Last year I lived a moment of total bliss when I was selected to be part of a fashion presentation for Los Angeles Fashion Week (LAFW). After reluctantly stepping back from the world of modelling 10 years ago, I finally had a chance to walk in a live show for Blonde and Beiber. Honestly, this wasn’t an average kind of show as I had expected – you know walking down the runway, posing in front of the camera flashes, and then strutting back. It was unique, creative and fun. I feel privileged to have been part of it.
Now, let’s rewind life back to almost 20 years ago. Just like all of you (assuming you did), I went through that awkward stage of letting others control my self-esteem with their rude comments and uninvited opinions. Then out of nowhere when I was 14 years old, for the first time in my life, I heard the complete opposite. “Kia, you should be a model!”A what? I had no idea what a model was. All I knew was that I was standing at 5’10, towering above my classmates and being expected to play basketball. But after some research, I decided to give it a shot. My mom took me to a modelling convention (which I recommend never investing in!) and I received three call backs, including one from Elite New York. I was super excited and from that point, my interest in being a model immediately peaked.
Due to our lack of understanding of how the modelling business worked, my mom and I didn’t know how to follow up so unfortunately, I missed out. Four years rolled past and I continued to hear “You should be a model” so when I turned 18 and finished High School, I moved to California to give modelling another shot. And let me tell you it was like walking into a Category 5 hurricane. The judgement, the emotions, and the sacrifice were all things I wasn’t ready for. Don’t get me wrong I certainly had the passion to become the next Naomi Campbell but didn’t understand what came with that beautifully fashionable life.
Hearing “you should be a model” all through my teenage years and then hearing “No” time after time from the agencies can be very confusing for a young woman. The industry, like fashion, is constantly changing and the agencies are always on the hunt for a certain look. As a women of colour, I had a really hard time fitting any of those looks, but I kept going anyway.
Along the way I worked behind the scenes, which included working with the cast of a show called ‘Remodeled on the CW’, and I also walked in a couple of local fashion shows. Through those experiences alone, I learned a lot about the industry as a whole. From the truths to the lies, the good and the bad. But by being involved in this fast paced world, I slowly learned how to handle myself.
I now know what to expect and no matter how far you go, it’s a world of non-stop judgement. There’s the lure of travelling, the free clothes and the possibility of stepping into the spotlight of fame. But you really have to ask yourself; Can you handle being picked apart? Do you even want to be? Are you willing to work extra hard to protect your integrity and your brand? Will you stay true to who you are?
If modelling is something you would like to try, here are my top tips;
- Be you! Share YOUR personality with the world. When dealing with this competitive industry you have to know your values and have a strong sense who you are.
- Knock on the doors of opportunity. Don’t just wait for them to open. With social media on your side, you can get closer than you’d think – just look at Kate Upton!
- Build your Brand and make goals to get you closer to your dream job.
- Research and stay in the know about the fashion and modeling industry. It’s important to your career to know who’s who and what’s what.
- Have fun! Even if you don’t get the modelling gig you wanted, try others. If runway is not for you, try print or catalogue – think differently.
- Practice in front of the camera. You can learn all of your angles and what works for you. The more you do this, the more comfortable you’ll become.
I chose my family over pursuing a modelling career and although I still occasionally attend castings with high hopes, I still don’t know where my finish line will be. My attitude these days is more like “it is what it is”. I started The East On The West and began modelling for my own blog, which I really enjoy. There’s no pressure, the creativity is mine and it makes me feel connected to the industry in my own way.