To hear him tell it, Jorge Morales’s career in fashion started in sixth grade. “I remember getting in trouble for talking to all the pretty girls,” he says, “so it was meant to be from the beginning.” Talking to pretty girls takes up a lot of Morales’s days lately: He’s a NYC-based casting director who’s worked with brands and magazines to find the just-right talent who’ll help bring their aesthetic vision to life.
Morales grew up in Tucson, and when he has free time, he indulges his love of travel—next on his list is India, where a close friend moved a few years back. “She’s become a Bollywood star; she just starred in a role next to the Indian Brad Pitt, and she keeps telling me to come and visit. I’m like, ‘Girl, I am so ready.’ ” And while he’s on the road, Morales doesn’t mind mixing business with pleasure: “Anytime I travel, I meet new clients or have a casting so I can see the local talent pool,” he says. “You never know where you’re going to find what you need. In a way, I never have time off, but that’s what I love to do.” That’s for the best, since Morales hasn’t prepared a backup plan. “Where else would I work?” he says. “I’m not good at anything else. I’ve definitely thought about what else I could do if this doesn’t work out, but I really have no other answers. So it has to work.”
How’d you get started in casting?
I did an internship at Ford Models with the legendary Paul Rowland, and from day one, they gave me a full schedule. It was the first day of Fashion Week and I started running around with the models, from casting to show to fitting. It was like that for the next 10 straight days. From there, I met a lot of casting directors and saw how it all worked. Eight months later, I was contacted by a casting director based in Germany; I ran his New York office while he traveled the world.
Were you interested in fashion as a kid?
Oh, absolutely. I always say that fashion saved my life. If it weren’t for fashion, for the magazines, for the dreams they inspired, and for the ways that I was able to express myself through fashion, I don’t think I would have gotten through childhood the same way.
How do you think growing up in Tucson influenced your aesthetic?
There’s a big vintage scene there now, but back then it was really undiscovered. That’s where I got my love for vintage clothes; I started collecting them from a very young age. My closet is insane.
What are the must-see Tucson spots?
All the crystal shops. Also, during the end of January and beginning of February, the biggest gem and mineral show in the world happens in Tucson. I kid you not: Everywhere in the world that I’ve been, if there’s a vintage shop or a crystal shop, I’m there. Also, the mountains and Sonoran Desert are just so magical.
What was one of the most surreal, incredible moments thus far in your career?
I cast the cover of L’Officiel Paris for September 2016, and Ellen von Unwerth shot it. Just seeing her in action was so inspirational. She shoots unlike anyone I’ve ever seen: She has three different cameras, two different backdrops going, she’s shooting on her phone … She had so much energy that it was contagious. The whole shoot was focused around models of African descent: Ciara was part of it, as well as Iman. Just being able to be part of that was an honor. It was a privilege to see these incredibly talented people working their magic, and asking me to be part of it.
What advice do you give to aspiring casting directors?
Take every internship and work your ass off. When you start a creative career in any field, you have to be able to take rejection and you have to be committed to your dream, even if the money doesn’t come right away. It’s more of a longevity game. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to have this career: I’ve been broke, I’ve been hungry, living in small apartments. You have to be ready to wait for the money.
Have you had any embarrassing career moments you can share?
The first day that I started with Paul Rowland, believe it or not, I had no idea who he was. So here I am in the office, and I asked this man if he could move out of my way, and it turned out to be him. The look he gave me. To this day, I remember the embarrassment.
What’s a normal work day like for you?
Every morning between 11 and 12, I see models. And every day, I look at the blogs; I’m reading WWD and Business of Fashion. I still read The Fashion Spot—I love reading all the banter, all of the opinions.
How do you deal when you’re overwhelmed and stressed?
I meditate a lot with crystals—I do crystal grids on my body. I also love Bikram yoga and CrossFit. And I love a glass of wine.
What’s one of your favorite travel experiences?
I went to Cuba last year, and Havana was impossibly romantic. There’s so much need, but it’s tragically beautiful, even in its dilapidated state.
What do you want to accomplish in 2017?
I want to further grow my business. Last year I was able to get an office, so this year it’s time to up the ante a bit more. Having the opportunity to expand people’s views of beauty and add to that conversation is so important. For so long, men and women have been bombarded by images of what beauty should be. The reality is that every shape and color is beautiful. Having the opportunity to add to that conversation is everything to me.
How would you sum up your own look?
There are certain colors that I’ve gravitated toward over the course of my entire life: forest green, black, brown. I also really like a chunky shoe; I guess it makes me feel a little more stable in my step. I also have so many pairs of leather pants. And I love a big pair of sunglasses. I call them “I’m a bitch” sunglasses. Once you put them on, it’s like, “Don’t fuck with me.”