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Fiji born model Duane Ram reviving Sacramento's fashion scene

Geraldine Panapasa
Sunday, July 17, 2011

IT'S all about quality for Fiji-born Duane Ram, an aspiring fashion producer, designer, model and actor who has more than two decades of experience in the United States.

Duane is the eldest son of Sophia O'Connor and Frances Ram. He has two brothers, Carlos and Kurt, a local Hip Hop rapper a.k.a 'Rabbit'.

Three months ago, Duane graced the pages of BAYFashion Magazine for his role in organising the Sacramento Fashion Week in February this year.

At first glance of the March issue, Duane could have easily been mistaken for a Latin-American model; black suit, polished shoes, hand in the pocket and slightly arched against a wall, and that look, the look all models have in front of flashing lights a look that's not too sexy not too serious, but enough to make the clothes look good. After all, modelling for Duane is about showcasing the clothes and "not them (models). They have to keep their head up and just do their thing". But Duane didn't just learn the tricks and trade of modelling and acting during his adolescent and adult years in the US.

His first commercial break as a model came much earlier than expected when he won the Golden Glaxo baby competition as a then two-year-old in Fiji.

"It was just the beginning of a journey that would lead me to my undiscovered love for the arts, and passion for fashion and entertainment," he said. Reminiscing about his early years in Fiji, Duane attended Marist Brothers Primary and later until Marist Brothers High School in Suva until Form Four. "I was visiting my grandmother in the US when the coup (1987) happened so I ended up staying there. My brothers came up and after they finished school, they came back (to Fiji) but I stayed on. When I moved to the US, I stayed in the Bay area which was like the San Francisco peninsula. I was really shy. Everything was so different especially the school. It wasn't until my senior year that I got involved in drama and was cast in the high school production of the play Grease," he said.

"I kind of wanted to break out of my shell. I figured the best way to do that was to stand up there in front of everybody and just act stupid."

In the BAYFashion Magazine interview, Duane said he moved to Sacramento in California 10 years ago and met up with photographer Grace Ballesteros who was planning an event to network with all local talents the event was called Magnum Opus. In 2006, he started as a model and quickly became involved in the production of the show but it wasn't until 2009 that he got the chance to produce the whole show.

"Sacramento compared to San Francisco, there isn't much happening in the night life and the best way I figured to do that was to produce shows and get people downtown. That's how it all started," he said of the Sacramento Fashion Show where part of the proceeds are given to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Sacramento and Northeastern California.

"We wanted to revive the Sacramento scene. There are a lot of local, talented people and we've opened it up to designers all over the bay area like San Francisco.

"It's more geared to the local designers but it's open to everyone to participate. It's like New York Fashion Week. There are two categories at the show; established designers and emerging designers who are like student designers.

"Last year, we grouped it together to have emerging designers and finale designers. I actually made it more of a week-long event. It was mainly two to three days but now its four to five days long.

"Next year, we're going to split up to have the spring/summer and winter/fall categories. Depending on the submissions, we'll group them into those categories according to the guidelines and criteria. The sketches are given first to see their idea and where they're going with it. It really starts with their idea on paper. We do work with the local agencies to get models. For high fashion shows, the age range for models is 16 to 20 so we want to stay within that. We know it's not New York so 16 is still the minimum age but we go up to like 28-year olds but they have to look presentable, we want to get the real representation of Sacramento."

From high-end, quality couture fashion lines of Victor Louis, Melissa Kay, Ceazar Cabreros and Tiana Vega at the Sacramento Fashion Show 2011 to a work-in-progress stint with street urban fashion company Playez International, Duane says Pacific fashion is unique and different.

"It's more tropical, more comfort, casual and resort fashion. New York and other countries are more high fashion couture. I've visited the site (Fiji Fashion Week) and I've seen what they have. It's similar to Miami Fashion Week; more swim wear and lounge," he said.

His effervescent career includes a television production that won him an Emmy Scholarship for videography production awarded by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He went on to graduate with an associate arts degree in television production.

While he draws inspiration from seeing people do what they believe in, Duane's commitment and determination to succeed in an industry that is known for its many challenges has resulted in the creation of the hottest fashion show of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento area.

Duane's advice on...

Modelling

- Take it like a job

- Be prepared to deal with rejection

- For Fiji, local models should use organised fashion shows to gain experience before venturing elsewhere

- You have to realise your potential. If you're not a runway model, you're never going to be a runway model - that's reality.

Acting

- Two levels of acting. It's best to get work as a non-union actor because of the job availability and opportunity to broaden experiences in small screen plays like student films even though it doesn't have that much money to pay

- Difficult to book a job so prepare for rejections

- Have something to fall back on; with acting, some days you have work and other days you're out of work


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