Discovered in 1993 by Calvin Klein for his gender-bending CK One campaign, Jenny Shimizu caused a sensation on the modeling scene—appearing in countless shows and photographed by the likes of Richard Avedon, Bruce Weber, Irving Penn, Steven Meisel and Mario Sorrenti. Part of her appeal was her fearlessness. “The key to my success has been always saying yes to opportunities,” says Shimizu. “I’ve always jumped right in.” Now, the 43-year-old hopes to pass the lesson along to a new generation of models as she steps behind the scenes as an agent and talent scout at the hip modeling agency Women Direct. For Shimizu, ﬁnding a new face is instinctual. “I look for a girl who evokes the qualities of a great oil painting or piece of art,” she says. “It’s a feeling that hits you right in the chest.” Shimizu’s current role means she’s “on call 24 hours a day,” available as a mentor to her models. “Ninety percent of the time the girls hear ‘No,’ ” says Shimizu. “I remind them this career isn’t about anything personal. These jobs don’t shape you as a person. It could be worse; I could be representing myself back in the Nineties,” jokes Shimizu, who says her experiences brought her full circle. “I had the street savvy of a model but didn’t know what to do with it,” she says. “The stars have aligned and it’s paid off. It’s a gift to learn and grow with these girls.”
This story first appeared in the November 12, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.