Viewing Alina Phillips Lee’ body of work, one can only admire the way she graces the images she appears in with magic. Petite and slender, the Portland based muse under the alias Thumbelina talks to Wicked Game.
Interview by Demetrios Drystellas.
Did you ever think you would pose for other people? How did it start and what attracts you to it? And why the alias of Thumbelina from the Andersen tale?
When I was nine or ten I took modeling “classes” when I lived in Namibia. They were more like dance class, just a fun thing my friends and I would go to which wasn’t all that serious. But I still enjoyed it a lot. I moved to Canada when I was twelve and ended up taking pictures with one of my Mom’s friends when I was thirteen or so. Eventually I ended up joining a Facebook group for local models/photographers and then making a model mayhem. I chose Thumbelina simply because it sounds similar to my real name and because the story of Thumbelina follows a tiny girl. I’m not quite as tiny as a thumb but in comparison to 5’8+ (1,73m) models I’m little.
In the end of the day, what what fulfills you as a person? Both regarding your interests, what you love doing outside modeling. What makes defines Alina Phillips and what makes her happy?
My fulfillment comes from a number of things. I’m a very artistic person so if I spend a day without writing or drawing I feel a little hollow. I also enjoy going on hikes and spending time outdoors, which has been more difficult since moving from Canada to Portland. My interactions with the people in my life is also very important for me to be fulfilled; If I have a fight or disagreement with someone, or just feel like we aren’t having a good connection, I end up feeling weary.
(Image: Ryan Muirhead)
But most importantly my happiness depends on how mindful I am, how I’m looking at the world around me and if I’m staying in the moment. I can be a very anxious person and at times have to constantly remind myself that the negativity and obsession that comes with anxiety isn’t beneficial. As long as I am being easy on myself and staying in the moment I’m quite fulfilled and happy, as I’m sure most people are.
(Image: Kristen Hatgi)
Do you think posing for artists changed your personality in any way?
Posing for artists has helped me tremendously! I am much more confident in my abilities and my looks than before I started modeling. Working with talented people is just one of the greatest things I think the world has to offer… When someone is so passionate and knowledgeable about something it’s really so inspiring to be around them in their element.
(Image: Josh Soskin)
I’m also quite reserved and introverted, or have been made to be so by people and events in my life, and modeling lets me release a side of me that I have had to ignore and think foolish for a long time. I love acting for that reason too, releasing parts of yourself you’re normally too afraid to even look at.
Motto or phrase that means the most to you? And why.
That’s a hard question. I have “Let it go” tattooed on my wrist because I just love the movie Frozen SO much…. Hehe just kidding.
(Image: Nicholas Peter Wilson)
I got that tattooed when I was seventeen after a really, really hard couple of years. Probably (and hopefully) the hardest I’ll ever have to endure. It helped, and does help, me let go of all the pain and sadness and hurt and whatever else that I’m feeling and get to this place of peace. To look around where I am right now and instead of feeling/thinking things that are making me feel broken, to look at the way the light is reflecting through the curtains or how delicate the leafs look on the trees around me- anything that’s beautiful and real, and that will help with my perspective.
(Image: Jon Duenas)
Nudity, your thoughts on it and how our bodies are portayed in media. Your first experience posing nude, feelings before and after the shoot ,when the images where published.
I think nudity is natural. And all that goes with something being natural, that it’s okay and normal. Images of people being nude in non-sexual ways is so important for our culture because it stops the sexualization of the human body and the negative body image that comes with porn. I know the first naked women I saw on the internet were photoshopped models and porn starts. Needless to say I thought my body was ugly and wrong for a long time.
Nude art is great because it puts women in an empowering role- in a beautiful, angelic image that you can’t sexualize. You just think “Wow, she is incredible”. The first nude shoot I ever did was with Dave Aharonian. He was also one of the first photographers I ever worked with. At first I felt nervous, but it quickly just became so completely natural. Freeing even. After the shoot I don’t think I felt much different, maybe I was more confident but I can’t fully recall because it was a few years ago.
Until I read your bio, I was not aware of your height, simply because your body is harmonious.
Yay! I love hearing that. Sometimes I wish my legs were just a wee bit longer, but whenever I think something like that I stop myself by remembering that I have the same legs as my Mother did, and her Mother, and I don’t want to change something about myself that is in some way a legacy. (Hehehehe no pun intended)
Where do you draw inspiration from and what kind of images excites you?
I find inspiration in photographs and artwork mainly. If I see something that is both strange and beautiful that I haven’t seen before I get very excited and inspired. Some of my favorite artists are Audrey Kawasaki, Mark Ryden, Nomi Chi, Terby Wonder, Bosh.. And many, many more. Band wise I love rock. The Cars, The Police, The Strokes, The Smiths.
Almost anything with “The” in the band name. I also like Metric a lot, Phantogram, Grimes. Alternative bands with girl singers. There are so many artists that I love, which I’m sure have all influenced me in one way or another.
(Image: Mike Marshall)
Name 3 artists you would like to meet and collaborate, contemporary or from the past.
Audrey Kawasaki, Tim Walker, and Paolo Roversi.
How often do you travel and how is life on the road like? Thumbelina wanders and wanders on through her adventures until the happy end.
I don’t travel very much lately. I’m going to New York this month for the first time which is exciting/scary. I love traveling though, and I hope to do much more of it.
(Image: Kristen Hatgi)
A very difficult question for all artists. If you had to introduce Alina with just one image, which one would it be and on which grounds would you make this selection?
Gosh that is a really hard question. If you mean an image as a photograph.. I don’t know. At first I thought of a photo of my Mom, Brother, and I of us all goofing around in our pajamas when Sastun and I were kids. But there are so many people (including my Dad haha) I would want in that photo with the three of us. Maybe I could say an image of a place I love or one of my favorite paintings.. But what has influenced me most as a person is all of the amazing, amazing people who I’ve been lucky enough to meet.
(Image: Joe Whyte)
How is life in Portland? Are you a city or nature person?
I’m both. I like Portland, it’s wonderful. But I like to be busy. And there isn’t very much going on in Portland. There are so many beautiful places near Portland, I LOVE the Oregon coast especially, but I really would like to be in a bigger city in the next few years.
(Image: Matt Fry)
Are there any modelling jobs you regret doing, or were not happy with, even mildly? Any lessons learnt and advice to give? What would you suggest to anyone interested in following your path?
Oh yeah, tons! Well maybe not tons, but quite a few. When I’m working with someone who I can sense isn’t really an artist I regret it immediately and feel sad/lackluster. My advice is work with people who’s work you love, no exceptions.
(Image: Josh Soskin)
Is there anything troubling you in this particular field/industry?
Well I honestly am getting to the point where I’m tired of nude art. There are a few people I love working with and will continue to work with but my priorities have changed. What I really want to pursue is acting. I haven’t done very much, and it SCARES THE HELL OUT OF ME. But it’s the most freeing thing I’ve ever experienced. That doesn’t mean I’m going to switch solely to acting, I have years of learning to do. But that’s the direction I’m beginning to take. I also really enjoy doing editorial/commercial work because the people I meet are always passionate about it, giving it 100%. Meeting makeup artists, stylists, and photographers who really love their job is very uplifting.
You have a substantial following on instagram. As with all artists and their audiences, do you think your audience expects to see a specific kind of images from you? What are your feelings when people do not interact with an image that you particularly love but instead like others that you do would not expect?
I think my Instagram is relatively random content wise. I do post a lot of artsy stuff, especially my self portraits or photos I take. But, for the most part, my followers seem to have the same taste as me. My favorite photos usually get the most likes. Of course if there’s a photo where I look more “sexy” people tend to like it more, which isn’t usually my favorite stuff, but it’s inevitable because everyone loves sexy stuff.
(Image: Zia Khan)
Where do you see yourself in the future, what would you like to achieve and where to steer your career/life. Do you believe you will continue posing or will you stop at some point?
Like I said I’d really like to focus on acting, taking classes and doing as many projects related to acting as I can. I don’t know if I want a career in acting, as we all know it’s not the easiest field to pursue, but I’m only nineteen and I just want to spend the next few years of my life learning, traveling more, meeting talented people, and making art.
(Image: Ryan Muirhead)
To view more of Alina, follow her on social media:
Interview by Demetrios Drystellas