Editor’s Note: This interview was originally posted June 6, 2006.
Char E’ (pronounced Shar-A) is an aspiring actress and commercial print model. More importantly, she is the first recognized African American painted pin-up model on the Internet. What’s even more amazing is that Char E’ is still “getting’ it done” at the age of 39. Yes, you read correctly. Char E’ is 39 years old. When you look at Char E’ one wonders if she is drinking from the same fountain of youth as Lena Horne and Diahann Carroll.
Simply put, Char E’ is as smart as she is breathtaking beautiful.
Born in Mississippi and raised in New Mexico, Char E credits her unique look to her heritage, which is a mix of African American, Choctaw Indian, Sudanese and Irish. She has beat out thousands of woman half her age for major roles in the past and has even been turned away from castings calls because the producer was looking for an “older woman.” Char E’ is not new to the entertainment business. In addition to modeling, Char E’ has appeared in national and international commercials, done voice over work and hosted a music video show for PAX TV.
Black Men In America.com Publisher Gary Johnson recently caught up with Char E’ for this exclusive interview.
The Char E’ Interview
BMIA.com: First of all, thank you for taking time out for this interview. You pronounce your name “Shar A,” is that correct?
Char E’: Yes, you pronounced it correctly.
BMIA.com: Your background is very impressive. You’re a model and an actress. I understand that you are the first recognized African American pin-up model. Is this true?
Char E’: Yes, there or no other documented examples of the presence of a female -African American Painted Pin-up Model on the Internet prior to my launching in late 1999/2000 when my first web site was being birthed. In addition, there were only a handful of examples of any modernized pin-up art on the Web at that time.
BMIA.com: What is a “pin-up” model and how does this differ from other modeling categories?
Char E’: The word “pin-up” means “perfect, wholesome and flawless. Of course this is only representative of the clean and often whimsical poses that come to mind. There is an old fashioned elegance that is appreciated in this form of erotica; therefore it does have its own special place! In an age were “skin is in,” I do not try to replace my pin-up work with my modern day bikini/lingerie shots. However, the pin-up portion of my portfolio has certainly enhanced it. At one time I was the only black model to dare use pin-up art on a composite card in New York City! At that time few photographers and artist had knowledge of how to paint the model. Shortly thereafter, my artist Guy Powers started getting calls from top modeling agencies asking how these models could shoot with him.
BMIA.com: How and when did you get into the modeling business?
Char E’: You will never believe this! While still a young teenager I wanted to be a writer, a marine biologist or an archeologist. However, math was not my forte’ so while cutting a math class as a freshman at Albuquerque High School in New Mexico I was approached in the hall by a very attractive woman who questioned who I was. She was asking me about my age, etc. I thought she was the demerit police and I was going to be sent to Detention Hall (laughing). However, it turns out that her name was Star, and that she was an agent. She gave me her card and it took off from there.
BMIA.com: You don’t look your age. In fact, you look great. At the risk of being rude, may I ask how old you are?
Char E’: Sure I am very proud of my age it has opened many doors for me as well as interesting conversation! I am 39 years old and I have a 20-year-old son.
BMIA.com: Whoa. 39. You are holding it down big time. Glamour modeling tends to be a young person’s business, or at least that’s what many in the business would lead you to believe. Not only are you competing, you’re beating out women half your age. How does that make you feel?
Char E’: Great and at times a little guilty. At other times a bit immature because naturally the other Models that I associate with on shoots or that become friends are generally quite younger.
BMIA.com: Looking at you, I must say, that you defy nature. How have you managed to retard the aging process?
Char E’: I still have not figured that out and I certainly do not eat healthy as a rule unless you consider Twinkies as part of the fifth food groups. (Laughing)
BMIA.com: You mean, Twinkies, Ho Ho’s and Krispy Kreme’s are NOT part of a healthy diet?
Char E’: No, I don’t think so Gary.
BMIA.com: Do you diet and exercise? Or are you just blessed with great genes?
Char E’: Many years ago about 12 years, I took kickboxing and Kung Fu. I was even asked to be an instructor. That was the last time I have participated regularly in any form of structured exercise. I have only recently begun to put exercise into my weekly routine. I still love boxing and am eager to set up a punching and kick bag at home! I also own a “Total Gym.”
BMIA.com: Total Gym. Is that the equipment that I see advertised on TV infomercials?
Char E’: You got it. I use it 4 days a week. It really works.
BMIA.com: Sales may just increase after folks look at how fit you are and know that you use this thing 4 days a week. (Laughing).
Char E’: I’m telling you it works.
BMIA.com: Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up?
Char E’: I was born in Jackson, Mississippi and raised in Ohio from age 2-14, relocating to New Mexico thereafter.
BMIA.com: You have some rather striking features. What’s your ethnic background or culture?
Char E’: My Mothers family is Sudanese, Blackfoot and Choctaw Indian. My father’s family is Blackfoot Indian, African American and Irish. My father’s grandfather was born in Ireland.
BMIA.com: Which discipline do you prefer, acting or modeling?
Char E’: Acting! That’s my passion.
BMIA.com: Talk about your signature pin-ups. Much of your work is considered to be “art.” Isn’t this correct?
Char E’: Yes. My first pin-up piece was part of an art exhibit in a Soho, New York gallery almost 7 years ago! The owner of the gallery, Louis K. Meisel, a successful pin-up artist wrote the bible on pin-up called, “Great American Pin-up.” There are many famous artists who have works exhibited right next to some of the work created by my artist Guy Powers. The difference with modern day pin-up art and vintage art is the procedure in which it is created. Most watercolors are replaced with Photoshop software, however people are in awe when I explain to them that my body is not painted. The photograph is a canvas and the clothing, backdrop, makeup and hair is enhanced or perfected through graphics in Photoshop and in some cases watercolors are added thereafter to give texture and special effect. Each piece takes days to complete and before each shoot I have researched the historical content, time period and mood for each pose.
BMIA.com: How much would a typical piece of art featuring your likeness sell for?
Char E’: In galleries they are priced from $1,500-$25,000 up to $38,” however, I have since made them readily available to the general public by reproducing them in mass quantities on poster and photographic paper apposed to a Giclée print, therefore reducing the price to as low as $17.00 per print.
BMIA.com: There are a lot of models in the business and on the Internet. What is it about you that make you so appealing and attractive to artists and advertisers?
Char E’: I will have to say my very confident attitude and strong communication and business skills. I am aware that I am blessed with unique features, height, body etc. But there are hundreds of thousands of strikingly beautiful woman in the world! Many people have told me that when I leave a room my presence is still felt. I make such a strong statement in the way that I speak and present myself to the world. I will admit however, that my fresh look and retro pin-ups are to some degree an untapped market. While there is an unlimited opportunity for advertisers to jump onto the pin-up “craze” many are presently using pin-ups to sell products such as cigarettes, cosmetics, liquor, collectables and apparel such as handbags, shoes and accessories.
BMIA.com: Are you involved with any other projects?
Char E’: I was a featured model in the November issue of FBM magazine. I will soon be a featured model for Cell Phone Entertainment subscribers as well as a model in a series of downloadable wallpaper for cell phones with a different company and I will begin shooting a new series of photos for the development of the “new” official web site in Las Vegas and in LA (www.charepinups.com). My first book, “Virtual Youth,” will be published soon as well as my own line of vintage inspired clothing with the launch of “Pin-up Girl Jeans.”
BMIA.com: You are clearly multi-talented. How involved are you with the business aspect of your career?
Char E’: 160%. I am a businesswoman 24/7! My friends have teased me and asked that I turn if off after 5:00pm because I always “sound” so professional. (Laughing). At one time years ago I had a personal manager with REK Management in NYC who paved the way for future opportunities by working hard to open doors for me that gave me the confidence that I have in my career today. I also can thank my promoter Cliff Strobe who was there for me back in 2000 in NYC and my publicist Lia for all the time and effort in marketing, although there is still a lot more work to do.
BMIA.com: Tell us about your web site (www.cafepress.com/charepinups).
Char E’: This is a project that is dear to my heart in that there are unlimited ways to promote the beautiful products available! There is something for all taste from T-shirts, to coffee mugs, mouse pads, sweat suits, tote bags, writing journals and even thongs all displaying my whimsical poses. However, I am well aware that my fans are requesting an official site as I had years ago that will link to the retail shop.
BMIA.com: How big a factor is sex in the modeling business?
Char E’: Too big this is why it is important to understand why a model or actress wants to be a part of this lifestyle as a career choice and be VERY strong on what they will and will not compromise on.
BMIA.com: What’s the best part of being Char E’?
Char E’: Let’s just say if I were not me I would wish there were more people like me out there. I am one of the few 100% sincere people you will meet in your entire lifetime.
BMIA.com: You know, given our interactions over these past few months, I would concur with that. What’s the worst part of being Char E?
Char E’: I am entirely to giving and put very little focus on myself in my personal life. I also have been told I am too trusting. I am working on these things.
BMIA.com: Are you married? Single? Have a significant other?
Char E’: I am single and waiting too see what develops.
BMIA.com: What was your earliest or most vivid recollection of being or feeling different?
Char E’: That’s a very interesting question. I would have to say that my most vivid recollection of being different was being the only black student in a school of 1200 students.
BMIA.com: What do you want to do when you’re modeling career is over?
Char E’: Open a Community Resource Center and Developmental Home for displaced fathers who desire to be re-connected with their children or families as a result of drugs, unemployment, unmarketable job skills, incarceration, and domestic abuse.
BMIA.com: What advice would you give to women who want a career in the modeling or entertainment industry?
Char E’: Please read and study all you can from the magazines and ask a lot of questions. Ask questions of people who are connected and in the entertainment industry. Get involved in church functions and groups, as this will keep you spiritually balanced and boost your self-esteem. I would also encourage them to go to their local casting agent in the next largest city that you live in, be sure to bring a recent photo and always smile on the inside as well as out. Don’t give up there is a world of possibilities out there!
BMIA.com: How can we support you?
Char E’: WOW! You have in a very positive way by extending this opportunity for exposure with your very popular site. I would however, like to invite serious investors to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BMIA.com: Anything else you want to say or share with us?
Char E’: Thanks to all my fans for the support and to my Mom for always pushing me a little further and thank you Black Men In America for being such a positive presence on the Internet!
BMIA.com: Thank you Char.
Char E’ is the first recognized African American painted pin-up model on the Internet.
Publisher’s Note: A Giclée (ghee-clay) print is a an advanced archival printmaking process for creating high quality fine art reproductions on paper or canvas using professional quality resolution and print equipment. If our math is correct, Char E’ is now 48 years old.