You’ve heard of J. Alexander, but have you heard of Alva Page? Alva is an accomplished runway coach who specializes in training plus models (how refreshing is that?). In this series “10 Questions” let’s meet the man who has coined 2008 as “the year of the walk”.
[Tonya] Thank you so much for taking time out from your schedule to chat with me. Tell the readers about your background? [Alva] I am Alva Page, a former aspiring actor-turned model and now a Runway/Model Coach. I have been in the beauty and fashion industry for over 10 years. I help train would-be models how to walk the runway with style, grace, poise and the grandeur that is needed to showcase each designer’s collection. [Tonya] Were you surrounded by plus size women growing up? [Alva] Yes I was; my paternal grandmother was a plus size woman as well as grand aunts and my cousins. Being around plus size or as it’s known, “size sexy” woman is nothing new to me. [Tonya] What made you decide to become a runway trainer? [Alva] I never thought about being a Runway/Model Coach, I always wanted to be an actor. I was told by a program director that I should model, so I started investing in modeling workshops and it was during those workshops that I met Martin Snaric who gave me the “a-ha” moment. I went back to college at St. Augustine’s where we had a modeling troupe on campus. Two of the potential models didn’t get the routine down so I stepped in and taught them what I learned from the workshops and that’s how I started. Over the years I have perfected my craft and it’s led to doing what I do now with most new clients coming in through referrals. [Tonya] Who are some of your influences in this industry called fashion? [Alva] Which decade? During the 60’s and the early 70’s, that was the era of the runway models like Bethann Hardison and Bilie Blair, who broke barriers on the runway for women of color. The 80’s introduced us to Debra Shaw, who devastated the couture runways with her chameleonic poses and of course in the 90’s the Supermodel era with Naomi, Linda, Claudia, Christy, and Cindy. These gorgeous creatures became stronger by being a very close knit family. They became the most powerful faces on the runway, picking and choosing which shows they wanted to do. My biggest male influence is Andre Leon Talley; he defied all the odds of the fashion industry. He has something no other African American man at that time had achieved, which was obtaining first hand knowledge from the very extraordinary Diana Vreeland (former editor in chief of Vogue magazine). He was surrounded by a wealth of knowledge from the most prominent women and men in the industry. [Tonya] You had the distinction of being the runway trainer for BET’s first Rip The Runway Fashion Showcase, in which the fashions of plus sizes was the most popular segment. What was that experience like? [Alva] I was a bit anxious with that experience because I’d just moved to NYC in 2006 and during that time, I was contacting all the agencies and letting them know who I was and what I could offer to their agencies and some of the replies were they already had an in-house trainer, or what other agencies have I worked with. I felt that I needed to do something big that would allow me to showcase what I could do. Then a new friend, who works in PR, saw what I could do and put me in contact with an agent who was using his loft space for the plus size casting for BET’s Rip the Runway and he in turn told the head casting person that they needed to have me affiliated with the show.
It was a first for all of us, for me it was a first to show what the industry people in NYC what I could do and it was the first for the Plus models to showcase their talents. It was a great marriage, I wanted the models to walk with confidence and show the people of NYC and everyone else watching the show that talent comes in all shapes, sizes and sexes.
[Tonya] You’re currently the Runway Trainer for the Plus Academy’s Catwalk Bootcamp, located in New York City (www.dseventsinc.com). Tell the readers about what aspiring plus models learn in the boot camp. [Alva] The boot camp touches on a lot of industry topics that I know are very important for each model to learn. The models learn the basics such as entrance/exit on the runway, turns, stances and poses and modeling in pairs.
The boot camp advance classes are taken a step further with hand placement, walking couture, executing the garment with cleanest. It sounds easy but this is where the model MUST think.
[Tonya] Your catchphrase for 2008 is “the year of the walk”. Tell the readers what the “year of the walk” means to you. [Alva] The year of the walk means bringing back the passion, the respect, and the art to the runway as well as developing the total model. We have gotten so far away from learning the basics. I have a friend who’s a runway trainer and the first question she always asks is, “how many of you have modeled, and how many of you have been trained to model?” Most people think it’s very easy to model but there are so many things that are so important to modeling, like posture and posing. [Tonya] What are some of the myths that should be dispelled about plus models? [Alva] There are so many, the first one is beauty. Most think that they are not beautiful, that they have no sense of style, that no one wants to see a plus model in magazines, TV, etc. The second most common is that they can’t walk and my favorite, which is the most ridiculous, that there is not enough fabric to do a plus size collection. With designers such as Robert E. Knight, Monif C, and Just Raymona, and retailers such as Igigi, that myth is one of the biggest. [Tonya] A lot of up and coming plus models expect to be instant models with little training and knowledge of the industry. How important is it for plus models to know the history of plus modeling & the fashion industry as a whole?
Alva] It is very important for plus models to understand both the stigmas and triumphs of plus size models. As a plus size model, many are faced with prejudices from some casting directors, etc who try to keep plus models at bay by stating things like plus modeling isn’t a real fashion industry or that editors and other press people are not interested in seeing plus size fashion. I expect the plus models to step up and list plus models who have broken barriers and made the world take notice that plus size fashion IS fashion. Plus models should know their history; never forget the plus models who have paved the way.
[Tonya] Final Question: What advice can you give to plus models who want to get into the business? [Alva]
Research the plus industry as a whole
Find plus size organizations that are doing workshops that offer knowledgeable professional advice, like The Plus Academy in NYC
Find a plus model that motivates and inspires you. One that has the career you want; this will keep you focused and will confident when faced with barriers
Do not let anyone’s prejudice keep you from doing what you want to do
Regardless of what the outcome may be or what you may hear, you are very much needed in the fashion industry.