Behind the Scenes with Karis Dawson

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New York, Paris, London and L.A. At 19 years old Karis Dawson has worked in the world’s biggest fashion centers. I was able to catch up with her in Vancouver, where she was born and raised. 

K: I started my career in Vancouver with Lizbell Agency as my mother agent and headed to NYC to start my full time International career after graduating high school.

D: So you’re pretty well traveled, what would you say is your favorite city?

K: That’s a hard one, because they all have different vibes. For example, in London there are a lot of young creative people doing very exciting things, and it is incredible to be around that energy.  I find it much more creative and inspiring there. I would say my favourite city is Paris. I find they appreciate beauty so much , it is of course thee fashion center of the world.

D: Speaking of Paris, You’ve done runway shows in Paris. Take us behind the scenes. Is it as crazy as it seems?

(Karis is quick to answer)
K: Yes! It’s super Hectic; everyone is crowded around, hair and make up artists in every corner tugging on you and back stage Photographers capturing the scene in real time. Everyone is talking to you at the same time and you’re trying to figure out what’s going on

 

Karis’ voice perks up when she talks about doing runway shows. You can tell this isn’t just what she is good at, this is also where her passion lies. She started dancing at a young age, which has served her well. Karis is able to move and pose more intentionally. “Are you a dancer?” is a question that comes up often during photo shoots.

D: So what’s going on in that moment when you’re about to walk out on the runway?

K: I try to keep a very peaceful mindset. It’s important to realize it’s about the clothes and about the show. You have to be in the zone.

D: Speaking of keeping a peaceful mind, I found an article about you where you mention that you meditate. How does that keep you at ease?

(She Laughs out loud)
K: Well I don’t meditate while I’m working, that would be weird! I actually came across that while I was in Los Angeles. Being so young and “adulating” quickly when I was so busy, I found it helped. Taking ten minutes out of your day or in the morning, changes your paradigm and helps you see things from a calmer point of view. When I have those busy days having a clear head space is so important to me.

D: Do you ever get used to how hectic modeling can be.

K: I find you don’t get used to it, you just manage your time well. It’s a survival skill as you can’t be stressed out all the time. I keep a mental plan of what I’m doing every day. 

 

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If you spend any time with Karis, you’ll realize she is not a typical 18-year-old. She operates with a maturity only obtained by life experience. Growing up an only child in West Vancouver, her parents gave her a lot of opportunities to travel and see the world. 

K: I was always exposed to culture, art and different religions.

“Cultured” would be a great word to describe Karis. She is probably the only 18-year-old in the English speaking world without a Netflix account. Instead you might sooner find her in a museum in London.

K: I think one of the most important things to do when you’re traveling is to go out, meet new people and engage in the world around you. One of the biggest mistakes I made while I was in London was that I was alone a lot of the time. Although I did go to every museum, but you can’t spend 6 hours in a museum every day. When you are in these places the best thing to do is to actually go out and experience them. 

D: When you were staying in New York you lived in an apartment full of models. What are some of the crazy things that happened while you were there?

K: There was always a lot of drama, but it was really fun as well! Random disagreements would happen, so one time our house mom asked us to come down and have a meeting. She got us all to come together and hold hands and sing kumbaya! Everyone was wondering what was going on. You learn a lot about yourself and how to deal with different personalities and situations.

 

Karis is a multi faceted model, her work isn’t just confined to one medium.

D: Your work is pretty varied. That being said, do you prefer runway or doing editorial?

K: I love shows, and fashion week is amazing! But I love Editorials because you are portraying an artistic image of what they want. You also get to collaborate a team which is talented creatively.

D: What is the most Canadian thing about you? What do you get called out on when you work internationally? 

K: The Accent! Everyone says I have and Accent!

D: What has been the best advice you have ever received in regards to modeling?

K: It would be to not compare yourself to anyone. That is a death wish! There will always be someone prettier than you, skinnier than you or more successful than you. Everyone has a different look and a different path. You have to have confidence, if you know who you are it is more likely that a client will connect with you because its authentic.

D: That’s great advice for life in general!

K: If you don’t believe in yourself, it’s going to bring your confidence down. When you go into a casting they can sense if you don’t have confidence in yourself. It’s all about being strong and confident, that’s the main thing!

 

Karis carries herself with poise. She is the kind of person who walks into a room and everyone knows she’s there without her saying anything. But she’s not the type to show off or flaunt, she is generous and humble.

D: Where do you get your confidence from?

K: I was a dancer, and I was often told to go into the middle of the class and improvise to whatever you feel from the music. I was doing that when I was thirteen or fourteen years old. When I was little, my friend and I decided we wanted to go to an underground hip hop classes. We were always doing things like that! I was given so much in that sense. So that’s where I get my encouragement from and my sense of knowing who I am.

D: You mentioned you worked in L.A. which has a very specific vibe. What would you say is the most L.A. thing you have done.

K: I went to the beach by myself one day and I made friends with this man who sold crystals. I bought eighty dollars’ worth of crystals! Then I went back the next day and was like “I think I need some more”! 

 

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Karis laughs as she tells me this story. But buying crystals from a man on the beach typifies one of the attributes that makes Karis such a fantastic model. She is open. She lets others express their point of view without judgment. This comes across in her work as well. She doesn’t come off as closed off. Instead, she is open and vulnerable and the camera loves her for it!

D: I have got to ask you, did the crystal work?

K: I like them. I think they work, but it could also all be in my head.

D: At Terroir we take all of our photos in film. What is it that you enjoy best about shooting in film as opposed to shooting in digital?

K: I love film. I was into film even before I started modeling. My parents were really into photography when I was younger and they bought me a film camera. Film captures something different about the moment, it has more depth and more emotion. It’s more raw.

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Depth, emotion, raw. These are all words that could also be used to describe Karis Dawson. Karis’ drivers license may say 18, but her maturity goes far beyond her age. If Karis’ 18 she’s 18 going on 30. And since 30 is the new 20, she has a long career ahead of her.

Model: Karis Dawson x Lizbell Agency
Photographer: Noah Asanias
Written by: David Karuhije