A line of runway Beauties at Beachwood. Los Angeles.

Beachwood Miss California

9:00 a.m. I drove up and down Beachwood drive early Saturday morning, searching everywhere for parking. I knew I was in the right place because I could spot the hub of activity outside the studio. Tons of models, photographers and curious bystanders hovering around the entrance made it clear that the action had definitely started. I managed to bribe the car wash across the street that I would only be a short while and made a closing argument that my Micheal Kors heels wouldn’t appreciate the walk. Juan chuckled incredulously but graciously let me park in their facilities. I walked into the spacious studio greeted warmly by Kara of Aline Media . “Welcome to our fashion shoot event”. Aline Media in collaboration with Runway Icon are responsible for giving approximately sixty girls this fabulous photo shoot opportunity. Each girl that signed up for this event will leave with a CD today with amazing professional images for her portfolio.

Aline media has also tied up with several sponsors to provide the girls with tools to make this shoot the best. Make up/hair was sponsored by Tony & Guy School, the gowns and shoes by Tony Bowls and Carraz of Glendale Galleria. There was even a live dj and a gourmet food truck Holy Aioli at this venue. I was thoroughly impressed.

Kara guides me though the space. Two huge studio rooms with six photo stations set up. There is a team of 12-14 skilled photographers running the shoot. Each girl has a name card, which acquires her slot to shoot once they are ready. It’s like an assembly line of fashion shoot production! Tony & Guy fashion students all decked out in black, preening models. Such an event is networking at its best. Jason Peskin, Director of Project Ethos strolls in to check out the shoot. His LA fashion week event is at the House of Blues this year; Runway Icon will be covering his event.

The main goal for the team of photographers at each station is to bring out the beauty of each girl, while giving her a set of images that could be used in her portfolio. The team at Runway Icon works best at fashion shoots, the photographers really know how to make the models feel comfortable. Met the radiant Courtney Hughes (www.chasethecrown.com) who is an official recruiter for beauty pageants. She really worked hard with the girls helping them and coaching them through their shoots. I thought her company name “Chase the Crown” was endearing.

I spot Raphael walking round coaching his protégés, he runs a tight ship. Runway Icon is fast leading the fashion photography industry. Raphael Maglonzo, along with AC, has been developing upcoming talent. They go beyond the particulars of photography and teach the art of ‘attention to detail’ by fixing dresses and locks of hair. They spend the day coaching the girls through their time slot, trying to get the best shots. Tony Bowls sponsored gowns of all shapes and styles, their dressers are so helpful. Each girl is meticulously pinned, clipped and taped from behind, giving her favorite dress a perfect fit.

I am formally introduced to Kenn Henmann, CEO of Aline Media and mastermind of this fashion shoot. He is so warm and engaging. “This really is what I love to do. I’m in such a zone”. One can sense his intensity of concentration. He meanders off to tend to matters. I also have the pleasure of meeting the crew from E entertainment Gretchen and Jerry. They are there to cover the event and interview some of the candidates for the upcoming Miss California pageant.

I manage to get a few words in with one of the volunteers – the charming Carmela Mondello, who is running for the Miss California pageant was there all day helping out. I spot Arnold of RI Team, having a great time. He shares with me “The newbie models are a kind of challenge but my favorite thing about events like these is shooting. I love the challenge”.

I float around the room observing huddles of fashionistas, preening and prepping for their shoot. I love the energy created by the thumping hip hop and house music. Young hopefuls accompanied by their guardians, aspiring models, Miss California candidates and title-holders. I love the girls with their pageant finery, vying for their moment with the camera and E Entertainment.

I am dying to chat with the incredible team of students from the Tony & Guy South Coast Plaza facilities. I introduce myself to Josha Marziolo who is the Director of this academy. He has a vast experience in shoots like this, he shares: “This is just another day in the office for me. I do think this event is well organized though, and I feel the good energy flowing. Such an event in comparable to the Super Bowl for my students, it’s satisfying to watch them grow like this. It’s just a lot of team work, man.” (chuckles). I then meet Michael Lawrence, the education director of the academy. Michael has done numerous events like this in his ten years of experience. He oozes charisma and confidence. After all he just won Make-Up Artist of the Year at the Photographic Awards. They give me a tour around all the stations to show how each student works with the models. I chat with student Jaren Scotto. I pry a little, as he has an intriguing story. He was in the army infantry for five years. The entirely different environment is what swayed him to jump professions. He would rather be around the “Music, air conditioning and ladies!” Jaren aspires to be salon owner one day. I love that this event is an alliance of such an infinite pool of talent.

Two friends very dear to Runway Icon and Raphael play an integral part in this event today: Peter Phang Young of INTA gems and master photographer Capeto Argaez . The vivacious Mr. Young is bursting with high energy. He is the official crown sponsor for Miss California and Miss Teen California . His family has owned their precious gem business in the city for over thirty-five years. His parents Jerry and Connie Young have been sponsoring the contest for six years now. Peter loves “Watching the growth of the contestants and contributing to their dreams”. His future plans are to develop a fine jewelry line catered specifically for pageantry. Capeto flew in from Colombia just for this shoot with dear friend Raphael. He “Loves the dynamic environment and is really looking forward to being here though fashion week.”

12 noon. The second round of girls anxiously files into the studio. The Runway Icon team shows no signs of fatigue. I spot them taking pictures of each other in their down time, perfecting the lighting and camera settings. The system is fine-tuned by this point. The rotations of models are timed to perfection. We take turns breaking for lunch. Holy Aoili, the gourmet food truck, provides heavenly food to our hungry crew. The general mood is one of excitement. This format of shoot is ideal for a lot of first time models. This large-scale shoot provides for a nominal fee along with the coaching and assistance that is provided is an A line Media seamless event.

2pm. Lunch is eaten between shots.After each round of shots, the beaming photographers proudly pose with the model. Little tokens and memories of their hard work all day! These go into the “fans album” on their constant Facebook updates.

Aline Media also brought in stylists to assist with the models. I was able to catch a few words with stylist and personal shopper, Manuel Jackson. He was here to talk to contestants about style and help pick out dresses for the shoot. It was interesting to learn that he also owns and operates a gentleman style house. He “Acts as a liaison between pr/media outlets and personal styling. I am seven months into business. ” Check him out at Ekquality Style Hause: Every King’s quality.

3pm. Raphael is bobbing his head to the blaring music as he oversees the production. Photographers are now getting some outdoor shots in with the light slowly softening. The buzz has not died down yet, a fresh group of girls are ready to shoot now. The empty couches in the studio are occupied by parents and supporters. I am enthralled by the collaboration and the flawless production on this scale.

4pm. Things are winding down slowly. The gowns are being stowed away and the rolling racks slowly disassembled. The T & G team eagerly taking group pictures whilst packing down. Seventy aspiring models leave this event today with a variety of amazing images that they can use in their portfolios. Smiles seem to grace everyone from this intensive but exhilarating day. I watch how Runway Icon, the common thread to all parties present, orchestrates a mega fashion shoot with such success. It’s always rewarding to see such success in collaborations. The studio is all packed away and equipment boxed up. Our convoys of cars drive to The Palms restaurant. The laughter is loud and the food exquisite. This is a mega house of talent at the table, signing off from the beautiful day at Beachwood.

~AmbiKa “B” Sanjana

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