Meet Emily DiDonato

Emily DiDonato for Passerbuys by Clemence Poles104.jpg
Emily DiDonato spends a lot of time alone, and it’s the most essential part of her job as a model. After earning her big break in a Glamour photoshoot in 2008, the past ten years have allowed her to focus on herself and learn how to interact and work well in a constantly moving work environment. Emily reflects on the changing industry, how to find the right angle, and how social media has impacted how we perceive models.
Jumpsuit, Isabel Marant

Jumpsuit, Isabel Marant

Jumpsuit, Isabel Marant

Jumpsuit, Isabel Marant


I wake up every morning around 6 or 7. I take my phone off airplane mode and check my texts and emails while I drink about 1L of water in bed. I head to the kitchen for my morning coffee. I drink an iced double espresso (I make it with my Nespresso machine), sit on my couch, and put on some relaxing music, usually classical (I ask Alexa to play classical, it’s usually a good mix!). I always have my blue Moleskine that I write everything in. I start my day by writing three things that I am grateful for, and after that, I start writing my to-do list. Everything from emails, phone calls, workouts, and “call Mom.” This is my favorite part of the day. After that, I usually head to my morning workout and then my day starts.

The only supplements I take are Nature Made Vitamins C and Integrative Therapeutics - Vitamin D3 5,000 IU. Like most New Yorkers who haven’t seen the sun in a while, I am Vitamin D deficient. For probiotics, I love to eat fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut. I always have a jar in my fridge and eat it for lunch.

on her background and path to modeling

I grew up in the Hudson Valley about an hour and half from Manhattan. It was a pretty small working class town, and everyone knew each other. My dad was a New York City firefighter, my mom was a stay at home mom, and I have two siblings. We were outdoorsy and active as a family, so my parents would always have us hiking, biking, fishing, and camping on the weekends, or they were shuffling us to our sporting events. I played basketball, soccer, and lacrosse so my life revolved a lot around sports. I’m grateful for that now because my athleticism and competitive spirit has always stuck with me.

An agent gave my mom their card at a mall in Connecticut when I was in an awkward stage with braces. We went to Manhattan, met with an agency, and they signed me right away. Around my junior year of high school, I started modeling. I was shooting the Ralph Lauren campaign that week. My career started to take off my senior year. I was traveling and spending time in the city. I had to make the tough decision to either go to college like my friends or take the chance at modeling full time. Looking back, living alone and taking the chance on this career was scary. I felt really lonely at the time, but I’m glad I did it.

Trench, Yang Li Men ; T-Shirt, Vintage ; Choker, Vintage YSL ; Pants, Sonia Rykiel
Stay true to yourself. As a model, you are meant to be a chameleon of sorts, but there are people who will want you to change or mold into something you may not want to be or feel comfortable being. I remember people suggesting me to lose weight or instructing me to look more dirty, tired, or to smile less to appear “cooler.” None of that ever sat well with me, and my parents always told me to be myself. People know when you’re faking it. If they don’t like you, that’s their loss and not yours. To me, there is nothing more attractive or stronger.
— on what she would tell her teenage self
Jumpsuit, Isabel Marant

Jumpsuit, Isabel Marant

on her big break and mentors along the way

I’d say my big break was a story I did for Glamour in August 2008. I was on vacation with my friends at the Jersey Shore and my agent called to tell me that Glamour wanted to shoot me. They sent a car to the Jersey Shore and brought me to the city for a fitting. At the time, I remember feeling really bummed about leaving my vacation, but now I am obviously glad that I did. It ended up being my first editorial story, and it was really beautiful. A few months later, Maybelline called me in for a casting because they saw that shoot. Soon after that, I signed my contract with them. This was over ten years ago.

I would say that I had a few key people I met throughout my career that were influential as mentors. The editor at Glamour at the time, Xanthipi Joannides, really took me under her wing. She was always checking on me and my family to make sure I was doing okay navigating the industry. She was so kind, gentle, reminded me to never change, and to stick close to my family, which I did. I would call Christy Turlington another figure I looked up to as well. I worked with her really early on at Maybelline. I spoke with her when I was applying to Columbia a few years ago and she has always been a great role model to have and to work alongside.

on learning how to say no

As a young model, there are a lot of people telling you how to be, how to look, where to go, and what is important. Listen to your intuition. I remember feeling very young at the time and thought the people I was working with had authority over me. Now as an adult, I know that it’s okay to say no, set boundaries, and speak up. It’s much harder to do when you are the youngest person in the room.

There are going to be a lot of people, brands, or jobs that aren’t the right fit. Whether it be your hair color, skin color, eye color, height, weight etc. The list goes on, but none of that makes you any less worthy of the job. There are plenty of other jobs, opportunities, or ventures that will be the right fit.

Jumpsuit, Isabel Marant

Jumpsuit, Isabel Marant

Emily DiDonato for Passerbuys by Clemence Poles62.jpg
Posing in front of the camera just takes practice. Try standing in front of the mirror to see where your body and face look best in certain positions and angles. I learned how to pose by watching other models on set, but I think the key is testing out different poses, faces, and looks to see what works best for you. For every photo published, there are about 10,000 outtakes that didn’t make the cut! The most important thing for a good photo is finding the right light. Natural light or “golden hour” are flattering lights for most people, while overhead or fluorescent lighting are less so.
— on how to find your "good side"
Bodysuit, Privacy Please ; Jeans, GRLFRND

Bodysuit, Privacy Please ; Jeans, GRLFRND

on what the modeling industry has taught her

A lot of people don’t know how much time you spend alone traveling in airports, hotels, and on jobs with people you don’t know. You have to quickly get comfortable working with all sorts of people from all over the world. With the amount of people and personalities I have met over time, this industry has taught me to play well with others.

I had to change the way I ate and exercised when I started, but I was also 16 to 17-years-old eating McDonald’s and Burger King most days after school. I’m glad that I had to learn to eat healthier and workout at a young age because it stuck with me and became a passion. I keep it simple in terms of diet. I eat lots of lean proteins and vegetables. I stay away from sugar and processed foods so I stick to whole foods. I workout every day, but I enjoy it because it’s necessary for my mental health. I usually walk on the highest incline at about 3.0 MPH for 30-45 minutes and lift weights for another 45 minutes. I also occasionally do yoga at home but I definitely like to do more high-intensity workouts because it’s a great release for me. As for my skin, I’m not big on facials, but I do it occasionally at Four Seasons Downtown and I love their ’Intense Glow’ facial. It involves dry brushing and a ton of deep facial massaging for lymphatic drainage.

on how the industry has changed with social media

Before social media, there was a greater barrier to enter the industry. Models needed to be “discovered” or have an agent. Now, with just a strong social media following, you can become a model and be more influential than most current models or celebrities. However, models now have more responsibility and our jobs are much more three dimensional. Before social media, our personalities were less important and unknown. Our pages now act as a portfolio. Our personalities, who we are as people, and how we engage with an audience are really important for getting jobs and staying relevant.

Bodysuit, Privacy Please ; Jeans, GRLFRND

Bodysuit, Privacy Please ; Jeans, GRLFRND

My success and goals are not in competition or comparison to anyone else but me. Our industry can be finicky because I can do all the right things, work hard, and be the most beautiful person in the room, but still not land the job. There is no recipe, look, or style that’s going to help anyone get ahead. I’ve had moments where it’s easy to compare myself because we have more information with social media. I try to focus more inwardly and on improving myself.
— on dealing with competition

on her personal creative rituals

I recently started a Youtube channel. As fun as it is to create content, the part that I love most is video editing. It’s not that I am particularly good at it, but it is something new that I taught myself. Every time I do it, I learn a little more and get better. I go into a total flow state, and time goes by so quickly. Anything that keeps me from looking at my phone or getting distracted is something I know I love and will continue. My version of self-care is spending time alone. I have to appear extroverted for my job, but in order to recharge my batteries, I need to be by myself, at home preferably in pajamas.

on her beauty routine

My morning and evening routines are similar. I always cleanse, use Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment (my favorite product of all time) and moisturize with Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream. If my skin is particularly dry, I’ll mix a face oil in with my moisturizer. I love Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil. It’s super hydrating and makes me glowy. Rosehip is also a natural source of vitamin C, which I really believe in, and try to get it in my regime wherever I can. I love Drunk Elephant Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser. It usually gets almost all of my makeup off so that I don’t have to use wipes. I love Biotherm’s Sensitive Balm, it’s paraben free and great for sensitive skin. For makeup, I keep it pretty simple. Most days I just do concealer, mascara, blush, eyebrow gel, and some sort of lip tint. I like Maybelline’s Age Rewind Concealer, Colossal Mascara, FaceStudio Master Contour for blush, Brow Drama for my brows, and for lips Baby Lips Moisturizing Lip Balm.

on her style and shopping habits

I do all my shopping online. I hate going in stores. I get a lot of my inspiration through Instagram. I follow tons of bloggers and I love getting inspired by them by finding new brands through them. I like We Wore What, Sincerely Jules, Chiara Ferragni and Song of Style. I like to shop on Revolve because it’s easy and shows up at my door two days after I order it. I like Isabel Marant, Rag + Bone, Helmut Lang, Realisation Par, Reformation and Zara. My style is always changing and it’s pretty dependent on my mood. Sometimes I want to be in a full pantsuit with slicked back hair, and some days I want to be in a utility jumpsuit with sneakers.

Jumpsuit, Isabel Marant

Jumpsuit, Isabel Marant

Jumpsuit, Isabel Marant

Jumpsuit, Isabel Marant

on her favorite books

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is definitely one of my all-time favorite books. It’s a book I have reread and my most recommended and gifted book to others. It’s short, simple, and impactful. I always have the book Dying To Look Good by Christine Hoza Farlow on hand because I’m obsessed with clean beauty. I love learning about it and nerding out on different ingredients but also educating myself on how harmful our everyday products can be. I love Tools of Titans by Timothy Ferriss, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Life on Purpose by Victor J. Strecher and Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

emily’s favorite movies

Blow by Ted Demme, Mean Girls by Mark Waters, Good Will Hunting by Gus Van Sant, Forrest Gump by Robert Zemeckis, and Lady Bird Greta Gerwig.

emily’s favorite places IN new york city

Restaurants: Union Square Café, Manhatta, The Little Beet Table, Upland, The Smith, The Breslin, Boqueria, HU kitchen, and Springbone Kitchen.

Coffee shops: Gasoline Alley Coffee, Kaffe 1668, Joe’s Coffee

Bars: Nomad Hotel, Ace Hotel, Corkbuzz

Museum: American Museum of Natural History

Park: Battery Park, Madison Square Park

Hair Salon: Kennaland in Greenpoint

Massage/Spa: Soho Sanctuary (go to Elizabeth for a massage)

Facial: Four Seasons Downtown New York

Acupuncturist: Deb at Saje Wellness (she is a cure-all)

Beauty: Credo Beauty in Soho

Workout: Mile High Run Club and Y7

Coat, Cordova ; Jumpsuit, Isabel Marant ; Boots, Stuart Weitzman, Bag, Marc Jacobs

Coat, Cordova ; Jumpsuit, Isabel Marant ; Boots, Stuart Weitzman, Bag, Marc Jacobs