It took me long enough to write this right? Yesterday, I put on my instagram story that I was going to share my modeling journey and answer any questions you all may have had pertaining to the world.. so here we go!
I’ve been modeling since I was 15 years old. Yes, pre instagram era. There is no wow moment, or discovery, I just decided one day that I wanted to be the girl on the tv or in the magazine and I went after it.
Around that time, Facebook was the “it” platform to be involved in so I started my outreach there. (my mom didn’t know I had one then, SORRY MOM if you’re reading this!) . Putting the pieces together and realizing that in order to be a model I needed some practice; I began to reach out to those boutiques and photographers looking for a chance.
I stared out with photographers. Asking if we could work via TFP (Trade for photos)… Do people still even do that? haha! I then would use those photos as examples of my work when I started pitching the local boutiques. Guys, I was doing this at 15 and had NEVER stepped foot in front of a camera EXCEPT to take school pictures. You’re probably wondering, “How in the world did you know to do this at 15?” I studied my soon to be craft like I was already in the running and I was just getting started. I spent more of my free time researching the modeling industry than I did studying for school (probably why I failed math almost every year).
From the age of 15-17 I made a lot of strides. No, they weren’t perfect, but I needed it for growth. I did small modeling jobs here and there a few small fashion shows and even started doing extra work on tv shows like Army Wives.
One day while scrolling Facebook I saw that a friend of mine posted about needing interns for Charleston Fashion Week and I saw this as an in. Little did I know, I would never actually make it on the side of the field that I wanted to actually play on. Reality kicked in and so did the beginning of the saying “I’m sorry you’re just not the right fit.” or the infamous, “Sorry, you’re too short.” I realized in that moment of no, that even with all the hard work I’d put in, the industry I longed for didn’t want me because of my height. I did see that all the models were taller than me in my research but it didn’t click at the time that that was a requirement for my industry. I just thought that I hadn’t come across anyone my height yet + I was young and a lot of those models were way older/ more mature than I was so of course they would be taller.
I took that first no and F L I P P E D the hell out of it. If I couldn’t get in where I wanted to be, I needed to get in where I fit in and apply to be an intern. I mean that’s what the call was originally for anyway right? Working for Charleston Fashion Week gave me a very hands-on experience in the fashion industry. My role in this entire thing; model coach assistant, how ironic. I worked alongside former model Michelle Wood + was able to be close to individuals who received the yes that I dreamed of. I worked CHSFW for about four years or so while continuing to reach out to people that I wanted to work with. I was able to gain a lot of insight, find new potential clients, and build lasting relationships with people who were living my dream. One of those people being Carlos Campos. I worked for Campos for Mens Fashion Week, which allowed me to visit NY for the first time. I then fell in love with the city and moved there a few month after but that’s a story for another day hahaha!
Even while working fashion week I would do things to be seen by the higher ups like, dress like a model on the “agent scouting day” and pray that one of these agents would see me, be intrigued and then sign me, but that never happened. No one even batted an eye, and it was all due to my height. I persevered even through that. I just told myself that “just because these select few agents don’t want me, doesn’t mean someone else won’t.” I stopped trying to go after my modeling career in a sense while working under the tents as we called it. While under the tents I Was Venita Aspen, model coach assistant, not Venita Aspen, a freelance model. I did my time, learned all that I could, and then bid fashion week adieu and then the real outreach began.
I spent a lot of my time networking, modeling for free (yes you read that right; not every job but you catch my drift) and reaching out to agencies. From my first no until now at the age of 26, I have received over 50 no’s from agencies from here to China and everywhere in between. I have also gotten as far as being on a set and have been told to go home because they didn’t realize how short I was. I mean these people made it seem as though I was the elephant in the room all because I am 5’4. I am a lean and slender 5’4, so it’s easier for me to appear taller than I actually am. I still didn’t allow that to let me down. I continued to reach out to brands I was interested in working with because if I wasn’t putting myself out there how were they going to find me?
Every modeling opportunity that I have ever received is because of me, every single one. I have never been signed and I am still not signed. A few months ago I revisited trying to get signed by an agency. With things in my book like Old Navy, Target, and DSW to name a few, I was sure the tables would turn and I’d hear a yes. That old song “Sorry, you’re just not the right fit” made its way through my head yet again.
The industry wasn’t made for black women, short women, or women with natural hair, yet here I am accepting + MAKING jobs for myself that most signed models are currently dreaming of. So why haven’t I been signed? Some days I toy with the idea of what it’d be like. At this stage in my career, would I accept the offer if I finally heard the yes I’ve been working for since I was 15? I still don’t know what I would do, even if it were to happen tomorrow. I do know that I would want that person to want to take pride in representing me as one of their models as much as I take pride in all the work I’ve created to get to where I am today.
I will be addressing all questions asked via instagram in the next blog post.