Ashley Smith and Erik Rasmussen are lovers and best friends. You might recognize Smith, she’s a model, girl-about-town, and most recently a designer for RVCA; Rasmussen is a photographer and the deputy editor of the quarterly men’s magazine Man of the World. In person the two now-New Yorkers—Smith was raised in Texas, Rasmussen in Long Island—are undoubtedly sexy and charismatic…and flirtatious. They’re also interesting counterparts of the fashion and editorial worlds.
My first encounter with Smith was in 2010, at a photo shoot I was working on in Miami Beach. Rasmussen was part of our crew and Smith was there too; she was reading on a blanket in the shade. Someone whispered, “That’s Erik’s girlfriend. She’s a model and she’s blowing up.” As it turns out, that’s exactly what she’s doing. In a short matter of time, the 22-year-old has become one of fashion’s “it” girls, appearing in the pages of Elle, i-D, and numerous international Vogues; modeling looks for Prada and Vivienne Westwood; and even acting as the face of T by Alexander Wang. It’s not just her signature look that’s propelled her rising star, it’s also her attitude—Smith is unabashedly herself, a curious combo of beauty and bite. In honor of love, character, and New York City life, we first interviewed Smith then Rasmussen, and got a dose of their individual charms in the process.
Ashley, we think your smile is boss. Growing up, did anyone ever ask you to close your now iconic gap?
Ashley Smith: No one asked me to close my teeth growing up but a lot of kids made fun of my “strange teeth.” The honest reason why I wasn’t able to close my gap growing up was because I didn’t have the money to do it. Dentistry is expensive. Now I’m really glad I didn’t.
With your Texan roots, do you miss anything particular about your home state?
AS: I mostly miss my friends and food—Tex-Mex especially—and the good ol’ sunshine eight months out of the year. I really love living in New York but sometimes I forget how amazing Southern hospitality is. People in Texas are just so open and friendly.
In a few short years, you have become the industry’s darling, but unlike the usual “it” girl, you are a little different, you seem to have more tenacity. What advice would you give to other young women about making it?
AS: I’ve always tried to touch on the importance of being yourself. Being a model has given me the opportunity to experience so many places, people and information. And more importantly how I feel about these things. I believe one reason why people enjoy my photos is ’cause they can see I have something going on behind my eyes, my own ideas. Keep yourself interested, educated, experienced!
Tell me about your last adventure.
AS: Well, I do a lot of adventuring in my work. I just got back from South Africa and Turkey recently. South Africa was so amazing—I went to Johannesburg and played on a resort with zebras and elephants and lion cubs. Before that I was on one of my RVCA advocate trips to Australia to do photos for their new collection. I surfed with Makua Rothman and hung out with some of the RVCA-sponsored professional skaters and artists!
Favorite means of flirting: a wink, a smile, or dance?
AS: A dance for sure! How do you think I met Erik? He actually got me into my first bar in New York. It’s normally called Home Sweet Home, but this night it was Club Weird, playing ’80s Goth music—not so easy to dance to but I wanted to impress him anyway.
Do you have an all-time favorite model or a hero, so to speak, in the industry?
AS: My heroes are mostly in the music and art industry. I haven’t met her but Beyoncé has always been one of my idols. She is just so positive and radiant and she takes care of herself and business in a refreshing manner. And her music is amazing to listen to as well! What’s not to like?
What are your can’t-live-without beauty goods?
AS: I’m a simple lady when it comes to beauty goods. I believe in accentuating what you already have rather than covering up. I am obsessed with this BB cream from L’Oréal called Magic Skin Beautifier. It’s so easy to put on and makes your skin look flawless! And I can’t live without YSL’s felt-tip eyeliner pen called Eyeliner Effet Faux Cils Shocking.
What three words would you use to describe Erik?
AS: Insightful, caring, and witty. I’ve never had more fun hanging out with anyone else.
AS: I would say optimistic, young, and adventurous.
Erik, as deputy editor of Man of the World, did you find that to be a challenging transition from photographer?
Erik Rasmussen: There’s more freedom when you’re on the outside. The satisfaction of editing your own work is immediate and complete. On the inside there’s a constant fight for real estate, content, and time among other things. You have to see the work of others with less subjectivity. You can’t simply like it or dislike it, nor judge it against the backdrop of your own taste. Your time and creative energy are spent on the work of others, which is a healthy exercise of the ego as well as a total game changer in your own process. So, yes! It’s been a challenge.
Do you remember where you met Ashley?
ER: I met Ashley downstairs [in my building]. When she came to NYC looking for an agent she stayed with a friend who lived in the apartment below mine. One day, while going to get a pack of peas for dinner, I walked down the stairs and passed an open door. Ash was sitting at a table looking bored. So I invited her to eat with me—spaghetti with peas in olive oil—and watch a movie, Yes Man.
What do you enjoy taking photos of? People or places or…what tends to catch your eye?
ER: Faces catch my eye. Mostly it’s light. If the light is right, people and things come unstuck. They sort of pop and call for attention. I like dense pictures, so I tend to underexpose, which is against the mode. I’m not a fashion photographer but I do work in fashion where the pictures are always on the edge of blowing out. It makes skin look pearly and white and clean, I get it. But it looks awful when you take “real-life” photos.
What is your dream breakfast?
ER: My dream breakfast comes on Saturday, just before noon. It’s 65 degrees and sunny. I’m in L.A. having pancakes at Chateau Marmont with a big pot of coffee. Or maybe a chaussons aux pommes and a noisette somewhere in Paris on the same warm bright Saturday morning. I know I sound like a dick with all this Chateau Marmont and Paris talk, but you asked and it’s the truth.