PMM Follows 3 Models For One Year – Teslyn Butler, Allison McGevna and Stacey Heitt
PMM Follows 3 Models For One Year – Teslyn Butler, Allison McGevna and Stacey Heitt
by Mia Amber Davis
In January 2010, Madeline Figueroa-Jones and I started a dialog to discuss how we could directly make an impact on the plus modeling industry.
As PLUS Model Magazines Editor-in-Chief and Creative-Editor-At-Large respectively, Maddy and I often juggle inquiries from aspiring models wanting to know the fastest, easiest way into the industry and the quickest way to the top.
We also receive more constant, in depth questions about the ins and outs of the industry.
We wanted to find a way to show, and tell aspiring models, how to go about forging ahead in the industry while laying foundations for a great career.
The best way we thought to teach this was by letting our readers experience it through the eyes of actual models beginning their respective journeys.
Hence, “The Project” was born.
Meet Teslyn Butler, Allison McGevna and Stacey Heitt; three beautiful, full figured models bursting with confidence, grace, personality, and the drive to really get started in the plus size fashion industry.
All three women were already in various stages of modeling careers, but we felt if they had the right information as well as renewed focus they could make leaps and bounds and be great examples of hard work and dedication being the only way to the proverbial top of an industry on the cusp of a revolution.
Admittedly, due to the constant demands of the industry and daily life “The Project” hit a few bumps along the road. There were missed deadlines, time lines disappeared, and there became little that we could guarantee for the ladies involved—but alas, the momentum never stopped.
We are beyond proud of the strides each model has taken as we’ve watched them blossom in front of the camera. Also, as business women we marvel at the control they have each taken over their individual careers.
Thank you ladies for working with us and sharing your dreams. The sky is the limit for you and your careers in the plus modeling industry.
Please read on as the ladies tell their stories of their past year within, The Project.
Allison McGevna, New York, NY
Height: 5’8, Size: 16
The journey from last January to this point today has been nothing short of a whirlwind.
When I began this journey, I can remember not having any clue about how to introduce myself to the right people and thinking I knew the steps that I had to take. Looking back now, I realize I knew nothing about what my “book” should look like, what kinds of poses and angles were my best, what to carry in a model bag or even how to go about marketing myself properly so that I would be seen in the best light.
I often joke with Mia and Maddy about how in the beginning, I just wanted to maybe get to meet them, so, to have the opportunity to actually be coached by them is unbelievable.
When I began communicating with Mia and Maddy, I learned some of the most critical parts of the industry, like what my book should look like, how to actually take a picture with every single part of my body from my eyes to my fingers, what should go in my model bag, what to wear to a casting etc. Those were the fundamentals that helped me to build up my professional credentials. To this day, it’s truly an honor to consider them my friends.
When I began my career, I was working as a Fit Model for labels such as Baby Phat, Roca Wear, Dereon and Apple Bottoms but this year, some of my professional highlights have landed me in front of the camera, some of which include:
Cover of Stiletto Woman Magazine (Spring 2010)
Good Day NY (May 2010)
Full Figured Fashion Week (June 2010)
Cover of Venus Diva Magazine (July 2010)
Madison Plus Fresh Face (August 2010)
Fennimas Jewelry (September 2010)
Lotis Clothing (September 2010)
All You Magazine (September 2010)
Monif C. (October 2010)
and most recently a beauty editorial for PLUS Model Magazine (January 2011)
I have had the pleasure of walking the runway for designers and retailers such as: IGIGI, Qristyl Frazier, Kiyonna, Just My Size, Pure Energy, LaMaica and Ashley Stewart. I also had an absolute blast walking for then MTV TJ Candidate and now MTV TJ Gabi Gregg in her final challenge on NY’s famed Brooklyn Bridge in August. It was great to come together for Gabi and then to watch her take home the title.
One of the most remarkable parts of my journey has been the people I have encountered. I have gained new friends in this short amount of time that I feel will be in my life forever. From fellow models, designers and photographers, the plus modeling industry is overall a very supportive, positive place to work.
The other models I worked with on this project, Teslyn and Stacey have become two of my closest friends, with whom I talk about my personal life beyond just my work as a model. There have been nights I have called them in tears, times I have been ready to give up and times I have been so excited and proud of myself and they have been there for me through it all.
One thing I think people don’t talk about within the industry is the emotional baggage that comes with being a model. For me, some of the hardest lessons of my journey have been the emotional ones. A critical lesson to learn is that you need a support system to help you through the tough times, but also through the good times as well. Whether it’s your friends, family, boyfriend or your faith, you have to have an outlet to vent.
There are certain things I have learned over this year that a model can’t really prepare herself for until she actually goes through it. While the industry is an overall positive place, there are moments of ugliness it can bring up and you need to have people you can trust and who understand the industry to help you through it.
At the end of the day, aside from the glamour of makeup, traveling and photo shoots, it is an incredibly difficult industry. And while many girls call themselves models, it takes a lot to be respected by clients and distinguish yourself from a sea of very pretty faces.
When people tell you rejection gets easier, it’s true, but that doesn’t mean that it ever gets “easy.” Sure, you learn to accept it and you can tell yourself that it’s not personal, but it is difficult to watch. For example, say a friend books an editorial you wanted just as much as they did– Or you see a girl who looks similar to you book a job because she is a size smaller or bigger– Or you make it to the final round of a casting only to lose out on it at the last minute.
I have learned that you may not book a job for something as simple your hair or eye color being different than a client is looking for and while you know it’s not a personal issue, it can be hard to swallow nevertheless. It’s confusing, to say the least, to be told you are great and then not to get hired but when this happens, it’s important to look at your body of work and not to become bitter, but instead become better.
You have to let go of those little heartbreaks and take them as lessons in your journey. If you need to, release those emotions when no one is watching, but always remain professional, even when someone says something that hurts your feelings to your face—and trust me, they will! You have to remember WHY you want to be a part of this world and remind yourself every day of it because it will get tougher.
Along my own personal journey, I have also learned that I have other interests as well. I work in media and I have been working hard to merge my love of fashion, television production with the plus industry. I have been excited because of the opportunities I’ve had to work with PLUS Model Magazine producing videos and packages for certain events and I look forward to future opportunities.
Next up, you’ll be seeing my work as I continue to develop myself as a more diverse talent both in front of and behind the camera.
I’m excited for my journey and I thank God every day for blessing me with not only the opportunities to pursue my dreams, but the drive to keep going, no matter how bad it seems.
I was being dragged along to audition for a runway show in Queens, NY. It was a cold day in February and here my sister, Shannon (also a plus model) somehow managed to get me to audition for something I had never done before. I had been modeling in Philadelphia for the past two years, but New York City is the place of dreams!
As I griped all the way to the audition, managing not to freeze as the crisp wind blew my hair on to my newly applied lip gloss, I ran into the infamous Mia Amber. We exchanged information, and thinking nothing of it, I emailed her the next day. She said she would be in touch with me shortly.
Days later, I was on a conference call with Mia Amber, Madeline Figueroa Jones, and plus models Teslyn Butler and Allison McGevna. Mia and Maddy explained to us that they developed the idea of taking three unsigned models and help them on their journey to becoming professional, signed models and I was excited.
In April of this year, we all gathered to meet one another and to have our pictures taken for our comp cards—which none of us had. Allison, Teslyn and I instantly bonded and we formed a relationship that we still very much hold today.
I was excited when I first met Maddy. She has such a positive energy about her and genuinely wants to see you do your best. I’ve only known Maddy since February, but her energy and attitude have never changed.
Not long after taking my comp card photos, Maddy asked if I wanted to do a “tear” for retail giant, “Sydney’s Closet.” I was thrilled and jumped at the chance.
The day I came up to NY to shoot, I remember Mia was shooting as well. I was in awe. Her poses, her facial expressions, and her demeanor spoke high volumes of professionalism. You would be crazy not to try to learn from Mia Amber.
The Sydney’s Closet tear turned into my first paid job in New York City! There were five models booked for the huge, two day long Sydney’s Closet shoot and I was the only model booked for both days! I loved every second of it.
On that set I also had the pleasure of meeting and working with plus supermodel Fluvia Lacerda. I remember praising her as she walked in the door and she smiled and said, “I don’t take compliments very well.” I instantly liked her. She was down to earth and so humble. She took the time to offer advice and share some words of wisdom. When you are around models like Fluvia and Mia, it’s best to sit back and watch them work. You can learn a lot from the things they do and more from the things they don’t do.
Around the time of that shoot this past summer, I was offered to be a part of NYC Full Figured Fashion Week. I had the chance to meet some well-respected people in the plus sized industry as well as some really down to earth models.
Walking down the runway is quite an exhilarating experience. Nothing beats the cheers, the flash of the cameras, and the confidence you feel in a sexy designer piece. My career was going in a direction that I had never imagined it would.
As with anything, modeling has its ups and downs. Jobs fall through, you may run into rude people, and of course you may trip and fall on your butt, literally…
I was doing a show back home in Philadelphia outside of a small boutique. After walking down a short runway, our job was to walk up and down the sidewalk showing off our fashions. A long dress, tall heels, and concrete do not mix. I fell, and I fell hard! After laughing for a minute, out of pure embarrassment, I managed to pick myself up and hop down the street. Sometimes, that’s what modeling is all about, picking yourself up, and moving on.
Out of everything that I have accomplished in nearly three years of modeling, my proudest moment was when I was offered the September editorial for Plus Model Magazine. I was beside myself when I heard the concept was edgy. It was exactly the kind of challenge I wanted to face! The clothes, make-up, and hair were pulled together exactly how I imagined they would be. I still look at those pictures and can’t believe it’s me!
Modeling is a constant learning experience. I am always picking up on new things and evolving as a model. What I now know for sure is that it’s okay to say no. When I first started modeling, I always felt the need to please people and maintain a good reputation. In most cases, I still do but I came to the conclusion that my work should speak for itself.
There is a thin line between doing jobs for free and being taken advantage of. Modeling is a job and you should be paid for it. Also, it’s always good to network because you never know whom you might meet along the way. A lot of the work I’ve done in NYC is from meeting different models and designers.
This year I’ve shot for True Sheroes, LaDan’s Closet, Tru Diva Designs, and B.G.U. by just running into a model at an audition or meeting designers at runway shows. As a model you need to keep your eyes and ears open at all times.
Each day I grow as a model and as a person. In this industry it helps to surround yourself with people who are truly happy for your success. It keeps me focused and determined. I have been so lucky to have Mia and Maddy as my mentors. They have helped me make decisions and give me the advice that I needed. Their help in my success is undeniable.
Something I’ve learned about myself as a model is that when I am on the set of a photo shoot or backstage at a runway show, I become reserved and quiet. Not because I am shy or nervous, but because there is so much I can learn from simply being there. I try to take it all in and learn.
As I sit down and think about how far I’ve come in such a short amount of time, I am truly blessed. When women reach out to me and ask me how to become a plus size model, I am flattered because I feel like I am just starting out myself and I know I have so much more to learn and accomplish. To an outsider looking in, I may have come a long way, but to me, I am just getting started. I have a lot more to do and experience.
This is just the beginning for me.
Then, it was just Mia and Maddy with an idea and now, it’s my dream come true.
I will never forget, like it was yesterday. I was in NYC for two weeks for castings and go sees. To my surprise, while I was in New York I received an email from plus model extraordinaire Mia Amber Davis in regards to a conference call. Later that week I had a conference call with Mia, Madeline, Allison and Stacey. We were all really thrilled when they informed us of a project that they had coming up and how they wanted to help us with advancing our modeling careers. I was very excited about the information that was discussed over the phone.
I first met Madeline and Mia in 2008 for the Project Curves Workshop and the Vision of Venice Fashion show held in Chicago. Meeting Madeline was like meeting a family member that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Especially considering that I had been a member of the Venus Diva Magazine community and PLUS Model Magazine community since my junior year of high school. It was also amazing to meet Mia. In fact, I was a little star struck when I saw her. During the workshop Madeline and Mia gave us great information on how to get into plus size modeling. I knew then that I had to shoot with Lucas Pictures. The following year (2009), I did my first photo shoot with Lucas Pictures. I had so much fun. Later that year I became the first face and Cover Model for Full-Figured Fashion Week. I was very happy that they chose one of the images that Lucas Pictures took of me for the Full-Figured Fashion Week advertisements.
From the initial conference call a few months later Stacey, Allison, and I all participated in a photo shoot with Lucas Pictures. Talk about excitement! The photo shoot was excellent. Mia styled us, Maddy was on call making sure that we looked fabulous, and of course they provided us with the best of the best; makeup artist Tara Taylor and hairstylist Aliza Belinda. I had worked with both ladies during that 2009 shoot. The Lucas Pictures team is truly like a family.
Stacey, Allison and I each shot two looks. I absolutely loved working with Lucas Pictures and the Dream Team! Of course you know the rest of the story, all of our pictures came out fabulous. Since the shoot this year, I have been quite busy. I was chosen as the Model of the Year for the Chicago Independent Awards, featured on television twice this year one of which was for a shape wear segment and the other one was with top plus size boutique Vive Le Femme here in Chicago.
I was featured in an editorial for Chocolate Sushi Couture in PLUS Model Magazine, I was included in two behind the scenes model videos for Chicago’s Stylistic Hair & Beauty and I also did print work for Whisper’s Café. I have been honored to work with local designers such as Courbes Sera, Tiara Verse Designs and many others. I have a variety of photographers that I have worked with here in the Chicago land area and I have been given the opportunity to work with a clothing line in Toronto.
The biggest accomplishment of all that came out of this year is that out of 20,000 girls I was chosen to be the first plus size model to work with Wet Seal! It was such a great honor to be a part of history. Not only did I model for Wet Seal but I also was in two commercials for them! One of the commercials was for the behind the scenes video for the photo shoot and the other commercial was for the denim jean line. Being a model for Wet Seal has been amazing. The opportunity to be the plus size representation for women across the United States is not taken for granted.
Being a plus size model has inspired me to also live a healthier life style. Which is part of the reason why I started my on movement called Hippy & Healthy.
Hippy & Healthy™ is a movement that was formed to uplift, empower, and encourage curvaceous woman to love their bodies. Hippy & Healthy™ will provide reading material, web videos (Hippy & Healthy™ TV), and radio segments pertaining to fashion, beauty, and health. We are comprised of three components, the first of which encourages women to love their bodies in the current moment while still celebrating their curves. The second component is to educate women on various health issues such as psychological, physical, social, community, behavioral, and much more, and the last component is to administer insight into the fashion industry via modeling, beauty, clothing, and how they all, in turn, relate to body image.
Because of this experience with working with Madeline and Mia, I am very close with both Stacey and Allison. They are great friends that encourage and motivate me. I feel very fortunate to have a connection with the industry professionals in New York and as a result of that I consider New York my third home. It also feels good to have PLUS supporting me with my dreams and aspirations. I am very thankful for Mia and Maddy as they gave me advice on everything when it came to modeling. In particular, the most helpful advice that they gave me was posing for my particular body shape.
I am a very curvy, pear shaped girl. For each body type there are specific ways that you should pose to make your body look its best. I’ve also taken it up on my own to change my eating habits and I am currently a vegetarian. I am happy to say that I have lost weight for health reasons and not become skinny. Not only did I lose weight to gain more modeling opportunities but also because I want to live a longer healthier PLUS SIZE life.
This project gave me confidence and a renewed outlook on my career and to know that both Mia and Madeline believed in me gave me all the drive I needed to chase after my dreams.
When I first got into modeling I was very naïve and I thought that everyone was nice. LOL!!! Not the case! While some people do have your best interest at heart, some do not.
What I’ve learned is to always surround myself with the right people in the industry. It can get nasty at times. There is still a whole lot of prejudice in terms of plus size modeling. I’ve learned to say no to certain opportunities. I only accept opportunities that will benefit me with my professional development as a model. I still have a lot to achieve but I am ready and prepared to go for it.
What I want to accomplish in the future is to continue to have great relationships with the industry professionals and I hope to get more modeling jobs and opportunities. In being a successful plus model I want to make a difference in peoples’ lives.
I don’t define success as monetary gain but instead I define it as a reflection of the people one has helped in ones society. For me, making one young lady feel good about her body is an honor.
I would tell any aspiring plus model to research everything! Study modeling like you’re majoring it.
Here are my tips for a successful career as a plus size model:
Research plus size models, designers, and companies that have plus models working for them
Know the requirements for being a plus size model and make sure you learn about the different types of modeling that you can do such as commercial, editorial, and runway. Then research how you fit into each category
– Great Web resources to have venusdivas.com, plussizeindustry.com, plusmodelmagazine.com and plusmodels.com
– Practice posing and test with photographers that do Trade for Print (TFP) or Trade for CD (TFCD)
– Learn your angles
– Take runway lessons
– Always be professional when trying to ask other plus size models how to get into the industry
– Eat healthy and exercise
– Never get into modeling JUST because you want to feel better about yourself
– Be prepared for criticism and gain an, “I CAN” type of drive while never giving up
– Don’t depend on anyone else to make your dreams happen, you have to do it for yourself