To celebrate the release of the long-awaited MS. INKWELL GALLERY book this fall (co-produced by Harvey Awards nominated Red Stylo Media), the Inkwell Awards decided to release it’s first interview with Holly Black AKA Hailey Skaza-Gagne, their present, fan-favorite spokesmodel Ms. Inkwell. After a brief period of artists mistaking her for her predecessor Anna White, she has carved a path and left an impression all her own. The organization has had a proud history and roster of ladies take on this role but what is it about Hailey that has made her the most prolific and fundraising successful version to date while most of the others only appeared once or twice? Hailey took a few moments to sit down and talk to us recently so you can find out more about her right here:
First Comics News: Where are you from and what is your background with comics/conventions and cosplay?
Hailey Skaza-Gagne: I’m from New Bedford, MA, just like Bob! I am not a comic buff but I was introduced to a lot of pop culture growing up and I know a few things here and there that have always interested me, especially Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios’ films. I’ve only been attending conventions for the past 2 years or so and I’ve only cosplayed for about a year but it was loads of fun and I plan to do it in the future when I get a chance.
1st: How did you hear of the Inkwell Awards and how did you become the Ms. Inkwell spokesmodel?
Hailey: I heard of the Inkwell Awards after I became good friends with director Bob Almond through a mutual friend <Inkwell volunteer Darnel Staley>. After I expressed my interest in the comic convention world and my knowledge of geek pop culture he offered me a volunteer position which I was more than happy to take and over time I assumed the role of India Wells AKA Ms.Inkwell which I absolutely adore.
1st: Is your name Holly Black or Hailey Skaza-Gagne? You’ve been publicly listed and called both.
Hailey: It’s Hailey:) At first I decided to take on persona of ‘Holly Black’ (which BTW was intended to contrast the previous spokesmodel alias of ‘Anna White’) because I felt like using that
alias would make it easier for me to separate my convention life and my real life but, in reality, I’d just rather be called Hailey. Trying to run two, separate Facebook accounts and trying to
keep up the whole Holly thing turned out to be more difficult than I expected so from here on out I’d rather be known now and forever as Hailey Skaza-Gagne, or just Hailey because its way
easier than trying to remember and pronounce my two last names:)
1st: What do you think of the character that you portray? Do you feel that you bring anything extra to reinforce her persona or add to her image?
Hailey: I really love the character I portray! When I’m working as the spokesmodel I feel like me being my happy, bubbly self is the little, extra kick that I bring to the table and the character. My fangirl enthusiasm is authentic and I’m always thrilled to be at a show, whether a return visit or a new venue. It honestly never gets old.
1st: What do you like best about representing the Inkwell non-profit organization?
Hailey: In itself, the fact that I am an essential part with raising funds for the non-profit is the best! Besides that I get to meet various artists who donate to us that are a lot of fun to chat with and know. Not just the creators, but also the fellow, volunteer Inkwell members! I’ve made many friends who I’m excited to revisit at various shows.
1st: What shows have you attended with the organization? Do you have a favorite venue and why?
Hailey: Not counting the ones I attended as a cosplay volunteer who assisted the former Ms. Inkwell Anna White, I’ve attended 9 shows, 1 ceremony and 10 convention appearances to date- from 2015 Heroes Con, Connecticut ComiCONN, Hartford Comic Con, Albany Comic Con, and Rhode Island Comic Con, and for 2016, the Kubert School awards ceremony, Albany Comic Con, Heroes Con, and recently Twin Tiers Comic Con and the Terrificon at the Mohegan Sun <formerly CT ComiCONN>, but my all time favorite location has to be Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC. It’s where I first made my debut as Ms. Inkwell and there’s always something exciting going on there wherever you look. And its also the biggest show of the year that we attend!
1st: What has been your favorite memory or experience? What has been you weirdest one?
Hailey: My favorite memory was hanging out in the hotel room with Bob Almond and <former member> Joe Goulart watching ‘The Hobbit’ on tv after a long day at my first Heroes Con. We stayed up all night laughing and having a wonderful time. The weirdest thing that has ever happened to me was at my very first convention when I was still a cosplay volunteer (as Wonder Woman). I was on my break eating lunch when some guy asked to take a picture of me. Now I didn’t think anything of it because people asked to photograph me all day so I agreed and went to put down my food when he stopped me and asked that I keep eating my sandwich which I did and so he snapped his picture and disappeared! The funny thing is I never saw him again and it was a small show, the kind of place where you usually run into and see people circulate a few times…this guy completely disappeared so i’m probably on some food porn website captioned as Sexy Wonder Woman “enjoooying” her lunch or some overly sexualized title that i’d probably find hilarious!
1st: Have you become more recognized for what you do and have you made new friends at the shows?
Hailey: Truthfully, I don’t really notice if I have or not. Each artist that I bump into that i’ve spoken to at a previous show are usually very friendly towards me so I don’t see it as them noticing me for what I do but for more of who I am… as hopefully a friend or an acquaintance. I treat these artist like they are my friends and would hope they feel the same about me. I really enjoy meeting the artists and establishing a good relationship with them and I always try to make an effort to stop by and say hello to them at other shows when I see them.
1st: Which model do you feel captured the role/look of Ms. Inkwell best prior to you? Why?
Hailey: I’ve never really met any of the other Inkwell models so I don’t think I can properly answer this question. But I did like the look of the first Ms. Inkwell, Chrissy Cutler <Pittsburgh Comicon, 2010 and her return was at Heroes Con, 2013>. The only model I personally encountered was Anna <White, the previously most-active spokesmodel> and it was a brief but pleasant experience.
1st: On the Inkwell table at the shows there is a huge portfolio of former Ms. Inkwell photo prints for donation/sale. How come you don’t have any photo prints of yourself for donation/sale?
Hailey: Bob explained to me that with the exception of model Kathy <Taylor> that photo prints from the individual model photoshoots never sold well. So that while the portfolio was nice to look through, it was a waste of time and expenses and took up important table space so that idea was finally scrapped after Anna White. But that meant it was scrapped when I joined and I was the only one left out and recently I’ve been getting questions from fans, “where are my photos?”. After telling Bob, we decided to rectify that matter by offering four images for starters in 2017! I can’t wait!
1st: What is you favorite artistic rendition of the Ms. Inkwell character in the Ms. Inkwell gallery book?
Hailey: I’d have to say Bill Sienkiewicz’s rendition of Ms. Inkwell is my all time favorite <on the book’s cover>. It’s so beautiful and i’m lucky enough to have a signed print of it!!!
1st: Are you represented in the gallery?
Hailey: Yes, I am! On the way to Albany Con last year Joe Goulart and I dropped in on Mark Texeira’s studio in Connecticut and I posed for him. The graphite, ink and painted renditions are all collected in the book. There’s also a small photo gallery of the models that I’m in.
1st: Do you have any parting comments?
Hailey: I really enjoy being Ms. Inkwell. Over time Bob has made many allowances former models weren’t allowed in order to keep the character appearance consistent, like allowing me to change my hair color and wear a different, glamorous outfit on the 3rd day of a three-day show. India Wells was created and designed as a fashionista so it fits the character. I’m especially proud of the fact that I am the longest running Ms. Inkwell so far and have made the most appearances than any spokesmodel before me. I fully intend to continue working with the Inkwell Awards and Bob Almond for as long as I can (I’m only 19 so I can go long and far!). I sincerely love doing what I do and I am extremely excited for each new show I attend…. every stop is just like my first one all over again! So come hell or high water I will be Ms. Inkwell for as long as I possibly can!
INKWELLS: While the 2016 Inkwell convention tour has come to a close she’ll be back for more shows in 2017 starting in April to sign your books. The book will feature the gallery interpretations of Ms. Inkwell by artists Joe Sinnott, Bill Sienkiewicz, Tommy Castillo, Elias Chatzoudis, Trevor Von Eeden, Fred Hembeck, Dean Kotz/Tom Schloendorn, Alex Saviuk, Chris Campana/Mark McKenna, Louis Small Jr., Joe Orsak, Mike Okamoto, Sara Richard, Roger Andrews/Bob Almond, Michael Netzer, Tim Estiloz, Gerry Acerno, Howard Chaykin, Tod Allen Smith/Almond, Johnny B. Gerardy, Mike Pascale, Ed Coutts, Charles Barnett III, Jay Fife/McKenna, Neil Vokes, Phil Moy, Leonardo Gondim/Mike Kellar, Jeff Austin, the late Jeremy Dale/Schloendorn and Mark Texeira. It will also feature donated work by Dan Panosian, Buzz, Mike Lilly, Billy Tucci/Jim Tournas, others and the printed Ms. Inkwell covers by Randy Green/Nathan Massengill, Craig Rousseau, Louis Small Jr., Mike McKone, Ed Coutts and Franchesco. It will collect unseen prelim design art, variant art and colors, a roll call of all the spokesmodels, a photo gallery of many of them, and more! Have you ordered yours yet?