Ami Keita

A portrait of woman

The Soho House Amsterdam member discusses rewriting the traditional ideals of beauty and how she came to create her casting agency, GEM Faces

‘My favourite Soho House is my local one, Soho House Amsterdam. It’s my gym, my spa, and my reason not to cook on a Monday evening. There, I meet all my creative friends and acquaintances for small talk to keep me distracted from what I actually need to do. 

‘As far as my job goes, I’m the founder of GEM Faces – a casting agency that provides different types of faces to those we’ve seen in the commercial and fashion industries so far. I enjoy exploring new definitions of beauty, and have a particular interest in youth culture. 

‘After graduating from the Willem de Kooning Academy in 2018, a friend asked me to help out on a casting job for a commercial brand. For many obvious reasons that weren’t so obvious to me at the time, he thought it was what I did. It was, without me realising it. I started GEM Faces in 2019 as a platform for faces that I personally thought were interesting. 

‘When street casting, I find so many lovely faces and interesting personalities that often end up not being chosen because the client went for the more commercial choice. But being a creative myself, I knew how to produce a short film with friends or set up a photoshoot, so that’s what I did. 

‘Starting this project, I realised that many appreciated the journey and wanted to keep working with me, with me as their agent. I’ve never professionally modelled myself, so I have no personal experience of what happens during a photoshoot or fashion show for a big brand. When I heard stories about people losing a huge amount of weight to be booked or being just one centimetre too short, it bothered me. I don’t understand why these issues matter and simply want to prove everyone wrong. 

‘Diversity is important because it’s a mirror of our society and people need to be able to recognise themselves in adverts, films, and photos. I think it’s dangerous to have these bizarre ideals of beauty, resulting in people wanting to change so much about themselves. They ultimately forget to appreciate the beauty that was gifted to them, which came without a price tag.
‘The Netherlands has a diverse population, but the media landscape is still struggling with how not to be selective when it comes down to size, age, and skin colour. Not everyone in this country is size zero and the “perfect” height of 174cm or 185cm. They are slim, big, tall, tiny, white, Black, and all colours in between. We’ve seen a lot of change lately, which is good, and it’s vital that we continue like this. It cannot be a trend or a diversity flag for brands to prove they’re doing the right thing. Only when we consciously continue in this spirit will this movement change into the norm, and that’s where we want to be.

‘I like the use of fashion and photography as a means of communication; to visually speak about the current zeitgeist, our daily life, and to process all the information and media I see every day into one. 

‘I love working with others – a wide range of people with different expertise to keep creating new and exciting stuff. I’ve always believed that working together with these people, often strangers at first, would bring me to where I am now. And they will take me to where I want to be, without putting all of my energy and time into practising just one thing. I simply like too many things.’