Sheila Marquez — a recognizable name and an even more recognizable face. At 31, the Supreme-repped model has maintained a steady career since breaking out eight years ago after debuting as a Gucci runway exclusive. Editorials in W, Vogue, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar and many more titles soon followed, as did campaigns for Gap, DKNY and Theory, to name a few.
Now, life for the model, who originally hails from the Basque region of Spain, looks a little different. She lives in Williamsburg with her partner and their three-month-old son, Lucius. But she’s already back to work. “It’s pretty cool because there’s really a boom with so many models having babies right now,” she said, referring to Dolce & Gabbana’s fall show dedicated to motherhood. These days, in between jobs, she hangs out with a model crew that includes Kasia Struss, Alana Zimmer, Hanne Gaby, Jacquelyn Jablonski, Raquel Zimmermann, Freja Beha Erichsen, Dorothea Barth and Britt Maren. “We all live in Brooklyn or the Lower East Side, and we get together a lot,” she said. “As with every other model, you do a few seasons of really good shows, people start getting to know you, and you get your clients. In the beginning, I thought, ‘I’m just gonna try this out for a year.’ And it’s been years now.”
WWD: What was it like growing up in Spain?
Sheila Marquez: Growing up there was pretty awesome. We were surrounded by beautiful landscapes and the food is amazing. Basque people are really loyal; everybody is really good friends. I have a big family, one brother but lots of cousins. I was a sporty girl, I did gymnastics for 11 years, and then I did some dance in theaters for another three years. Then I started to go to university, but dance was taking too many hours of my day so I had to make a decision: Do I want to go to college or dance? I decided to study business.
WWD: How did you get discovered?
S.M.: In my second year of school, I went on vacation with my friends to a summer town in the southeast of Spain. There was a beauty contest from a magazine and my friends signed me up. I didn’t want to do it. They convinced me to do it, and I thought, “Nothing’s gonna happen.” But I won, and from there, I went on to the finals with another 19 girls. The prize was representation with an agency for a year and some money. I was almost 22.
WWD: Had the idea of modeling ever occurred to you previously?
S.M.: That’s the thing: If you grow up in Barcelona or Madrid maybe, it might be more normal for girls or guys to want to be a model. But where I’m from, it’s not really a trend. There aren’t people scouting up there.
WWD: How did your career initially take off? It seems like 2007 was the breakout year for you.
S.M.: I was still studying long distance and I went to London to learn English and an agency signed me up there…I went to see a bunch of clients. I went to see Balenciaga, and for me, Balenciaga, as a Spanish house — in my mind it was like, an old lady brand at that time. But imagine now [how amazing the brand is]. Anyway, so I had a thousand appointments, I was exhausted, and the agency was like, you have to go back to Balenciaga. I ended up working with Balenciaga every day in Paris for three months. They booked me as a runway exclusive — I did all the looks and the collection with them as a fit model. In the same season, I got to be a Gucci and Balenciaga exclusive…Everything happened really fast.
WWD: Was there ever a moment when you felt like you’d made it?
S.M.: It’s really funny because I had a boyfriend back then, and everything happened so fast. He asked me to get married. I got married to him, but the day before the wedding, I was in Paris doing Chanel couture. I had my wedding, then flew back to Paris. In that moment, I felt like, “Okay, I guess this is big.” That was the moment that I realized.
WWD: Before modeling, did you have an interest in fashion?
S.M.: When I went to high school, over the weekends, I always loved having extra money to buy myself clothes. I was the one everyone would want to steal clothes from; I would do my friends’ hair and makeup. I started to work for Zara on the weekends to make some extra cash. The manager in the store wanted to sign me up for a bigger contract to open more stores in Europe and do all the windows. I was 16 back then, and I just wanted to study. But I always had that eye for making outfits — I really enjoyed that. My style has always been comfortable but trendy. Because of my body, I can look very sexy, but I don’t feel like that…I feel way more boyish.
WWD: You’ve been in the biz for about a decade now. Have you noticed any changes in the industry over time?
S.M.: Well, first of all, the types of girls…When I started, I feel like I was one of the few models that had darker hair, so in terms of race — now we see a lot more Asian girls, a lot more varied ethnicity, which the market really needed. That was a big change. The [boom] of e-commerce is great because now all of us can work every day. I arrived in an era where digital photography was already around, but many photographers were still shooting film…Paolo Roversi shot me with his big Polaroid camera. I’m happy I got to do that because it doesn’t happen anymore. There was no Instagram back then, either. People from the business would know who you were, but now anyone can know who you are.
WWD: Can you recall one of the weirder or funnier moments on a photo shoot?
S.M.: I never had any problems with nudity or anything, so sometimes I would walk into a set and people would be like, “Whoa, I didn’t expect that!” Oh, and here’s one thing: Once, in Morocco, for Harper’s Bazaar U.K., we were shooting a look in this very short Dolce & Gabbana dress. Very short. We were shooting in front of a school. All these kids started following me, pulling all the feathers from the dress, touching my ass. All of these people were screaming, it was super crazy. The police came and took the photographer away. Thankfully, the production team had everything under control…We were laughing about it more than anything else.
WWD: So — the big news — you had a baby boy recently. Congrats!
S.M.: My agency was really happy when I told them that I was pregnant because they all said I needed a break. I’m the kind of person that never says no to anything. I feel like the biggest challenge has been being at home waiting, mostly when I was pregnant towards the end. I didn’t really show until I was six months pregnant, so I was still booking regular jobs. But after that I had to rest a little. I can’t believe I waited so long to be a mother. It’s awesome.
WWD: Have you noticed a change in the type of work you’re getting now?
S.M.: I can look so different. I still find myself booking jobs with 16- to 18 year olds for younger lines. But I can also do stuff with moms. During my pregnancy I expected to do a lot of pregnancy work. But I didn’t, because I didn’t look old enough with a belly to do maternity. I also feel like people tell me I could look Asian, Spanish. That’s a really good thing in this business.
WWD: What’s something you’ve learned since having Lucius?
S.M.: I’ve learned to be still. I always need to be doing something, but that’s something that he’s teaching me. It also makes you realize the things that really matter, and the things that you used to worry about that don’t really matter at all.
WWD: What are some of your goals now?
S.M.: At this point, I want to make money. Even though I love it, we all do this to make money. And I have other goals. I like to work on my jewelry line. And I always wanted to be a stylist.
WWD: When do you feel the most beautiful?
S.M.: When I’m at home in shorts and a T-shirt, with wavy hair, all natural. Even more now, after the pregnancy, I decided to not get my nails done and be as natural as I can for the baby. I feel like, in the end, everybody looks the best with their natural hair color…There’s a reason you’re made like that…The colors all go together. Don’t force it. Waking up next to my baby, opening my eyes and feeling his breath. It’s the best.
WWD: What would be your advice for a young model just starting out?
S.M.: Take it easy. Go step-by-step. It can be a long career if you’re clever. Respect everyone when you walk onto a set, from the person serving the catering to the photographer. Everyone is there working. That’s very important and something that the clients really appreciate. And be patient. If I didn’t get a job, I never took it personally. I always just felt like I didn’t fit the profile that the client was looking for. As you get older, you get more comfortable with [accepting] those things.