Model-Turned-Actress Jaime King Comes Home for Screening of Film She Wrote and Directed, ‘Latch Key,’ at the Omaha Film Festival
When Jaime King made the move from modeling to acting I tried getting an interview with her in early-mid 2000s but I never got a response from her handlers. I guess I always figured I would catch up with one way or the other, and as fate would have it she’s coming to me in the sense that she’s coming back to our shared hometown of Omaha with a film she wrote and directed, Latch Key, which means she’s predisposed to promoting it. Thus, I finally got my interview with her. It was worth the wait. She has a great story and it turns out she’s very serious about the writing-directing track she’s on. It also turns out she gets back to Omaha, where all her family lives, with great frequency, which means she’s been closer than I thought all these years. I should note by the way that the Omaha Film Festival is an ever-growing event that increasingly lands major industry figures. In addition to King’s appearance, the fest is rightfully touting appearances by screenwriter Hawk Ostby (Children of Men, Iron Man), actress Famke Janssen, who’s apeparing with her directorial debut Bringing Up Bobby, and actor Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill). This blog is full of my stories on film. Look for my Q&A with Ostby in an upcoming post.
©by Leo Adam Biga
Soon to be published in The Reader (www.thereader.com)
In the 1990s Omaha native Jaime King‘s fresh face and lithe body graced the runway fantastic for the likes of Gucci and Alexander McQueen in New York and around the globe. She did provocative shoots for Vogue, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Cosmopolitan and other trendy mags. She appeared in music videos. She was a Revlon girl in the same media campaign as Halle Berry and Eva Mendes.
Heady stuff for a girl in her mid-teens who left Westside High School to pursue The Dream. She actually began modeling at Nancy Bounds Studios here. A New York agent discovered her at a fashion graduation show.
But when King comes for the Omaha Film Festival this weekend she’s arriving not as a model or actress – the career she’s known for today – but as a filmmaker. She’s appearing with a “deeply personal” dramatic short she wrote and directed titled Latch Key. She shot the movie in and around Omaha last winter, using local youth actors alongside industry veterans, including her husband, director Kyle Newman (Fanboys, The Crazies), who’s also one of the film’s producers.
Latch Key shows as part of a short film block on March 9 that starts at 6:15 p.m.
This writer-director thing is no passing fancy. The directing bug bit her in her teens and she angled for years to make her own films, debuting with the short The Break-In (2011). She now has several film projects in development, including a feature she co-wrote, Polar Seasons, that her good friend Selma Blair (who appears in Break-In) may co-star in. King’s interest in writing – she pens a style column for the Huffington Post – goes even further back, to her childhood in Omaha.
“Before I went to Westside it wasn’t that easy for me. I felt like I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t like a jock or a cheerleader or your typical type of kid in that way. I went through a lot of bullying in school. So I wrote a lot and that really helped me to get my feelings and emotions out. All I did was read and write, that was all I really cared about. I so immersed myself in all of these creative things.
“Writing for me has always been the most freeing part of my life.”
At 14 she turned to the pen when her boyfriend at the time died. That experience informs Latch Key, whose young protagonist, Emma, deals with a sudden loss.
“It comes from me having this experience of being young and losing someone very suddenly, and waking up not understanding how the world can continue when your whole world feels like its been shattered.”
Having to grow up fast the way she did informs another script she’s looking to develop, Life Guard.
“I write a lot about coming-of-age and what it’s like to grow up very quickly and how to handle that type of thing. I guess I’m inspired by what we have to go through to become adults or to make our way in this world, but I guess all good stories are about figuring out who you really are.”
Once considered an infant terrible and party girl, she’s many years sober after battling a substance abuse problem. She long ago made the successful transition from modeling to screen acting (Happy Campers, Blow, Pearl Harbor, Slackers, Two for the Money, Sin City). She has major roles in a pair of films due for a 2012 release: Pardon and Mother’s Day. She also stars in the CW comedy Hart of Dixie.
Does she harbor regrets about having gotten swept up in the high-pressure model subculture, with its ultra-thin obsession, stealing away as it did part of her youth?
“Not at all. I feel very blessed, I feel everything that’s happened in my life has been perfectly on track for me, through the ups and the downs, through everything, and I feel so incredibly lucky that I was discovered and that my parents stuck with me and made a difficult decision to let their young daughter go off into a big world.
“Through modeling I got to travel all over the world and I got to meet some of the most amazing people, and I was smart, I saved my money and I knew I wanted to go into filmmaking.”
Besides, being a model was her idea from the start. Always interested in fashion, style, photography and film, she set out to get noticed, make it to New York and use this platform as a springboard to a film career.
“I wanted to live a very creative life and not necessarily taking the traditional route of going straight through high school and onto college. I just didn’t feel that was right for me. I needed to be doing something creative. It may seem odd for someone that age but I just knew that was my direction.
“As an adult now looking back I feel a lot compassion and gratitude towards my parents for letting me foliow my dreams.”
King’s made it all happen, too, though walking away from lucrative modeling gigs didn’t set well with her entourage.
“When I told them I was quitting modeling at the height of my career people weren’t happy about that because they were making a lot of money off of me, but I was lucky to have some people who were supportive.”
She still does fashion spreads.
Of the high profile film roles she landed right out of the gate, she says, “It was just one thing after another and I think it happened because I never doubted myself, I went into it thinking that’s what I was meant to do.”
Acting’s worked out better for her than it has for many former top models. And as much as she finds that career satisfying she needs more to feed her creativity.
“I don’t feel completely whole just doing that. I feel whole when I’m writing and directing and acting, when I’m creating material and stories that I feel should be told and will move and entertain people,” she says. “As a creative person you just want to create.”
She could have made Latch Key anywhere but she felt pulled to do it in her hometown, where her entire family still lives and where she gets back to visit a few times a year.
“I have a really romantic view of where I was born and raised,” she says. “I have these very distinctive memories of every single season in Omaha and what it felt like to grow up there and to have a space of your own where you could run along the train tracks and be out in a park or farm by yourself or yet be in the Old Market and go find a great record or comic book or see a great show or concert.
“So much of my creativity started there, and I feel like there’s a great creative community there. I just really want to honor that.”
Her sister, Sandi King Larson, put up Jaime, her husband and two fellow producers and let her home stand-in as Emma’s dwelling.
King says she received excellent cooperation from Young Filmmakers In Nebraska in filling out the crew and from Ralston Public Schools officials in letting her use Ralston High School as a location. King had an inside woman there in her sister, who works at the school. The head of Ralston’s drama department, Todd Uhrmacher, helped King cast via Skype auditions-interviews. Alexis Jegeris, who plays Emma, is among several Ralston students in the film.
King says she was impressed by how her young cast “were really willing to go there for a film that’s very honest and raw and real,” adding, “I cant’ wait to come back for the film festival to show the kids what a beautiful job they did.”
- Omaha Film Festival Celebrates Seven Years of Growing the Local Film Culture (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Joan Micklin Silver’s Classic ‘Hester Street’ Included in National Film Registry (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Vincent Alston’s Indie Film Debut, ‘For Love of Amy,’ is Black and White and Love All Over (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- From the Archives: Conquering Cannes, Alexander Payne’s Triumphant Cannes Film Festival Debut with ‘About Schmidt’ (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Nancy Bounds, A Timeless Arbiter of Fashion Beauty, Glamour, Poise (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
Alice’s Wonderland, Former InStyle Accessories Editor Alice Kim Brings NYC Style Sense to Omaha’s Trocadero
Alice Kim’s story reads like a pitch line for a new reality television series. Growing up back east she began cultivating an intense interest in Omaha of all places, and her fascination grew more acute with each encounter she would have with someone from this Midwest city. She never visited here, mind you, she just read about it and kept running into Omahans, and every encounter and exposure reinforced in her mind this idealized version of Omaha as the embodiment of the All-American city. The thing is, her magnificent obsession didn’t wane after she carved out a career in New York City’s fashion and style industry, primarily as an editor with InStyle magazine. In fact, she kept cultivating this fixation and then one day she left her life and career in the Big Apple behind in order to transform her life in the middle of the country, far from the tastemaking and trendsetting scene of New York. The following story and sidebar for The Reader (www.thereader.com) describe how Kim has transferred her fashionista sensibilities to my hometown of Omaha and reinvented herself at the same time as a first-time mom and soon to be bride. Her fairytale life change is the subject of her delightful blog, Postcards from Omaha, and of a book she hopes to complete by year’s end.
There’s a nice symmetry to her story as well: Now that this accessories maven is well ensconced in Omaha with her lifestyle boutique, Trocadero, she’s helping prepare young Nebraska women with designs on having career sin fashion and style in New York City realize their dreams.
Alice’s Wonderland, Former InStyle Accessories Editor Alice Kim Brings NYC Style Sense to Omaha’s Trocadero
©by Leo Adam Biga
As appears in The Reader (www.thereader.com)
Alice Kim’s story of leaving New York City for Omaha has gotten much play.
In 2007, the then-InStyle magazine accessories editor acted on her admittedly “weird,” long-held preoccupation with Omaha by moving here and opening the Old Market lifestyles boutique, Trocadero.
“My store is in some ways InStyle come to life,” she says.
Her experience recommending the best of this or that gives Trocadero customers the benefit of her branded, expert, insider’s advice.
“I have that kind of finger on the pulse of what people want.”
Still, her store has struggled amid the recession and conservative Midwest buying habits that don’t mesh with her somewhat frivolous merchandise.
Cognoscenti, however, regard this Big Apple sophisticate as a style maven and tastemaker. Her exclusive, discriminating suggestions for just the right hand bag, pair of shoes or home decor item is heeded.
She cops to not being a salesperson but says, “I can always convince somebody that this is a great something or other.” Her spin, she says, goes something like: “’It’s a total New York brand, it’s not sold everywhere, it’s at a great price point.’ And all of a sudden there’s a story and they’re like, Really? And they buy it.
“It’s like sharing industry secrets,” she says. “I feel I have a unique angle, which is really telling people about the stuff that we as editors love.”
Everything she sells or endorses, she says, “I stand by.”
If her style sensibility were a tag line she says it would be “practically perfect,” adding, “It’s always going to be practical and it’s going to close to darn perfect.”
She has the professional chops and personal élan to articulate her discerning aesthetic without sounding smug, whether selecting things to sell in her shop or for her own wardrobe or excising the dull dross from a client’s closet.
“I feel very confident in my skills,” she says over sushi at Hiro 88 West. “I’ve always known how to style. I think a lot of it is innate. It’s just having the eye. It’s like being a good editor. But, of course, I’ve been trained. When I arrived in New York, from Pittsburgh, in 1992, I certainly was not a fashion diva then and I certainly didn’t look the part. I was doughty.”
She’s a long way from doughty today, though she felt that way while pregnant last year with her first child. Since the birth of her daughter Annabel she’s pined to retire her formless maternity clothes and return to some chic wear, such as the classic black dress she wore at lunch, accented by pearls.
“I don’t want to look messy anymore,” she says.
Kim is marrying Annabel’s father, entrepreneur Adrian Blake, this summer. She’s also step-mom to his two children as the two households recently merged.
Even before her pregnancy, Kim says she’d gotten lazy about her look and gained weight thanks to Omaha’s more sedentary lifestyle. Actually, she says her casual phase began near the burned-out close of her frenetic New York career.
“There were times when towards the end of my working days I just didn’t care anymore. I was just so busy. I’d wear flip flops because I was hoofing it all the time, walking from the garment district back to the office with bags of accessories. I wasn’t going to teeter in high heels.
“I was on the New York fashionista diet [champagne and finger food[. I was definitely much thinner when I lived in New York."
Then there were those times, she says, "when I wanted to get dressed up, so then I'd wear a beautiful jacket with a dress and heels. It really depended on my day. If I knew I was going to be in the office all day then I would wear something nicer because I wouldn't have to be schlepping around town for shoots and samples.
"When I first started the store [Trocadero],” she says, “I wanted to look nice — to be representative of fashion in New York in Omaha. I probably worked harder (at it) and then gradually just became more casual.”
For a year she bought her clothes at Target as a concession to mommy practicalities. Besides, she says, good style “doesn’t have to be super expensive.” Balancing being a new mom and fashionista at 41 means remaking herself, so she’s back to shopping at Von Maur to outfit herself more appropriately.
“I’m in my 40s — I really can’t keep dressing like a teenager. It’s just having to embrace that I’m an adult. I feel better now because I have grown-up clothes. I can look equally fine walking to the kids’ school or coming to lunch here or going to the supermarket.
“My thing is cardigans.”
Her lifetime hunt for the perfect black leather motorcycle jacket continues.
Making one’s self or home polished, she says, is all about investing in a few high quality things and making them pop with the right accessories.
“I think my house reflects my store, which is always about the accessories, the details, the accent pieces. Like I have this plain, white, Danish-modern couch. What makes it interesting is the hand-painted, embroidered pillows on it.”
When it comes to clothes, she says as clichéd as it sounds, “you start with a little black dress and the way you accessorize it is what gives it its style.”
It’s about transformation. Like opting to live out her version of the American Dream in Omaha. After a whirlwind start, she began doubting her life makeover, but now that she’s found her man and become a mother, she says, “I feel content.”
Her magnificent obsession is the subject of her blog,” Postcards from Omaha,” and a book she hopes to finish soon.
Trocadero is located at 1208 1/2 Howard St. in the Old Market. For more information call 402.934.8389 or visit shoptrocadero.com.
Living the NYC Fashion Dream
©by Leo Adam Biga
As appears in The Reader (www.thereader.com)
With all the fabulous things Alice Kim ‘s done in New York City and now her entrepreneurial foray in Omaha, she says what she’s proudest of is helping people.
At InStyle she says she found great satisfaction “helping small designers get nationwide recognition.”
The fashion business is all about networking, and Kim worked hard cultivating and nurturing relationships with designers, photographers and publicists.
At Trocadero she’s parlayed old contacts and made new ones. She’s also availed herself as a go-to resource for young people with designs on their own NYC fashion careers. Several area women who came to her with their aspirations ended up as Trocadero interns. Each is now pursuing life in the Big Apple.
They credit “Alice’s Fashion Finishing School” with preparing them.
“It was a great experience to learn from someone that had actually been in the industry and really knew what it was about. She’s been a great mentor and a kind of guardian angel,” says Hannah Rood, an account executive with LaForce-Stevens. “We learned so much about things like sense of urgency and attention to detail that have carried over into what I’m doing now.”
“Alice’s influence continues to impact my life,” says Kathleen Flood, an associate editor and blogger with The Creators Project. “When I was working for her, she was not only a boss and mentor, but a friend, and even an older sister figure at times.
“Now that I have my own interns, I’m starting to teach them little tricks she taught me.”
“She definitely expanded my vision of success … and has truly guided me to where I am today,” says Ellie Ashford, a freelance public relations assistant at Polo Ralph Lauren.
They all refer to doors Kim helped open for them. The Omaha transplants say they’re keeping a pact to stay connected.
As for Trocadero as a launching pad, Kim says, “I feel like I’ve created a special space that people really consider to be a home away from home. I offer myself as much I can.” Before she’ll recommend an intern to a New York contact, she says, “you have to prove to me you’re ready for the big time.”
Kim enjoys following her former interns’ progress. “They’re all leading their own lives and having their own adventures. They’re doing it — they’re doing what I did 20 years ago. They’re living the dream.”