Don't call Suelyn Medeiros a video vixen. The Brazilian model, whose climbed to the top of the forefront of R&B and Latin music videos, will tell you that that's not all she is anymore. In fact, she's starred in so many clips that she can take her pick and name her price whenever she agrees (which is rare nowadays) to hit the set for an internationally famous musician, whom she's probably good friends with now, anyway.
Rather, refer to the New York native as a model/actress/designer/whatever else Jennifer Lopez does, and she'll be content. Intending to make herself known as more than just another dancing girl on a Bentley in front of a camera, Medeiros, who cites the former Fly Girl as her greatest role model, recently co-starred with Meagan Good in the film Video Girl (yet to be widely released), and is set to debut her new clothing line, Bombshell, this fall.
If her daily Twitter updates (@iluvsuelyn) or blog posts on her personal website aren't enough to connect you with her, we caught up with the photoshoot favorite turned budding entrepreneur during her rare downtime in Los Angeles to talk about her most unforgettable moments on a video shoot, transcending model stereotypes, and the truth despite the tabloids about her (non-existent) love life.
Complex: Your claim to fame is being a video model. How would you describe the atmosphere at a video shoot?
Suelyn Medeiros: Usually, the atmosphere is fun. It's long hours but a lot of the times I work with the same female girls, whom are my friends. It's fun and I really enjoy the set-up and how they handle the wardrobe and make-up.
Do you have any crazy on-set stories?
I actually have two off the top of my head. There was this stylist, and this was for one of the videos with R. Kelly and Snoop Dogg (for "That's That"). The stylist, from the moment I got there, just had issues with me and I don't understand why. She was just really giving me a hard time and it got to the point where we had a really bad argument and I even cried on set.
It was so upsetting because it was so many hours. When someone is constantly attacking you verbally and just trying to embarrass you in front of people, it's just really hard because no one really knows what's going on, you know? It was a very uncomfortable situation for me.
I'm actually a full-time working model, and it's annoying when they stereotype you and say, "She's probably in that video because she slept with so and so to get in it." It doesn't really work like that.
The girls on set that were upset that I was a lead and all of the attention from the camera and the director was on me, so everyone was already kind of jealous and just started laughing. It was a very uncomfortable moment for me so I just started crying and I had to leave the set, my makeup all smudged, and the director came to talk to me. I tried to redo my makeup and get back on set. Then I shot the video and it came out great at the end.
Why do you think the stylist came out of nowhere with her remarks?
I don't know if she was just kind of jealous of the situation or some personal issue with me prior, though I'd never met her before. I don't know what it exactly was. Sometimes people just don't like people for some reason or decide to pick on someone; that's how I felt that day.
Another time was with the crew, with a hairstylist basically giving me a hard time and wanting to do this crazy hairdo on me which I was not comfortable with and it looked horrible. It wasn't something that the director even wanted. But I was like, "Why are you gonna tease my hair like that when I have to go on set and we're not going to be able to comb it down or wash it?" So it was just a very uncomfortable situation, too.
But other than that, I've never had any problems with the artist. It's always been super professional. I've heard a ton of stories but it's never happened to me where anyone's been disrespectful or anything like that. Thank God.
It seems like the industry can be a bit cruel sometimes in terms of giving models respect and more credit than just being pretty faces. Would you say that's true?
I believe it is a bit true because I've been modeling for five years now. Videos are something I do once in a blue when I have a lead role or something that I find interesting and would be good to add to my portfolio or reel. But I'm not a video model. I can't film anything. There are some girls that literally what they do or seek for is fame in the video world.
I'm not a video vixen or a video model because I'm actually a working model. I do campaigns, I do magazines. I'm shooting like crazy. My schedule is so busy. So I'm actually a full-time working model and it is annoying when they stereotype you and they say, "Oh, she's probably in that video because she slept with so and so to get in it." It doesn't really work like that. It is annoying when people start saying things or when you hear something like that.
As a model in general, what would you say is the biggest misconception that bugs you the most?
Well, people just think, "OK, here's a beautiful girl, she's pretty and that's it. She's empty," you know what I mean? They don't really try to see behind that. I'm a very family-oriented person, I'm fun, I'm athletic—there's so much more to me. I'm a like a normal person. So, I feel sometimes people think because a girl's a model and she's beautiful, she's not normal. But we're normal people. So that's kind of annoying.
In past interviews, you've talked about how you want to break that stereotype about models. How do you see yourself working towards that?
I've always tried to work on that, actually. The thing is there are girls that are in it for the wrong reasons or do it for the wrong reasons and get there with the wrong reasons, and I think that kind of messes it up for the rest of us. But I think in general, with the stuff I've been doing lately, people will be able to see that there's more to me than just that. I can only speak for myself or show for my work. Everyone else, I can't really do anything about.
What do you have coming up?
I have a clothing like that launches in September. I have a TV show project. I've been working in film. Next year's going to be pretty big, a lot of different and new ventures for me, different areas that I've been working on hard this year and a little bit of last year. You'll finally be able to see the final of all that.
Do you know what your clothing line will be called yet?
Yeah, it's Bombshell by Suelyn.
What's the demographic you're targeting with the line?
Well, it's a full line. It's bathing suits, sportswear, dresses, loungewear and just casual sexy clothes. I'm Brazilian, so the line is Brazilian inspired—very bright colors, something to bring a little taste of my country to America and kind of show my sense of style and put my touch to it. So that's what I'm trying to bring out in my line. The line is mainly for girls who consider themselves a bombshell or someone that's comfortable with their own skin or that's comfortable with wearing sexy clothes that show their curves.
And you mentioned you're working on a TV series.
Yeah, I can't discuss much about that but that'll be coming next year.
Backtracking a bit, it seems like the current state of video modeling is shifting. Do you think video modeling is as promising as it used to be?
I don't really know, to be honest. It's not something I'm focused on. I know people are shooting videos everyday. I've heard that videos used to pay a lot more but my rate goes up as I do more things, so I don't really know. It doesn't really affect me in any way.
In this digital age, though, do you think videos could still flourish on TV or do you think they have more of a home online now?
Definitely online. People watch videos online all the time on Vevo.com or YouTube or iTunes, on your iPhone or your iPad. Everything's online nowadays.