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Danny Cardozo Zooms in on Role Modeling, Modeling, and Photography

I met Danny when I was 26 (so was he) and living in South Beach. We booked him to shoot the cover of Tear Sheet, but one gig turned into a lifetime friendship. He was ambitious and talented, full of energy and full of heart. Mine was being stomped on at the time and Danny made sure I didn’t mope around in my studio apartment on Pennsylvania Ave., with only cockroaches for company. Thinking back, it seems like we were just kids then, and we both have grown up a lot. But when I pick up the phone and call Danny, it never seems like any time has passed. I can feel the warmth that emanates from his infectious smile, as though I’m sitting beside him at a cafe on Ocean Drive. I laugh at the same quick wit he’s always had. I blush when he makes me feel good about myself. He always had this effect; he’s sees the best in people and is inherently kind. But I do notice something different as the years pass, and it’s not only that his amazing photos get better and better; Danny is now both full of heart and full of wisdom. He is a role model to teens, other photographers, and even old friends like me. Read and learn. If you are really lucky, you will meet him someday. If you are even luckier, he will take your picture.

How did you get involved with Page Parkes Role Model Camp?

I’ve been working on my spiritual and personal growth for the past few years. There’s a great link between your inner beauty and outer beauty. It all revolves around contribution.  What makes you feel best inside is what you can give back. Having had such a long relationship with Page and now with Susan Miner, I brought them together to do the first one. I’ll be contributing my talent by allowing the girls to shine from within and giving them a beautiful photograph to take with them.

How do you envision the shoot that you’ll be doing with each girl?

I just want to capture their beauty, being comfortable and proud of who they are. A great image can come from just feeling and being, not posing. They will be discovering themselves in the camp; I want to capture in a photo what they have discovered. There may be a makeup artist donating her talent, but the makeup would be very natural. I will shoot in a portrait meets fashion way.

Will you be giving them advice too?

Yes, definitely. A lot of girls and a lot of women don’t have a male figure in their life that understands them and compliments them in an older-brother way. Being a gay guy, I have the freedom to tell them they look hot and have them feel good about it. I don’t come across like a dirty old man! From 13 to 17—it’s a very delicate age. We’re authority figures and can either be helpful or very damaging if a girl feels abused. I’m really personable. My demeanor enables me to connect with teens in a very positive way.

How long have you known Page?

Since I was 20, so 23 years!

How did you meet?

When she opened her office in Miami. She was one of the first three agents there. I was already testing. Irene Marie is the reason I got started in the business. I bought a camera at 14 and learned on my own how to take pictures. I was going out, hanging out with models, and started shooting them. The agency saw some of my pictures and asked me to come in. This is how naïve I was: They asked me to bring my “book,” and I thought they meant a school book! I brought a family photo album of snapshots I had done, using handheld lamps from Home Depot. Still, Richard Pollmann, who I met with, said, “You have a really good eye and you take good pictures.” They sent me to Atlanta to take pictures. By then I was studying Communication Design at the International Fine Arts College at Miami International University.  But I made so much money in one week, I quit school and became photographer.

Danny Cardozo FashionDanny Cardozo Photography

Do you see Page as a role model?

Yes. 100%. She’s influenced me my whole life. I call her my second mom.

How long have you known Susan Miner?

I remember Susan from when she modeled. I have known her for about two years. Within five minutes, we had a special connection. She’s a really special woman, with an amazing gift, and she’s had an amazing life. She really walks the walk.

How did you meet?

I met her through Ron at Next.

When did you shoot these stunning photos of her?

Last year. She was 42.

Model Susan Miner

Susan Miner by Danny Cardozo

Susan Miner (42 is the new 30!)

Is it your magic lighting or does Susan really look 30?

She looks amazing. She’s just a beauty girl. It doesn’t matter what she does—she’ll be sitting at breakfast wearing no makeup, and she looks like she walked out of a photo shoot. She’s an exceptionally beautiful woman inside and out. My whole life I’ve been influenced 95% by women. I learned so much from you and respect you greatly. [Blush, blush.] I’m very pro women. I want to educate girls to become women like you and Susan and Page.

Do you have experience with the therapy that Susan does?

I’ve filmed and shot one of her sessions. I’ve seen her do hands-on healing on a 15-yr-old and 46-yr-old producer who had gone through a major struggle, and I saw a break-through in both of them. I witnessed the energy that transfers from one to the other.

Do you foresee more camps like the Role Model Camp in August?

Yes. We’re aiming for 20 girls for this one.  If it doesn’t fill up, it will be exactly what it needs to be. We’d rather do it with girls who desperately need our help, like cancer survivors, girls who really need the boost.

Do you play a mentor role with models you shoot? (Typically we only hear the opposite story, of photographers taking advantage of their subjects.)

Always. I always have, ever since I discovered that I had the power to influence people. I refuse to ever say anything negative. Everyone is beautiful, no matter what shape, size, or color. I’m true to the industry, though. I am honest. I would never give a card to someone I don’t think can be a model. What is great about adding the positive “role” model, to the model word that can have negative or superficial connotations, is that everyone can be a role model. You don’t have to be a fashion model. You can be a role model to everyone you encounter.

What inspired you to get into photography?

Beauty, architecture, Patrick Nagel paintings, Duran Duran, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Smiths—all these cultural things I grew up with. I would listen to music and would envision pictures. I started shooting guys, in a very Herb Ritts style. But I prefer to shoot fashion. I love the architecture in fashion.

How did you learn photography?

I was self-taught.

The best photographers usually are, right?

I think you can learn photography, but you can’t learn the eye, the vision behind it. It’s not through a camera that you shoot an amazing picture; it’s through your mind. The camera is just a tool. School will teach you technically how to do it, but the vast majority of great photos are technically incorrect.

Favorite models you’ve shot?

Valentina Zelyaeva, the Ralph Lauren girl—an amazing model and role-model herself. She’s an advocate of healthy eating and is showing other models how to “Beautify Yourself Through Nutrition” (that’s her slogan: check out Valentina’s Blog).

Model Valentina Zelyaeva

Valentina and Danny in action














Ioanna Ntenti, an up-and-coming model in Paris, who has been featured in Vogue, Elle, Tank. She’s a great girl with an incredible spirit. Robin Linke, a hidden treasure who is here in Miami with Elite. She’s on one of my latest covers.

Ioanna Ntenti

Ally Ertel, a stunningly beautiful and caring girl, who actually is volunteering in the first RMC (Role Model Camp). Susan is mentoring her. She is the perfect example of inner beauty that flows outward. The reason I like the girls I mentioned as models: images of them just happen—they aren’t forced, you can’t tell these models what to do.

Ally Ertel by Danny Cardozo

Ally Ertel, by Danny Cardozo










Celebrities you’ve shot?

I shot Serena Williams recently, two weeks prior to her winning her fifth Wimbledon championship. Now she’s headed to the Olympics. She’s such an inspiring woman and athlete, with an incredible work ethic and great determination. She also gives back, through her Foundation. It was a pleasure to photograph her because she also has a strong fashion sense and was very committed to a great end result.

Serena Williams by Danny Cardozo

Serena Williams, by Danny Cardozo














Another amazing female personality I had the pleasure of working with recently is Katrina Campins. We have been collaborating a lot this year, as she and I have very similar views and enthusiasm for life. Katrina also is launching her personal brand www.katrinacampins.com and BeGr8er.com. Both are destined to promote wellness and inner strength through business and music.

Katrina Campins

Katrina Campins, by Danny Cardozo


What makes you a good photographer?

Passion and understanding of a moment. Evolving and always changing. You are only as good as the last thing you put out; the next thing you do, you want to make it great. And #1—having a great team. That vastly changed my work. I live by my crew.

What makes you a good person/a role model?

Love. I love everybody. I love the world. I love my life. Also, gratitude and humility—I begin every day with thank you. [I and my kids are going to start doing that. Thank you!]

Accepting that success is good, unless it changes you and makes you egotistical. The universe wants you to be rich in every aspect. I’ve lost everything a couple of times in the past. I’m here today because I was able to learn and grow. That’s a great lesson to learn at a young age: Life is about lows and highs, lows and highs. The sooner you learn that, the easier it is to cope with it. There’s nothing wrong with being down. That’s where the role model comes up. Nothing ever is going to be perfect and it’s great to understand that. Society is constantly telling kids they have to be #1, which makes them feel like they will never be enough. Our two major fears, according to Tony Robbins (self-help author and motivational speaker) are: I’ll never be enough or I’m not going to be loved.


Clearly you have a lot of advice for teens (and all of us!), what about for aspiring models?

Today’s market is completely saturated with amazing girls. We joke that they must have breeding farms in Russia or Brazil, producing all these tall, skinny, exotic models. And models get scouted everywhere. If you’re living in the jungle in the Amazon, they’ll find you! There has never been a time with so many great girls competing for the same jobs, at least at a high, exclusive level. So, unless you’re 5’9″ to 5’11″ and have good skin, carefully consider your options. Competition is harsh now. Seven out of ten girls are great. The one who lands the job is the one with spirit, personality, and professionalism.

Advice to aspiring photographers?

Trust your instincts. Don’t put anything your not proud of out there. Be patient. Take more time to do it right and you’ll be happy. Don’t compromise your vision for money or someone else. There’s nothing wrong with saying no. Not every job is for you. If a client needs a photographer to shoot diapers in grocery stores—that job is not for me. If it’s Chanel, I understand it. Love what you shoot and you’ll love every job you get. As the saying goes, love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life. You do have to be on social media. You have to be out there. It’s competitive. I finally found an agent who’s really great. Negotiating is hard. She does that so I can do my job better.

Final thoughts?

I think that more models and ex-models should become role models. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to give it back.  It’s everybody’s duty to be a role model to someone younger, so we can change to coming generation. If you have a moment and can help someone out, more than likely you’re going to be the only person who helps them out today.

More info on Page Parkes Role Model Camp

Interview with Supermodel Susan Miner

Stay tuned for a story about some kid role models later this week!