“I don’t want to be a supermodel; I want to be a role model.” ~ Queen Latifah
On a brief six-month teaching contract in Kuwait, Michelle Johnson, ended up staying for 5 years and counting. A native of the UK, Michelle is a former model, a certified Etiquettes instructor, a Textile designer, a professional weaver, an Art teacher and the founder of Iszonica Modeling School, which she started in 2009 in Kuwait. She has the advantage of having lived and worked on four continents, experienced languages and diverse cultures – all of which has enriched her already effervescent personality.
However, Iszonica’s conception goes back more than a decade starting in the city of London, when Michelle herself got involved in the world of fashion and modeling. Her passion for teaching and working with youngsters soon steered her in the direction of coaching young girls. According to Michelle, “Iszonica has never been just about professional modeling, but as well about building self-esteem, poise and elegance.”
After London, she took Iszonica to Abu Dhabi, and then to Qatar, where under the mentorship of fashion and design principal Mrs. Sandra Bell Wilkins and wings of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU-Q) she bloomed and flourished as an artist. It was also here that her creations modeled on the runway gained popularity and she was commissioned to design dresses for the princesses of the Qatari royal family.
In 2009, Michelle started her classes and workshops in Kuwait and has, to date, choreographed and organized several successful fashion shows. Michelle’s years of experience in the fashion and modeling industry are visible in the quality and finesse of her shows. Her quiet ways and fun and fearless approach to life endears her to others.
One of Iszonica’s aims is to work with and support local charities within the community. An Annual Creative Art & Fashion Event is held every November, where local models and designers are encouraged to showcase their work and support a cause in the community. They recently concluded their third Annual event titled ‘I Am A Man’ The Sound of Silence, which witnessed participation from HOB and BAIA among others.
Iszonica originally took on only female students and models. Michelle’s task was to increase their self-confidence, while instructing them about good grooming, beauty, positive attitude, style and fashion. “But I recently had to extend my workshops to young men, as I found quiet a few of them interested in Kuwait,” explained Michelle, which is why this year a cast of seven male models debuted on the runway for the annual event. A percentage of the proceeds from this year’s event contributed to the support of male street workers living and working in Kuwait.
At Iszonica, students have the opportunity to learn the art of walking in heels and flat shoes, elegant hand and body movement, walking the runway and other trade essentials such as how to pack a model’s bag for casting.
Most students of Iszonica, ageing 15 years and above enroll to build their self-confidence and poise. “I like to bring out the personality of my students,” says Michelle. Many aspiring individuals are given an opportunity to try their hand at modeling. Some see their calling and go on to pursue professional modeling.
Michelle is the kind of person that sees beauty in just about everything. “I take all types of sizes and shapes, because again, it’s about bringing out the beauty in each individual rather than taking beautiful and projecting it to the world,” she explained. This simple ideology also extends towards the designers she selects for her fashion shows. “We put up things made from useable waste; model recycled products and people think in terms of possibilities in and around themselves,” she added.
As Managing Director of Iszonica Modeling School, she is in constant interaction with people. “I am never quite sure who will walk through the doors,” she laughs, a very warm and friendly kind of laughter. “It’s both exciting and rewarding to see the improvements individuals make having completed a course – it is the most rewarding part of my job besides my love and passion for organizing and training models for fashion shows.”
In Michelle’s own words: “I feel that life is not about being super stylish, but rather that individuals are comfortable and confident in their own skin. The power of positive thinking is important, as I believe that every thought we have has a direct impact on our reality.”
I could not agree more!