On modeling ...

Thx to Nanthale for the photo!

When I started my blog, one of the first things I wanted to do was share professional accomplishments that I am particularly proud of, in addition to talking about my style, my quest to be healthy and look and feel my best, and of course, issues that matter to me. My latest professional accomplishment has been one that encompasses all of those things and so I'm really excited, honored, and a bit scared to talk about my latest adventure.

Read on, if you have some time.

As some of you may have seen, I am currently one of the faces of retail giant Ashley Stewart. Even as I type those words, I feel pride and excitement at the thought of it. This is a company that I have always admired and respected. I can remember the first time I learned about Ashley Stewart as a teenager who was hungry for fashionable clothes that catered to women who were my size. At that time, I was a lot bigger and felt like there were few, if any, stores that could reflect who I was on the inside because most plus size sections did not cater to a younger woman who wanted to express herself through fashion. But strolling through a mall near my parents house in suburban New Jersey one day, I saw a beautiful, plus size black woman smiling at me through the window of a store filled with fashionable clothing. I was fascinated by her, she welcomed me in with the pride she had in her eyes and the happiness that radiated through her smile. And as if that weren't enough to send me practically running through the doors, she was dressed in clothing that was on-trend at the time. After spending as much money as my part time paycheck would allow me to, I left AS with bags of cute clothing, a determination to find out the identity of that girl, and a bit of my soul restored. It was the first time I felt like I had permission to dress beautifully.

Mia Amber Davis for Ashley Stewart
I went home that day and started doing research on the girl in the poster. I later learned that her name was Mia Amber Davis, and that she was also a beautiful actress. You have no idea how it felt to me to see a woman like her who was so beautiful and happy with herself. In my teenage mind, to see a woman who was actually even curvier than I was in MOVIES and in store windows was life-changing. Later, when I first started modeling, Mia was one of the first people I met. I was so star struck, having never really met a 'celebrity' before, and I expected her to laugh at me. Instead, she was down to earth, kind and so humble. I had never met a woman like her. Mia and I eventually became friends and she became one of my mentors in the business, teaching me about posing, photos, my book, testing, castings, tear sheets and everything else I wanted to know.

As many of you know, we lost our angel Mia last year. It was devastating beyond words for her family and friends. But it was a huge loss for the industry. I miss Mia every day and I try to live up to her legacy. I know I have a long way to go.

I know how it seems on blogs and facebook, like everything comes easy to certain people or you look at a picture of someone and long to be in their position. I have been there so many times and spent years looking photos and wondering when it would be my turn. Where I am right now, working for AS and other retailers I once dreamed of is something that words can't express. There are far more successful models than me -- in fact many of them are my friends, and they inspire me with their work. But for me, these moments are magical. And they never stop being amazing.

But despite how it may appear in photos, modeling has been ANYTHING but easy for me. For many years, I felt like the industry slammed so many doors in my face that I was plagued by emotional bruises. For those of you who write to me or other models, I want you to be prepared for how difficult it is. When I began in this business at a size 10/12, I was told I was too small and short, and that I didn't read as plus size. Then I gained weight due to failure coping with hard times in my life, and all of a sudden I was too big. For the rest of my life, I will never forget the international agent (who is very well known) and told me that my face was not enough to compensate for my height and size. Or the photographer who told me that I would never work if I didn't lose weight and that I should not photograph my legs until I lost weight. Or the stylist who told me she simply needed someone with "a smaller waistline" and it "wasn't personal." (Maybe not to her). Or the designer who told me, "I need a model whose legs are smooth, so I can't work with you." This as she told me she was my friend and just looking out for me.

I could write a book on these kinds of moments that happened to me.

It's difficult enough to gain weight as a woman in this world. It's worse when you do it and it affects your livelihood. It can make you believe the worst about yourself. And when the world speaks to your deepest of insecurities, even as a whisper, it comes out in your ears as a deafening roar.

Before I got deep into the world of modeling, had you told me that I would be one of the faces for AS, I would have excitedly responded with the idea that all things are possible through God. For most of my life, I was a woman who believed that I could do anything through hard work, determination and prayer. If you told me that even a year and a half ago, when I was deep in the throes of sadness and wanting so badly to "make it" that I was choking the life out of the process, I would not have believed you. I would have teared up at the beauty of a dream, not believing it can be a reality.

But God brought me through that, to the other side. Through prayer, good friends, spiritual searching, therapy and changing my outlook, I was able to climb out of my hole and let go. And as soon as I did, good things started happening.

At the Harlem flagship store.
I am so proud to look at these photos today and say, "I did that." Sure, I'm not at my ideal weight in my head, or where I want to be 100 percent in my financial life or at the peak of my professional life. But where I am is beautiful. And I appreciate every step of the way.

Don't go into modeling or whatever profession you choose believing it can validate you. Believing that if you could just MAKE IT, that somehow you're worth it. Because the truth is, you're already worth it and God would not place a dream in your heart if it wasn't achievable. Go after your dreams, believe in them and embrace the process and the journey. Understand that your life speaks to you every minute of the day, if you're willing to listen. Understand that all things are possible,  and just because it's not happening right NOW, it does not mean it never will.

I am living proof it can.

And if ever I wondered what my purpose in becoming a model was, I feel in my heart it was to share it with one of you who read this and had my words speak to your pain and your hope. Thank you for allowing me to do that.

With love,




Cicely C. said...

That was an amazing testimony. You are certainly inspiring me to not give up on my dreams of being a plus size model. :) Congrats on all your success

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this! I have a tough backbone but I think this was really an eye opener on our industry.


Voluptuous Vixen said...

This is nice, thanks for writing this, so inspirational. You're right, sometimes we look at other people's lives through a lens and we think things come so easily to them/others while we have to struggle. But truth is that we all have our hurdles to jump through, lessons to learn before it can be "our turn". You had your fair share of lessons and hurdles through all the doors which were slammed in your face, malicious comments which could have been enough to break anyone's esteem. But here you are standing tall at the end of it all! You did well.

Nemesis said...

I'm a lurker, but I had to comment. That is a wonderful testimony!

Poetikmind said...

Hi Allie you have no idea how much this blessed me. I remember first talking to you online through Venus Diva and seeing you in passing at a casting last year for FFF Week. At that time I can honestly say I was overwhelmed and excited with seeing the many models in the industry whose work I admired at the same casting. To me, it was like how you felt when you met Mia. The journey is tough, and sometimes it feels like I am on pause but I just continue to be thankful for where I am now because I am learning and growing. I am thankful for your encouragement and also for your accomplishments because I saw your pic in the mall at the AS and was like oh there goes Allie! (as if I knew you personally.. Lol smh) anyways I am saying this to say thank you for sharing, encouraging and just thrivin in what you do...God is good and I am sure we will be seeing more of u!. U rock girl! God bless! -Limarie

Me said...

Thank you for being so real about your feelings, struggles, and accomplishments. It is true that we sometimes only focus on the endpoint and forget about the work and rejection it can take to get there. My parents always told me that anything worth getting has to be worked for and I whole heartedly agree. Some of the greatest things in life mean so much more because they weren't handed to us. I remind myself of this everytime a photographer doesn't respond back to me after seeing my full body shots or when a I'm told my face is gorgeous "but..." So thank you again, Ms. Allie, for your inspiration and honesty.

Unknown said...

i fell i love with her the first time i saw her. i will never forget, i was maybe 13 years old and i was completely fascinated with her. i was so sad when i heard about her passing. she was so very beautiful, and one of the first major inspirations for me. i really regret not following my dreams sooner, and possibly getting the chance to meet her. i would love to have her as a mentor. you are truly lucky
<3 Marissa


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