Rivi Madison: A Model Gone Rogue

Not every model follows the path of high fashion and couture. Some take the commercial route, others focus on fine art shots, and some of the really daring dabble in all of these fields. Take for example Rivi Madison. A dancer gone model from Miami now in LA. Consider her the modern chameleon, able to take on any role and effortlessly transform into it. Whether it be a retro fashion look, strong emotions, erotica, or fine art she took her emotional dance skills and learned how to turn them into poses. More than a model, more than a dancer, Rivi considers herself a conceptual artist and took the time to sit down with me to let me dig into her mind.

Photographer Amanda Jones/Sugar
What was your first experience that got you interested in becoming a model?

I remember modeling for a friend of mine. It was an experiment above all, but there was a feeling right after that made me feel like I shouldn't be doing this just for play. Plus, being a dancer, it kind of made sense to pursue modeling; I view modeling like still-frame dancing.

Photographer Jonathan Miskevich
How long have you been a dancer and how did it get you interested in modeling?

I am not a classically trained dancer. For dancers, I found dance quite late.

I knew I was a dancer when I was about ten years old but actually started dancing in my late teens. I didn't know what entailed being a dancer by definition and that's why it took some time for me to fully understand the world of dance. I tried getting into ballet but, I just couldn't do it. It was not for me. Through the years and my rebellious nature concerning dance, I found that I was happiest dancing contemporary and hip-hop. I am most content and confident improvising though.

Dance didn't necessarily spark my interest in modeling; it just went hand in hand, specifically with posing and being self-reliant in that.

What do you feel you get through modeling that you don’t get through dance or vice versa?

Modeling makes me forget everything. My mind goes blank when I'm modeling and it's a way of escape for me. Yet freedom at the same time; it's kind of difficult to explain. Dancing makes me remember and forget. It involves actual personal emotion. Whereas in modeling I feel like I'm acting. I don't act when I dance. Dance is a release; modeling is an escape. So they are alike because of how physical they are, but emotionally, they are not so similar (for me that is).

Photographer Rick Craft
Your style of shooting is very different than most. It entangles bondage with burlesque with film noir and pure glamour. No matter what photographer you work with you always manage to make the picture yours. What is your approach to getting ready for a shoot?

Oh, thank you so much. I am very...particular.  It also depends on who I work with. That is how I approach a shoot: by understanding the photographer first, and then seeing what I would like to do. I'll usually speak with the photographer I'm working with on what I have in mind and collide it with the way they think or what they have in mind.  I like being put out of my comfort zone (maybe that is my comfort zone, being taken out of it).  There are many little details that go into a shoot.  But on the other hand, there are two specific photographers I work with that thrive off pure spontaneity. I guess in total, it's pretty tough to erase your essence.

Photographer Damon Loble
What people or things do you look up to for inspiration?

There are too many people and actual things that I look up to and/or inspire me. A few names would be Steven Klein, Bjork, Kendrick Lamar, my mom, Mariacarla Boscono, Ranya Mordanova, Stoya, sock garters, gold chains, everyone I've ever met...the list truly does go on for about 5 years.

Photographer Rick Craft
As I mentioned before your style of shooting leans towards pin-up erotic a considerable amount of the time. What got you interested in this style of shooting?

Audrey Hepburn was the first reason why I ever admired vintage and the beauty of that era. She's a true hero of mine. That is the kind of vintage I am trying to channel.  Miss Mosh is the reason why I ever became aware of modeling in this specific style (and being allowed to model while being petite as well). Erotica has always caught my eye ever since I can remember.  Erotic photography, Fashion (such as Gareth Pugh and McQueen) and Stoya are probably the main reasons why I ever became interested in erotica.

An important moment for me was when I posed nude for the first time for Jenny Woods; that experience helped me truly find myself in that genre and who I am as a person.

Photographer Jenny Woods
I am very familiar with your work with Jenny Woods and such a big fan, could you expand a little more on what that experience was like?

Oh I love Jenny too. Plus, she's gorgeous.

I was still at the point where I felt like I wasn't ready to do artistic nudes. I looked through her portfolio and felt this pull to contact her. I shot her an email. I saw that she did nudes and wondered. She herself was a bit doubtful because of my height and look. I was a bit different than what she was used to and I was on the other side doubting whether she'd want to work with me because of my unsteadiness concerning nudes and look. She was understanding and suggested implied instead. But there was a switch in me, as if this was a certain turning point for me. And I told her, "No. Let's do it. I want to do what you want to do. And I'm ready."

She was a bit taken aback. I laugh because it's so funny looking back now. She asked me more than 5 times if I was sure. I knew I was. She had to be the first one to shoot me in this light. And so we did...and it was one of the best moments in my life because something then triggered in me. That shoot awoke the decision of moving to LA.

I don't think Jenny fully understands how much I thank her; she's given me a lot. 
Life has given me a lot.

Photographer Jenny Woods
On your homepage you call yourself a conceptual artist. Do you partake in planning the photo shoots you model in? 

Yes, very much so.  I am quite hands on when it comes to every shoot.  I and whoever I am working with are always trying to get something across and it requires a bit of thinking.  From styling the shoot to the concept and so forth I involve myself.

You are very adaptable whether it is a mod 1960’s shoot, bondage infused, or a raw emotional shot. With such a versatile range of shooting I can only imagine how you spend your day to day life. What do you find yourself doing outside of modeling?

*laughs and buries hands in face* I am always busy modeling or doing things related to what I do actually. If I'm not modeling, I'm dancing or thinking of new things to shoot or create. And this keeps me very happy and busy.  I listen to a lot of music. I'm always doing visual research as well.

Photographer Rick Craft
Now that you have been working for a while do you find yourself being contacted by the photographers that you want to work with or do you still have to reach out to them?

I do get contacted now by people I have always wanted to work with, but still feel like I do more of the contacting. Yet granted I have only been modeling professionally for a year or so. I feel I'm going at a good pace. There are certain names that are quite big that I do hope to work with one day even though I'm not a high fashion model. But, "you never know unless you try."

Photographer D-Stroke
You are originally from Miami but now based in Los Angeles. What do you enjoy most about LA and miss most about Miami?

That's a good question. I miss my family and friends in Miami most but Miami itself? No. I do like the fact though that Pharell's studio is there.  And Los Angeles...its home. I love everything about it and I truly mean that. Driving cross-country from Florida to California was the best decision I ever made.

Photographer Gila on the Road

To view more of Rivi's work or contact her for bookings click here.