My Modeling Story: Where It All Began

Every year around this time I get very nostalgic of my start in the modeling world. I'm incredibly grateful for my start and I like to reflect and appreciate how it all began. Recently, I was watching America's Next Top Model with Ashley Graham and Khrystyana. It just amazes me how far the plus size / fashion industry has come. I posted on my Instagram Story that I had gotten discovered by Tyra Banks herself and it was so surprising on how many of you didn't know that! As my 8th modeling anniversary approaches this year, I'd like to pay an extra special homage to my beginning. I apologize for the low quality images in this post, they're all from 2010! It's also amazing to see how far photo quality has come!

Posted on a whim: 

Flash back to January of 2010, I was a senior in high school accepted on early decision to Clarkson University. My mom had suggested that I go online and apply for scholarships, since the price of private school tuition was not cheap. Instead, I found myself wandering the internet, stumbling upon The Tyra Show's website. Back in 2010, Tyra Banks had a daytime talk show and she had just announced that she was hosting a "Fiercely Real Teen Model Search." Instead of calling it "plus size" she was calling it "fiercely real." If you were a teenager (13-19), above a size 12 and taller than 5"9 you were eligible to enter. My friend and I saw the contest and kind of laughed about it, daring me to enter. I had always been comfortable in front of a camera, thanks to my dad's love for taking pictures but I never thought of modeling as an option. I submitted my senior portraits on a whim. People were posting their submissions on the forum so quickly, my photos went from page 1 to page 25 by the time I refreshed. So to be honest, I kind of forgot about it. 

The first picture that I submitted, my senior portrait. 

The first picture that I submitted, my senior portrait. 

Busted (for good reason):

A few days later, I got an email from a producer named Michael Carandang. He thanked me for my submission but asked me to follow the directions and submit the photos that they were requesting: typical model digitals including full body, 3/4 shot, side profile and an up close face shot. I was a little taken back that they emailed me but I didn't think much of it, to be honest. However, that night at the dinner table included a conversation something like this: "Mom, I did something I shouldn't have... Instead of looking up scholarships, I posted my pictures on Tyra Banks' website and just got an email from a producer asking for more images." 

One of the very few times not listening to my mother paid off.  We googled the producer's name to make sure he was legitimate, he was, so we proceeded to respond back to him. My aunt came over the next day and helped me take my very first digitals! Things continued to move very fast, once we submitted the proper images, I was notified that I had been selected to be in the top 100. Next day: top 50, next day: top 25, top 20, top 15, then it dwindled down to the top 10. I was interviewed on the phone a few times and then I was notified that my image was going to be shown to Tyra, who then was going to select the top 6 to be in the contest. Apparently, Tyra was laying in the dentist's chair when she was selecting these images. I was selected to appear in the top six, flying to New York with my mom. Before we were allowed to get on the plane, we had to record a video promoting Tyra's BIO Campaign: Beauty Inside Out. From the time I posted my pictures, to the time that we got on the plane was just about a week. It was a whirlwind.

Getting picked up from the JFK airport in a limo was definitely a highlight 

Getting picked up from the JFK airport in a limo was definitely a highlight 

Off to NY:

Our first night in NY, probably the first time I got my hair and makeup done, I think I added to the makeup too. I am dying looking at these photos!!!!!!! So many questions... Bronzer, hair bow, key necklace... Face palm.

Our first night in NY, probably the first time I got my hair and makeup done, I think I added to the makeup too. I am dying looking at these photos!!!!!!! So many questions... Bronzer, hair bow, key necklace... Face palm.

But the whirlwind had only begun. The contest had a very similar format to ANTM except that we were all underage, they couldn't house us together alone. We were put up in a hotel for a little less than a week. We were told to report to the lobby at 8:00AM every morning, without our mothers. My mother of course came down in a separate elevator and hid in the lobby bushes just to make sure we were in good hands. We were, the producers were incredibly kind to us and made us feel comfortable. 

The top 6 contestants! This was just before our first photo shoot in our Nike activewear!

The top 6 contestants! This was just before our first photo shoot in our Nike activewear!

We filmed for three days. The first two days were themed photo shoots in a studio: a fitness shoot sponsored by Nike, a shoot sponsored by Torrid and a celebrity themed shoot (I was Fergie). See my final photos below:

From left to right: Activewear shoot, Torrid shoot, Fergie shoot

From left to right: Activewear shoot, Torrid shoot, Fergie shoot

The last day we were filming in The Tyra Show studio, where the top 6 filmed two episodes of the show, where we were dwindled down to find the winner based off of the shoots and challenges that we did the previous days. 

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The judges included Tyra Banks, Jon Illani (former Wilhelmina agent), Whitney Thompson (first plus size ANTM winner, cycle 10) and Ann Shoket (former editor of Seventeen Magazine). Just as the models are judged on ANTM, each of us were called to the judges stand to be critiqued on our photos. I'm pretty sure this shot below is when Whitney told me I had a snooty nose, something that still makes me giggle!

 I am completely cringing at my outfit choices, by the way. 2010 was not a great time for fashion in my life. 

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And the results are in:

The judges gave me great feedback, seemed to like me and somehow I made it through four rounds, ending up in the top TWO with fellow contestant, Sheridan Watson. All in all, I ended up being the runner up in the competition.

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Tyra assured me to stick around, she wanted to set me up with an agency.

Tyra assured me to stick around, she wanted to set me up with an agency.

Although I had lost, I was incredibly grateful for the experience and here Tyra said that she wanted me to pursue a career in modeling. She told me to stick around, that she wanted to connect me with with an agency. 

As soon as I got backstage, I was immediately stripped of my microphone & borrowed clothing and told to leave. I was confused because Tyra just told me to stick around because she wanted to connect me with an agency. 17 year old me had my first dose of reality television, 25 year old me is still waiting for that call from Tyra! 

After about a month of sulking that I lost, I quickly snapped out of it and realized that if I made it this far I should pursue it- can't hurt, right? Luckily, I had grabbed the business cards of the judges and decided to make those connections on my own. At seventeen years old, I was negotiating my own rates and flying myself to NYC to shoot for Seventeen Magazine. Once the show aired, a lady named Madeline Jones from Plus Model Magazine was sitting on her couch watching and decided to track me down. She really believed in me and helped me sign with a few agencies, leading to me signing with my current agency, Dorothy Combs Models in 2012. Since then, I've gone on to work for major clients such as Forever 21, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, Macy's, Sydney's Closet, Deb Shops, Venus, Elomi, Dia & Co, Fashion To Figure, Dillard's, and many more! I am also incredibly proud to say I graduated from Clarkson University in May 2014 as the Senior Class President with a dual bachelor's degree in Innovation & Entrepreneurship (business) and Psychology. I am incredibly grateful to my family at Clarkson who believed in me and allowed me to go to school and travel for modeling jobs. 

Although this post is long, it's really only the tip of the iceburg when it comes to my beginning in the modeling industry and how things really happened after. Just picture this as a moment of time that catapulted a series of other events. I learned a lot from this experience and I will forever be grateful for my start in the industry! This is a prime example of going for it, you never know how it can change your life forever. I can still vividly remember my time and experiences this year, a time that forever changed my life. I'm happy to answer any questions about my experiences, so feel free to leave them below!

If you'd like to read a more in depth feature of the shows: be sure to check them out on Judgement of Paris' site for episode 1 here and episode 2 here! All of the screen shots from the show are from his site, so thank you Judgement of Paris. 

Here are a few more photos from the show that I will cherish forever :)

My Favorite Beauty Secrets (Part 1: Skin)

One of the best parts about being a model is that I have access to some of the top hair and makeup artists in the industry. Every time I sit in their chair, I learn new techniques and about new skincare and beauty products. With that said, I am often asked about my favorite products so I've decided to compile a list to share with you! These are actual products that I use every day and this post is NOT sponsored. I just wanted to share the love! I could seriously write a novel about how many products I love, so I've decided to categorize these into three different posts. These products are all included in my every day skincare routine. Stay tuned for part two/ three: my favorite makeup and hair products! Click on the titles to purchase. 

SKIN:

One could say that I have a pretty high maintenance beauty routine. It takes me a good 10 minutes to get ready for bed. I truly believe in taking care of your skin and making sure you're washing off the makeup & dirt! Here's what I have been using every day:

ORIGINS Checks and Balances™ Frothy Face Wash, $23

Why I love it: it gently yet efficiently cleans my skin without making it feel overly dry. 

What it is:  A face cleanser that cleverly balances dry and oily skin. 

What it is:
A face cleanser that cleverly balances dry and oily skin. 

CLARINS Toning Lotion with Camomile, $26

Why I love it: I use this with a cotton round to get off any extra bit of dirt/ grime from the day, makes my skin feel refreshed. The alcohol free formula prevents it from feeling dry.

What it is: A gentle, alcohol-free toner—with purifying chamomile and linden extracts—to remove every last trace of cleanser, leaving skin pH balanced, de-stressed, and spa-refreshed. 

What it is:
A gentle, alcohol-free toner—with purifying chamomile and linden extracts—to remove every last trace of cleanser, leaving skin pH balanced, de-stressed, and spa-refreshed. 

DAY (applied before makeup) 

CLARINS Sunscreen Multi-Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 50, $43

Why I love it: It is a lightweight moisturizer that does the job- moisturizes, protects and sits well underneath my makeup. 

What it is:  A versatile sunscreen to protect from UVA/UVB rays, pollution, and free radicals while improving skin’s texture and tone.   

What it is:
A versatile sunscreen to protect from UVA/UVB rays, pollution, and free radicals while improving skin’s texture and tone. 
 

For days when there's a lot of makeup, I use: 

NEUTROGENA Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, $6

Why I love it: There are some days when I have so much makeup on, I need all hands on deck to get it off. These gentle wipes get EVERYTHING off. They leave my skin feeling refreshed, never dry. 

What it is:  A   gentle, ultra soft makeup remover wipe that effectively dissolves 99.3% of your most stubborn makeup, even waterproof mascara - for clean, fresh looking skin in just one simple step. It leaves skin thoroughly clean with no heavy residue, so there's no need to rinse! Plus they’re gentle enough to use around the sensitive eye area, even if you wear contacts.

What it is: A gentle, ultra soft makeup remover wipe that effectively dissolves 99.3% of your most stubborn makeup, even waterproof mascara - for clean, fresh looking skin in just one simple step. It leaves skin thoroughly clean with no heavy residue, so there's no need to rinse! Plus they’re gentle enough to use around the sensitive eye area, even if you wear contacts.

NIGHT (applied before bed)

SUNDAY RILEY Luna Sleeping Night Oil, $105

Why I love it: It is never too early to start anti-aging! I love this oil so much! It applies easily, smells amazing and I've noticed a significant difference in my skin. 

What it is:   A next-generation retinol oil that boosts the look and feel of skin plumpness, while improving the appearance of wrinkles, redness, and pores for visibly younger-looking skin. 

What it is: 
A next-generation retinol oil that boosts the look and feel of skin plumpness, while improving the appearance of wrinkles, redness, and pores for visibly younger-looking skin. 

SKIN / FACE:

TRISH McEVOY Beauty Balm Instant Solutions® SPF 35, $86
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Why I love it: Yes, this is makeup. However, technically it is skincare. It does INCREDIBLE things to your skin. I never believed in BB / CC creams until I found this. It has buildable coverage- you can wear a little or a lot. I also receive compliments whenever I wear it. Does good and feels good- how can you not?

What it is:     An all-in-one skin perfecter that instantly primes, brightens, evens, hydrates and controls oil. Rejuvenating peptides improve skin’s texture quality over time while SPF helps prevent sun damage. Worn under foundation or alone, it minimizes shine and delivers a look of healthy, natural coverage with a velvety finish.

What it is:
 An all-in-one skin perfecter that instantly primes, brightens, evens, hydrates and controls oil. Rejuvenating peptides improve skin’s texture quality over time while SPF helps prevent sun damage. Worn under foundation or alone, it minimizes shine and delivers a look of healthy, natural coverage with a velvety finish.

Market Week / Curve Shows

There are many different opportunities that I’ve been able to experience as a model. Working lingerie / swim market week is definitely one of my favorite ones. It’s a nice change of pace from my typical work in front of a camera. I also have the opportunity to work at trade shows in convention centers. When I work market weeks and trade shows, I am hired as a showroom model. The swimwear/ lingerie brand has the opportunity to meet with their vendors/buyers and pitch their new styles for the upcoming year. Basically, I am giving the buyers an opportunity to see the product on a real body, as opposed to a mannequin or hanger. I like to think of it as “live modeling.” I quickly learned that my presence/job is extremely important when it comes to driving sales. If I look great, happy and confident- there is a much higher chance of the product selling to the buyer. If I walk into the room slumped, with no energy or excitement, it is not very enticing to the buyer. I'm incredibly grateful to work with Eveden brands, I've learned so much about how to properly fit a bra. Speaking of which, blog post on that coming soon! 

Here are some of my favorite looks from this season’s curve shows, coming soon! Which is your favorite look? I'd love to hear!

 

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Morgan bra, Elomi 

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Elomi

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Matilda in hot pink, Elomi

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Incredibly grateful to work with other models! Wearing Elomi Swim & Freya Swim.

From left to right: Jihan Amher @jihanamer, Meaghan McCarthy @meaghanmccarth, Caralyn Mirand @caralynmirand

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From left to right: Meaghan McCarthy @meaghanmccarth, Caralyn Mirand @caralynmirand, Jihan Amher @jihanamer