Name: Alex Daley
City: Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Main Hustle: Content Developer at Benefitfocus
By day I work in the training department at Benefitfocus, a software company, where I write handouts, workbooks, and user guides to provide to customers who take our training. I also develop graphics as needed to market training to our customers or to be used within instructional materials.
Side Hustle: Art/Fashion Model and Racecar Driver
Besides my full-time job as a Content Developer, I also run a very small bookkeeping business and work as an art/fashion model. My hobbies include auto racing, horseback riding and kickboxing. I also design and sew dresses when I find the time or need something special to wear. Needless to say, I’m always busy.
Lately I’ve been spending most of my efforts on auto racing and modeling. I’m a member of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) through which I compete in autocross and track events with my Subaru WRX. Collaborating with a few other women, we put together a program last year called Women at the Wheel Precision Driving Instruction. This program is an all-female run instructional event where ladies teach ladies how to improve their driving skills and learn more about autocross. I designed the curriculum and instruct the fabulous women who participate.
As a freelance art/fashion model, I am hired by photographers whose primary objectives are to create art and showcase fashion. Most of them do photography as a hobby, while others sell their images or submit them for publication.
How did you get started?: Auto racing is something I sought out because I wanted to drive faster without risking a speeding ticket or accident. My dad taught me how to drive and, given that he used to race formula cars and we grew up in Chicago, I learned to drive aggressively. When I earned my driver’s license, I was excited to push the car’s handling limits, particularly around corners where car control is more challenging. (Driving fast in a straight line just doesn’t do it for me.)
In 2014 I purchased my first new car: a 2015 Subaru WRX. I chose the WRX because it has a reputation for handling well, meaning I could take those corners even faster in it compared to the Volvo I drove prior. With a sports car in my possession, I asked myself, “What can I do with this car besides drive it to and from work?” A quick internet search led me to autocross, which is a car-control event where drivers individually navigate a course designated by traffic cones to achieve the fastest time without knocking over cones, which incur time penalties.
At the start of the racing season, I signed up to participate in a novice school and event hosted by the South Carolina Region (SCR) of the SCCA. During that weekend, I discovered the adrenaline rush of driving fast in a safe, legal manner. I even won the novice class at that first event I competed in. I was hooked, obsessed, and wanted more. Since then I’ve served on the board of directors for the club, put together the Women at the Wheel program, and traveled all around the Southeast to compete in events. On average, I participate in three events a month.
So, how does that modeling thing fit into all this car stuff? The first photographer I ever worked with I met through racing. But my modeling career started long before that. I’ve wanted to model since I was a tween. When attending a fashion institute in Manhattan, I was hired to pose for art classes and even met with a modeling agency. Unfortunately I had to pause my modeling attempts and leave New York after being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. For the next decade, I focused solely on rebuilding my mental health.
Fast forward to late 2017 where I learned that my friend (that racecar driver I previously mentioned) is a hobbyist photographer who regularly hires models for photo shoots. I told him that I was interested in modeling, and he suggested that we work together. After collaborating on few of his shoots, I wondered whether I could do more with modeling. A few months ago, I joined a modeling social network, Model Mayhem, and my career took off. I received around 20 messages from photographers that first day, asking me to shoot with them.
When/where do you work on your Side Hustle?: I travel all around the Southeast—mostly to Savannah, Myrtle Beach, and Charlotte—to race my car and model. Since autocross events are typically held one day over the weekend, I’ve gotten into the habit of going to a location for the entire weekend, where I’ll connect with photographers in that area to model for a few shoots one day and race my car the next. I also work with photographers in Charleston, where we’ll shoot anywhere from a studio to the beach to the streets.
What are the challenges of your Side Hustle?: My biggest challenge is staying positive when I’m not driving as well as I or others expect or when I’m viewing poor-quality photos from a recent shoot.
Over these past three years of racing, I’ve developed a strong presence in the motorsports community as a talented, female driver. When new drivers, particularly women, show up to their first autocross event, I’m often seen as someone for them to look up to and take instruction from. Most people are capable of more than they know. It’s important to me to show drivers that they’re able to do more with their cars than they ever imagined. When I’m not driving my best, I worry that I won’t be that inspiring role model they need to push their comfort levels or believe that they can run a better time.
With modeling, I mostly worry about my age. I started modeling for still photos at 30 and, despite my youthful look, each day ticks away my booking potential. Every photograph that shows my age reminds me that I won’t be able to do this forever. It’s hard to stay positive knowing that the clock is always ticking.
What are the rewards of your Side Hustle?:
Installing hope into others is the biggest reward of both driving and modeling. I instruct a lot of novice drivers through Women at the Wheel and at autocross events. I love seeing the excitement spread across drivers’ faces because my instructional advice helped them improve their times. Some drivers are timid at first but, by the end of the day, they’re driving aggressively, hoping to achieve a faster time. By then they’ve seen themselves improve and, watching me drive, see where auto racing can take them.
As a model, I’m able to show the world how you can take an ordinary person and, with the right lighting and angles, create artwork. The photos I’ve taken have inspired others to experiment artistically and create something that is similarly unique and beautiful.
Who is your greatest supporter?: My parents and boyfriend are my greatest supporters. My parents are very proud of the work I’ve done and have always been there to provide advice when I’m doubting my talent. Growing up my father always pushed me to do more and to try harder, while my mother was there to comfort me through losses. My boyfriend, Tommy, is amazing for supporting me when I travel to model and race and for grounding me when life seems overwhelming.
Who/what is your greatest source of inspiration?:
The people I meet or read about and the stories they tell verbally, in writing, or through art inspire me the most. Hearing about the risks that some people take to pursue their passions and stories where people have overcome great adversities remind me that anything is possible.
Have you received recognition for your work? If so, please toot your horn below: I’ve won many local autocross events and won my class two years in a row at a national-level event where the top drivers in the country compete. I also consistently set some of the fastest times at South Carolina events, where my fastest time of the day falls within the top 10 to 15 percent of all drivers’ times. For instance I recently ran the sixth fastest time of the day out of 102 drivers.
Nothing major has happened yet with modeling (unless you count the day I started getting paid for it). I plan to change that soon.
What is your dream for your Side Hustle?:
Mostly my goal is to be viewed as a role model for others who have thought about pursuing something but whose apprehensions held them back. Being a woman in the male-dominated racing world can be difficult, so I’ve aimed to help women get involved in motorsports and have positive experiences. You could say my dream is to pave the way for other female drivers.
To accomplish that, I’d like to win the triad award, which would recognize me as a top female driver at the national level. The triad award is given to a driver who wins at least two national-level events and the final nationals event in the same class in the same season. On top of that, I’d love for the Women at the Wheel program to be recognized by the national SCCA board and for other regions to adopt the program for use.
My love for modeling stems from a love of fashion, so for modeling I aspire to be the face of a fashion designer’s line or to be featured in a national campaign.
Do you have any advice for others working on a Side Hustle?:
Never forget why you started your side hustle. It’ll serve as that inspiration you need to continue pushing yourself to achieve your goals. I like to keep in mind that I started racing cars because it’s fun. All the goals I now have as a racecar driver came later.
And, of course, believe in the impossible. I never thought that I could start modeling as late as I did, but here I am, a working model.
If believing isn’t enough, then have a backup plan (mostly a financial one) in case your side hustle doesn’t flourish the way you imagined. Also remember to have a plan for when your side hustle grows more than you imagined, and you must decide whether to pursue it as your main hustle or keep it on the side.
Follow Alex on Instagram to stay up to date on her racing and modeling careers, or reach out via email to connect or collaborate. For more information on Alex’s modeling business, check out her website or follow her on Facebook. To learn more about Women at the Wheel, head to their Facebook page.