One of the great things about the Moto industry is that there are so many different facets and avenues to pursue within this quickly expanding industry. From racer to mechanic to promoter to sponsor, there are tons of different paths to travel down. One of the most sought after positions within the industry is the role of brand ambassador or model for some of the top brands in racing. The lucky few in these roles are adored by fans and enjoy the spotlight from magazines, websites, and even live shows. One lucky new comer to the scene is Connecticut's own Tayler Kaplan. Tayler has been apart of the racing world her whole life and somewhat recently embarked on a journey to become one of the leading brand embassadors in Supercross and Motocross. We took some time to talk to Tayler about her racing past, the industry, and what it was like being featured by Transworld Motocross.
Hey Tayler, so for those out there that maybe unfamiliar with you tell everyone where you're from and little bit about yourself.
Hi everyone, and thanks again to TCE for having me! I’m Tayler and I’m 20 years old, New England born and raised. I have been a promotional model for about 3 years now and I’ve established myself a niche in the world of motorsports. Growing up, I attended just about every major motocross event on the East Coast from Canada to Florida so it’s such an incredible feeling getting to be hands-on and involved in the sport. I attended my first Supercross when I was 3 months old at Daytona in 1997 which planted the seed for a lifelong love of all things motocross. My dad tossed me on a PW50 with training wheels as soon as I could walk, but as far as riding goes these days I pretty much stick to ripping pitbikes under the lights in our yard! To follow my journey you can find me on Instagram @TheTaylerKaplan or on Facebook as Tayler Kaplan.
How did you and your family get into the sport of Motocross?
Oh man, it goes way back. I come from a long line of motocross enthusiasts. My Dad got his first bike as a Christmas gift in the early 70’s and his whole life has essentially revolved around the sport since then. He even rode through the hallways of his high school on a dare once- he’s a very balls-to-the-wall type of guy. For around 30 years he raced the New England circuit with clubs like NESC, NEMX, and NEMA (RIP), which meant that we were always traveling. Eventually, my brother and sister started racing too so it was a total family affair. My sister won a championship against a class of all boys once when she was 6 which was badass. As for me, I played pit chick and loved it ironically. I worked with some of the tracks running the 30 Second Board and flagging while my family raced. Every family vacation revolved around some sort of motorcycle event, most often Daytona. I guess the point that I’m getting at is that I didn’t really have much of a choice, at the beginning at least. But even when my dad couldn’t make it, I carried on the tradition myself. Last year I drove up to the Unadilla national in my Corolla and had full intentions of sleeping in it until a very good friend who was racing that weekend let me hang out with them.
What led to you wanting to pursue a career in modeling/brand endorsing?
Being a young girl attending Supercross races, I always looked up the Monster Energy girls. In my mind they were a symbol of the perfect mix between beauty and badassery: something I knew I had to be a part of. On top of that, I was always tall, and when you’re tall you constantly get asked two questions: 1. Do you play basketball? Or 2. Well you must be a model then, right? Eventually I realized I had to at least give modeling a shot (I’m far from coordinated so ball sports were never an option), so at 12 years old I started working with my first modeling agency. High fashion modeling was always boring to me (and kind of ugly- oops, did I say that?), so I’ve always focused on the commercial and promotional side of the industry. It’s truly all I’ve ever wanted for as long as I can remember. I’m a huge marketing nut as well. Right now I’m studying Digital Marketing with Duke University online so promotional modeling is the perfect crossroad since I get to market and promote different brands on site. My first promotional gig, however, was as a spokesmodel representing Progressive Motorcycle Insurance at Laconia Bike Week, which was a crazy experience. I knew this from my years attending Daytona Bike Week, but the biker community is so different from the moto community, especially from the aspect of a promotional model- the energy is just completely different. From there, I continued to market and brand myself and began to receive offers from different agencies and companies that wanted to work with me.
What's the most exciting aspect of this career in your opinion?
The most exciting aspect of this career path is the ability it gives you to travel and meet so many like-minded people. Representing Fly Racing at the Southwick National (my home track) was by far one of the most fun days of my life. I got to take photos and talk with hundreds and hundreds of moto fiends from all over the region. I also love the fact that there’s no limit as to where you can take this. There are endless opportunities in the modeling world and so many different ways to use your platform. As I grow my own platform, I plan to start spearheading a motorcycle safety outreach. In the past few years I have lost (and almost lost) way too many people from motorsports incidents. I really hope to bring some awareness to the general public and hopefully work towards developing new safety initiatives off-road as well. Look twice, you could save a life!
What has been the most challenging and also the most rewarding part of your journey?
By far, without a doubt, the biggest challenge I have faced as a promotional model is the fact that I live in Connecticut. There are very few opportunities in the industry out here. The only real major moto events are the Southwick and Unadilla nationals, Laconia Bike Week, and most recently Foxborough Supercross which are all held annually. I have plans to move to the west coast in the very near future so it won’t be too much of a problem any longer. I was actually booked for SEMA this week until the agency realized how expensive it would be to get me out there from the sticks of Connecticut! It’s incredibly frustrating that I can’t work on my craft as often as I’d like out here so I can’t possibly get out fast enough. It’s just a matter of getting all of my ducks in a row!
The most rewarding part of the journey has been the fact that I’m able to be immersed in such an incredible culture and represent the brands that I’ve been surrounded by and supporting my entire life. I know it sounds incredibly corny, but it truly does feel like home. Being surrounded by people who are just as passionate as I am is just an added bonus!
What's something about this journey and career that most people don't know about?
This is a tough one! Honestly, I think people underestimate just how much goes on behind the scenes. People laugh at how seriously I take Instagram, but as a model it is a huge business tool for me! Each and every photo I post is an opportunity to be approached by a new photographer, casting agent, or brand that I can collaborate with. Lately I’ve been aiming to shoot at least once per week- which means creating new concepts, putting together the right wardrobe, scouting a location, tracking down props, and finding hair and makeup help. Each and every step of the process is such a blast so I’m definitely lucky for that. I love that I have the ability to orchestrate every aspect of my work and the story my photos tell are all my own.
What are some key things that you have learned along the way?
This journey has taught me so many things about humanity in general. When your job is to put on a revealing outfit and take photos with fans, many of whom are intoxicated on some level, you hear some of the craziest things. At Southwick, a grown man literally got on his knees in front of me and bowed. I love everything about what I do, don’t get me wrong, but it teaches you a lot about interacting with different types of people. I have also learned how important it is to have a thick skin. This asset is absolutely VITAL to be successful in any capacity in the modeling world. The truth is, I’ve been told “no” FAR more times than I’ve been told “yes”. However, if I had stopped the first time I was told I should, I wouldn’t be where I am today, with the honor of being interviewed by TCE or having been featured in Transworld Motocross last week. And I’m just getting started!
What's one thing that you would change about the industry as a whole?
This problem isn’t just limited to the moto or modeling industry, but it is a bit of a challenge to be taken seriously as a woman. It just happens to be ten times more difficult in a male-dominated industry. I hope to be part of the force that changes that, however. I can be pretty, AND pretty smart, too. A woman shouldn’t have to be modest in order to be respected- It’s 2017!
How has your background in the sport helped you break into this role?
My background in the sport helped in that I didn’t really have to break into this role at all, I was basically born into it. Having the right network in the industry surrounding me is huge- people such as Paul Buckley, New England’s most well-connected man in motocross, have become an incredible resource for me. Even if it didn’t morph into a career for me, I would still feel blessed for all of the years I spent growing up involved in motocross.
We've seen you work with Billy of Surge Unlimited on some amazing projects, can you tell us what those were like?
Billy is absolutely incredible and I'm honored to have been able to partner with him on some cool projects. The New England moto scene is pretty tight knit and I always knew Billy through his association with JDay. When I found out he ventured out on his own and started his production company, I approached him with a concept that I wanted to submit to TWMX. I had him meet me in my Dad's abandoned mill complex on a 37 degree November night where we took the red bikini shots on the 500. I was FREEZING. As soon as he finished editing them I immediately submitted them to Transworld. Ironically, I never heard anything from them, until this past Monday night (literally almost a year later) where Don Maeda emailed me "Hey, sorry I never saw this. Can I still post them?" and I woke up the next morning to 200 new followers and about 50 friend requests. We were both pretty stoked to finally see our vision come to fruition and I'm so honored to have gotten national recognition from a magazine I've been reading for as long as I can remember. Last time I checked, my feature had over 800 shares in 48 hours which is pretty cool for some photos that are now a year old! I've also collaborated with Billy on some product shoots for his Surge Unlimited clothing line. That was fun too, besides the part where he made me walk through pricker bushes.
Surge Unlimited has partnered with The Collective Experience on a few projects as well and the work is unparalleled, what do you think makes Billy stand out as a photographer/videographer?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with a lot of very talented photographers, but what makes Billy stand out to me is his unique vision. He sets out to each and every shoot with a precise vision in mind and does not leave until he achieves it. We are both very creative-minded so we always end up with some insane images when we join forces.
What are some plans or goals that you have for the future?
I am a firm believer in the law of attraction so I'm going to speak this one into existence: Miss Supercross 2019! I know you’re listening, Feld! ;) As far as short term goals, the first order of business is definitely to get my ass out to the west coast so I can dive right into all the area has to offer. Speaking long-term, I do want to pursue modeling for as long as I possibly can, and start my own business along the way. I constantly have to be involved in exciting and creative endeavors or my mind goes crazy- there’s truly no telling what I’ll end up doing next, but it’s sure to be an adventure!
What keeps you motivated to keep going and pushing to make your dream a reality?
The biggest source of motivation for me is the fact that I’m not where I want to be. I always feel like I can do better or be better. There is so much left out there for me to accomplish, I’m just getting started! I’m still trying to have my voice heard and to be seen by some key players in the industry. Having a clear vision of what you want from your life is the most effective way to stay on track and crush your goals. I won’t stop until I get there.
There are lots of girls and guys out there that are aspiring to do exactly what you are, what advice would you have for them?
The absolute biggest piece of advice that I can give any guy or girl that wants to pursue this industry is to harness the power of social media. So many people really don't seem to comprehend that they have one of the biggest tools to success in 2017 literally in the palm of their hands. You can connect to the entire world in seconds. I was featured in Transworld Motocross solely off of a Facebook message. Branding yourself is HUGE- create a voice for yourself online, distinguish your character, and work on your craft any chance you can get. Another piece of advice I always give to aspiring models is to stay strong and stay persistent. Keep a clear vision about what you want from your career and don't fold. I'm the type who will literally keep going until I'm told yes, which isn't always a good thing I suppose. But some people do appreciate tenacity! ;)
Lastly, thinking long term, what impact do you hope to have on the industry?
This is a man’s sport that I’m trying to create my own lane in and bring my creativity, entrepreneurial skillset and ambition to play. I want to be a positive representation of the culture that is motocross. Women riders are the fastest growing demographic in the industry and I hope to play a key role in encouraging more women to participate. At the end of the day, I guess all that I can say is time will tell! There are so many things that I want to get involved in- the possibilities are endless. Stay tuned!
Journeys like Tayler's remind us to keep pushing forward and chasing goals. To keep up with Tayler be sure to follow her @thetaylerkaplan and check out her killer shots. A special thanks to Surge Unlimited for the shots. For more inspirational stories and interviews with industry insiders be sure to stay tuned to The Collective Experience.