She has faced personal heartbreak, conquered the fashion industry and worked with the giants of the business such as Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Bruce Weber. Nowadays, she’s very sentimental and hoards little trinkets she picks up off the streets or the mountain.
Josie Borain’s name is synonymous with a cropped cut and androgyny. With her look that was the complete opposite of the ‘cookie cutter models’ she came to be recognized as South Africa’s first official Supermodel. Securing dozens of international modelling campaigns and being the face of brands like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, who are we to differ?
After being established as an icon, she went on to achieve success as a leading photographer with over 20-years of experience. Josie’s work has been published internationally in magazines such as Italian Elle and Interview Magazine as well as local publications like Elle Décor, Icon and Visi.
How did it all start?
Josie Borain and her family moved to the busy city of Johannesburg short after her birth in Cape Town, spending most of her childhood in Parktown North and Parkview. “I was terrible at school and failed twice as I have dyslexia, eventually leaving school at the end of standard 8.” A spring chicken, she moved to Cape Town at the age of 18 and started her career as a model, later expanding her horizons and moving to Paris. She never looked back.
Discussing love, inspiration and “do-over’s”
Rubbing shoulders with America’s elite, Josie ended up marrying photographer Pierre Houles, who worked with famous faces like Andy Warhole. Pierre was her everything, encouraging her to take a camera wherever she went. He also helped her set up a little book where she was to keep record of all her jobs, the clients and hours she worked so that when the agency paid her she could cross reference it. She continues saying that models “work, work, work and if you don’t keep record of the jobs there’s a chance you could forget” and if the agency didn’t keep track too well there would be a mess. Pierre was her guru and her teacher, but unfortunately he died from an aneurism in August of 1986. Though broken hearted, she held her head high and continued her career as model.
Having had the opportunity of working with the best of the best she claims that she should have kept a little book where she could have done little drawings of their light setups and asked questions like how they were able to achieve what they did so well, “you know, pick their brains”.
Photography – Actors – Modeling
With Pierre’s motivation she just started taking photos while modeling and it slowly became a hobby since she didn’t like just sitting around smoking cigarettes waiting for the fashion show to start. Her photographs give viewers a ‘behind the scenes’ look at fashion shows. Some time passed and she started working as photographer professionally, photographing people like actor, Jared Leto as well as Lady Spencer (she was the first wife of Princess Diana’s little brother, Earl Charles Spencer).
Following in his mothers’ footsteps, Josies son, Peter Raven has gone into the modeling industry. She goes on saying that she’d much rather have him start learning a skill like photography stating that with photography “you can at least be creative”.
Stick to your Guns
She doesn’t describe her photographic gear as anything fancy. Her Canon 5D Mk II works wonders, and uses it with a 50mm lens with a low F-stop. She thinks that if you stick to your guns and believe in yourself, things are bound to work out. Most of the work she does nowadays are for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) to raise money and awareness.
Be Good to Yourself
Josie Borain can be described as a strong and independent woman who made a pretty good living for herself, working very hard. “I have been super lucky, things have fallen into place easily and people might say I’m privileged, which I am.” She managed to make a lot of money when she was young and since she didn’t spend it on unnecessary things, it has made her financially independent at this point in her life.
“I don’t rely on anyone, I don’t have to worry about mortgages or borrow money from the bank, so basically I am free.” Isn’t that what we all want? To be independent and free from financial worries. She goes on to say that it wasn’t just luck, but hard work as well as wise decisions, not trying to show off or spend money unnecessarily. “I think sometimes women get lost because they grow up thinking a man has to look after them financially, keep them safe and in a place of comfort but that’s not the case.”
She believes that we as women can do anything we dream of doing if we work hard at it and that some girls are so busy looking for the right person to fit the bill but the only person that you need to look for is yourself. “Be kind, gentle and loving to yourself, the rest will fall into place…”
Strong, Independent, Woman
When I asked her if she has any exciting plans for the future, she said that at the moment the only thing she needs is to get her kids grown up, educated and healthy. “Once they leave the home I will have more time to explore things.” She doesn’t have any plans set in stone, she’s always been the ‘just wing it’ kinda person. “As long as I can stay healthy and strong I think I’m set.”
Josie Borain – is strong, free thinking and described as a ‘cool mom’ by her children. Hoping to inspire women out there to think for themselves, make wise decisions and find out who you are and then love, respect and look after that person. We can simply say we wish her health and happiness.