GAZELLE STL Vol. 1 Issue 3. - Page 27

w hen I started modeling I didn’t read magazines, I didn’t know what the latest fashions were, and I didn’t know who the greatest photographers were. I knew I wanted to travel and meet different people and see different places. I read books filled with magic where some unlikely hero had a power they were unaware of, and ended up saving the world. I something, to sell something, to pitch a dream. I was dark-skinned, gap-toothed, thick-lipped and quirky. I was rocking an Afro in high fashion. My dad said I looked like a bag lady. I was as unlikely a model as I was a hero, but there I was doing it. I faced many challenges - agents that wouldn’t acknowledge my existence, agencies that ripped me off, friends that were really enemies, enemies that were really evil, boyfriends who were opportunists, op- “I became a living, breathing, emotive canvas. My face, my eyes, my smile, and the angles of my body, even my vibe was all a part of my art.” DEL Aisha James GAZELLE STL.COM was hoping that deep down I was a hero in life, an artist at life, even though it seemed unlikely. One day, I saw a commercial for a model search in my area and I knew I had to go. My father drove me to the event, telling me it was a financial rip off. I arrived at the room packed with hopefuls. The female representative lined us up, and I qualified for the regional finals in Orlando, Florida. She talked about persistence. If we didn’t get an agent the first time, keep coming back; keep trying. There was a $200 application fee. I had just barely turned seventeen. I survived on an allowance that put gas in my car and got me to school and back, with little room for extras. I was resigned to the abrupt end to what was more a wonder than a dream. “I wonder if maybe I could...I wonder if there is a little magic in this world for me...I wonder what this feeling means to go...” I told the rep I didn’t have the fee. She took my application, scribbled her initials, and said she had waived my fee. I was amazed, and the thing in my chest that said “go” was joined by something other than wonder. I recognize it now as “hope.” I lived in Miami, but Orlando was a four-hour drive. I had no one to take me, so I took myself. In a sea of children with their parents, I found my own way. I walked across the stage with my number. There were agents who showed interest, then discovered I was only five-foot, six inches (I’ve grown since then). But one agent said he had something I would be perfect for. He took a few Polaroids. This was Saturday. Wednesday, he wanted more photos. By the next Saturday, I was in Los Angeles shooting a feature story for Marie Claire with Dewey Knicks. I became a living, breathing, emotive canvas. My face, my eyes, my smile, and the angles of my body, even my vibe was all a part of my art. I collaborated with some of the most talented artists to say portunists that were just straight-up con men. I learned beauty is subjective. Everyone has an opinion, and opinions are subject to change according to childhood, culture, and life experience. I thought to myself, “Why should their opinion about my beauty matter more than mine? It shouldn’t.” I believe that every woman should walk into the room feeling like she’s the most bea