La'Shaunae Steward Photographed by Ronan McKenzie
“What excites me is exactly what I’m fighting for. There are going to be so many models who are not very tall and also bigger than a certain size signed to amazing agencies and I can’t wait for it.”
Describe yourself using only emojis:
What does your idea of FASHION FREEDOM feel like?
Being comfortable and unapologetically a brown model who is clearly unlike anyone else. Wearing what people don’t think I should wear and showing off things the world constantly tells me to hide for someone of my shape and body size. I like when people are like “wow she really wore that” because yes, I did, and I look and feel amazing. Inner and outer confidence can really put you on top of the world when you wear what makes you feel beautiful regardless of all the eye rolls and stares you may get.
What excites you about fashion today?
What excites me is exactly what I’m fighting for. There are going to be so many models who are not very tall and also bigger than a certain size signed to amazing agencies and I can’t wait for it. Right now things for us bigger models are hard, but I know sooner than later the world will finally start to include a wider variety of models. So many agencies and companies say they’re inclusive and diverse, but refuse to use models who are bigger than a size 14, or even bigger than a size 18 unless its NOT a POC. Because even when you are a bigger model, you have a greater chance of being a covergirl than a brown model over a size 20. Things will soon change and I’m so excited!
If we gave you $200 today, what would you buy?
The only reasonable answer that everyone should say for this IS for thrifting. You can get so much with $200 at the thrift shops here in the South and it’s way easier to find rare iconic fits because South Carolina is NOT a fashion state and sometimes I feel like I’m the only one here that’s into modeling and fashion. Which is why I wish I got to attend more things like NYFW because that’s literally like heaven compared to where I live right now! But I’d definitely hit up some consignment shops and thrift shops just because I could get more for my money than just one high-end thing that I’d probably only wear once.
What was that moment growing up when you realized you wanted to work in fashion?
As soon as I started collecting Bratz! I know it's such a child-like answer, but it’s true! I was so obsessed with Bratz from like 6 years old to like 13 or 14! Everything I had was Bratz themed and my style has always been inspired by them. Just changing a doll's outfit constantly taught me a lot about being creative and dressing how I want. Their logo was “passion for fashion” and that has literally always been me.
We love the work you're doing with @InclusModels, can you tell US more about that and what inspired you to start it?
Me being unsigned and me usually being the biggest model at shoots. Often people see my following and assume I have a steady income, or have gotten a lot of luck with being booked for work, or signed, but things have been slow. I have been applying to modeling agencies for almost 4 years and keep being told, to this day, that I’m “not a good fit.” They say it’s my height, but I know it’s because I’m not small enough to be considered for their curve divisions. I constantly get DMs from every gender telling me that they’re proud of me for never giving up on being a professional model and how I give them the courage to model too, but they’re scared of being rejected, or scared of not ever being noticed because they have low followings. I made Inclus to give them an entire platform to feel and to be included in the modeling world as they should. I want actual diversity and inclusivity so badly. I’m my most happiest when I’m doing shoots because I grew up being told I’ll never be beautiful, or good enough. I grew up being compared to thinner women or women with Eurocentric features. I went through high school with boys telling me that even for a fat girl, I had nothing to like about me body-wise because I’m not “fat in all the right places.” I was always stuck on being a fashion designer all my life, until I graduated high school, started posting my OOTD’s online and being told by people over and over that I should try to model because it would be so important and major to see someone like me on the cover of a magazine one day. And year after year I believed it more and more. What I’m doing is so important. There are so many “curve” models, but there is definitely no one like me who has had the gift of being validated by a modeling agency. There’s Tess Holliday, but really, she is not the only model over a size 20 to exist and I want the world to give black models over a size 20 the same opportunities and coins that they give to her, so I created Inclus. I want models who aren’t just white or light and tall and “perfectly curvy” to be signed too.
How has rejection in the space that you’re passionate about fueled your passion further?
It has me CONSTANTLY looking at myself and saying, “just wait. You’ll regret that and I mean it.” I KNOW people will regret rejecting me. I mean, I don’t know, but I feel like a lot of the people I’ve reached out to five+ times will make it like they never heard of me and finally want to give me a chance once I’m deemed worthy based on my level of success in a few months. There are so much people I have looked up to who have blatantly ignored me. It has genuinely made me sad, but has always encouraged me to work harder and harder until they see me on their “level.”
What does success look like to you as it pertains to your aspirations in this industry?
Being booked, being paid fairly, being treated fairly, being INCLUDED, and not used for a false “diversity” claim - and being referred to as a model and not a “blogger.”
You've recently been signed to a modeling agency, which is exciting news, how is it going?
I have around three or four shoots set with a local photographer named @palegirlphoto and she does amazing work so I’m excited for that! No booked work or anything yet, but my agents are fighting hard for me already and it's a blessing. I hope this opens the doors for other models who are aspiring but are being rejected still because of “size limits” and “height limits.” My dream before the year is over is to be on the cover of a magazine and I am going to make this happen!