Name: Larissa Drekonja
Business: Neon Coat
Location: New York, New York, U.S.
Industry: Technology & Telecommunications
Reason for starting? Being a model isn’t always easy — not many people really understand who we are or what our lives are like. When I think about the amazing models I’ve met throughout my career, I tend to reflect on the qualities that have united us. We are bright and talented, passionate about the arts and motivated to contribute positively to the world. It got me wondering: Is there a way to unify us with one voice? Could there be a platform to connect our community through common interests and experiences? As the wheels were turning … Neon Coat was born!
How do you define success? Success is something you aspire to accomplish — it could be something as simple as finding forest strawberries, but it means that you will go to any length and won’t ever give up to achieve it. It’s a marriage between need, desire and accomplishment. Recognizing the need is of the utmost importance — why something needs to be done, who needs it. Finding desire is the second most important thing — the calling within you, the reason to fulfill the need. The work you put in is your accomplishment. Success is the result.
Biggest success: My biggest success has been starting Neon Coat, an app for professional models. These women need resources and help, but they are silenced and few people are talking about their immediate issues. There are so many problems in the modeling industry that no one talks about. It’s far beyond eating disorders and sexual abuse. Models are subjected daily to the whims of people who hire them, and the only thing they have is themselves and a smile. They have no stable resources, nothing they can count on! I’ve literally gotten letters from models on our app that made me and my team cry — Neon Coat is here to help models get autonomy and dignity.
Explain your top challenge and how you have addressed it: The top challenge for me was to release these women from the shackles of the industry’s social gatekeepers. Models come from all over the world and don’t know anyone in the fashion metropolises — they are on their own. Agency contracts protect agencies, promoters make money on taking models out to clubs and restaurants, but models have no say and no choice in what happens to them. I’ve addressed this challenge through a trailblazing technology that gives models independence. They can choose what they want to experience, when they want to, and share it on social media with like-minded people, while growing their personal brand. And they won’t go hungry ever again!
Who is your most important role model? I have two role models — Frida Kahlo and Nikola Tesla. I love their restless energy, their good hearts and their desire to unconditionally contribute positively to society. Both Frida and Nikola had a gift — that gift lived for them and they lived for the gift. But they both died sad because their gift wasn’t respected by anyone around them — everyone kept on taking and taking from them, and they kept giving. We have to protect and respect our talent, and not take them for granted and exploit them just because they have something we weren’t given.
Edited by The Story Exchange