In Steven L. Coard’s latest film, Raymond "Raye" Buckley moves to New York City to pursue his dream of becoming a high fashion supermodel. One night, by chance encounter, he meets model agent Hardie Noon, played by Shawn Singleton. With help from Hardie, Raye becomes a modeling sensation, eclipsing his nemesis, America's former top male model, Vester V. To hold his crown, Raye must learn who he can trust in the dog-eat-dog industry of high fashion modeling.
“I originally came to NYC to become a model,” reveals Coard, the film’s director who also stars in the film as Vester V. “I was constantly told I wasn't attractive enough or fit enough or that I didn’t have the right proportions. I would go on endless casting calls only to be left broken inside.”
He eventually quit modeling. “I wasn't strong enough to make it in the industry,” he admits.
Unfortunately, giving up on his dream would become his biggest life regret. It would also inspire him to make a film loosely based on his experience but with a happier outcome. “I wanted to make a film that was almost a male version of Diana Ross’ Mahogany,” he says.
He chose Gary Lavard, an actor he had worked with previously on the film, Heartbreaks and Soulmates, for the lead role, because, “He is such a talented actor who is always eager to work and make art. Plus, Gary’s easy to look at,” he adds with a smile.
When it came to casting the other leads, Coard searched for ethnically diverse actors with real body types that would be relatable to viewers watching the film. “I wanted to show that models are not clones and that any body type can be successful in modeling.”
He saved the role of Vester V for himself because he saw playing a villain as a challenge. “I can play a nice guy all day long but playing a scoundrel is something new for me,” he explains. The hardest part was bringing a likability to the character. “I wanted viewers to love to hate him.”
Raye is being distributed by Color of Love Production Studios, an award-winning production company Coard founded that specializes in creating stories about the LGBTQ community of color. Previous films include Heartbreaks and Soulmates and last fall’s critically acclaimed romantic comedy, Don’t Marry Griff.
Though very different from Griff, Raye continues some of its major themes. In both films, men of color are chasing their American dreams. “And without giving away endings for either, karma turns out to be a beeeotch in both,” laughs Coard.
Coard wears several hats at Color of Love Production Studios. He is writer, director, producer, and often-times actor. “I love it all,” he says. “I love directing and producing because I call the shots and if the project isn't a success, I can only blame myself. I love acting because I can be a part of the cast, making memorable characters like Vester V that may live on through time.”
Steven L. Coard may have missed out on his supermodel dream but his new aspiration is to create a place where LGBTQ talent of varying disciplines can work together in a supportive environment to create exciting visual projects. “The Color of Love Production School for Film, Theatre, and Scriptwriting,” he announces. “It sure would make it easier to have a stable of talented actors on hand when casting my next films.”
Raye is available now at colorofloveproduction.com