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Sailor Brinkley Cook Talks Modeling and Spreading Happiness on Twitter

The budding model and photographer gives us some tips on improving our social media presence.

Sailor Brinkley Cook first dropped onto our radar when word got out that she -- the teenage daughter of modeling legend Christie Brinkley -- was breaking into the business as well. The high schooler promptly booked gigs with Teen Vogue and a spot on Into the Gloss, but what really got our attention was the discovery of her Twitter feed, which walks a beautiful line between unbridled teenage enthusiasm (see: tributes to Zac Efron and Ansel Elgort) and hilarious self-awareness

Because we were pretty sure there was a boatload of personality backing up Brinkley Cook's online persona, we hopped on the phone after school to get her take on modeling, editorial dream jobs and Twitter pro tips.

First things first. How old are you, and how did you start modeling?

I’m 16, so I'm still a young 'un. I’m in my junior year of high school. I started breaking into modeling by the time I turned 15, which was a year ago in July. I started trying when I was 14, then realized I was way too young. But I realized I wanted to go back, so I went to IMG, met everyone and signed a couple months later just a week after my birthday, which was awesome. 

I did a shoot with Teen Vogue a little bit before that, which was so surreal. It was such a dream. I've always been a fan of Teen Vogue and Amy [Astley] and Jane [Keltner de Valle]. It was the first magazine I got into when I was young, so to have a photo shoot with them was amazing. I remember I got home from school at the end of ninth grade, and I got it in the mail, and I was freaking out.

Junior year of high school is a crazy time. How do you balance modeling with classes and extracurriculars?

I take it slow during the school year. I’m focusing a lot on school. I want to make sure this year I’m getting the best grades possible. I really want to go to Parsons to study photography.

What have been your favorite shoots so far?

Three favorites. My first photo shoot ever, when I was in ninth grade. And then I was in California in February of this year, and I did a shoot with Bruce Weber, which was amazing. My mom has shot with him and talked about how amazing it was, and it was great to see how he does his work. Half because of the whole modeling thing, but a lot because of the photography. It was so cool to see someone I’ve been idolizing in that field... to see what he’s doing [on set]. The third was a recent one in Italy. We did that in July. Me and Bradley [Davis, her manager] flew out to Italy and went to Florence and Rome and shot one thing there.

It's cool that you can learn about photography from the greats by working with them as a model. What other tips have you picked up?

How things are in reality and how they are on camera are so different. At a fashion shoot you’ll see a stylist push random clothing together. It looks crazy [in real life] but on photo it looks so pleasing. The stylist will put me in a checkered shirt and a scarf and weird jeans and pink boots, but in the photo it looks so cool. So I'll try to not follow the norm when it comes to styling my friends. 

In my most recent [shoot] with my friend I put eyeshadow on her lips and glitter on her eyes and I put her in this blue and lace dress. It looked cool, but she was like, "I have a reputation to uphold!" But she was like, "I get it, I get it." She let me dress her up so weird.

Are you taking photo classes in school, or do you shoot on your own time?

I’m taking a college-level advanced photography class in high school. It’s the highest you can go. I'm in a class with three other girls. My teacher is great -- she’s really interesting and open-minded. She lets all of us do a photo project every weekend and tells us a story we have to base it off of… or sometimes it's whatever [we] want to do. 

For me, the idea never comes to me until I see my friends I’m going to be taking photos of, and I see my closet and the makeup I have. I’ll do a flower child/queen of the forest [concept]. Or I’ll do a documentary[-style shoot] of teenagers I always observe at school and at parties. 

This week I was really inspired by Anna Ewers. I’m so obsessed with her. I've been looking at all the photos she takes and making my friends dress up like her.

What kind of photography interests you most? Portrait, fashion... still life?

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I’m more interested in people. Fashion photography-slash-portraiture. My photography teacher gets annoyed because one week I’m like, "I want to do a documentary indie [style]," and I’ll come back on Monday and give her this really fashion-y photo shoot. 

It all depends on how I’m feeling, which really goes back and forth. I really like aesthetically pleasing things in photos. If I’m flipping through a magazine, I like a photo where the background is red and her lips are red and she’s smoking a cigarette. Something put-together that looks like it could be painted.

You also have an incredible Twitter handle.

Twitter is like... I love it. I think it's such a great place for creative expression. I'm [not] like my mom and my brother, who are very interested in presenting themselves a certain way in social media and in life. I’m so all over the place. I have no filter in terms of Instagram and Twitter.

I really like being a positive force for my followers, so I’ll tweet something like, "Happy Monday! Have a great day!" 

Twitter's also a great way to differentiate yourself from the pack when you're starting out as a model.

Some really interesting YouTube people and really funny Twitter accounts follow me. I think people are starting to notice me for something I want to be noticed for. It’s such a good place to show your passions and be funny and crazy. I just like tweeting what I do, because it’s some of the weirdest... I don’t want to say the s-word. Shit. 

Okay, so what are some accounts that we should follow? 

I follow this Twitter account called @succulent. They just post these really happy tweets. "Believe in yourself, root for yourself!" I love it because all my friends compare me to Will Farrell in the movie "Elf." I walk into school with my soy chai with three shots, like, "I’m so happy! I brought dried fruit today, who wants it?!" I want to be that person. So I try to follow all those accounts that are ridiculously happy.

There’s a great Twitter for inspiration called @accessforbidden. It’s like following CBS News, but it’s a cool teenage girl with a Britney Spears t-shirt that says "Dump him."

What's your advice for budding Twitter stars?

Tweet whatever you think because people these days are so concerned with what people say. When they find someone who doesn’t give an eff they will cherish that Twitter account. I’m so sick of people waking up and dressing for [another] person. Dress for yourself.

Last question. You're shooting your dream fashion editorial. Who's the model, where is it set, what's the concept?

I would want Ali Michael against a bunch of different colorful walls in really cool clothing. [I'd do] a bunch of portraits of her. Or Candice Swanepoel and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley... I would love taking portraiture of them in a garden or something. 

My creative juices are really flowing here! I’d love to just do some edgy thing with Kate Moss. A lot of cigarettes and leather would be really awesome, highlighting her freckles. And, like, Lara Stone and Anna Ewers... something documentary showing how these gorgeous superhuman supermodels are living their lives, but in these unbelievable outfits. Them in a fur coat and heels in a grocery store.

Booking Kate Moss seems doable.

No high hopes, I truly think she’d want to come to my house! 

This interview has been edited and condensed.