Unleashing Authenticity: The Power of People with Kyra Sophie
What makes people special? In a world where inclusivity and diversity are becoming more important, the fashion realm is shifting towards a new direction. Casting director and multidisciplinary artist Kyra Sophie injects humanity into the industry by seeking out real people with personality. We talked about love-hate relationships with the fashion world, the importance of honesty, and how casting can transcend into an art form.
Kyra Sophie Wilhelmseder was born in Vienna in 1991 and discovered her love for photography in 2010. Since then, her travels and work as a street scout have been fueled by her fascination with people who exude raw emotion, sincerity, and authenticity. As an interdisciplinary artist, Kyra seamlessly integrates these qualities into her holistic approach to creation. Her work aims to raise awareness of societal inequality and inspire humanity to shift its perspective.
Hi Kyra! You are making art at top-notch schools like the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and CSM in London and discovering hidden talents through casting and scouting. We’re curious, could you give us a glimpse of your background so far?
I’m an explorer. I explore myself and my surroundings, and this is how I ended up finding two careers that I can express through one creative language – through and with people. I have tried nearly everything that I can imagine, to finally find the peace within me and with what I am doing. All I wished for was to create, but I just couldn’t grasp what it was. So I manage to do so through photography, film and art. Yet people have always been my inspiration and have guided me both personally and professionally.
‘It took me nearly a decade to understand, and see what I am capable of.’
I pursued an art degree to come to terms with my creative self and value my ideas and vision. I still struggle, as I usually end up put in one of two categories – I’m either an artist or a casting director. I want to be both, and I am both. As mentioned, my art is people, and casting is about people.
What were your earliest career aspirations or dream jobs? When did you think that you could turn it into a career?
In my early teen years, I dreamed of a career in acting or film. However, I was too insecure and had zero trust in myself to pursue this path. Photography was always an interest, but I struggled to call myself a photographer due to a perceived lack of technical knowledge.
In Berlin, I made my first money by capturing moments and events. However, I doubted my potential for a proper career in this field.
From this experience, I discovered that I’m good at talking to strangers. Once I realized that my eye for people is drawing attention from the fashion world, I felt I finally found the one thing for me. However, I had no idea about casting or management. I am self-taught. I believe that honesty is the most important aspect of the industry, and I strive for the industry to truly see and understand people.
What shifts have you seen in the fashion industry since you started, and how do you hope to change it for the better?
There has been a big shift towards inclusivity and diversity. That is what I was aiming for when I started posting the images of people that I have scouted. I wanted people to be aware of their beauty and not compare themselves to false beauty standards. There is a place for all of us, but only a small number of people, with pre-existing wealth and looks, have had the privilege of being seen.
Finding the beauty in people and encouraging them to believe in themselves made me want to continue being a part of this superficial industry. I hope that big companies and people in power will stop tokenizing and exploiting individuals. I wish for a moment beyond social media numbers and looks.
How would you say that street casting is changing beauty and fashion generally?
I think we need to detach from the word street casting because eventually most models have been scouted somewhere on the street or on the internet. It is about authenticity that comes from people that we all can relate to, and not the mini percentage of idealistic model appearances. We want to identify with the people we see in magazines, TV, and film, and those we follow. So by giving all sorts of people the exposure has brought some reality into this industry.
Can you tell us more about the ins and outs of street casting? How does it work, and what are the specifics of it within the fashion path?
I never thought the portraits I posted would take me into fashion. However, to be a successful model, standards must be met. Unfortunately, the industry is slow to adapt and design schools still only use sample-size mannequins. This approach has to be improved to achieve permanent changes in the industry.
These days I don’t do ‘Street Casting’ as much as I used to, as my team and requests have been growing and I spend more time in front of my laptop selecting people from agencies. Sometimes, too many egos want to decide on the casting instead of listening to the person who is actually hired to do the job.
Of course, it’s different once you are in the Olymp and have your long-term loyal clients, but achieving top success requires full commitment to the fashion world. It is a love-hate relationship: I dream of more high fashion jobs and shows, but I think my wish for fairness and love for people is too big to achieve the top in the near future.
You give stages to people separating the commercial aspect of it and go back to humans as subjects, not objects. What makes you interested in people and the casting process so far?
I’m fascinated by the stories of people—their thoughts, desires, dreams, and worries. In a society that’s increasingly driven by the metaverse and apps that measure our worth in numbers, I dig for more humanity. What’s so special about being human are the feelings, personalities, thoughts, and emotions which are so beautiful.
Over the last year, along with my growing success in casting, I, unfortunately, became more locked to my computer and have less interaction with people. But whenever my team and I have live castings, it brings me immense joy to meet everyone face to face. (So any clients planning a show – hit me up! I love runways haha).
What about your community, specifically, makes it a safe space for exploration and experimentation?
I think it is my honesty. I am not lying or promising people anything, because in any art field, you simply can not have a guarantee that things will work out as you wish them to. We need to learn to accept this fact and to grow with every step we take. I think that is why people feel safe with me because I make mistakes, I sometimes feel depressed and lost, and wander around in life wanting to find peace in my mind and heart as everyone else does. I am just not afraid to speak about it openly.
When you’re seeking inspiration, who or what do you usually turn to?
My friends and strangers.
Balancing mental health and work can be tough. How do you prioritize self-care while staying productive and creative? What is your reality?
I struggle a lot with my mental health, and I am open about it, as I think this is the best way to deal with worries in your head and find companions. Further and to be completely honest with you, I do still need to learn to be better at looking after myself, but that is the beauty of getting older and wiser. You learn to accept and understand that you can’t force anything in life in the words of my dear friend Maša Stanić: ‘if you force a fart, it probably turns into shit’.
What current projects are you working on that you’re particularly excited about, and would like to draw attention to? We’re all ears!
This year will be a major step for me, not only in terms of casting but also for my art. Next month I will start working on my first movie casting. This means I will go back to my scouting and working face-to-face with people. Apart from that, my colleagues and I are launching a casting company called CMS WORLD. I am also co-directing a short film, will be working on several exhibitions and I will start sharing more of my old and new work as a multidisciplinary artist. However things turn out, whether they happen or not, I will learn to accept that and enjoy what is coming next.