The latest in our Inspiring Women series is fashion image maker and entrepreneur Emilynn Rose; a Los Angeles-based Filipino American talent who’s worked for the industry’s leading brands and publications. But, it wasn’t always so glamorous and behind the glossy portfolio is a story of being relentless and resilient. Here, Rose tells The Daily about how she overcame adversity to make her dreams come true.
What’s your backstory?
I’m Filipino-American. I came to America from the Philippines when I was 11-years-old, and grew up in Hawthorne, California. Being from a Filipino/Asian background, my family was always pushing me to be a doctor or lawyer, but I never resonated with that type of career and I was never passionate with those curriculums in school. Growing up, my mom was a single parent, raising two kids, and working two full-time jobs, so I really had to grow up quickly, hold my own, and take care of myself. When I was 15-years-old, I was getting into a lot of trouble. My mom was pushing for me to find a hobby to put my energy into, instead of hanging out with the wrong crowd. I told her I liked taking photos of my friends on my phone (even though it was just a flip phone!) or on my cheap point and shoot camera, so she saved up all the money she could to get me my first camera, a Canon T2i, and from the moment I held that camera, I just knew I wanted to be a photographer.
What about photography did you fall in love with?
I remember watching America’s Next Top Model when I was 16-years-old. I just loved the sets and the concepts of the shoots. It was so fascinating to me. My friends and I would play dress up, and go shoot around parks, abandoned houses, or train tracks. I loved creating concepts and making them come to life. It’s so funny to think about that time of my life, because it’s kind of what I do today, just more refined.
Was fashion always a focal point for your photography?
Yes, fashion has always been my direction, but in the past two years, I’ve been loving beauty too.
You moved to L.A. at a young age, opting out of college, to pursue your passion. What did you learn from that?
Moving out at 19-years-old to pursue my passion taught me about responsibilities and hard work. It taught me how to survive on my own, and that if I gave up, my only option would to move back home and get a regular job—which I wasn’t willing to do. I only had one plan, which is to become a successful photographer. There was no plan B! It was insanely hard. I was barely making ends meet and my car would break down all the time, but it was also a time that really pushed me to focus on photography, networking, and building my portfolio, as well as growing as a photographer. I would watch endless YouTube videos on editing and lighting techniques and study the industry. I couldn’t afford to go to college, so this was the next best option!
Are there any mentors that have helped you get to where you are today?
My mentor, Luis Trujillo, has been a big part of my journey. I met him when I was 16-years-old, while he was doing a photo shoot in Venice Beach. I went up to him and asked him if I could assist him and he told me to email him. At first he said no, because I was too young, but I was persistent and he finally let me intern for him. Assisting him was the first time I’ve ever been on a real set with hair, makeup, styling, and lights. It was such a rush! He taught me all the fundamentals of photography, and to believe in myself and focus on my dreams. Even ’til this day, he has my back and whenever I need advice, he’s there for me. I am so grateful to have him in my life, 10 years later.
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Your photography is inspired by women empowerment, and highlighting the ways in which women can be equally powerful and feminine. How do you showcase that through your work?
I like to showcase my models in a way that feels bold and powerful, but not over sexualized. I want other women to look at my work and know that I am embracing the female body, but not selling it for the purpose of sexualization. I also don’t like to over edit my photos. Most of my photos are shot pretty close to what the final images will look like. I want my subjects to see their real selves when they receive my photos, not a version of what I think is beautiful. That way they can embrace what they look like. I think it’s important in the industry to not create an imaginary image of what ‘perfect’ beauty looks like. All women come with different faces, shapes and sizes, so there’s no need to create a ‘perfect’ edit. I’ve also been passionate about showcasing diversity in my photos. I think it’s important to show women together, embracing one another and working together. On most of my sets, it’s also a majority of females. I love working with men too, but working in a full female team always feels very empowering to me.
You’ve got quite the impressive resume. What’s it like seeing your photography published?
Every time I get a cover, or a billboard it still feels unreal. It gives me the greatest sense of joy, gratitude, and accomplishment. It’s what I work hard for, so it’s truly gratifying.
What are some other pinch me moments?
Definitely the Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam January 2021 cover shoot! And the Elle Arabia April 2021 cover has definitely been a pinch me moment for me!
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A lot of your projects emphasize diversity, natural beauty, and inclusion in regards to body shape. Why is this particularly important to you?
This is something that I’m so passionate about, because women are beautiful being. As a woman who gets to photograph other women, I get to see and fall in love with the different ranges of body types and skin colors and how different, yet beautiful, all these women are. The women who come in front of my camera who are confident and in love with their body and their natural beauty, empowers me too and helps build my own confidence. When I share it through my work, I hope that the people who view my work will feel that same way. Representation today is improving gradually, and I can tell brands are more conscious of it. I love seeing the growth and I hope that it continues. The media has a big impact on people, so when people see ads with women of different ethnicities and with body shapes, it will bring more openness.
Tell us about Rose Studios!
Rose Studios is my second baby. I opened Rose Studios three years ago with my business partner, Mandy Pacheco. We currently own four studios and three rooftops, and are hoping to open more this year! It is so nice to have my own studio that I get to share with others. I love seeing other creatives come in the studio and see how they shoot in the space. There are so many incredible artists out there that will shoot in our space and make it look completely different.
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This past year has been a whirlwind for in-person photo shoots—what’s your positive takeaway?
It has definitely been a whirlwind of emotions! However, despite all the craziness, life for me is really good and today I feel more grateful than ever for what I have been blessed with in my life. During this past year, I’ve got to focus more on taking care of my body and mental health. I guess you can say I’m a bit of a workaholic, and I’m learning that it’s not okay to drown myself in work all day and night, and give myself anxiety for not being where I thought I needed to be. This year, I’ve really focused on meditating, self care, and exercising.
Any exciting projects in the works?
So many great things will be coming! New covers, new campaigns, new studio and creative work! I can’t wait to share it all!