Student Spotlight: Zuzu Kandilige talks modeling and acting in high school


Photo Credit: Ryan Kleinmann

You may have seen Bothell junior, Zuzu Kandilige (‘22) running track and field or cross country or in ASB, but beyond BHS, Kandilige has a second life. In 2018, she signed on to an agency with the intention of becoming an actress, but they signed her as a model as well! “Modeling and acting, they go hand-in-hand. A lot of actors start out as models and then they go into the commercial acting and modeling side and then BOOM they’re actors!” Kandilige explains to me. She also tells me that she started out doing theater which is almost a rite of passage for many actors. “It was definitely acting that got me into modeling because I don’t think I would have chosen to go into that” Kandilige explains. 

“My favorite part [of my work] is when you get the photos back… when you’re a model,  you can often choose what photographers you work for… I make sure that I like their work so that when I get the photos back it’s like ‘woah this is so fun! They’re so talented and I got to be a part of that!’ because sometimes it’s not only just building the model’s portfolio, you’re building the photographer’s portfolio as well,” Kandilige says. Her least favorite part is “when you have to do your own makeup… I am clueless, I am out of that realm. But I love it when you get to sit in the makeup chair and an artist does your makeup,” Kandilige tells me. Kandilige also mentions a live hair show that she did in 2019 where they cut, bleached, and dyed her hair purple— all in one weekend! They even cut her hair onstage during the show! “Would I do it again? No! The bleach just came out of my hair this summer!” Kandilige laughs.

Being in the professional world while attending high school has pushed Kandilige to grow. “You have to be really good at time management… flexible but also manage your priorities. Sometimes you’ll have a [photo]shoot that conflicts with school and you have to choose.” Kandilige also has to consider some big decisions that she has coming up after high school, “Do I want to go to college or do I want to model full time, like will this pay my bills? I don’t know.” Making big career and education decisions is no easy task.

“You have to be very clear about what you want” is something that she would tell her younger self or someone new to the industry. “It’s a common experience among models where they have to do something that they’re not comfortable with. You have to stand your ground… Just be very aware of what you want and how you want to get there,” Kandilige explains. Her final piece of advice: “Don’t change yourself.”

The feeling of not being good enough seems to be a universal experience and, despite her talent, Kandilige is not an exception to this feeling. “Why am I here and how did I get here?” Kandilige tells me about the time that she struggled with feeling legitimate as a model, “then I realized that maybe I’m not bad?… So once I realized that there’s a reason they signed me, I got more confidence…” she tells me. Kandilige explains that experience and workshops helped her feel like she really belonged in the industry. 

“I think I’m the most proud of coming back from so long” Kandilige explains that she took a two year hiatus from modeling. “I had no knowledge of this like 6 months ago so I think I’m the most proud of being able to come back and learn so much from a short amount of time.” Kandilige attends workshops and trainings almost every month to learn more about the industry and grow as a model and actress.

10 years from now, in 2031, “I would like to see myself living somewhere warm with a bustling city…” Kandilige tells me that Washington is too cold for her. “I see myself having graduated from New York Film Academy (the one in California)… hopefully having a bachelor of fine arts in acting,” she says. Then after college, you will find Kandilige “somewhere in the acting world, hopefully on the screen… some modeling on the side… and then one day directing.” She’s got big dreams for herself and her personality and talent will absolutely take her there.

Currently, Kandilige is excited to start working on a new photoshoot for the Cameron Boyce project, Wielding Peace. The goal of Wielding Peace is to raise awareness and raise money to help end gun violence through photography. Participants are photographed holding objects like books, flowers, instruments, etc. in place of a gun. In April of 2020, the Wielding Peace’s official Instagram account reposted one of Kandilige’s photos! Kandilige hopes to contribute more of her photos to this foundation in the near future.

To see more of Zuzu Kandilige,

Follow her Instagram: @Zuzukandilige

Check out her website: