Model Jenny Shimizu walks into her agency’s loft in SoHo and immediately gets a tongue-lashing from her booker. “What?” she asks coyly. “I’m not bad, I’m good.”
Shimizu knows that she and Kate Moss — who is also repped by Women — were, in fact, guilty of “having a little too much fun while we were modeling,” she says. But it’s hard to imagine this delicate girl with the soft voice and unassuming manner as a troublemaker. It’s even harder to imagine she’s the same model whom Gianni Versace said “scared” him.
“He was scared?” she says. “It was my first runway job and I walk backstage and there’s Christy and Kate and Naomi and Helena Christiansen — all these supermodels. Then there’s me. I was terrified. He was scared? With all these girls coming in in their Chanel and with their bodyguards?”
Maybe Versace is accustomed to Chanel and bodyguards, but isn’t exactly used to a model with four tattoos who used to make her living as an auto mechanic.
In a garage was where Shimizu spent her working hours before a stylist spotted her in an L.A. nightclub last year. Within two weeks, she had a part in an En Vogue video and was on her way to Long Island to shoot a Banana Republic ad with Bruce Weber.
“Ever since I was little, I loved working with tools and things,” Shimizu says. “I used to race motocross and I would always take my bikes apart and put them back together. So when I was in college trying to figure out what to do with my life, I thought, ‘What am I good at? What do I really like to do?”‘
It’s a love she won’t abandon — she still plans on opening her own bike repair shop some day.
In the meantime, she rides her ’71 Triumph on her rare trips back to L.A. — “I would never bring anything nice to New York,” she says — or she takes off in her ’54 Ford pickup, which also remains in California.
It seems that she wouldn’t really have the time to enjoy her toys anyway. She’s been working practically nonstop since she began modeling.
“You work so much that you keep thinking, ‘I just want a day off,”‘ she says. “Then you get a day off and you think ‘What’s wrong, why aren’t I working?”‘
Her off hours are pretty full too.
“This week I was kind of bad,” she says. “I went to dinner a lot and out to a couple of clubs. I guess it’s really not bad, I’m just trying to get over the guilt of enjoying myself. When I was in L.A., $20 could last you a whole week. Now, it’s crazy.
“But I think I’m more realistic than some of the younger girls,” says the 26-year-old. “I won’t go out and blow a bunch of money on a really expensive pair of shoes.”
She’s also kept in perspective her new circle of friends — which includes Madonna and all the supermodels.
“I never thought I’d be in a limo going to parties with these girls,” she says. But, she points out, “A lot of people who are celebrities haven’t been as impressive as I thought they would be. I could meet someone who works at McDonalds and have a better time than with some of the people I’ve met.”
And sitting there in her Levi’s jeans and jacket it’s clear the glam life hasn’t really rubbed off on her.
“I’m not going to start wearing dresses and carrying a Prada bag,” she insists.
Except perhaps on the runway.