Interview With PLUS Model Magazine Cover Model Elizabeth Seifu
Plus model Elizabeth Seifu is one of those “newbies” who flourished right before my very eyes. I remember meeting her years ago at a Monif C. show and later as a student in my posing class. After hard work and dedication “Elsabet”, as she is affectionately known by her friends, has found success as a model.[Maddy] Thank you for taking time out to allow us to interview you. When Mia and I were discussing which models we would use for the denim editorial she referred to you as “ambiguous”, in reference to your look. Where are you from and how does your culture generally embrace the female form? [Elizabeth] I was born here in the States but my mother is from Puerto Rico and my father is from Ethiopia. Generally, both of my cultures do embrace a curvy figure. As of late, I’ve noticed a change and it bothers me. During my last trip to Ethiopia, one of my little cousins was very conscious of her curvy figure and wanted to lose weight at a size 6 for a fashion show. The organizers told her she was overweight. Everyone seems to want to look like a “model” not realizing these ladies, while gorgeous, are a size 4 or smaller and over 5’9. Most of our women are far shorter and fuller. I love Ethiopia and do not want to see it embrace the measurement requirements of the fashion industry as a general standard of beauty and suffer the consequences. [Maddy] Living in a society where voluptuous curves are not embraced and the diet industry seems to thrive year-after-year, how do you maintain your positive body image? [Elizabeth] As a model, you are constantly told you’re either too big or small; it’s not easy to hear. I know I’m sexy and beautiful in my own way but it’s only in recent years that I’ve been able to come to terms with my body and accept myself the way I am. My body image is easier to maintain when I focus on the positive. Believe me, even women who wear a size 2 have issues with this! I do this by wearing flattering clothing and it makes me feel good about myself. It also helps that the women in my family stick together. My mother and sister always told me I was beautiful and smart. They didn’t lie to me… I was a big girl and they didn’t make it seem like it is a terrible thing. I also keep active and few years ago I trained and completed a sprint triathlon. [Maddy] Wow…that’s a great accomplishment. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as a model? [Elizabeth] This is a funny story! I was shopping in Lane Bryant and I started talking to a woman behind me who happened to be an established makeup artist in the industry and she told me I should try plus modeling. After some thought, I decided to give it a try. I did some research and found Sharon Quinn and Gwen “Diva” DeVoe. Sharon emailed me back and gave me sound advice; I cannot ever repay her kindness. Diva told me about the casting for BET’s Rip the Runway. I was one of the last models to get cut out of 40 and considered it a success. I was laughing inside because I really thought I had NO chance at all. At my second go see for RTR, Courtney Washington chose me to walk for him and that was my first gig. Shortly after, I booked Ashley Stewart presents “Knightwear” at the Apollo Theatre through “Diva” again. Star struck and completely clueless at RTR, I knew I needed some help if I wanted to take this seriously. [Maddy] Modeling schools are sometimes seen as scams. Tell me about your experience at the Plus Academy and how you feel it helped to prepare you for a modeling career. [Elizabeth] It was important to me to be as informed as possible. The introduction I received from the courses I took gave me an in-depth view of what was required of me, and what I could expect from my agent, clients, other models and the scam artists. Fit modeling and showroom were a complete mystery to me before the classes. There are many people who will promise you a modeling career and that’s when you know it’s a scam. The first thing I learned at the Plus Academy was don’t quit your day job! I avoided many of the pitfalls new models encounter because I was prepared. It would have taken a few years of modeling to learn everything I was taught at the Academy. Yes, it was an investment but it’s not that expensive. I made it all back at my 2nd modeling job. [Maddy] You’re a very private person… but I do know first-hand you have been a working model for a few years now. Can you share some of your modeling experiences with us? [Elizabeth] Usually I tell my friends when I do something that will be televised or in a mainstream magazine but I also do showroom, fit and print work. I’m grateful for the clients who book me regularly. Modeling is not always glamorous! I’ve worn maternity wear, leotards, modeled with kids and straight sized models. Recently I was on the cover of Helm Magazine, an Habesha fashion magazine that distributes globally. I am very happy about it because the article was size-positive and my family saw my work. Liya Kebede and Gelila Bekele are straight sized Ethiopian models who I admire and have also graced the cover of this magazine. It was a win for the plus industry and that makes me most proud. [Maddy] You are the curviest model on the CLICK NY board – do you feel you have to work harder to book jobs? [Elizabeth] Modeling at a size 16 puts me on the larger side of plus. Is it harder? I’m not sure. Rarely do I talk about bookings with other models so I don’t know what everyone else is doing. I know that everyone works out and tests to update their book and that is across the board at any agency. [Maddy] One of the things I admire about you is that you are a very smart young lady and realize that modeling is a business. Can you share some words of wisdom to our aspiring models about the business side of modeling? [Elizabeth] Be confident! Take some snapshots and hit the agencies. Rejection is 80% of this business; so do not let it affect your self-image. Make sure you are friendly but professional with your clients. A smile goes a long way! Avoid overly sexy pictures because this industry is very conservative. Know where you fit and that you may not book many print jobs but can have a long career as a fit model. Practice in the mirror. When you test, you have lots of time to get your shot. At a print booking, however, clients need models that will get the shot in the first 15 frames so practice is key. Also, know your measurements and take your comp card everywhere you go. [Maddy] You were one of the models to walk for Full Figured Fashion Week in NYC last June. Can you share your experience and how you see this event marked in “plus” history? [Elizabeth] Maddy it was amazing! I have done fashion shows but all the models knew this was history being made. Kim Coles was a fantastic host and meeting her was the highlight of my night. I walked for Ashley Stewart, BGU, Candi Apple Couture, and Robert Knight. All of my outfits were beautiful. Everything looked so well done. This was more than a booking to me. It was a statement to the fashion industry. We will make a way to showcase our fashion and models ourselves…. and do it well! [Maddy] You’re very much still in the beginning years of your modeling career. Where do you hope it takes you? [Elizabeth] This year was an amazing year for me so far. I did set some soft goals for myself when I first started modeling. I was a bit afraid to get my hopes up but many of them happened for me. I would like a campaign with a plus fashion retailer and a cosmetics contract. The last one is a bit out there but if I learned anything this year it’s to dream big.
Represented by CLICK NY, www.clickmodel.com[divider]PHOTO CREDITS[/divider]
MUA: Tara Taylor
Hair Aliza Williams