We can't help but be charmed by Ali Michael and Marcel Castenmiller, modeling veterans and real-life couple who are way more than just blank slates for someone else's vision. Between Marcel's analog photography, Ali's catalogue of amazingly bizarre images and videos, and the hilarious, candid, and weird snippets of their lives they share on each of their huge social media followings, Ali and Marcel have created a new digital dialogue about themselves that makes us all want to hang out with them. And after spending the day with the pair on set of UO's new "Moving In" video, it's easy to see why.
Behind the scenes, we talked with Ali and Marcel about digital self-awareness, how they met, and some things they will never take seriously. Photography by Bobby Whigham
Let's talk about the Internet: These are a bunch of obvious statements, but you both share a lot on Instagram and Twitter, and have big followings, but also share a very openly candid, transparent, and un-glamorized version of yourselves. Has this been a choice?
Ali: My relationship with the Internet and especially Instagram has been really interesting. I think typically as a model you are not seen as an individual. You are seen as a blank slate for someone else's vision. So even though you are visible in ads or magazines or whatever you are not portraying yourself so people don't get a sense of who you are.
And it's been cool because Instagram and social media has been a way for both of us to present a more accessible portrayal of ourselves as opposed to going through some third party. I don't like feeling like I can't be myself.
Do you ever think about people not responding to it?
Ali: I'm sure that some people aren't into it. That's fine though, because some people are into it and that's enough.
Marcel: I agree. I haven't changed the way I do it when I started and when no one was looking. At first I thought,'Do I want all these people to see my real life?' But then I realized, yeah of course I do. It's like when you think about actors and how you can relate them to certain roles because they are able to talk about them. Like when Bill Murray says, 'I'm playing this role and here's how it was like me and here's how it wasn't.' Whereas with modeling you want to be like, 'Hey actually I'm not that guy — I'm this guy' but that typically never happens.
Ali: It's just nice to have control of your image. The Internet has provided a voice that we wouldn't otherwise have had.
And it comes down to you both having a self-awareness of the fact that people are forming opinions about the people they follow and especially ones they don't know.
Ali: Completely. And it's also cool because everything is so accessible. I know I've found people or things I wouldn't ever have found otherwise but you see them everyday. They are right in front of you.
Do any specific stories come to mind?
Marcel: Well, we met on Instagram.
Ali: Ok, only kind of! I had an Instagram crush on him.
Whoa. This is modern romance.
Ali: Yes, well so I had a fake account, the name of which I cannot reveal. My friend and I had started this fake account so we could secretly follow people, or people where it would be creepy if they knew we were following them.
Marcel: I don’t understand that.
Ali: You should!
Marcel: I feel like everyone should know when you follow them.
Ali: What! I definitely don't. Anyway, I was just being a creepy stalker and following him and had a crush on him.
Marcel: And I asked my friend, who posted a picture of Ali, ‘Who's this girl, what's she all about?'
Ali: This is such a dumb story.
Marcel: No it's not! It was great because we didn't have any expectations.
Ali: So then there was this event at the Bowery and my friend invited me and I went because I heard his friend — and probably he — was going to be there. So of course I went.
Marcel: And I bought tickets because I thought she would be there.
YOU GUYS! This is real blog fodder right here. It’s great you’ve been able to work together so much.
Marcel: We didn't see that happening.
Ali: No, not at all! But it's been so cool. We've done some awesome stuff together and, with working together, it’s like: we want to hang out anyway.
Ali, you are from Texas and Marcel you are from Toronto. Now you are in New York. Do you think you will stay there?
Marcel: We talk about LA and we talk about Tokyo all the time. But maybe they are pipe dreams.
Ali: I lived in LA for a year and afterward was antsy to get back to New York. I have a love - hate relationship with New York, because I grew up in Texas riding horses every day in a field…I love that kind of environment so it feels exhausting to not have nature around. At the same time, the moment I leave I want to go back immediately. I don't know, sometimes I feel like I want to get out.
Here are some more quick-fire questions for you:
What do you take seriously?
Ali: Being responsible
Marcel: Airport Security
What will you never take seriously?
Marcel: Gummy bears
Please share some items in a recent Notes App draft
Ali: One note of dreams I have starts out with:
cross your arms
"Are you a human being?"
nails outside glitter
Marcel: In my notes app: "I'm on a trip and Matt is singing a song for some of us on his road trip. He starts joking about the dead body downstairs. Somehow it appears in the room from where it was. He has to carry it back downstairs."
Offer three pieces of advice to your younger self.
1. Not everyone is going to like you and that's fine.
2. Feeling uncomfortable is often a good thing that you'll appreciate later.
3. Mom is probably right.
1. Manage your sweet tooth.
2. Swim once a day.
3. Get a cat.
Walk us through a typical day for you — what's your routine like at home?
Ali: I typically don't stay out late because I like to work out in the morning- it makes me feel like it's out of the way early. After that my schedule is kind of up in the air. As a model you're always kind of on-call for castings so sometimes those come up. Other than that I don't have too many rituals and just go wherever I find something I want or need to do.
Marcel: I usually will spend the night before at Ali's then bike home in the morning. I'll feed the cats and do some work on the computer. Otherwise, I will go out for a walk and take some photographs.
What is something you are good at?
Ali: Watching and listening
Marcel: I'd like to think I'm good at directions.
What is something you are bad at?
Ali: Being organized
Marcel: I get stage fright very easily so anything with a crowd makes me nervous.
Please recommend something...
To wear —
Marcel: a long black coat
To read —
Ali: Anything you can hold in your hands
Marcel: Ender's Game
To watch —
Ali: VICE on HBO, Bruce Jenner's ponytail on "Keeping Up with the Kardashians"
Marcel: "Possession" by Andrzej Żuławski
To hear —
Ali: The Spotify radio station for "Everything You Want" by Vertical Horizon
Marcel: Philip Glass
To drink —
Ali: Matcha or black coffee
Marcel: Sake masu
To eat —
Ali: Yosenabe at Inaka in Los Angeles or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Marcel: A tuna sandwich.
Ali, please tell us some things we don't know about Marcel.
Ali: He is incredibly considerate and has a perspective unlike anyone else I've ever met and also has a pair of toe socks that he likes to wear sometimes and looks way better in my clothes than I do.
Marcel, please tell us something we do not know about Ali.
Marcel: Ali admires her own bruises.