It’s been a while since I’ve done a #TransformationTuesday so I thought this before and after would only be fitting since my modeling career is blooming right along with me. A lot has changed since the pictures on the left so let’s take it back a couple years to 2017 and I’ll paint the context. I was fresh in my #BloomingUnapologetically journey. I filed for divorce that January, which for me was the key that released me to fully pursue me. It set the tone for me to step outside my box or better stated, crawl from under my rock. Modeling was a childhood dream of mine that I buried because I was told being plus sized wasn’t something I should celebrate or acknowledge. Due to that belief, most of my life I battled with my weight and hid behind clothes that would downplay my curves and plus size figure. Modeling didn’t even cross my mind again until I chose to pursue my dreams and conquer my fears as I began this healing journey. The end of my marriage served as the catalyst that I needed to propel me to be the best me. I decided that I would face my biggest battles with my fluctuating weight and address the root of my lack of confidence.
Most of the steps that have gotten me to where I am now were literally trial and error. My healing journey encompassed a lot of me stepping out of my box, being transparent and just going for it. I had to rip big band aids off and soothe the sting with self love and acceptance. That’s what the pictures on the left, my test shoot with Oray International Models, did. In April of 2017 I traveled to Baltimore, Maryland for this opportunity with my soul sister Victoria. She was a modeling veteran who served as my coach and cheerleader and also participated in this model call herself. I didn’t know what to expect. I had never modeled before. I had a history of dodging photos and cameras. My weight loss had barely scratched the surface and my confidence had definitely not kicked in. Despite all of this, I mustered up enough courage to go for it. The first battle I encountered was fitting into Oray’s largest size dress. The casting call asked for models up to a size 14/16. I definitely was not a size 14/16 at that time but I somehow managed to squeeze my size 18/20 frame into this dress. Oray and I hit it off in the interview portion but next it was time for me to get in front of the camera. I’m going to be brutally honest with y’all, I sucked. I had no idea how to pose, no control of my facial expressions and no ounce of confidence to give me any leeway. I walked away from that opportunity praying that my spirit, personality and energy would set her decision and hoping despite my lack of modeling experience that she would give me a chance.
I never got that opportunity with Oray International Models but I did get great feedback on what I needed to work on and a visual souvenir of what I internally struggled with. Here is a snippet of her response:
“I finally got a chance to sit down and personally review all of your photos. You look beautiful in your images but you come off very shy and timid. I need you to work on showing your more confident side when you are shooting and posing. As a professional model, you have to simultaneously pose and change your facial expression at the same time. As a full figured model for my company, you have to be even more confident because you are setting an example and breaking boundaries for so many girls around the world. Be confident and let your star quality shine through. You look like you are holding back in many of your photos. I attached photos from your shoot so that you can see what I mean.”
I took this feedback and ran with it. I personally was disgusted by my images. It felt like the equivalent of failing a test. I was disappointed and discouraged but I didn’t give up. When Victoria and I got back to Dallas we sought out conquering my homework. We had mini shoots, coaching sessions in front of the camera and just outright soul sister self reflection sessions. I can’t say that I picked up her coaching and advice right away but over time as my confidence grew, my modeling evolved. I went hard towards my weight loss goal making that the then focus of my transformation as I prepared for my next move. After my divorce finalized, I relocated from Dallas, TX to Boston, MA in September of 2017. My move was a strategic step to place me closer to my modeling dreams. My goal was to be signed to an agency based in NYC and Boston was only a bus ride or train away.
I knew that my confidence would increase as I learned to love all of me but this transformation didn’t take place overnight. As you see, these sets of pictures are 2 years apart. After leaving Oray’s test shoot I sought out other modeling opportunities. I actually got to shoot two exciting opportunities at the beginning of 2018 in my hometown of Southern California. I was selected as a cast member for Benny Harlem’s 2018 Unchained Art Series Project photographed by world renown photographer Ryan Schude. The shoot took place at the University Lutheran Chapel on UCLA’s campus and was filmed and published by New York Magazine. I met many dope souls and aspiring models like myself. The highlight of my day was Benny Harlem coming up to me in the middle of the shoot saying he knew who I was and that he was familiar with my journey. He said “over 80lbs right, yeah I know, I chose you.” I was shocked to say the least. Out of 3000+ submissions I was chosen for this opportunity.
The day prior to that shoot I had my first paid modeling opportunity with Yatir Clothing. The designer Joi and I had known each other for years as her older sister used to be my go to hair stylist in high school and college. We aren’t too far apart in age but I was able to watch her over the years evolve into the badass Powerhouse, Queen and Hustlpreneur she is today. A few months prior to the shoot she asked me to let her know when I would be in town. When I found out I was selected for the Benny Harlem Project, I immediately let her know my availability. We didn’t have much time to plan but I was adamant about setting aside time to work with her. I was honored when she expressed interest in working with me and I honestly would’ve done the job for free but she insisted that she would pay me. That day was magic to say the least! It was a little chilly for a SoCal day but we got the shoot done anyway changing tops between cars and shooting in the Metrolink Station parking lot. The photographer Aleah Clark was such a dope soul. She conducted the photo shoot effortlessly with her infant son in a baby carrier on her chest. The energy between us all was amazing. I can’t say that I had much experience in front of the camera but with the direction of Joi, Aleah and my behind the scenes hype man, Trina, we got the shots we needed. That was my first official taste of what a career in modeling would be like. I can’t quite describe the high I was on that day but it definitely felt like my destiny. When I returned to Boston I kept it going.
My first modeling exposure in NYC was a casting call for Full Figured Fashion Week in March of 2018. I spent the months prior practicing my walk and becoming acquainted with runway modeling. I’m not quite the desired height for runway models but I wanted to shoot my shot anyway. I traveled to NY for the weekend by myself and gave it 110%. It was a nerve wracking experience but it felt so liberating. I did it. I shot my shot. I got over my anxiety and went for it. I didn’t get selected but I was grateful for the learning experience. I was definitely forewarned that I would hear a lot of no’s before I heard yes’s and to not let it get to me. It was just something you had to get accustomed to in modeling. Little did I know, a few months later, I would get the opportunity I dreamed of.
That summer, June of 2018, I got my first fashion show opportunity with Prive’ World Wide, an Arts & Entertainment company here in Boston. I attended their Spring Classic and noticed they didn’t have many plus size models. I followed them on IG and applied when I saw they were looking for models for their next event. It was one of my first times showing my face around the Boston entertainment scene and I was excited to gain the experience. I had so much fun participating in their Summer Classic and exhibition style fashion showcase and working with the hair stylist, makeup artist, photographer and the designer/stylist.
In June of 2018 I saw a model casting on IG by an NYC agency. I was familiar with this agency because many of the models I followed and looked up to were signed with them. I responded to the casting with my sizes and surprisingly I got a quick response. I was asked to come down to NY the following day to meet with the agency! I made quick travel arrangements and work accommodations, then made my way down to NYC. Long story short, I got signed on the spot to their fit division! That began the current stretch of my model journey. I began traveling to NY more often, attending private castings, and meeting with clients around NYC. In September of 2018, I was in NY for New York Fashion Week attending some of the same castings as the models I looked up to on IG! I spent the week learning how to ride the subways and getting acquainted with Brooklyn. I attended weekday castings and ended my week in NY at CurvyCon. CurvyCon was an awesome opportunity for me to network and meet some of my favorite plus size bloggers and models. That week was a dream. It was truly such a humbling experience for me. It didn’t matter to me that my door hadn’t opened yet as far as me booking an opportunity. I was just grateful to be in the room, network and gain the experience. Each opportunity I used as stepping stones and preparation to what my future in modeling would be.
Every set up comes with setbacks but I hadn’t braced myself for what happened next. I suffered a severe fall down a flight of stairs in mid September of 2018, right after getting back to Boston from NYFW. I severely sprained my ankle and that left me with an 8-12 week recovery period and a halt on my fitness goals. That time sitting down and out was difficult for me. I felt that I had lost my momentum and was behind on achieving my goals. I spent that time off of social media and deep in self love and reflection. I needed that time to sort out some internal wounds that laid dormant within my healing journey. I concluded 2018 attending my agency’s holiday party. There I met the owner who knew me by name and introduced herself saying she knew exactly who I was and when I signed. That literally made my year. I knew that was a great sign and hoped I made a great impression. I also met many of my agency sisters who answered a lot of my modeling questions and gave me great tips and advice. That encounter lifted my spirits and set the tone for my 2019 focus on modeling.
My goal for 2019 was to hit the ground running when it came to modeling. I had been needing to shoot for my portfolio and I finally got the opportunity in March of 2019. I spent some time narrowing down the photographer I wanted to work with. After much research, I chose Bruna Lacerda, a photographer who was recommended by my agency and had worked with many models I admired. Little did I know that was the perfect timing and she was the perfect person for the job. I traveled to NY leaving from Boston that Friday morning. Most of my trips to NY are day trips but this time I decided to stay the weekend. I didn’t want to worry about where to stay or traveling to and from my friend’s place in Brooklyn, so I booked a hotel. I made it to NY early enough to check in, put my bags down and set out to find a nail shop in close proximity. I relaxed for a bit, made final selections on my outfits then headed to my favorite restaurant, Seasoned Vegan for dinner. Bruna and I were set to shoot Saturday in Brooklyn around 3pm. From the moment we met, we clicked. We found out early on that we were both vegan and had similar tastes in fashion. It was a chilly and windy day but I quickly put my game face on. We had four outfits to shoot and it wasn’t getting any warmer. Bruna was an amazing visionary. She made sure the lighting was perfect and got some really dope creative shots. I’m not quite sure how long we were out shooting since we both lost track of time in those moments. Between shots we shared our stories and she revealed to me that she was just getting back to photography. She was in a tough place and I was able to share with her my journey that brought me to those exact moments with her. After shooting we sat down for dinner to finish sharing our stories in the warmth of the restaurant. We shared so much in common down to the way we handle relationships and dreams for our future. She was such a luminous spirit and such a joy to work with. I anticipated getting back the images. I got my first sneak peek on IG when she tagged me in the following post. I was floored! I couldn’t believe that was me! I stared at those pictures in disbelief. I still struggle with recognizing my reflection. It hasn’t quite registered to me that I am 100lbs down, have a neck and am a completely different confident version of Taty.
That’s leads me up to present day. I’ve shared a couple of the images on IG and they have been reposted to some pretty big plus size model pages and liked by models I adore. And that was just the sneak peek! I can’t wait to add these images to my first ever portfolio, create my comp cards and use them for casting opportunities. I’ve come a long way but this is yet the beginning. There is so much more to conquer and much more room to evolve. If you want to stay the most up to date with my journey follow me on IG @tatyanajalisa. IG is my method of correspondence and where I spend most of my time on social media. I want to thank everyone who I have mentioned in this blog as well as everyone who has helped me behind the scenes. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to Bloom Unapologetically and thank you for journeying with me.