This picture was taken my last year at Rutgers. I had just decided I wanted to pursue modeling, and I needed digitals. For those who don’t know what that is, digitals are the basic photos that you submit to modeling agencies (head shot, profile, 3/4, full body). Those are essentially the pictures that determine whether meeting with you in person is a possibility. I don’t know what I was doing here or why my eyes were closed, but I’m grateful that this pic exists. It reminds me of a time where I was uncertain of where my newfound passion would take me, but I was 100% sold on tackling the unknown anyhow.

I’m not like other women. The desire to become a model usually kicks in at a young age. It is common for teens to move to LA or NY in the hopes of becoming successful in the industry. It is even common for aspiring and established models to skip out on college and dedicate all of their time to shooting, networking, and attending casting calls and open calls. Me? I was an athlete. I did a little bit of a lot: ballet, softball, track, basketball, soccer; but soccer ended up becoming my life.

My knowledge of the fashion world was very shallow. People would always stop me and asked if I modeled, and they were always shocked to find out that I didn’t. I appreciated their compliments but they honestly flew in one ear and out of the other. Please believe me when I say that modeling was the furthest thing from my mind. I didn’t fawn over the models who graced the covers of Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and so on; I barely knew any of their names. I wasn’t waiting for specific campaigns to drop. I didn’t know when NYFW was; I didn’t even know that it happened twice a year – but I had an epiphany my last year at Rutgers that changed me. A spark lit up and it has yet to be cast out. It was then that I knew that I was destined for something far greater than I would ever be able to conceive.

It was not until I transferred to Rutgers in 2013 that I was able to cater to my creative side more than I ever had before. In fact, this turnaround didn’t really happen until the 2014-2015 academic year, if I can recall correctly.  My new chapter at Rutgers marked the  first time in my life that I wasn’t a student-athlete. I began writing poetry at age 10, but I always dedicated more time to soccer. I enrolled at RU with every intention of getting a BASW. I ultimately wanted to be the director of my own social service agency, and concluded that I would continue to write my poetry on the side and eventually get my work published. But in a split second, all of those plans fell away.

I was sitting in my Geology course and I remember looking at my professor ramble and write a whole bunch of nonsense on the board and nothing was registering. I remember thinking to myself “I can’t do this. There has to be more to life than this.” You see, I fully understood that I was in college for a specific purpose, but the idea of going through the motions of a job I couldn’t stand simply to fulfill a need, just like I was going through the motions of college just to fulfill a need, didn’t rest well with me. It was heart-wrenching, to be honest. I realized that I was not the kind of person that would be able to lead an average life when I have the heart and mind of a true creative. A person with those two components will never be fulfilled if he/she is doing anything other than making art. Art is literally a product of our soul. It was then that I decided that art would be my life.

The months following graduation were grueling. I constantly turned down lucrative job opportunities because I knew that I could no longer have a regular 9-5 if I was going to take modeling seriously. I needed my days open as I pursued representation from an agency. I needed flexibility so that I could run back and forth between NJ, NY and Philly for whatever, whenever. Working overnight was something I was used to; taking a major pay cut was not. Then, it seemed like the more I struggled financially, the more I learned about the ins and outs of modeling that are often hidden from public view.

There are days when I feel like I’m in waaaaay over my head with modeling, and there are days when I feel like I’m on top of the world. Mind you, I am lightyears away from reaching the pinnacle of my career, but being grateful and celebrating the mini milestones help prepare me for the bigger ones. I look back and see how much I’ve grown in two years, and I’m filled with pride.

At Rutgers, I was simply a woman with “a look” who did people favors for shoots and projects and allowed others to shoot her for fun. I was uncomfortable on set and questioned everything I did because I was stepping out of my comfort zone and had no idea what I was doing, yet I still wanted to do everything right. I wanted to skip all of the awkward and poorly executed photos and fast forward to viral worthy ones. Now, I am a signed model. I am developing my portfolio, I learn just as much on set as I do off of it, and I have walked in NYFW (and I’m not even a runway model). I am so thankful that I got signed to a NY based modeling agency, when some people go a lifetime without getting that chance; people who wanted this opportunity long before I even had the urge to delve into the fashion world.

If it weren’t for those individuals who hit me up at Rutgers asking me to shoot, I most likely wouldn’t be here. Being in that space caused me to open my eyes up to a possibility that (by God’s grace and ONLY God’s grace) I turned into a reality. In the industry I am a nobody, but to God I am somebody, and that’s all that matters. My faith in Him is the only thing that keeps me going. I was signed to a mother agency (an agency that starts your career and develops it) that didn’t act as such, and promised business endeavors that never came into fruition; I’ve been turned down by at least 50 agencies (it’s probably way more than that, but I’m too lazy to verify), countless designers and casting directors; I’ve been overlooked and underestimated, questioned and criticized, but I’m still here. Every “no” brings me one step closer to the “yes” that can change my life.

I have so much I want to accomplish on my modeling bucket list, to the point that I get overly critical of myself. In those moments I have to remind myself that I am still very much new to the game and that beating myself up isn’t going to make this uphill climb any easier. I have beauty, intellect, wisdom, and a strong work ethic, but most importantly, I have God. I have no doubt in my mind that with God’s help I’ll reach my desired level of success in modeling even though (by the standards of many) I got my start too late. Looking in retrospect I can honestly say that every single factor that played a part in getting me to where I am now was perfectly orchestrated. At 24 I decided to create a life in the unknown because it became the very thing that sets my soul on fire. It takes courage, it takes consistency, but it damn sure will be worth all of the risks and sacrifices in the end.

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