Agency: Seeking Representation
Claim to Fame: She has been featured in ESSENCE, Nylon, Instyle and People. She’s also been in ads for Doordash and Avocado mattresses.
Fifty-three miles from the birthplace of Lebron James, a model who would adopt the stage name Sunshine, saw herself studying in a white coat instead starring in commercials. “I was going to go into the medical field,” she told HelloBeautiful. She was studying “Pre-med bio and psychology,” when she decided to pivot towards modeling. “The first step for me was just realizing I wanted to do it,” she continued. She was partially inspired by a desire to challenge beauty standards. “I remember being that girl who didn’t like myself and everybody was like, oh, you’re beautiful. Or a big girl. It was always but,” she said. “So I was like, you know what? It’s just time for somebody else to do it. And that was it.”
Once she had a goal, she began to put together a plan for pursuing it. The number one priority was “saving up some money because LA is so much different than Ohio.”
“That in my mind, I put the numbers together, but I want to say I left with about 15k and at the time I had a boyfriend, so I had some support and we just made it all, made the numbers. I had a job set up here. He did too, and we left,” she continued.
She used social media strategically to make her way into the modeling industry, after witnessing it create opportunities for other aspiring models. “I started working on my Instagram because I heard social media was a big deal. I, at the time I had about 500 followers and then, I started working with this manager on building my social media,” she said. She also took advantage of new tools that the platform rolled out that made it easier to network.
“I had an email attached to my page from day one,” she added. This level of accessibility helped her connect with photographers who would help her shape her book. “I would just reach out to photographers who were okay with doing trades and just kept trying to build up an overall portfolio.” Offline, “word of mouth,” helped as well. “I got really fortunate in a sense of working behind the scenes with people that they just liked me.” She attributes her likability to her humility. “I don’t care if you’re homeless or you have $3 billion. I’m going to treat you the same. And I think that just kind of comes off to other people as genuine.”
Those who appreciated that authenticity recommended her to others and soon she was able to have a diverse set of images. “I had a variety,” she said. This was useful because prospective clients could envision her in different settings and aesthetics. Soon she was using the images to book a number of e-commerce campaigns for companies including Curvysense and Avocado mattresses. She also made an appearance on the Steve Harvey Show and attended any audition that would have her. “It was just constant work,” she said. “I was submitting myself to stuff every single day.”
Part of her determination came from a desire to prove she made a viable career choice. “My mother preferred, I went ahead and went to medical school and chase something that was more stable and guaranteed. And it’s understandable, especially coming from a background where mom was an educator, dad was a construction worker,” she continued. “Stable jobs was the thing. But I did it anyway and I just refused to not be good at it.” She practiced when she wasn’t auditioning or self-submitting. “I just kept working at it. So I like to tell other girls, your mirror is your best friend. And so if something works for one brand, do it again, but make it different,” she said.
“I’ve always been a researcher. I think that maybe that’s my medical background,” she continued. “If a brand reaches out to me. The first thing I’m doing is going to their page and going to their website. What kind of photos do they use? How often do they use those kind of photos?”
“I just go kind of crazy and like obsessed over it,” she admitted. Her ambition led her to submit herself for Thick House, an upcoming modeling competition show on The Shade Room, full of the faces that she wanted to see when she chose to switch career paths. She found the experience affirming. “I’ve been in competitive situations before, but this was one of the first times in a room full of women that I felt like it was more empowering than anything else,” she said.”We were very uplifting to each other and it was very, very, very refreshing.”
“The industry is changing and I think it’s because of people saying why not me,” she added.