Monday, December 5, 2022

California dreaming: James City County man heads west to pursue model aspirations

Rashawn Simmons takes a bag outside on April 7, just days before he moved to Los Angeles. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)
Rashawn Simmons takes a bag outside on April 7, just days before he moved to Los Angeles. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)

Sitting on a black leather couch, Rashawn Simmons leaned forward with his elbows on his knees as he scrolled through his iPhone, searching for his flight itinerary to California.

While his 7-year-old daughter, Alana bounced beside him on the sofa — dreaming aloud about Hollywood — Rashawn Simmons recalled how his daughter’s first modeling gig three years ago in Washington D.C. inspired him to pursue the modeling dream himself.

“That was before I even thought about modeling,” Rashawn Simmons said as Alana talked about casting calls and being on the Disney Channel. “But I’ve always liked being in the spotlight … It’s weird, because I got a good feeling about this modeling thing from the start.”

Just five days after Rashawn and his daughter dreamed about California from the family’s James City County home   the 26-year-old father was on a plane to Los Angeles to jump start his modeling career.

On April 20, Rashawn Simmons signed a modeling contract with Westhaven Management Group, an international talent agency, opening the door for a new life with his wife and daughter in California.

When Alana finishes first grade in mid-June, she and her mother, Briana Simmons, 24, will pack up the rest of their belongings and meet Rashawn Simmons in California.

“I’m ready to go to California and spread my wings,” said Briana Simmons, a licensed makeup artist. “It’s an investment in our family’s future.”

Wednesday morning, Rashawn Simmons picked up the keys for his family’s new apartment in the Chatsworth area, about half an hour northwest of Los Angeles. Four days earlier, he bought a 1999 Mercedes with cash he saved for the move.

Simmons poses for a photo with his wife, Briana, and daughter, Alana, on April 7, just days before he moved to Los Angeles. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)
Simmons poses for a photo with his wife, Briana, and daughter, Alana, on April 7, just days before he moved to Los Angeles. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)

Since arriving in Los Angeles, last month, Rashawn Simmons has been adjusting to sunnier weather and a new culture. His daily outfits, including skinny jeans, leather jackets, gold rings and the latest trends, used to stand out in the Williamsburg area, but blend in easily in California, he said.

He has attended several casting calls for both acting and modeling jobs, including one for The Home Depot where he made it to the final round of casting.

“They thought I had super acting experience, and I was like nah, I’m just from Virginia,” Rashawn Simmons said.

Rashawn Simmons is a Bronx, N.Y. native and moved to Williamsburg when he was around 7 years old. He played sports as child and attended Mathew Whaley Elementary School, Berkeley Middle School and graduated Jamestown High School in 2008.

In 2014, he began working at the Tribe Market at William & Mary. It’s there he connected with Williamsburg photographer Craig James. His modeling career was on from there, he said.

“He was real passionate about  modeling  and was on me about shooting all the time,”  James said. “Feels great knowing that I helped start something he loves.”

Starting in late March 2016, Rashawn Simmons networked tirelessly on Instagram, promoting his photos and gaining over 600 followers in several months.

“Wherever the camera is, for whatever reason, I’m going to be in front of it,” Rashawn Simmons said, describing his days at Jamestown High School playing football. “It was cool to play, but it was cooler to be in the newspaper… Some people say the lights and fans with modeling are annoying, but I just don’t get it. I love it.”

Whether he becomes a “millionaire model” or not, Rashawn Simmons believes California will provide a better life for his daughter.

Rashawn Simmons signs a contract with Westhaven Management Group April 20 in California. (Courtesy Rashawn Simmons)
Rashawn Simmons signs a contract with Westhaven Management Group April 20 in California. (Courtesy Rashawn Simmons)

“You might see me in a Saint John’s Bay or Target ad,” he said. “I might be that guy – okay, that’s fine and cool. But it’ll be better for Alana. Whatever I’m doing is also foreshadowing for her.”

Although Alana and Briana Simmons are not in California yet, Rashawn Simmons has already picked up paperwork for Alana’s school.

Briana Simmons plans to start networking for makeup jobs, something she and her husband agree are plentiful in the Hollywood area.

“I saw the girls in magazines when I was younger and said ‘I want to look like they do,’” Briana Simmons said. “Now it’s my passion and I’m going to do it in California.”

“All my life, I’ve been told you just have to put your mind to something and you can make it happen,” he said. “I’m realizing maybe they weren’t lying.”

Fearing may be reached at sarah.f@localvoicemedia.com.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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