Nina Daniele (“‘Nina-Marie’ if my mom is mad at me”) grew up in Pelham, north of the Bronx in New York City. “It’s one of those towns you don’t appreciate until you have to be an adult and pay your own bills. As a kid, you’re bored AF,” she told us behind the scenes during the Fall Hot List shoot of some of our coolest bras and bodysuits. “I spent countless summer nights driving around with my friends, hanging out in the parking lot of the 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts, stealing donuts out the back door since I think collectively we had about $5.”
She’s come a long way. Nina started modeling about seven years ago, while she was still in college. She planned to join the Air Force post-graduation, but her boyfriend convinced her to try modeling first: “I’m so happy he did because I don’t know how long I would have lasted!”
At Bare Necessities, we’re glad, too. The woman the lens loves gets her workouts from pole-dancing, her style inspiration from Aerosmith and has amassed much wisdom since her donut-filching days. Such as…
Confession #1: My dreams drive my days.
My life is pretty much a traveling circus. Outside of modeling, I’m passionate about animal rights. I have five beautiful fur babies: three cats and two pit bulls. I found my cat on the street. She was pregnant, and we knew when we found her our lives were about to get hairier. We rescued our dogs from a shelter in Los Angeles and since we couldn’t take them on a plane, we threw out our belongings, got a van and drove cross-country back to New York. Whatever you do in life, do not run out of gas in the middle of the night on the back roads of Utah. My dream is to open a sanctuary for death row cats and dogs to live out their lives and be free from pain, cages and neglect. It’s why I do what I do now—so that later I can create this life for them using everything I’ve learned about business from my time as a model.
Confession #2: Every job teaches you something.
I’ve had so many jobs I can’t even remember them all, from camp counselor (if you love splitting headaches and motion sickness, be sure to ride a camp bus) to towel girl at the country club, which was my least favorite, to lifeguard and cashier. My favorite job growing up was as the host at the local Chinese restaurant because they fed me after every shift. I’ve worn many hats, but modeling has been the one I feel fits best.
Modeling is always different. Some jobs are harder than you can ever imagine and make you question whether modeling is right for you. Others make you realize why you keep going. I take away something from every shoot, whether it’s been a good experience or bad: how I conducted myself, if there was something I should have done differently or a situation I could have handled better. There’s always something that will help you become wiser, more professional and better for next time.
Confession #3: Writing saved me.
I graduated with a degree in Creative Writing and a concentration in Poetry. Writing is a powerful tool, and it’s the reason I even graduated high school, let alone college. I’m a horrible test-taker. I fell asleep during the SATs. Every test I’ve ever taken, I left the last page blank. It was only my ability to express my thoughts semi-skillfully via pen and paper that helped me get by. I wanted to teach high school, specifically eleventh grade—it’s a transformative year, the year that really counts, the year you have to show what you’re made of—to help kids like me who struggled with expressing themselves have a fair shot at a college future through their essays.
Confession #4: Share the credit.
The best part about modeling is the final product because of all the work that went into creating a timeless shot. It’s not just you in the photo—if you look close enough, there’s also the photographer, the hair and makeup artists, the stylist, the crew, the techs, the art directors, the studio production team…. It drives me nuts when I see the final shots and the only credit given is to the model because there was so much effort in every aspect channeled into this image. It wouldn’t even be a photo without all the parts coming together.
Confession #5: Not everyone is going to love you—and that’s okay.
There are more hard parts about my job than easy parts. Every single day, you’re judged, stared at, picked apart and analyzed. You have to have a thick skin, but you also have to realize you got what you got. If everyone loved you, you’d never get a day off, and you’d have a shorter shelf life! Find your niche and own it. Just be the best you can be at one thing, and when you’re recognized for it, so many doors open. If you try to be good at everything, you’ll always be good, never great, and you may not find the satisfaction you’re looking for.
Confession #6: Don’t bother trying to make plans with me.
My family and friends know how hard this life can be. Making plans more than two days in advance? Yeah, okay, in my dreams, maybe. I haven’t planned around anything except my cousin’s wedding since I started modeling because every time I do, something comes up and I have to cancel. Models are freelance artists, and when a job comes around, you can’t really say no. You don’t know when the opportunity might present itself again, and I work way too hard to miss out on something that’ll bring me closer to my goal of eventually not working as hard and making plans I can keep!
Confession #7: Never read the comments section.
Either hop on the social media train or hop off, because it’s not going anywhere. It’s become such an indispensable tool. You have to make it fun or you’re going to drive yourself nuts. Stay positive; don’t let your emotions influence what you post. If you only knew the DMs and crazy things people have written to me! I’m going to collect them in a coffee table book one day; this stuff is pure gold. Just let them get it out and don’t take it personally. Also, be thoughtful and consistent in how you portray yourself because you’re your own public relations now.
Confession #8: Lead by example.
As Kate Moss has said, “Never complain, never explain.” Just do your job and do it well. Be passionate and compassionate, leave whatever you’re going through at the door, don’t drive the makeup artist crazy with everything going on in your life, put your phone down while you’re working, hand the stylist your clothing instead of leaving it on the dressing room floor, be present on set. Everyone wants to leave the shoot loving what they do and, at the end of the day, the model plays a part in that.
Confession #9: Think like a role model.
I’ll know I’ve made it when my future kids would be proud of my accomplishments. I want them to look up to me and strive for greatness. I want to show them, “This is what happens when you never give up and believe in yourself even when there are people who won’t. When you want to quit, have a good cry, suck it up, hold your head high and do it all over again tomorrow.” My biggest regret is not believing in myself sooner.
Confession #10: Listen to your gut.
I do what I feel is right. Don’t take the easy way out; do things the right way but the smart way, and never burn bridges. You have to keep good people with you, that’s most important. Empowerment is believing in my decisions as a woman and holding my ground.
Keep up with Nina on Instagram at @ninamariedaniele.
Brooke is the editor of this here blog. In a previous life, she was an editor at Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine. Brooke has written for Glamour, Travel+Leisure, New York Magazine and more. She’s into concerts, travel and her exceptionally adorable daughter and husband.