Picture a busy New York sidewalk on the brink of Spring. Zanita is bending and calling out directions from behind a lens pointed at this figure. Long and lean, her eyes sparkling for the camera, striking bold and free poses regardless of onlookers.
The woman is Jacky O’Shaughnessy and she’s a determined, fearless woman who says her high point is “yet to come.”
Jacky is an actor and model whose history is tied to both American coasts. Moving to New York when she was just 17, she worked the acting scene for twenty years before trying her luck in LA – eventually winning a Drama-Logue award and rave reviews in the Los Angeles Times. We’re profiling Jacky mostly because she’s fantastic, but also because we want to highlight awesome women doing kickass stuff in Zanita’s new home city. “There’s a strong history for me here,” Jacky explains, describing the firefighters and captains in her family heritage, inextricably linked to Manhattan Island.
You might recognise this beautiful woman from her American Apparel ads or her many television or stage appearances, so it’s hard to imagine that near the end of her time in LA she was turned down (again) from acting agencies because she was “too tall”. Jacky openly admits that “as an actor, you so often find yourself back at first base, and it’s exhausting.” For most of us unfamiliar with the stress and rigors of the acting world, it’s almost impossible to imagine how you could find the drive inside you to keep chasing your dreams in the face of that kind of rejection.
As a lesson to us all though, Jacky returned to New York and discovered a new avenue to success in a couple of weeks. “I was sitting outside and Marsha Brady saw me as she waited for a cab and came over to me and said I was beautiful. Two weeks later we saw each other in a restaurant, had dinner together, and the whole modelling thing started. I’ve also had some acting auditions that went extremely well. So, once again, I’m encouraged.” Jacky will be featured in a major campaign for Diesel too, so you can expect to see a whole lot more of her soon.
As a woman who has dedicated her entire professional life to the pursuit of her dream career, Jacky has seen the acting game change significantly over the last few decades. “In the late 1980’s when I started getting TV work, “unknowns” could still get guest-star and co-star roles. Now, these roles, even walk-ons, often go to stars who are already well established. It’s the same thing with commercials. Stars used to shun TV and commercials. Ditto with modeling. Major modeling campaigns go to stars and now children of stars.”
If you think the changing scene is enough to stop her, you’re wrong.
“My advice is taken from Ruth Gordon’s acceptance speech when she won her Oscar for Rosemary’s Baby: ‘Never give up; and never, under any circumstances, no matter what – never face the facts’.”
Zanita and I are both tall girls too, and as I gaze at these shots of Jacky I can’t help but feel angry that anyone could find fault in her striking figure. Personally curious, I asked her the old trope question: What’s the best style advice you’ve ever received? And she laughed, citing a long list of rules she grew up with, but finishing with: “The best advice I got that’s still valid was from my mother who kept saying, ‘Stand up straight!’ to which I would add, be comfortable.” It seems pretty clear to me that Jacky is comfortable in New York and in her own skin – two things that thousands of women around the world spend their whole lives working towards.
I’m not an actor or a model, but as a writer, I have real admiration for creative women like Jacky O’Shaughnessy. She’s spent her life in a grueling and judgmental world, yet still offers us an open and genuine personality. She shares her knowledge and experiences, and by refusing to rose-tint her journey, she paves the way for the rest of us to be proud of our own paths.
“Inspirational” is an understatement.
All images shot by Zanita Whittington