One of the things that I like about doing interviews is the ability to meet people and ask them questions that normally don’t come up in casual conversations. It is a fascinating thing to learn the stories of other people’s lives, their goals and their motivations. Such was the conversation with Cody Saintgnue, the star of MTV series “Teen Wolf”, a model, an actor, and a humanitarian. Cody flew to Dallas to receive the Community Achievement Award at the Equanimity Gala, and agreed to meet with me for a one-on-one interview for Fashion Scoop. Cody Saintgnue
TM: Cody, you are obviously very young. At what age did you start modeling and acting? Was it something you personally wanted or did someone suggest it? How did it all start?
CS: Actually, it all started with a childhood crush. I really liked a girl, who paid no attention to me. I thought that if I become an Abercrombie model, she would like me. Well, I never became an Abercrombie model, but it all started from there. I ended up winning a Model and Talent Expo competition here in Dallas, and was featured on the competition magazine cover. That gave me the confidence to really pursue this career. I didn’t have inclinations toward academic achievements, or sports for that matter, but I always had great social skills. So, I thought of entertainment work as something that I would really like to do. Cody Saintgnue
TM: You moved to LA with your mother at fourteen. She must have had real confidence in you – it was a big step for both of you.
CS: I had to really prove myself to her before she agreed to move. She told me that I had to show that it is not just a whim on my part. I had to take dance classes, voice classes, and participate in theater. I was very introverted, if you could believe it, and I had to get over that. Just getting out in front of people was a big accomplishment for me. Then, after winning the model competition, I was able to convince her to make this leap of faith and move to LA, so I could continue my education. Cody Saintgnue
TM: I am sure it was a big adjustment to move from Ohio to California, to Los Angeles. What was the most difficult for you in that experience?
CS: The change of environment wasn’t that challenging for me. It wasn’t even important. Until my mom adopted me, I was in foster care. I was used to moving a lot. You may say it was a norm, and it wasn’t always a move towards something better. So, THAT wasn’t an issue. The issue was the pressure to succeed that I put on myself. I felt I was given this once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I really wanted to make sure I didn’t lose it. I was haunted by the constant feeling of fear of not being good enough. Failure wasn’t an option for me. Getting over this pressure, just being able to relax and live my life – that was the biggest adjustment I had to go through. The rest was easy. Cody Saintgnue
TM: A lot of your modeling photos present you in a “bad boy” image. Is it a real side of you, or is it just play-acting?
CS: I suppose anyone with a history like mine, coming from rough beginnings, would have an edge to himself. It is inevitable. Your upbringing leaves a mark on you, on your personality for the rest of your lives. However, with every hard exterior, there is definitely softness inside. It is just an outer shell of sorts. It’s not the shape and mark that determines a car, but the amount of miles it has driven.
TM: You’ve done both modeling and acting now. Do you see there is a connection between the two, or are they entirely different professions?
CS: A great artist in any creative field must know himself. Both modeling and acting may require costumes, funky looks, and projecting an image that is not your own. However, if you are uncomfortable in that image, if you don’t have confidence in what you do – it really shows. You can’t just pretend to be somebody; people sense when it is a fake. It has to come from within, you have to be genuine. This rule applies both to acting and to modeling, of course.
TM: You have done work in films and on TV. Is there a difference? And if there is, then what do you prefer and why?
CS: The process of film-making is looser, there is more time to experiment and explore. True artistry comes out in film, especially when there is a great relationship and trust between a director and the actors. TV puts a lot more pressure on you. There are formulas that
are followed in order to make things happen fast and produce on schedule. TV is definitely more consistent. Films present a different challenge to keep an audience’s attention for two or more hours. Both are rewarding. TV pays really well, but if you want to grow as an artist and exhibit all facets of your acting abilities, then the opportunities are definitely in feature films.
TM: Who is your hero, or your role model? It could be a personal hero, or a professional role model. What comes to mind first
CS: Definitely, it is my mom. I wouldn’t be me without her. I admire her business and personal ethics, her integrity, and the very high standards of behavior she sets for herself and people around her. She is the strongest person I know both mentally and emotionally. I hope that I can be like her in my life – family oriented, bright, independent, and compassionate. I can talk endlessly about her.
TM: Let’s talk about your involvement with charities. Where does your drive and motivation come from?
CS: You know, it is simple. The beginning of my life was far from desirable. Someone has sent the elevator down to me to lift me up. I know what it is like to be low, to be hurt. I have chosen to be in the entertainment industry to have a voice, to bring the attention towards those, who need and want help. I want to pay it forward. I believe the greatest ability we have is to make a change in other people’s lives. That’s my goal, and that’s the motivation behind everything I do that relates to charities.
TM: Now, tell me about your “Cody, take me to the prom contest?” I am sure that created some major response among your fans. How did you come up with this idea?
CS: Actually, the idea wasn’t mine. My business partner, with whom we run a little enterprise called “Abstract Charms”, suggested it to me. She thought it would be cool, if I could take a girl from an underprivileged family to a prom. I mulled it over in my head, and thought “why not?” It didn’t quite happen as I imagined. The girl that was selected was not at all from a poor school, it was in fact one of the more affluent ones in LA. However, when I came to pick her up, her mother was sobbing. The girl was bullied so much during the year that she wasn’t going to attend the prom at all, if it wasn’t for the contest. I felt it was a great honor to be able to give her this special evening, and make her feel like a cool kid that night. I think we all need to think of what we have, what we can do in order to make someone’s life better. It’s not always about the money. It is more often about time and caring than anything else. Cody Saintgnue
TM: What is your take on fame? Is it a good thing, a bad thing? How did it change your life?
CS: Well, as anything, it has its good sides and its bad sides. For example, having a person, who you thought was a friend, sell your cell phone number was definitely not something I had expected. But overall, all challenges come with opportunities. Now, that my name has been noticed, I have more professional acting job offers than I ever had before. It allows me to grow, select parts that I enjoy and want to explore. Most importantly, fame gives a platform for my voice and my aspirations to empower youth, speak to them directly. That far greatly outweighs some of the inconveniences associated with it.
TM: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 20 years? What are your plans?
CS: I will definitely continue acting. I want to try producing and directing someday. Also, I am thinking about writing in the future. There are many ways one can express himself: if there are business opportunities, I am open to go that route too. In the long term, there is a concept of a non-profit organization that I hope to realize. YANA, which stands for “You Are Not Alone”, will be dedicated to helping single parents from underprivileged backgrounds cope with their life circumstances. Cody Saintgnue
TM: I am sure you have a great future ahead of you. You have a huge fan base among the young people. Are there any insights, or recommendations you would like to share with them?
CS: Enjoy life now. Don’t worry too much about tomorrow, and grant yourself a lot kindness, time and grace. Everyday try understanding a little more of who you are, and pay a little less attention to who the others want you to be. Trust me, it gets better, and easier as you get older. www.fashionscoop.com