised how professional he was and yet very easygoing, I automatically liked his vibe. Shooting with him always makes me feel like a work of art, and someone who inspires him to create. I am always in awe of our collaborations. It makes my job easy, as we share the same ideas and I trust his impeccable taste and artistic approach to photography.
Regarding “Tino” the book, I still pinch myself, I still can't believe that I have a book dedicated to me with all our work with such an amazing team. And it is named after me! It is a great reminder to myself of how much I have already accomplished.
There are moments when I say to myself: "Tino, you have your book!" How many models can say that they have their own book, a book dedicated to them (and their hard work)? It's off the charts, it’s insane, I feel like I am still processing it, in fact I know I am. Some people I know, ask me where they can get a copy, but I get to proudly answer: "It sold out in 5 days!".
When Bastiaan told me that the title of the book was the shortened version of my full name, I told him how fitting it was, as "Tino" means "we" in Shona, my mother tongue. This really resonated with me, seeing as the book could not exist without such an amazing team: Bastiaan (photographer), Janneke (designer), me (model) and Charlotte (makeup artist) and Natalie (stylist). It's all about OUR collaboration, OUR sweat, blood and tears. WE did this. No matter what happens, no matter what path I will take, I can and will always proudly say... "I have my own book!".
Who inspires you? And what are the things you do that inspire you daily?
Ever since I was a child my grandmother, my mother and my aunts have been my biggest inspirations. I admire everything about them... the type of women they are, the way they carry themselves. They inspire me to do better every day.
But if we are talking about people outside of my family it is without a doubt, Grace Jones (a Jamaican model, singer and actress). I have been humbled as some people have told me I remind them of her, it is such an immense compliment as I admire her so much. She is so unique and so authentically herself and she never apologises for it, I seriously resonate with that energy.
I am not like most people you generally meet. I am always my most authentic self and I am extremely comfortable with who I am whether you like it or not. This is also why I think, I also inspire myself, especially when it comes to my drive and willingness to push my own boundaries and follow my dreams. Last but not least, I am also constantly inspired by Black women, our power knows no bounds!
You are now a successful model. What’s your next life and career goal?
There is still so much more I would love to achieve as a model and honestly I am sure I will always feel the need to keep setting new goals and creating new conquests.
My other love is music. I have not as yet performed on stage. but I have been writing songs for many years, singing for friends and family, and am currently in the process of trying to record my songs in the studio. My goal is to release and perform my music very soon.
Besides this, my goal is to eventually start a brand that incorporates fashion, art, music, interior design and furniture. I just feel like there is so much of the same thing out there and everyone is just copying each other. I would love to have a brand that is completely different from what I have seen. My idea is to create something that makes you think and question your actions and your impact on and in society as a whole. A safe haven for people to express their creativity and expand their knowledge or skills. Something that exists not only for profit but stimulates self as well as global development, real human connection, innovation, awareness and selfless (global) mentality. The brand whose main goal is to have a positive impact on the generations to come.
I can imagine that you must be quite selective with the projects you participate in. And many photographers who are reading this interview would love to invite you for the shoot. How do you pick your gigs?
I am lucky that many of my bookings are with people I haven’t worked with before but have wanted to work with or people I've worked with, in the past. So it makes it quite easy to decide unless I feel it won't benefit my portfolio at that specific time.
The bookings I choose with a team I am unfamiliar with usually depend on several factors such as; whether I like the photographer's or makeup artists’ and stylist's work. Sometimes, I accept a booking because I do feel it would be essential for my portfolio. At other times, my choice is based purely on intuition, I get this gut feeling, just like I had with Bastiaan. I knew definitively that I had to work with him, now look at us!
In your opinion, what determines the right connection between the photographer and the model?
It is certainly the meeting of creative minds and spiritual connection. I am speaking of an unspoken connection and the chemistry that happens on set. I don't establish this type of connection with everyone.
You would assume if you know how to pose or how to model, whatever camera you get in front of, should be able to capture you (perfectly) beautifully, right? But it is not always the case. There have been a few instances where there was little to no engagement with the photographer and our energies did not sync, I found that this usually results in unflattering pictures because the angles were completely wrong.
There should be an attempt by the photographer to get to know the model they are working with at the very least, even if the photographer simply asks “what kind of music do you like?" and puts it on for the model to feel more comfortable and confident in front of the camera.
And what is your advice for people that would love to follow a modelling career?
- Definitely dancing! It is a great tool to get to know your body better and your angles but it also helps to dance on set for interesting poses.
- Also, sit in front of the mirror for 5 minutes a day and watch your movements. Move around and see, get to know your angles.
- I personally feel like I learned a great deal about modelling from watching America's Next Top Model with my cousin. He would actually make me do all the challenges.
- You should also try and develop a thick skin and create a consistent support group to lean on when you need to.
- Confidence is key! If you are not confident - fake it till you make it.
- Make sure you always stand up for yourself. Don't ever do anything that makes you uncomfortable or that goes against your principles.
- Another important thing that I still struggle with sometimes is being active on social media. Potential clients like to see you are getting bookings or at least building your portfolio.
- And lastly, always be yourself because people want to book you for who you are. Potential clients are always looking for unique personalities and one-of-a-kind individuals.