Nicole Holder

If you’re a part of the Northern California photography community or in large a part of the general Instagram community, Nicole needs no introduction. As you’ve probably seen her modeling photos here and there or even follow her on Instagram. However for many viewers and followers, it’s very rare that we know the person in the photos being posted and shared across Instagram. That’s why we are excited to sit down with Nicole and do a deep dive to get to know this small town girl from Gilroy, CA the Garlic Capital of the World.


So Nicole, walk us through through who you are today. Where are you from and what is it like? What do you like to do for fun? What are some of your favorite things (e.g. music, food, drinks, etc.) and why?

Growing up in Gilroy I went to a low income high school that was also academically not the greatest, but it really helped propelled me towards college because it was easy. I grew up on the more well off side in life because my parents own their own businesses so high school introduced me to a new aspect of life that helped me grow up to be a more well rounded person. In high school, I was the president of several school clubs from California Scholarship Foundation, Interact, Sister Cities, and several others. I was also the type of band kid that carried around a huge violin case everywhere. At the time, I was very college oriented because I was from a small town and my older sister went to UC Berkeley. So I was pushed to do more with my life. When I finally came to UC Berkeley, it really woke me up to try harder because no one was going to hand me things like they did in high school. So my first year was rough and I had wanted to drop out several times. However I persevered after retaking classes I had failed and ever since I have been living in Berkeley for the last three years majoring in psychology and minoring in public health.

Photo by @nathan.lobato


How did you get into modeling?

A really good friend of mine from middle school, Alea, who got into modeling was visiting me at UC Berkeley one day and while we were hanging out she recommended that I try modeling because ” I got the personality for it”. At the time, we were just joking because I’m an introvert and it was not something of interest to me. She kept encouraging me to sign up for a Model Mayhem account. So a few days later because I was itching for a new hobby in my freshman year and I was bored studying all day I started a Model Mayhem account and uploaded a selfie. I saw a casting that was taking place in two days and I messaged this one random guy. He asked if had any modeling experience and I casually replied that I did. That guy was Nick Smith and Matt Carlson, who I met up with in Sacramento and did a full day of shooting and hanging out. When I saw the photos I loved them a lot, but I really enjoyed hanging out the most. What helped gave me a boost early on was exposure from Nick and Matt’s Instagrams. After that shoot and several others, a lot of people started reaching out. I shot a lot, so much it was almost every single day, and through that I made a lot of new friends. I got really lucky by finding and working with Nick and Matt really early on. In some ways, it all happened so quickly I wish started more slow and if I could do it again I would do it differently.

Do you do it for fun or professionally? What do you enjoy most about it?

It’s a mix of both, a large majority of my professional work is portfolio building and working with new photographers because it’s nice to help and see people grow. I have a lot of opportunities to do other things, but I like to keep it low key because I don’t want to make it into a job and lose the fun. I have my sights on a different career path, but I do work with brands on and off. I like to keep my Instagram mine and about what I like. I don’t want it to be a heavy advertising account so I only work with brands that I really support or wear. I recently worked with Sunday to Sunday, a women’s intimates and undergarments brand, and really like them because they pay it forward with donations for every collection you buy. Sort of like Toms with shoes. Whenever I collaborate with brands I want it to be impactful, something that I support and would recommend to people in real life.

Photo by @molliephoto


Anything new or recent you’re working on that you’re excited about?

I recently started learning Photoshop! At the moment I’m sort of in a weird rut where I’m getting better at Photoshop and I am really enjoying it, but I’m not great at taking photos yet. I love editing other people’s photos such as photos for editing competitions but I never submit them. I feel like if I start taking photos I will be even more creative and I’ll be able to start getting into photography and Photoshop. I also am going to start working in the ER where I currently work. I’m looking forward to being there to support people and working night shifts. So far it has been a lot of making beds, greeting people, but I’m excited to get an eye into what my future life will be like because it’s meaningful work. I’m also excited about the start of this semester because I’m taking six upper division classes that I got to pick instead of classes that I need to take.


Who inspires you creatively or in general? Where do you get inspiration from?

Life in general I get inspiration from my older sister, she is four years older than I am, and she originally was a cognitive science major interested in neuroscience. That’s also what got me interested in the same thing. My sister was also the captain of the UC Berkeley tennis team and just like my sister I’m also captain of the tennis team. I always look up to her and I want to be on a similar path. She is inspirational to me whenever I see her being very successful and doing really cool stuff at a cool job. Creatively the people who inspire me the most are my friends. They push me to create art instead of any particular type of art. Being surrounded by people creating beautiful work inspires me to create work of my own. I also create stuff that makes me happy that I hope others enjoy. Modeling in general, I get inspiration from many places but mostly from scrolling through Instagram and seeing all the super cool things everyone is working on.

Photo by @jameslafargue


What’s your favorite way of getting out of a creative rut?

I like to go do something else, because I have a very short attention span, and that may sound bad but it really helps me figure out what I’m interested in. Especially if I go back to it! So I recommend taking a break from something for awhile because it helps to explore all options and weed out things you may not be interested in.

What would you say is your favorite aesthetic or theme in photography?

My feed doesn’t have a specific aesthetic or theme. It varies based on my mood. If you look through my feed you’ll see phases of moody work and happy work with various color saturation changes. So no specific aesthetic, but it fluctuates based on what I feel like creating. So it’s nice to work with a lot of different people with various creative visions and ideas.

Photo by @johnrandolphhh


What is something random or something no one knows about you?

I used to be a high jumper! It was really my thing in middle school and high school. I did it for a total of seven years and was super passionate about it. The highest I’ve ever jumped was 5 feet 4 inches. I also made it to the Central Coast Section qualifier. In addition, I hate running so every day at practice I had to run a mile but I never ran it. I would only run the first lap and then would go to the bathroom for a very long time for the rest of it. My coaches knew, but never said anything about it.

What is your most interesting story in modeling?

It’s a funny story now, but not when it happened because I was so not happy about it then. I was shooting with James, Jesse, and Shila at Black Sands Beach in the middle of winter. They asked me to bring a bathing suit and it was freezing cold out. I brought a blanket and didn’t want to change clothes, but they convinced me to put on my bathing suit and lay down on the sand. James promised to tell me when the waves were coming in, but he didn’t and I got hit by freezing cold waves that pushed me up to shore. He felt really bad, but it’s a good memory now because I was hanging out with friends and we all laugh about it often.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Whether it’s personally, career, and/or modeling?

I hopefully will have graduated from UC Berkeley and be in grad school in the health field, but I’m not sure what exactly yet.


Who would you say has been your biggest support in modeling? What have they done to support you?

My biggest support is my mom. She was hesitant about me modeling at first because she wants me to be safe and was concerned about me meeting up with strangers from the internet. Once she got pass that initial fear she was okay with it. I usually send her photos before I post them. She always wants the best for me and get really concern when I do more creative stuff or stuff that involves less clothing. She would call me asking about where my pants were or what happened to them. I love that she supports me regardless of her personal opinions especially because there are a lot of judgement out there about certain photos not being “womanly”. It’s funny because I can tell she is a bit irritated at times, but she doesn’t say it and is supportive.

Photo by @nicksmythphotography


If someone just starting came up to you for your best advice and you only had a few minutes to give it, what would it be?

I would say, don’t be afraid of rejection and put yourself out there. This is also something I’m working on, but I have found that people that are able to push through it and put themselves out there are the most successful.


We hope you enjoyed this week’s Community Creative! Stay tuned for next week.
For more from Nicole, follow her on Instagram:

Cover photo by @dr.jzphoto