Adventures Driving Cross Country with a U-Haul

Somehow we made it… all the way across the country in a 2009 Kia with a U-Haul trailer hitch attached. Trying to move in the beginning of a bad winter was a horrible idea in retrospect but at least we took the Southern route. However, I had a lot of loose ends to wrap up along with moving out of a big ‘ol Philly row home I’d lived in for 12 years (!). It takes a while to sell most of your belongings and start fresh (thank goodness for Facebook Marketplace). I wanted to be out of there on New Years Eve day so I could hightail it down to D.C. to celebrate with my friend but Philly still had a hold on me…

My attempt to leave Manayunk was futile at first.

I had two things working against me. One was that the U-Haul was waiting on a smaller trailer however the snow was putting a delay on everything so I had to go with a slightly larger one that was almost as big as my car. Two was that parking in Manayunk, Philadelphia is a joke. I found a spot that fit both my car and trailer hitch in the cul-de-sac down the street which seemed great at the time until it was loaded up and then I couldn’t back straight out. I then pulled forward into the mud and got stuck in the snow. So I called AAA and waited an hour and half to be told since I have a trailer, they can’t touch it and wouldn’t be arriving. During this time, a lone cardinal flew in front of my windshield, looked at me and flew on. I took that as a good sign and later realized the Arizona Cardinals may be saying hello in chilly Philly and helped lift my spirits. Somehow I creeped backwards, turning and barely grazing the abandoned house in the background. My environmental lawyer neighbor popped his head out to say he didn’t think I’d make it but I did and bon voyage to me! From then it was smooth sailing to D.C. with a pretty chill and sleepy (OK, exhausted) night of non-sleep as I was anxious to get on the road the next morning to Knoxville, Tenn. In a zombie-like state we made it to the closest U-Haul in Knoxville and having them rearrange the trailer chains as they were dragging (a fisherman helped us tie it up better at a gas station in the middle of nowhere at a gas station). That night I was out like a light and lit up to get on the road the next day after some delicious Mexican food and generous hospitality from my friend’s movie industry relatives!

It was unusually cold down South in January 2018, the coldest it has ever been so we stayed bundled up and nerdy for almost all of the trip. Photo by Deidre Tracy
I was slightly obsessed with trying out the hot springs in Hot Springs, Arkansas so we made a pit stop there as well as an overnight at Baymont Inn. There’s pics of the beautiful lake views and bath houses on my Instagram page. Photo by Deidre Tracy

We were going to drop down and visit one of my old school Manayunk friends in Austin, TX but had another hotel night booked in Santa Fe, NM so opted to save ourselves precious driving time instead. When you are pulling a U-Haul trailer hitch, it says maximum speed is 55 MPH so you’re driving like a granny ranging from 55-65 and not making good time. It is literally a time suck. We stopped in the middle of BFE Woodward, OK and crashed hard that night. It is a lot of hard work driving across the country no matter how liberating Hollywood portrays it – especially with a trailer hitch albatross.

Somewhere along the way, I popped the hood to check the car fluids. Big mistake! Photo by Deidre Tracy

As my dad recommended, I checked the fluids while gassing up (pretty much every bathroom/food break included getting gas). I shut the hood and drove on only to discover at the next rest stop, it was not shut properly as my car’s key fob would not lock the car completely. We then went through a not-so-fun process of troubleshooting with a chivalrous trucker from Alabama which involved me climbing around in the trailer for tools, WD-40 and our new friend jamming down the latch. At one point, we were opting to tie it down and here I am attaching it with my yoga strap! Fortunately, with enough WD-40 and brute strength, we tried to shut the hood one more time and it latched through the rust. We all hugged and were on our way once again!

While driving through the upper part of Oklahoma, my travel buddy took this shot of our shadow. Photo by Deidre Tracy

We saw one large lone tumble weed and were on some winding back roads at points, and soon we were approaching New Mexico and very excited to get there. The funny thing about the GPS system is it kept getting us happy to arrive… only to find out we still had another hour or so to go. So not much fun time for us, just drive/sleep/eat/gas and repeat.

We saw a rainbow driving in New Mexico! Photo by Deidre Tracy
We’re never seen such purple sunsets  like in New Mexico! Photo by Deidre Tracy

We ended up veering off to Route 66 at some point and it looked like it was quite the tourist trap in its hay day. We stopped and had some local food and go to meet my friend’s “Pappy” who gave her a great fortune!

Pappy the Fortune Teller had only positive things to say!

It was shortly thereafter when we were approaching Santa Fe, NM that the car starting sounding like gears were grinding. A low level of anxiety was creeping up on me at this point as not only was I towing all of my things but also had a passenger to worry about. We parked it for the night and got some rest and I crossed my fingers we would make it to Arizona in one piece the next day. The sunshine and warm weather started to help uplift my energy and before we knew it, we were winding down through the top of Arizona’s gorgeous tree-lined mountains and impressed with the views. I tried to take it easy on the car and break minimally until we finally arrived at the AirBnB hobbit hole studio!

My AirBnB studio I rented for a couple months in Tempe, AZ known as the hobbit hole. My hosts were so awesome they even helped me upload and reload when I moved to my more permanent place, Cassie’s Casita in Arcadia.

I was so happy to be there and we were quick to unload so we could get that trailer hitch off the car asap!

We arrived in one piece in Arizona and sun’s out, guns out!

The irony is the guy who disconnected the U-Haul literally lifted it up with one arm. I asked to hold it and it barely weighed a thing much to my surprise. But my car was still grinding and squeaky so I took it in to Tempe Autocrafters where a pair of golden retriever dogs greet you with stuffed animals. The diagnosis: my back brakes were grinding against the rotors which all needed replaced (plus an oil change). So we made it… barely. My advice: get the U-Haul pod, pack it at your convenience and enjoy the ride across the country without the car/human stress of towing a trailer. I actually ended up spending more with the car repairs plus the hitch rental plus the installation of a trailer hitch. D’oh! Oh well, live and learn.

Now on to the next adventure, stay tuned!

Explore With Me as I Move Out West!

My plans to post on this blog monthly have sadly fallen by the wayside since summer as my life has been in overdrive with travel, writing for Metro Philly and Metro US, modeling, blogging for my other babies Explore-Philly.com and Explore-NJ.com and then some! I’ll try to do an epic recap of highlights here so you can follow along and see what I’m up to nowadays. As soon as I got back from the San Antonio press trip, I began writing freelance with Metro Philly and soon thereafter Metro US.

My mug on the front of Metro Philly when I wrote a controversial column about why your Philadelphia neighborhood sucks. Some loved it, some hated it but at least it got people talking.
My first column for Metro Philly which was my editor’s idea – not mine – about being a plus model/actress on the East Coast.

As I continued to write for Metro, a lot of travel trips were happening as well. I did end up going on that Bucks County press trip over my Jersey Shore birthday beach week and was so happy I went. I met some amazing travel writing women who made my birthday special!

The Virgo birthday girl and a medley of NYC writers who were all awesome and I consider friends now!

The beach didn’t disappoint either, check out my instagram page for all the pretty sunset pics and videos. And while you’re at it, me and my team at Explore created a media kit for both that blog and brand and my own Cassie Hepler influencer media kit, go check out my digital reach! That will be added to my website too soon so it’s easily accessible and it’s in real time which is fantastic. Thanks, Zine Me!

Of course there were some long-awaited photoshoots happening too, one with an old friend Drew Callaghan in a Chestnut Hill mansion. For truly amazing images, it takes a team. Here’s some behind the scenes action.

Having a fantastic MUAH is half the battle of a fantastic photoshoot. And doing it outdoors is even better.
Sonja Century of Danger Salon makes me look gorgeous.
Sonja Century and Cassie Hepler with finished professional make up and hair.
One of the finished candid modeling shots of Cassie Hepler in red gown. Drew Callaghan Photography, make up and hair by Sonja Century

Soon the west coast began pulling at my heart strings again. Ever since I was 16 years old, I wanted to live in the sunshine. So I satiated my travel lust with some mini trips to the west coast. First up was a hybrid press and personal trip where I found plenty of beauty in nature to keep me happy.

Always California dreaming in my space pants (and top) at Big Sur!
One of the many highlights of this trip was dinner and drinks at Carmel Valley Ranch which I will have to return to to taste the small vineyard.
Just stopping along the coast in my rented whip and a kind stranger took this snap in California.

If you want to read more about my California trip, check out the Explore blog for updates. Soon I was back in action and starting a brand new part time work from home job as web manager for NameEntertainers.com and soon to redesign the DJ loving website ProMobileDJ.com. The nerdy part of me really enjoys working on the backend and problem solving of WordPress websites. And working from home meant I could finally move to the west coast! Ironically, a beloved board member lives in Arizona and a San Diego chapter exists with my new company and I took that as a sign. But wait, there’s more! So what about my babies, Explore-Philly.com and Explore-NJ.com? Well, it was time to expand and make this blog more global friendly with my team of East Coast writers and I’ll make moves on the west with the new and improved ExplorewithCassie.com. Keep an eye out for a migration in the new year for both me and the blogs! However, I was still California dreaming when I went on my last press trip of 2017 to Arizona…

Visit Phoenix and Visit Mesa hosted our team of writers, bloggers and influencers from Canada and California… and me from chilly Philly. Here we are enjoying wine at Garage East in Gilbert, AZ.

The vibe was so good in Arizona I slept like a baby every night in multiple hotel and guest rooms which never happens to me. I started seriously considering making Arizona my out west home base as the price was right and the energy was fantastic…

Going up, up and away in the desert with Hot Air Expeditions.
Our media crew enjoying raw food at our Nature Made tour and cooking class.
Yes, there was a lot of eating thus the table shots like lunch at Queen Village Olive Mill.
One of my new Canadian friends getting excited over that caffeine at Superstition Coffee Roasters.
The perfect end to an excellent press trip was Outstanding in the Field at Agritopia, we got the end of the table by the sunset.

So by the end of the trip, I was leaning toward moving to Arizona. If you want to read about the whole trip to learn more, please do. I had friends out there and further west (San Diego/San Fran/Los Angeles), my uncle just moved and now my cousin and her family too. It made my spirit happy to finally be chasing my dreams so I did it. I’m moving to the Phoenix area on the new year and driving cross country with one of my besties! New year, new me indeed. If you want to follow along, follow me on my Insta stories. This should be a year to remember!

Wearing my Travel Writer Hat on a Press Trip to San Antonio, Texas

Perhaps you think I am just a model and an actress. Nope, I am much more than just a pretty face as beauty and brains can co-exist my friends! I have been a reporter (and dabbling in photography) since I was 16 years old, starting as an intern at a local hometown newspaper. Even at that age, travel has always been a passion of mine starting with a trip touring France and falling in love with Le Mont Saint Michel. I love documenting moments in time and sharing the beauty of the world with others. People ask me all the time where to vacation so this made a perfect fit while adding travel to my own personal blog and my Explore brand. I had the pleasure of being invited to San Antonio, Texas through the tourism board and enjoyed three nights and four days of delicious food, luxury settings and divine champagne. You can read all about it on my Explore-Philly.com blog and check out some behind the scene photos below!

The first night at Dorrego’s at our luxury hotel Valencia we were just getting to know each other while the chef told us all about the delicious menu for the night.
Mexico City journalist Alina Hernández Navarro poses next to Eva Longoria’s mural inside Mi Tierra Café y Panaderia.
The gang is all here and eating second breakfast at Cured at Pearl.
Iron Chef Jason Dady insisted on a photo together at La Cantera Resort & Spa and who was I to say no?
Our favorite hostess with the mostess, Eva Aivaliotis, from Visit San Antonio with Ilona Biro and Vernon Chang from Canada, Alina Hernández Navarro and Jonathan Moreno from Mexico City and the lone American, Cassie Hepler in my sporty nerd attire.
When the rain started on the last day, the last of our group found refuge inside the Infinite Monkey Theorem wine bus. Not too shabby!

The next press trips will be in no specific order: Arizona, Germany, Nyack, NY and unfortunately not able to attend the upcoming VisitBucksCountry.com‘s trip as I will be taking a private vacation down the Jersey Shore over my birthday week – and for once, maybe not writing about it! Keep ’em coming fellow travel lovers, you know once you’ve got the bug it’s hard to stop. Personally, I’d like to see some more stamps in my passport! Email cassiehepler@hotmail.com.

Cruising to Bermuda with Celebrity Cruise Line

This Spring and Summer have been really heating up in my world! Since getting back from Cabo and catching the traveling bug, I’ve been doing a lot more travel which alway makes my soul happy. I promised one of my besties to go on a cruise with her through Celebrity Cruise lines which was very nice… and old. Not so much the ship itself but the crowd. Our favorite couple at dinner asked us why we were on this ship with a bunch of old people and we immediately adopted them. Celebrity is known for the food and when you’re two foodies traveling to paradise in the middle of the ocean, it’s kind of a necessity. It was either that or fly there and this seemed like a nice kind of forced disconnect from reality option. Perhaps I’m a bit spoiled nowadays, but the nickel and diming of cruising really puts me off. I would rather pay an upfront price and turn off my brain on board. Drink packages require you to be an alcoholic every day of the week and my liver just can’t handle that anymore! It’s quality over quantity at this stage of life.

We lucked out with only a little rain when we left and by day two, we were laying in the sunshine, enjoying a bucket of beer and attempting to relax and not look at my cell phone except to take photos as there was no reception anyway. When we arrived, we were planning our own sort of DIY excursions and make your own adventures which turned out pretty damned good.

My most favorite part of the trip was the beaches. For a pasty white girl, I really love the sun! And even in May, it was scorching at points even with SPF 75.

Chillin’ on the top of a some cliffs we found in Bermuda.
The original photo of me, curves and all. Flaunt that booty ladies, I’ve never had any complaints!

Then someone decided to reach out and ask to Photoshop one of my Bermuda photos. I had no clue what he meant so said yes and was given this in return…

If you ask a model to Photoshop her photo and she’s a plus model, don’t take away her curves. That shit just pisses us off. If I wanted to be a size 2 and anorexic, I would eat soup all day and pass out all the time.
Yes, the sands really are pink in the South beaches of Bermuda. Start at the tourist trap beach and hike until you find road again, there’s buses and taxis everywhere.
The sand is pink only in the South beaches in Bermuda because of tiny red organisms that grow beneath the coral reefs just off the shore. When they die and fall to the ocean floor, the organisms mingle with bits of coral and crushed shell that are washed onto the beach and make the sand appear an otherworldly shade of pink.
Rocking my new Michael Kors bikini in Bermuda’s South beaches.
Look at this amazing location a la Vanna White at Bermuda’s South beaches.

Literally starting the week we were there, we went to a street fair which had the native dancers on the street. Since there is not stone native to the island, I bought some pink sand earrings. Bermuda is an interesting mix of old world culture and British prim and proper ways. Men wore suit jackets with the Bermuda shorts and socks up to their knees with loafers. Uber and Lfyt are not allowed, all tours go though the tourism board only and AirBnB rentals are sparse. It’s very government controlled and squeaky clean unlike Caribbean countries.

The Gombey is an iconic symbol of Bermuda, this folklife tradition reflecting the island’s blend of African, Caribbean and British cultures, incorporating them over time into a unique performance art full of colorful and intricate masquerade, dance and drumming.

Always obsessed with caves, that was on my can’t miss bucket list and lucky me, there was not one but three caves all interconnected and one available to go swimming inside!

Crystal Cave is an underground cave in the British overseas territory of Bermuda. It is located in Hamilton Parish, close to Castle Harbour. The cave is approximately 500 m long, and 62 m deep. The lower 19-20 m of the cave are below water level.
Fantasy cave was my favorite with its sprawling length and the water connected to the Crystal Cave next door.
The Crystal caves beauty from the steps leading down which were very narrow and winding.
My pasty white self enjoying a swim in the natural public caves that connect to Crystal and Fantasy caves. People were cliff jumping about 20 feet into the water as well.
Our last adventure at sea was going snorkeling over the many shipwrecks that got caught on coral reefs in Bermuda.

Our voyage back was a little rocky as we headed into a severe storm that forced the crew to board up some lower deck windows but we made it home safe and sound! Would I go again? You betcha. But next time, I’ll be flying and staying for a week. And maybe this time they will allow us to rent mopeds (we were two blondes denied access probably for the best)!

Falling in Love with Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Since I was a teen, I wanted to live a bi-coastal life with my favorite seasons on the East Coast (Spring, Summer and Fall) and escape chilly Philly to somewhere warm in the winter (usually California and sometimes Florida). Perhaps I don’t own any warm weather property (yet) however I can escape the cold to the land of sunshine and lollipops, especially now that my back is fixed up with no pain and I’m literally less than 5 degrees curved now from scoliosis fusion surgery! So this trip was extra special and an encouragement from my Scoliosis Inspire & Inform group to take a one-year “Spineaversary” to celebrate being back to my healthy self yet again. And that I did!

One of my best friends from Penn State University lives in the ‘burbs of Los Angeles while her family (nicknamed my California family) lives in the hills of Poway, outside of San Diego, CA. I had Mexico on my mind for months and decided to lump the trip together to make a sort of vacation/modeling/acting/back to vacation/visiting my California family trip. I started out in Del Mar after flying SouthWest and taking an Uber (funny fact, Uber is cheaper on the West Coast while Lyft is cheaper on the East Coast even though both based out of California).  Staying at the Hilton Del Mar for 3 nights kicked off my trip, which is being upgraded with a sweet outdoor oasis. The best parts were the convenient complimentary shuttle in a 5 mile radius and the hot tub every night with views of the stars. The worst part was when I was taking cell phone shots with my Samsung Galaxy S7 of the ocean creeping into the sand, the water hit my feet and I instinctively dropped the phone – into the waves – and fortunately saw the black sparkle case beneath the surf and saved my phone from certain Wilson style death. It still worked but boy was my heart racing because I was leaving for Mexico the next day! Later on I was stressing over the fact it wouldn’t hold a charge as “moisture was detected” but thankfully by the end of the long day, it was working fine… so they are water resistant but we’ll see how long the phone lives now with some salt water residue.

Arriving at the airport “5 minutes late but it’s no big deal” after breakfast with an old high school friend and his wife, Alaska Airlines sucked with their baggage fee and only one bathroom available on board (I also got stopped and swabbed on the way back)! But when I arrived, I was instantly in love. Our hour long shuttle took us to the marina where I was spending the next 5 days in luxury paradise at adults only Breathless Resorts at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Located on the tip of the marina with views of Land’s End, it was perfect for walking, shopping, exploring and pretty much everything you could need within walking distance including a private beach to snorkel, paddle board and kayak.

The view from my bedroom balcony at sunset in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Photo by Cassie Hepler
From the VIP deck view at Breathless Resorts at sunset in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Photo by Cassie Hepler
Land’s End at sunset in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Photo by Cassie Hepler
Cassie Hepler enjoying dinner with a view every night outside at Breathless Resorts in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
The following day was the one day it was raining in months in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico so I went on a tour at Secrets, a sister resort away from the marina and more secluded. Photo by Cassie Hepler
A storm rolls in  at Secrets in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico during my tour at the sister resort away from the marina and more secluded. Photo by Cassie Hepler
Without the storm, this photo would have never happened. It made for perfect napping weather and as soon as it passed, so did my tiredness. Photo by Cassie Hepler
A whale watching tour brought us by Cabo San Lucas Land’s End in Mexico. Photo by Cassie Hepler
Lazy seals and sea lions became pets to some locals at Cabo San Lucas Land’s End in Mexico. Photo by Cassie Hepler
I went on a whale watching tour and almost cried out of joy when I caught this extremely rare photo of a mother whale jumping out of the water right after her baby in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. February is migrating and mating season for a slew of whale species. Photo by Cassie Hepler
Eventually I got into the vacation groove and became much like this solo sea lion sunbathing on this rock. Photo by Cassie Hepler
Of course I had to do some modeling while in such a beautiful location and partnered up with young and very talented Stephanie Poth Photography in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Stephanie Poth Photography caught the perfect angle of Cassie Hepler’s beloved sombrero with Land’s End in the background in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Cassie Hepler rocking her scoliosis scar on the private beach at Breathless Resorts in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Cassie Hepler playing in the water on the private beach at Breathless Resorts in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Cassie Hepler rinsing off the sand in the outdoor showers by the private beach at Breathless Resorts in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Stephanie Poth Photography
Stephanie Poth Photography was all in for the golden powder photoshoot in the endless pool at Breathless Resorts in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Overall it was one of the best vacations of my life. Would I go back? In a heartbeat. And is it safe for women? Most definitely. I even carried my purse around with no fear and went on a bar crawl with the fun resort entertainment crew my first night. But to really know Cabo is to make some local friends (which I did) and return with a local tour guide where you won’t see another gringo (or gringa) besides yourself. Take a Pepto Bismol every morning, don’t drink the tap water but try some local cuisine. Drink the tequila, do all the tastings, enjoy the laid back vibe and live on “Mexican time”. It’s delightful.

Juicing Doesn’t Have to Suck With Pure Green Juices and Smoothies

The key to juicing is not to “juice” – you know when you just drink liquids in a hope that fat will melt off your ass magically somehow. The key is to using it as a supplement – i.e. a replacement for lunch or breakfast if you can swing it (I love my protein in the morning however). They even have a coffee with almond milk one. Just eat healthy the rest of the day. And even though these juices that arrived a little later than the new year, they are keeping me healthy, happy and the dreaded winter plague away!

Pure Green Juice & Smoothies are handcrafted from all fresh fruit and vegetables through a cold press process which preserves live enzymes, vitamins and minerals to purely nourish your body. With a mission to transition the mainstream population into a healthy lifestyle, all Pure Green locations around Manhattan strive to provide customers with sustainable energy throughout the day, whether it be in the form of a cold pressed juice, made-to-order smoothie, or nutrient rich acai bowls. Pure Green promises to restore your energy and recharge your life through simple, fresh, delicious ingredients. Pure Green also offers customized cleanses with consultation from Pure Coaches. 

Founder and CEO Ross Franklin, a health and wellness expert, and one of the guys behind the popular cold press juice brand, Liquiteria, founded Pure Green in 2014. His passion and dedication have led him to create a brand with Pure Green that focuses on not just health, but something that is easy, fun and attainable. Franklin is driven to continue his expansion and take Pure Green to become an international world-class brand.

Current NYC Pure Green locations include: Greenwich Village, Murray Hill, Financial District & Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Pure Green is set to open two new locations this month in Tribeca & the East Village! Plans for Pure Green Upper East Side and Williamsburg are underway, along with 2 of the first locations outside of New York. I’m praying for Philly because my NurtiBullet is not getting any love lately. And let’s face it, juices (and food) tastes better when someone else does it. Happy juicing!

Here’s How To Have Unlimited Networking Contacts

There is really no big secret to networking. Yet people make it seems like it’s some mysterious endless array of pay-as-you-go business mixers that usually leaves them deflated and uninspired. Don’t be silly. You can literally network everywhere you go. All you need is some inspiration.

People (even my niece) said to me, “You have a friend who does everything,” and in part that is true. I have been building a network of professionals, creatives and friends since I moved to Philadelphia in 2006. But the key element of that is the follow-up. No matter if I’m going to a private dinner or a gala, I’m always networking, giving out and collecting business cards. Giving them out may get you a Google search and some hits on your social media accounts. But few people actually reach out to connect beyond that any further. This is where you can stand out and be different. Take that stack of cards out of the trash and actually reach out to the people on the cards. Email them with a Subject line of “Nice to meet you at LIST LOCATION/EVENT HERE” so you can remember where you met and it doesn’t become one big confusing mess. I also have three email addresses – one for writing and blogging, one for social media and one for modeling and acting. Creating a “Networking” folder is key and using searchable terms in the email creates consistency and makes it easy to find people you need in a pinch. For instance, if you meet an accountant, make sure to use that in the email such as “I may need an accountant someday and would love to keep in touch.” That way your email already saves it as a sent message with the easily searchable keyword of accountant. If people don’t reply (which happens), don’t worry. Just move on.

And of course sometimes you need to be “off” so you can just enjoy the moment wherever you are. But don’t miss an opportunity to connect with someone amazing because you were feeling antisocial that day! A couple minutes of your time may give you that “in” you’ve been looking for and you can always politely excuse yourself and promise to follow up at a later date.

Yes, I have actually reached out to all these people who are now locked in my email.

Do not use social media as a way to network. Facebook has those annoying little pop up messengers, Twitter is too limited and Instagram and Snapchat messages… it just gets to be too much. You can start initial contacts and get leads there but take it to email when it starts panning out. Trust me, it will keep you sane and also weed out the people who are not serious and want to waste your time.

There are three types of people in this world: givers, takers and matchers, according to psychologist Adam Grant. Takers get called out eventually for always taking, givers need to learn to reign it in and matchers are the best place to be as you are always trying to help others.

Whenever I think in my head, “these two people need to meet,” I instantly email connect them whether or not I am getting anything out of it (good karma maybe?) Granted, I do not always remember names (I could actually use an assistant for this) but I never forget a face. And that goes a long way. Don’t stumble, just say hello with a handshake or a hug, depending on how well you know each other and ask how they are doing. Usually someone else will say their name or their clues of current life events will tip your memory off to the name of the person you are speaking with.

Along the lines of givers and takers, I have experienced both. Mainly the takers try to come and bleed me dry being a matcher and sometimes too much of a giver (I’m working on that one). I had a taker who became fast friends with me a few years back. I’m usually one to screen people first but because she was a friend of a friend, I thought she was a solid person and let her in my circle. Big mistake. This “friend” was only there for what I could give her which was tagging along to media events, media dinners and getting free things from me. When I would ask her to do something in return for my blogs, she would complain and throw a hissy fit like a child. Eventually her greed cost me a job and that was one life lesson I will never forget! There was also the time a taker came into my life after a mutual friend had passed away and we connected. Soon after I found out she was using all my contacts for her own blog posts and even representing herself as the editor/contact for my babies, Explore-Philly.com and Explore-NJ.com. Needless to say, she was kicked off the sites and out of my life just in time as she tried to log in days later no doubt to cause a ruckus. Recently I joined a West Philly newspaper as assistant editor and soon found out I was with a whole group of takers who bounced checks, didn’t pay me my full weekly salary and more hassles. I decided to cut my losses asap and quit. Big surprise, they shorted my last mailed check yet again but I’ll leave that up to karma now.

Sometimes you just have to move on and let your sparkle shine. Now carry on friends and network the heck out of the new year! Happy connections to you all.

‘Tis the Season for Modeling, Photography Scammers & Catfishing

One thing a lot of people ask me as an established model/actress/photographer and vetted journalist is how to spot a scammer. Well, fortunately for you, I have been getting hit hard lately. And the scams are getting more and more complex with legit looking websites, one person who got targeted by scammers even had to put a disclaimer on his website and even friends trying to sell off their beloved vintage furniture for a move cross country are getting hit. I’ll break it down for you so you can see the email/text pattern (there is never a direct phone call made, red flag number one), the horrible writing style (like that of a 5-10 year old usually) and the fun you can have in the end messing with these scammers!

Subject: Model Needed
Jamie Bright
Fri 8/26, 3:12 PM
Hello, 
I saw your contact email on Model Mayhem website and I am interested in working with you. I am a professional photographer and I have a client who needs a catalog update for a new magazine release. If you are interested in working with me kindly email me back so I can give you more information about the shoot. 
Thanks
Jamie Bright Photography
Modeling Scam Website
Modeling Scam Website
This seems like a normal email with proper English used, a website and more information available, But once you click on the website (based in Florida) and call the number, it goes to a text voicemail option (Scammer red flag number one). They even have a Facebook which made me reply, it really did look legit. But read on…
Hello Cassie,
 
Your email was received and it shows you are willing to be a part of the shoot. This first edition of my client’s magazine will be shot in around your area on the 7th of September, 2016 and the crew is expected to be available from 9am till the end of the shoot, which should be by 4pm.
 
The shoots will be used for the magazine pages and the pictures will also be exhibited on the magazine website. Therefore, you are required to be flexible, reliable, self-motivated, enthusiastic, with a professional appearance and a passion for delivering exceptional service. You must have excellent interpersonal, communication and listening skills. You should also have up-to-date knowledge of available make-up kits and beauty products.
 
You will be paid $900 for your service with a 50% deposit on agreement. In the rare case of overtime, you will be paid $100/hr for the overtime.
Responsibilities:
 
You will be responsible for the purchase of the outfits you will be using for this photo shoot from the wardrobe stylist we have hired for this shoot.
 
NB: Funds will be made available to you for the purchase of the outfits.
 
You stand a chance of making a reasonable amount from this deal, and even a noticeable fame. I believe that it will be a positive experience for you especially if you are looking to expand your portfolio.
 
Kindly let me know if you are fully willing to accept this job offer and can meet the above responsibilities listed.
 
Thanks
Immediately red flags were going off left and right after the more extensive email. “My client’s magazine will be shot in around your area” is red flag number one. There is no name of the magazine and no location for said “photoshoot”.  “You will be responsible for the purchase of the outfits you will be using for this photo shoot from the wardrobe stylist we have hired for this shoot. NB: Funds will be made available to you for the purchase of the outfits.” Nowhere in the history of photoshoots will a model ever purchase outfits for a shoot from a wardrobe stylist because that is a wardrobe stylist’s job – to provide you and the photographer with looks. “You stand a chance of making a reasonable amount from this deal, and even a noticeable fame. I believe that it will be a positive experience for you especially if you are looking to expand your portfolio.” No one should have to sell you on a photoshoot, you should see the value right away and know if it is worth your time and energy. When I responded with my cell phone number multiple times saying call me, no one ever did. BIG surprise.
Next up we have an email from someone with the subject CASTING CALL in all caps. Right off the bat, don’t yell at me!
Seeking : MALE & FEMALE ACTOR/MODELS FOR AIZEL COMMERCIAL SHOOT
Event Date 1 : September 26th 2016 and September 27th 2016
Event Date 2 : October 7th 2016 and October 8th 2016
Compensation : Paid (Negotiable)
Nudity: Not ApplicableHelloGood day,We got your contact from modelmayhem and i wish to inform you that BlueRay Photography has an interest in working with you, We are Looking for Males and females for the First Quarter year sales  commercial  video advert/Co-operate Photo Shoots, We strongly wish you will honor this invitation. If interested, and available for any of the above dates (Either Event Date 1 or Event Date 2 ) , please contact us via e-mail and be sure to Include your current location in other to be considered for immediate booking and you will be provided with additional details. (bluerayphotos000@gmail.com).Warmest Regards,
Tom Bullard
Event Director
BlueRay Photography®
www.BlueRayPhotos.com

Notice how the English is horrible, the syntax is painful for an editor like me and the very idea is absurd. Being the girlspy that I am, I played along (and find somewhat sadistic pleasure in messing with these people). So say someone didn’t click on the website link and did respond (and if they did, the URL changes to http://ww17.bluerayphotos.com/ a non-existent website immediately.
Modeling Scam Website
Modeling Scam Website
When I respond with what is your phone number so we can discuss (already knowing this is a scam but playing along), I get this email below.

Hello Cassie

Thanks for reaching out in regards to the upcoming shoot notice,   it would be an honor to work with you. BlueRay Photography ; is a leader in professional photography, specializing in portraiture and commercial photography. We have built a distinguished reputation for providing quality service while producing a superior product with highly trained staff of professionals, we have both the knowledge and expertise to create and capture the perfect image of you. And here we are again, calling for an upcoming commercial ad shoot to market collective second Quarter year sales catalog for attires, Bags, Shoes and Purses for our reputable Russian based client (AIZEL) who believes in fashionable life style.

About AIZEL

Multibrand boutique, Aizel, and its online sister, Aizel 24/7, embody the concept of modern, upmarket shopping. A hot spot for Russian design talents and a much-talked about shopping place, Aizel is the creation of Aizel Trudel, a representative of Christian Louboutin and Diane von Furstenberg in Russia. Unsurprisingly, the Aizel stores stock the aforementioned brands, and offer an enviable selection of such renowned designers as Stella McCartney, Victoria Beckham, Oscar de la Renta and Mary Katrantzou. Aizel has also collaborated with established Russian brands Viva Vox, A La Russe, Walk of Shame and LUBLU Kira Plastinina, amongst others. and that is why they have decided BlueRay Photography for their Commercial advert work nationwide. For more information, please visit http://www.Aizel.ru/

The Commercial Photos Is For What ? This project is aimed at featuring a large collection of designer Bags, shoes, apparel and accessories and other items from various designers and manufacturers, to be displayed in an online Media ad and Electronic billboards nationwide. Our obligation in respect to this piece of project is to generate some marketable commercial advertisement to feature these items, where all models will pose with the various items and exhibit a commercial character to attract consumer’s attention. It’s very simple and works the same as any typical promotional or commercial advert shoot. The end product from the commercial shoot is an online Media ad, Electronic Billboards and Network Medias that would convince the public to make these collection a top choice among others.

* The event Date :  Event Date 1 : September 26th 2016 and September 27th 2016  in case that is not a convenient day for you we can reschedule for October 7th 2016 and October 8th 2016

* Time : 10 A.M. – 3 P.M
* Nudity : No
* No level of experience is required. (Free Model Coach available upon request).

*Compensation : The Total money pay for the job is USD 7,500 (Tax deduct-able) and you will get $500 as your advance/upfront booking fee and balance of USD 7,000 will be payed immediately after the completion of the commercial shoot and this $7000 also covers for the right of Aizel and BlueRay to use all your Commercial videos/Commercial Shoots made for our own commercial interest for the period of 3 months. That means Aizel and BlueRay are entitled to use the produced shoot for advert work for the period of 3 months only and this will be backed up by a contract. (Advance/Booking ($500) + Usage rights and Services ($7,000) = $7,500

*Location/Venue of event: The shooting will hold at a rented studio in your location – (we shall arrange a suitable Studio and convey its detail to you unanimously.)

We’ll be responsible for your hair do, Make Up artist and transportation, except for your wardrobe/costume that will be shipped to you directly from a contracted fashion stylist in charge. Also, note that the payment for your wardrobe will be made available by us and your clothing measurements has to be forwarded to the fashion stylist, REASON being that, the payment for your wardrobe has to be made or billed to your Name/info as requested and acceptable business terms by the Fashion stylist, to ENSURE a tallied customization and label to be printed on your costumes. (Read this Paragraph again)

In addition, an advanced deposit/upfront pay of $500 shall be mailed to you to insure your engagement on the upcoming cast with us in line with our business ethics. However, you will NOT only receive a paycheck of $500 but also an EXTRA amount that you will use to pay for your wardrobe/Costume bills which you will forward to the Fashion stylist in charge of your Wardrobe/Costume along with your measurements.

Actors/Models may attend the shoot with their choice of Friends/Parents/Manager/Spouse/Guardian (maximum of two) and should not arrive audition later than 9:30 a.m. to commence make-ups and attend a brief introductory class about the proposed project and shoot starts by 10:15 a.m. This shoot is going to be fun as different acting characters maybe involved, which is the real sense of this project. Take the courage to participate in this paid and legitimate offer as we look forward to working with you.

Final Note : we recommend that you read the content above OVER AGAIN and do not hesitate to ask question if any. Actors/Models are selected based on their willingness to participate and their agreement to the content of this Paid event and readiness to work hard with us. Below are the required Payment and Sign-up details you are to forward to us for filling and to mail you the aforementioned Paycheck for your Upfront and Wardrobe bills:

———————————————————————————————————————————-

INFO NEEDED
1. Your full name
2. Physical address (No P.O.box),
3. City,State
4. Zip code
5. Home contact (Home phone number and Cellphone number)
6. Your age
7. Previous working Experience,
8. 2 Picture photographs.
9. Reference
10. Other Websites where we can find your online profiles ?

———————————————————————————————————————————-

Do not hesitate to ask any question if any concerning the detail above. I hope to read from you as soon as possible and we look forward to working with you on this project. Have a wonderful day ahead!

Warmest Regards,

Tom Bullard
Project Director
BlueRay Photography®
www.BlueRayPhotos.com

Obviously it was the words “hair do” that did this email scammer in. Haha! For no photoshoot ever did anyone front me money for anything. A deposit for photography and/or modeling is common to hold the date however my guess is this “check” would have somehow wiped out your bank account. How they do that, I have no clue. But they can try through your Paypal or other online money account as well. If anyone can’t make a phone call and wants to front you money like a weed dealer, again it’s probably a scam. Rule of thumb, if it’s too good to be true it probably is, your momma was right (again)!

This next one looks pretty much the same as the last one, down to the lengthy rambling email and makes-no-sense writing style.

Hello
My name is Steven Castle, I saw your contact on Model Mayhem and I am interested in working with you.
I am a professional photographer, we are calling for an upcoming commercial ad shoot to market collective new, creative and colorful iPhone 7 cases for our reputable client (Ulmart) who believes in fashionable life style along side with technology.
If you are interested in working with me kindly email me back so I can give you more information about the shooting.
Regards,
Steven Castle
Owner / Photographer
Steven Castle Photography
Modeling scam website
Modeling scam website

The website looks legit, even has a celebrity modeling some high couture fashion on his portfolio pages. But again, one phone call to the number listed and it’s a digital text number. No professional photographer is going to miss possible clients like that! But of course I email back with feigned interest.

Hello,
Thanks for reaching out in regards to the upcoming shoot notice, it would be an honor to work with you. Steven Castle Photography; is into Fashion Advertising, Short Gigs/Film casting, Local Casting , Extras and Real People Casting , Crowd and Audience Casting , Taping services for actors and models who need to be auditioned for other shows working in North America & Europe, Canada, specializing in Fashion Photography and casting / Advertising Photography / Automotive Photography / Editorial Photography / Beauty Photography / Portrait Photography / Celebrity Photography / Studio Photography / Location / Catalogs / Magazine Editorial Assignments Fashion & Advertising Photographer / Art Director / Director of Photography / Creative Director.
 And here we are again, calling for an upcoming commercial ad shoot to market collective new, creative and colorful iPhone cases for our reputable Russian based client (Ulmart) who believes in fashionable life style along side with technology
About Ulmart
Ulmart is one of Forbes top-20 Russian online retailers.
Revenue : $1021 million
Founded : 2008
Website: Ulmart.ru
Employees : 6500
Figures : 10 million people are currently involved in loyalty programs.
Ownership : Its co-founders, St. Petersburg entrepreneurs Alex Nikitin and Sergei Fedorinov. In 2008, Nikitin’s company “Kimbrig” bought bankrupt “Ultra Electronics” and opened the first “Ulmart” store. 2 years later, the project raised investment: 60% of the business is now owned by Dmitri Kostigin and Avgust Meyer, who formerly owned “Lenta,” while 40% belongs to Nikitin and Michael Basinkevicha. Fedorinov holds the post of general director.
Business : Sells “everything you can plug in to the mains”,and accessories. You can order the product on the website, by phone or go to stores themselves.
Last year : More than 400,000 orders were delivered directly to customers.
For more information, please visit http://Ulmart.ru
 The Commercial Photos Is For What ? This project is aimed at featuring a large collection of new iPhone7 cases from various designers and manufacturers, to be displayed in an online Media ad and Electronic billboards nationwide. Our obligation in respect to this piece of project is to generate some marketable commercial advertisement to feature these iPhone cases, where all models will pose with the various iPhone7 cases and exhibit a commercial character to attract consumer’s attention. It’s very simple and works the same as any typical promotional or commercial advert shoot. The end product from the commercial shoot is an online Media ad, Electronic Billboards and Network Medias that would convince the public to make these collection a top choice among others.
* The event Date : Event Date 1 : October 28th – 30th 2016 in case that is not a convenient day for you we can reschedule for November 4th – 6th 2016
* Time : 10 A.M. – 1 P.M
* Nudity : No
* No level of experience is required. (Free Model Coach,hair stylist,wardrobe stylist and Make up Artist available upon request)
*Compensation : The Total money pay for the jobs is $1400 (Tax deduct-able) and you will get $500 as your advance/upfront booking fee and balance of $900 will be paid immediately after the completion of the commercial shoot, a brand new iPhone 7Plus and this $1400, also covers for the right of Ulmart and Steven Castle Photography to use all your Commercial videos/Commercial Shoots made for our own commercial interest for the period of 3 months. That means Ulmart and Steven Castle Photography are entitled to use the produced shoot for advert work for the period of 3 months only and this will be backed up by a contract. (Advance/Booking ($500) + Usage rights and Services ($900) =$1400 + A Brand new iPhone 7Plus.
*Location/Venue of event : The shooting will hold at a studio – (we shall arrange a suitable Studio and convey its detail to you unanimously 72 hours to the shoot date as part of our company security policy)
  We’ll be responsible for your hair do, Make Up artist and transportation, except for your wardrobe/costume that will be shipped to you directly from a contracted fashion stylist in charge. Also, note that the payment for your wardrobe will be made available by us and your clothing measurements has to be forwarded to the fashion stylist, REASON being that, the payment for your wardrobe has to be made or billed to your Name/info as requested and acceptable business terms by the Fashion stylist, to ENSURE a detailed customization and label to be printed on your costumes. (Read this Paragraph again Please)
  In addition, an advanced deposit/upfront pay of $500 shall be mailed to you to insure your engagement on the upcoming cast with us in line with our business ethics. However, you will NOT only receive a paycheck of $500 but also an EXTRA amount that you will use to pay for your wardrobe/Costume bills which you will forward to the Fashion stylist in charge of your Wardrobe/Costume along with your measurements, In other words , Steven Castle Photography and Ulmart will provide all financial materials as regards this gig is concerned and you don’t have to pay for anything.
 Actors/Models may attend the shoot with their choice of Friends/Parents/Manager/Spouse/Guardian (maximum of two) and should not arrive audition later than 9:30 a.m. to commence make-ups and attend a brief introductory class about the proposed project and shoot starts by 10:15 a.m. This shoot is going to be fun as different acting characters maybe involved, which is the real sense of this project. Take the courage to participate in this paid and legitimate offer as we look forward to a successful working relationship with you.
 Final Note : we recommend that you read the content above OVER AGAIN. Actors/Models are selected based on their willingness to participate and their agreement to the content of this Paid Event and readiness to work hard with us. Below are the required Payment and Sign-up details you are to forward to us for filling and, to mail you the aforementioned Paycheck for your Upfront and Wardrobe bills:
——————————————————————————
INFO NEEDED
1. Your full name
2. Physical address (No P.O.box),
3. City,State
4. Zip code
5. Home contact (Home phone number and Cellphone number)
6. Your age
7. Previous working Experience,
8. 2 Picture photographs.
9. Reference
10. Other Websites where we can find your online profiles ?
—————————————————————————–
I hope to read from you as soon as possible and we look forward to working with you on this project. Have a wonderful day ahead!
Best Regards,
Steven Castle
Owner / Photographer
Steven Castle Photography
Again a horribly written email with money up front, almost the exact same format as the previous and makes no logical sense. And again, I asked to be contacting over the phone and no response.
Perhaps the most messed up experience I’ve had is one for photography by a far better scammer who used texting as his tool. He claimed to have needed a photographer for a family reunion in the suburbs of Philadelphia and was happy to pay my day rate. When he was evasive about the location, I grew suspicious. He then claimed he was in the hospital with an ear infection (thus why he couldn’t talk on the phone, I told him let me talk to your nurse) and needed someone to pay the party planners after he forwarded the money. I told him I was not comfortable doing that and then the claws came out, asking me why I wouldn’t help someone in need, etc. I told him to go f&%k himself and go scam someone else and he got even nastier. I called the number and it went to voice text yet again. That one was the most annoying as I had spent hours emailing and texting and wasting my time/life! But this is the job of an entrepreneur, sniffing out bad apples and keeping snakes at bay. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I won’t even get started on the guy who tried to Catfish me through Facebook, claiming he was friends with a bunch of gorgeous models and foreign “football” players!
Hopefully my stories can help your Spidey sense detect a scam from a mile away and save you some grief.

Back in Almost Full Action from Scoliosis Fusion Surgery

I would say at this point, 6 months from scoliosis fusion surgery I am about 90 percent healed. The numbness above my right butt cheek has shrunk down even more and it is not numb anymore on the right front of my pelvis. Dr. Heller said it will continue to go away until I forget about it altogether. I can’t imagine ever forgetting it completely. However, I’m sure there will be vacation days of travel and wonder ahead that will keep my mind occupied on the beauty of the world. I am also officially allowed to twist 25 percent now which certainly makes driving and swimming easier, although the Jersey Shore ocean waves are still a challenge so far.

And the best news of all… my spine now measures 16.5 degrees (before it was 53 degrees lower lumbar and 23 above). A normal spine is within a 10 degree range. I am almost normal (but was never really normal which is fine with me)!

My scoliosis fusion as of August 2016 with a measure of 16.5 degree curve.
My scoliosis fusion as of August 2016 with a measure of 16.5 degree curve.

I have noticed, as has my massage therapist John H. from Soothe.com, that when he massaged my back in the numb spot, it turns red. We assume it is because of the blood coming back to the nerves which is never a bad thing! He is still not allowed to massage anywhere near my spine scar within a three inch radius as the bone will continue to graft for the full year. I also noticed my Freddy Krueger slash on my right side gets a little red and splotchy sometimes too after exercise.

This is John H. from Soothe.com who comes about once a month, sets up his table and hypnotic music and tames my back since before and after surgery.
This is John H. from Soothe.com who comes about once a month, sets up his table and hypnotic music and tames my back since before and after surgery. Now the focus is more on my shoulders and neck since that is the part taking all the movement nowadays.

The reason I am doing so well is because I have a team of people supporting me and making sure I am well taken care of including these guys, Terry and Steve, from NovaCare in Bala Cynwyd. I see them about once a week and they have taken me from weak to strong, both mentally and physically. Terry likes to torture me so I say we schedule on torture Tuesdays or Thursdays with Terry. Steve was gaining credits for grad school and is done now but you can find his smiling face at Roxborough Creamery slinging ice cream when not down the shore. Terry is leaving at the end of this month and sadly, so am I. I think I will return for monthly checkins however am doing fine on my own and visiting the gym, doing yoga and planks as much as possible as well as improvising the awesome app SworkIt when there’s no time for the gym. It’s the end of an era but this is a good thing!

Novacare rehabilitation physical therapists Terry, left, and Steve were always keeping me in tip top shape, even doing planking contests with me.
Novacare rehabilitation physical therapists Terry, left, and Steve were always keeping me in tip top shape, even doing planking contests with me.

I asked Dr. Heller what to do to extend the life of my spine since there will be more wear and tear on the top and bottom vertebrae. He said running is jarring for anyone, to not gain weight “don’t get fat”, keep my core strong, no chiropractic neck cracking anymore (darn) and not to lift heavy things. So that’s the plan until my year mark in February 2017 when I will be able to fully twist and am totally healed.

In the meantime though, I have been enjoying the health benefits of having a straight spine and strong core with my modeling.

Cassie Hepler modeling some couture lingerie. Photo by BE Photography
Cassie Hepler modeling some couture lingerie. Photo by BE Photography

Obviously if you scroll down in my blog, you will see a huge difference in my waist, physique and more from the before shots. It is exciting to be back in action and I’ve been making the most of it! The plan this year is to get some fitness shots as well since I am not allowed to expose my scars in the sun for a year, it’s all one piece bathing suits so far. But next year, watch out! Maybe a bikini debut in Mexico, we will see! Speaking of fun in the sun, I realized I was a little too pale for summer lately so I was thankful to my friends at Skinny Tan for sending me a kit to bronze myself without looking orange and ruining my pasty white complexion.

The Skinny Tan kit contains all the essentials for a good looking tan without becoming orange.
The Skinny Tan kit contains all the essentials for a good looking tan without becoming orange. The bronzer comes in handy for those pesky bathing suit straps and legs on the go while the body mousse is another quick full body fix that lasts a little longer. The 7 day tan I will be delving into with some help from my friends on vacation in September to Long Beach Island. I’ll have that sun kissed glow without the skin damage!
And look how tan I look here from it with my brother from another mother Jason Doran at Stratus Lounge when he won Sexy Singles 2016.
And look at the healthy glow of the Skinny Tan with my brother from another mother Jason Doran at Stratus Lounge when he won Sexy Singles 2016.

Speaking of healthy glow, I also got some help from an excellent line of makeup as well, Nakeah Cosmetics. Lip stains in two of my favorite shades, red and pale pink, were perfect as I hate reapplying lipstick all night long. Who has time for that anyway? I actually used the lip liner they sent me as eyebrow pencil for when it’s really humid out (which is all the time in Philly) and it doesn’t move until I wipe it off. Now that’s what a girl wants.

Nakeah Cosmetics Make Up Samples
Nakeah Cosmetics sent me some of my favorite lip stain shades to sample and I loved the long lasting wear with minimal flaking aspect.

And I’m also looking forward to getting back in the photography and well as business consulting groove. I have so many people ask me to pick my brain or help them start or energize their careers, I added it to my pricing page as an option, check it out! My friend, Jay Doran, above in the photo in white and blue with me, came to me for a photoshoot before he even moved to the area. We got some great, friendly shots of him to use for wherever he ends up (most likely a millionaire motivational speaker is my guess) but I wanted to share some photography as well. My lovely artistic and musically talented friend, Bonita Adele, will be back for our annual fall photos soon.

Jason Doran models a nice, friendly relaxed pose. Photo by Cassie Hepler
Jason Doran models a nice, friendly relaxed pose. Photo by Cassie Hepler
Since Jason Doran is heavily into fitness, it only made sense to show off his guns and those baby blues. Photo by Cassie Hepler
Since Jason Doran is heavily into fitness and the mind body connection, it only made sense to show off his guns and those baby blues too. Photo by Cassie Hepler

On another note, keep an eye out for some amazing fashion designs from the lovely Victoria Wright this fall with me modeling them! And a trip to NYC this fall as well to continue working with Healthy Guru after the amazing Hamptons trip this summer. And this just in – I will be sponsoring and photographing a red carpet wellness event this fall with The Wellness Universe. Remember you can always follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as well as Snapchat (I’m cassie.hepler) for instant updates. Until next time!

Progression of a Model & Actress: How I Got Into Modeling & Acting

This is by far one of the most frequent questions I get from models, photographers, strangers, coworkers… pretty much everyone. So I wanted to share my story which may help inspire others to chase their dreams.

I was sitting at a corner cafe in Paris enjoying my beer blanche de bruxelles when someone stopped me on the street and said, wow you should be a model/actress!

Me circa 2008 at a corner cafe in Paris.
Me circa 2008 at a corner cafe in Paris, France.

Just kidding! That’s the cliche and not the norm (although that’s usually how runway models seem to tell the tale).  My story is a more DIY tale much like me.

I was attending college at Penn State University, obtaining my communications degree in journalism with a minor in English. There was a website way before MySpace and Facebook called Friendster (do any other computer geeks remember that as well as a very antiquated chat program on green screen?). Anyway, I had posted some horrible, grainy quality photos of myself taken with the world’s biggest digital camera as my profile picture and some more for good measure. Shortly thereafter, I received a message from a photographer based out of Maryland who asked me if I ever thought about modeling? I said sure, of course I have. And ironically when I was in a car accident when I was 16 where the car rolled and my shoulder got eaten by the back window, fixed with stitches that now looks like it spells out “Slayer”, I psychically thought as it was healing, what about my modeling career?

So he suggested doing a photoshoot and would pay me. I agreed but only if my roommate could tag along as she was a photography major, take pics of us shooting and be my escort. He agreed and we went to the shoot, were greeted by tons of wardrobe, food, wine… pretty much whatever we wanted. It was a great shoot and a fun time and I still have pics of it somewhere in a photo album. He then suggested putting those photos onto the modeling Facebook of the time, OneModelPlace.com and being my mentor. I happily agreed as modeling was much better than doing any work study program or working at AccuWeather as I had been (the parental deal was college was paid for, I would pay my own living expenses however). But I soon found out State College, Pa. is smack dab in the middle of nowhere-ville and needed to travel to get work which usually led me to Philly, Pittsburgh or surrounding states.

Eventually I ended up in Philadelphia, taking a copy editor job at The Times Herald in Norristown and making my home base Manayunk, which is safe and has easy access to the trains and highway. And that’s when things started taking off for me. A new website, ModelMayhem.com had emerged offering a better networking and casting experience.

Some of my first modeling shots when I moved to Philadelphia were with Scott Church, who went to school with my best friend and roomie.
Some of my first modeling shots when I moved to Philadelphia were with Scott Church, who went to school with my best friend and roomie. I also had a love obsession with two tone hair at that time.IMG_0016small

Networking through ModelMayhem.com had really given me the mileage and reach I needed to contact top photographers in NYC, DC and Philly easily. Being a “plus model” and bouncing from a size 8 to the largest size 14 in college, I am steadily at an 8-10 nowadays (and especially after scoliosis surgery in February 2016). On the East Coast, the plus size is smaller (like my size) and on the West Coast it is larger. But being a plus model is more difficult, which means you have to work twice as hard as the straight, standard sized models (size 0-2) to book gigs. I just took it as a challenge to help change the idea of beauty to a healthy standard (normal sized women in the U.S. are size 12 on average). Besides, strong is the new sexy!

A shoot with Synthetic Shadows in 2016 in my old bedroom.
A shoot with Synthetic Shadows in 2016 in my old bedroom. Recently I shot with someone again from 2008 and he said my face is so different now. I can see that but for the better I hope!
A haunting fashion shot with Rick Pickert Photography back in 2015 when I was a brunette. I think I make a better blond.
A haunting fashion and jewelry shot with Rick Pickert Photography back in 2015 when I was a brunette. I think I make a better blond.
Kevin Loreaux reached out to me via ModelMayhem in 2006 and we have been shooting steadily since.
Kevin Loreaux reached out to me via ModelMayhem in 2006 and we have been shooting steadily since with a few publications under our belt nowadays.
Photo by Kevin Loreaux.
Photo by Kevin Loreaux.
Since Kevin Loreaux reached out to me, Philadelphia and the surrounding tri-state area has shown me nothing but love.
Since Kevin Loreaux reached out to me, Philadelphia and the surrounding tri-state area has shown me nothing but love.

Having fresh content, much like working in media, is also key to a successful modeling career thus why as a beginning model, it is imperative to find exceptional photographers and do trade work (TFP is the short version) where you trade time for photos. Two of the shoots above were trade work back in the day. If you can afford it, hire a couple of key photographers who may post your pics on their websites or social media. That kind of publicity you can’t pay for! And remember models and photographers, your name and face are your reputation, don’t end up on the dreaded black list (future blog post about that coming soon).

I am now signed with three agencies (see my ModelMayhem page for all my credits and info), and have gotten acting work (Amtrak, QVC, indie films) through MM as well as from photographers who have referred me from modeling shoots.

It’s taken a lot of hard work to get where I am now, working weekends while working a newspaper desk job and missing out of some fun activities sometimes. But if it’s your passion and your dream, you will never work a day in your life. And who doesn’t want a life they don’t need a vacation from?

 

My Life in a Nutshell…