September 30, 2020 3:58 PM

The Mind Behind The Runway

Mandy Dyonne Lieveld. A veteran in her profession and catwalk mentor to many over the years, continues to be a leader in her industry. Hailing from Amsterdam, from an early age Mandy had to walk through life as a taller girl. She was sent to a runway coaching class where she discovered a new confidence in her stature that she’d not known before. This eventually led to her modeling in Holland and across the globe also. In Holland and around the world she began model coaching, preparing models pivotal runway moments. For a time, she was even a judge and the runway coach for Holland’s Next Top Model. For years now, Mandy has trained young models to walk in the runway shows for the most upscale brands. Now residing in NYC, she continues to excel by being the coach for some of the city’s top modeling agencies while teaching literally hundreds of pupils, for hundreds of fashion shows, and dozens of agencies worldwide. In NYC she teaches her very own runway coaching classes, even giving convenient online options for her modeling courses. It’s been an honor finally being able to sit down with Mandy and absorb the invaluable knowledge from this fashion industry veteran.

In your experience, what has been the most unexpected hurdle to get over when coaching a model?

I would say, just the feeling to walk on heels. Most of the tall beauties have never walked on heels, because they are already tall, so most of it is about just feeling comfortable on heels. I help them with feeling much more comfortable and what techniques you can use for posture, feeling more in balance and how to be confident on the runway. 

Do you remember the first brand that you walked for and what it felt like?

My first brand was a smaller European brand, but oh my, I was so nervous! What if I would fall, but then I walked out, seen all the lights, photographers, people. It was so much fun! It was such an excitement, it felt like home right away! 

Did you foresee this becoming such an important part of your life and future?

If you would ask me 6 years ago you will travel the world, live in NYC and coach VS/ top models. I would say, I wish! But I also worked hard for it, just put yourself out there and never ever try to give up! 

What’s something you feel that you haven’t accomplished in the industry yet and still striving to?

I am very grateful for all the things I already have accomplished. So it might be more the places of the world I might want to see, Australia and going back to South Africa is still on my list. What makes me happy is to see my students grow in their confidence and if I can achieve that, I am accomplished. Now it’s a moment of enjoying every moment. Because sometimes you never know what happens. You can’t take things for granted. 

With acknowledgement to the current societal climate, how do you feel about inclusivity and its representation in your profession?

I have seen a lot of changes over the years, much more diversity and what I do like as well. Is that for most designers you have to be 18 and up to walk the show. We are still not there yet, but I’m optimistic. In terms of my own profession, I don’t see a lot of runway coaches actually. Maybe it’s because there is not ‘really a school’ go learn how to be a runway coach. How I learned it was because my experience as a model, learning a great posture as a dancer and then learning the psychological aspect, the confidence with my study of Psychology. 

In your opinion, what are the absolute do’s and don’ts an aspiring model should practice?

Do BE YOURSELF and don’t try to imitate a certain walk or personality that you are not. Everyone is unique so embrace your uniqueness. 

On your journey, would you say there’s been any regrets along the way?

Not so much, I went to New York (which was my dream!) I went to the agencies, although I was super nervous! What if they don’t like me! And then I hear my mother saying, it is already a no, you can only make it a yes. At these moments I put myself out there, and got a chance to show what I can do. So I don’t have any regrets and also, you always learn from your mistakes! 

What are your best and worst runway experiences, both as a model and coach?

The worst runway experience was when I walked a show and sometimes you have a very fast change backstage, so I ran off the runway and fell.. gladly it was backstage, but still had to go up again. Happily, it wasn’t too bad, just a bruise on my knee. The best is just when I came out in such a beautiful dress, you hear the music lights and just feels good about being there. My best moments as a coach is when I sometimes see students coming in, not believing in themselves right away and then see them on the catwalk with so much confidence! That makes me so happy! Hardest moments are that I’ve seen some students quit because they don’t see their beauty.

While you’re undoubtedly a master of the catwalk, have you ever felt like you’ve learned anything from working with your students?

Yes, that everyone is different! And that’s also what I love about my job, every class is different because everyone is different. So one technique can work for that person, but not for somebody else. 

Growing up as a taller than average girl, what was that like for you before you found your calling?

Oh my, I did not like to be that tall. I always slouch my shoulders, making myself smaller than I am. (which is impossible... but I tried!) Also trying to hear my friends who are smaller, was sometimes a challenge. I didn’t want to be different, especially in your teens! But yes, later on I accept my height and happy with who I am. 

Do you feel that moving to NYC has provided you with everything you’re looking for in your profession, or are there greener pastures out there waiting?

I actually wanted to live in NYC for so long, the first time I came here was 10 years ago. Everything felt into place. I love the people, the energy, etc. So I try to do a student exchange program with the University of Amsterdam, I try to do an internship in NY. But because NY is so popular, I didn’t make it through. Then I finished my master degree in Psychology and thought you know what, I will just go to NY! And hopefully I can be a model coach there as well. So it is truly a dream come true!! For my profession as well, I met so many lovely people in the industry and from here I travel a lot. 

How has the runway changed from when you started till now, both good and bad?

I see much more diversity, still a long way to go. But I love the change. We had the super model time (Naomi, Crawford, Claudia etc.), and I would say now you see a lot of individuality. Models have to be confident, but also natural, just be themselves. I love these beautiful stories, for example Ugbad comes from a refugee camp in Somalia came to the US, got scouted and now she is walking for huge designers (Valentino, Burberry, Fendi, etc.) on the cover of the Vogue Italy, Japan and US and doing big campaigns for Burberry, Zara, Michael Kors. 

With online courses, do you feel that you can still achieve the same level of teaching as in person, or has the social distancing affected your methods?

Yes, I think the most important thing in modeling is confidence, I would say 70% is confidence. Confidence in your walk, in standing in front of the camera in presenting yourself. So a lot of that we can still do online. The great thing of online coaching is as well, you don’t have to be in NY or at a certain place. You can just be anywhere in the world. I once did a coaching all at the same time, me from NY (12 noon) Hawaii (6 am) the Netherlands (6 pm) and Hong Kong (12 am). That was very special. 

As with all things of course practice makes perfect but how hard would you say the learning curve is for an aspiring model with no experience?

It all depends on the student, I see if someone has a body awareness it helps. If the student maybe dances a lot of playing sports. (although I see some slouching when somebody plays field hockey) 

If you could do or live through anything over again what would that be?

I love the traveling, meeting so many interesting people and the excitement of the shows. 

In your experience how have you prevented the catwalk from being catty. I guess what I’m trying to ask is what has been your methods to make sure the workspace remains respectful and enriching for everyone involved?

I always make sure everyone feels safe in my classes. I actually never had anyone who was mean to somebody else. It’s also a way actually that shows that they are insecure. So if that would happen I would have a one on one talk. I do have to say that I am an independent, so they can make mistakes and everything is confidential, so that might also help with having a safe environment. I want them to be the best version that they can be. 

Natural talent versus hard work and practice is an age-old debate, does it pertain to modeling also in your opinion or is it a non-factor?

It is def true, modeling is hard work even if you have a lot of talent. It is going to all the castings not knowing if you would be doing the show, it’s about not knowing what will happen next week. It’s about waking up at 4 am to catch a flight or a call time for a show. And don’t forget that during the fashion week you might do 10 castings a day and have 10 rejections. How do you stay confident after so many rejections?  So yeah, even if you have a lot of talent, modeling is hard work. 

Have you ever used elements from your dancing background in your runway coaching, or does the two not correlate for you?

It definitely helps with posture and body movement in front of the camera. Teaching them how to feel confident in their own body. 

What has been your favorite brand to work for and why?

Oh my, that’s so hard to say! For me it’s about the team. Everyone is working so hard to make the best result! Designers and their whole team might work 24 hours on that last piece and casting directors making sure the cast is complete, production makes sure we have everything to make it a great show. So I see such a joy after the shows, people hugging each other, crying tears of happiness. That makes this industry so unique, there is so much passion into it. 

What is the next step for Mandy Dyonne?

Enjoying everything I am doing, I worked so hard to get where I am now. This was my dream, so I am very grateful to do what I am doing. Helping students grow, in their believe in themselves and even more. And I am still experience new things, because every class is different and every one is different. That’s why I love my job. 

Do you want to start her online training?  >> PLEASE CLICK HERE <<
Mandy Dyonne's website  >>PLEASE CLICK HERE<<

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