Four Nashvillians selected to be gay and lesbian models in national ads

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Some familiar Nashville faces will grace the pages of several national gay and lesbian publications as the new models for the Bridgestone Firestone gay and lesbian print advertising campaign.

Joe Woolley and Justin Shephard have been selected as the models to appear in the gay male print ad, and Shelby Hall along with Alicia Hodge will appear in the lesbian print ad. All four tried out at an open casting call at Play Dance Club and were selected from more than 92 participants.

“Most of the models have never done any modeling prior to the casting call,” explained Laramey Lawson, senior vice president and media director for Gish, Sherwood & Friends, the agency handling the Bridgestone Firestone diversity print campaign. “So many were not only excited for the opportunity but were shocked to be selected.”

Look for profiles on each of the models selected for the gay and lesbian ads, and photos from their upcoming photo shoot in the February issue of “O&AN”.

A total of seven models were selected from the open casting calls. Judges had three main criteria to look for in candidates – overall appearance, campaign appropriateness and stature.

The winners are, along with the open casting call they appeared at, and the print campaign they were selected to model for:

Mina Knox – Arlington, Tenn., Play Dance Bar, African American print campaign.

Shelby Hall – Nashville, Tenn., Play Dance Bar, Lesbian print campaign.

Justin Shephard – Missouri City, Texas, Play Dance Bar, Gay male print campaign.

Alicia Hodge – Nashville, Tenn., Play Dance Bar, Lesbian print campaign.

Joe Woolley – Nashville, Tenn., Play Dance Bar, Gay male print campaign.

Wendy Arteaga – Nashville, Tenn., Coco Loco, Hispanic print campaign.

Jose Luis Avila – Nashville, Tenn., Coco Loco, Hispanic print campaign.

Three additional models will be selected from a modeling agency, to fill the spots of two “main stream” print ads, and a male to appear in the African American print ad.

Lawson said the open casting call process involved an overall total of 135 individuals to audition – 92 at the gay/lesbian event; 21 at the African-American event and 22 at the Hispanic event.

“By far the gay/lesbian event at Play was our most successful,” he said.

 Michael Fluck, advertising and Internet manager for Bridgestone/Firestone North America Tire, LLC, praised the method of selecting the models, and said he was pleased the new models would represent the diverse nature of Nashville, which is home to the corporate headquarters of Bridgestone Firestone North America.

“The event held at Play was amazing thanks to the efforts of everyone at Play, Out & About Newspaper, Gish, Sherwood & Friends and Bridgestone,” Fluck said. “It was a perfect venue, the entry turnout was more than we expected and the crowd was great. We’re always looking for ways to be innovative and give back to the community. This was just another way for us to do that. ”

Fluck said the process of inviting the community to try out for the modeling positions was one never used before by the company.

“It was a lot of fun and little bit of work,” he explained. “The outcome has been great with Bridgestone discovering some new Nashville talent and some great models for our 2005 print campaign. It wasn’t the easiest thing. For those who weren’t present, we first narrowed our 90 plus entrants down to about 40 and had quick “callbacks” for a second look. Even after this we had to seriously discuss about 30 finalists before really narrowing it down.”

As a result of the unique approach to the model selection, “Tire Review”, a leading tire industry magazine and Website, picked up the story about the open casting calls from an article that appeared in “Out And About Newspaper.”

“They followed with a short story on their website crediting us for our diversity efforts and said that ‘Bridgestone Firestone also actively supports community charities and outreach programs that benefit minority groups’,” Fluck said.

The idea of the open casting call was that of Lawson, who said he was more then pleased with the final results.

“I was extremely pleased,” he explained. “The overall goal was to continue our support and interaction with key diversity communities and this allowed us a more grassroots approach in Bridgestone’s home market. The support we received from our media and venue sponsors blew us away.