black models nyc by Yaroslava Bondar February 1, 2021
Modeling in NYC is no easy task. Rather, the job serves as a daunting reminder that the city’s landscape and modeling industry are forever changing, and this fact is no more crucial in NYC than it is for Black models and other models of color.
Still, with over 20 model agencies and famous faces such as Kate Moss and Tyson Beckford starting their modeling career in NYC, the city seems like a mecca for everyone with high cheekbones, symmetric faces, and modeling aspirations.
Kulture Hub reached out to NYC-based models to see if the city lives up to the hype.
Darbie Frazier is a Brooklyn-based model who started her modeling career in Utah.
In the time since, Frazier has had the chance to reflect on her growth in the modeling industry as a Black model in NYC.
“At the time , there wasn’t really a market for African-American plus models in the area. So I had to work really hard to book work and create a name for myself.”
She made the move to NYC to be with her fiancé during quarantine. Despite COVID, Frazier has been able to continue working.
“I have been blessed to be booked and busy [throughout] this pandemic,” she wrote.
“I’m so grateful.”Darbie Frazier
“NYC is full of dream brands and dream moments, like fashion week,” Frazier said.
Brands Frazier has worked with during her time in NYC include Rozie June and Ashley Stewart.
Caitlyn Sherry, model and FIT student, currently based in New Jersey, initially came to NYC to attend the college.
“The best thing about being a NYC-based model is definitely being in the hub of the fashion industry. There are so many opportunities here for fashion, especially modeling.”Caitlyn Sherry
Sherry is seeing positive transformations happening in the industry right now.
“I’m loving how NYC’s modeling industry is evolving and embracing models of all different shapes and sizes,” she said.
“I’m glad that I’m in the industry now more than ever because I’m around for all of the positive transformations.”Caitlyn Sherry
Her best NYC modeling moment is also related to these positive changes.
“My favorite memory of modeling in NYC was a shoot I did in Soho for [Cool Is a Construct], a sustainable fashion brand started by a fellow FIT student!”
Tatum-Ophelia Hogue, who was living in Bushwick but has since left for Trinity, Alabama because of COVID, is signed with Wilhelmina Models. She had been in NYC since July 2017.
“There are many great things that being an NYC model brings. These include meeting people from various backgrounds and geographies,” Hogue said.
New York is also special because of the many different types of modeling – from showroom to runway to commercial – “which are not as prevalent in some locations,” Hogue said.
“I walked a few shows in my first Fashion Week and the one that stands out the most in my mind is the Eva Longoria show,” Hogue said.
For this debut-show of Longoria’s collection, the Desperate-Housewife’s star was hands-on backstage, which only added to Hogue’s adoration.
“Growing up I loved Eva Longoria on Desperate Housewives so I was definitely starstruck meeting her in person.”Tatum-Ophelia Hogue
Marisa dos Santos is a half-German, half-Brazilian model who moved to NYC in February of 2020. “The worst timing ever – I know,” she commented on her move.
“It wasn’t easy but I sticked [sic] around and couldn’t be happier about it.”Marisa dos Santos
Growing up in a small town in Germany, Dos Santos always dreamed of one day moving to NYC.
“I remember watching New York Minute, a movie with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen at least 3 times a week,” she said.
“I always have been fascinated by this vibrant city. [I was] putting up posters of the New York skyline in my room and telling myself, ‘one day you’ll be there!'”Marisa dos Santos
Despite COVID spreading for most of her time in NYC, dos Santos was still able to shoot.
“(…)When I have to think of my favorite memory, it was probably an outdoor shooting in the Hamptons with four other girls. It was freezing but we all were still dancing, joking, and jumping around to get the perfect shot,” dos Santos said.
It’s this creativity that drowns out any negative points of modeling in NYC for her. “[It’s] the whole energy, just constantly feeling inspired by the people surrounding you,” dos Santos said.
“You feel the need to create and that’s what I love.”Marisa dos Santos
For dos Santos, the drawbacks are few, though simple to name: “I’ll give you an easy answer: not seeing my family & friends….and German bread.”
Similarly, when asked, Hogue’s negatives of the city are slight. Answering the question, she starts with “I love the city” and for her, the downside is the occasional smell, which, she qualifies, is expected in any big city.
Ultimately though, COVID is the biggest drawback:
“COVID has made taking public transportation risky for sure,” Hogue said.
“The subway seems way more gross than usual and I feel that I am more aware [of] what I touch now when I am on the subway.”Tatum-Ophelia Hogue
For Frazier, the negative is more present. And, as a Black model, the intrinsic biases present in NYC and nearly everywhere across the world are not lost on her or us.
“NYC can be a pretty lonely place, everyone is so busy, including you, so it’s hard to find time to connect with family and friends.”Darbie Frazier
She relates this to the pandemic, which has made it more difficult to meet new people.
“I don’t have many friends here yet, so I don’t go out much unless it’s with my family and that’s on occasion because of the pandemic,” Frazier solemnly stated.
For none of the models that Kulture Hub reached out to did the cons outweigh the pros. Maybe that’s because after moving to the city, whatever you gain makes up for any discomfort or loneliness the city causes.
Despite drawbacks, they are still able to do what you love.
While photo shoots and runways aren’t happening as frequently as they did before COVID, the NYC fashion industry does not stop. Reaching the city and becoming a part of the fashion bubble can feel like a homecoming.
“I finally feel like I’ve arrived,” dos Santo said.