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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Beauty Role Model- Stacey McKenzie

If you don't know Stacey McKenzie's face, get to know it. It's not difficult to recall – hers is one of the more unique beauties you'll encounter. You'll want to remember McKenzie's face because she's going to be around for a long time, educating and re-educating the masses.

McKenzie's modelling career has seen her walking the runways of Paris and New York. She's booked major campaigns for Calvin Klein and Mexx, and landed parts in movies, including a prominent role in The Fifth Element (Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich). She has worked as a correspondent for TV's Fashion File, and is cutting her first album.She also recently started her own company, leveraging her modelling experiences to teach new models the basics of grooming and styling, and the art of the runway. "You've heard of J. Alexander," she laughs. "I'm the real, female version of J. Alexander."
McKenzie's start in modelling came when she wanted to see what the Canadian industry had to offer. "When I first started in Toronto looking for an agency none of them were really interested. Only one agent, Elmer Olsen, really gave me good advice – to try the New York market."So she did. Seventeen-years-old and full of spirit, McKenzie made the trek to the Big Apple to meet with several agencies, only to learn they weren't interested in her unique appearance either. Only the last agency she visited, Elite, had one scout (Karen Lee) showing interest. "So I ended up with Elite, and stayed in New York for a couple of weeks, hating it. At the time I was really young, and didn't have anyone to support me. I couldn't handle it."

Still, McKenzie doesn't regret her first trip to New York. "Those few weeks I spent in New York showed me enough about the industry that I knew this was my goal, but there were things I wouldn't tolerate.""At that age I was mature enough to know that I really shouldn't be there on my own. So I told Elite I wanted to wait until I was a little bit older.

I came back to Toronto and finished school, got a job, made some money, got a plane ticket and went to Holland."McKenzie's plan was to stay with friends in Holland and make enough money to re-launch her modelling career in France – another destination Olsen had originally suggested.

McKenzie recalls making the rounds in Paris, where bookers at one agency showed enthusiasm – until the head booker returned and tore up her pictures. "Everyone else said 'Hell no, she's hideous – she'll never make it in this industry. I don't want her. She's ugly. No. No. No. No. No.'"Criticism was nothing new to McKenzie. Growing up in Jamaica, a light-skinned black girl with blonde hair and freckles, she was always getting teased. "It hurt, but I never let anybody see it. I kept it to myself because I knew I had something about me.""Nobody looks like me – nobody has a voice like me. No matter where I go always get all the looks – good or bad I always get looks. No matter what, people always stop and stare. I knew from a very young age that I had it. So when I heard these people dissing me, it bugged me a little teeny bit, but I knew I had something going on."After meeting with nothing but rejection, McKenzie thought, "F*** everybody, I'm not giving up – I kept on moving. I had a week-and-a-half before the shows. The first day in Paris I met a girl on the train whose boyfriend was a photographer in the industry, so I called him up and said can you help me find an agency? He told me about this little agency called USA Paris. I went in there and this booker – a black guy named Gaspard – he was the only one who said 'Oh, she's drop dead – I want her.'"

McKenzie's first season in Paris saw her walking for Jean Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler and Christian Lacroix, to name but a few. But even with heavyweight runway credentials she struggled in France for four years before giving New York another shot.

Stacey McKenzie signed on with Women Management in New York, where she was excited to be under the direction of owner Paul Rowlands. He, McKenzie says, was equally excited about her, and had put McKenzie's face on the cover of an agency promo prior to her arrival in Manhattan. Again though, McKenzie clashed with her bookers.Despite the friction McKenzie landed a Calvin Klein (CKBE) fragrance campaign by talking her way into a callback being conducted by legendary photographer Richard Avedon.
After hours of talking, Avedon told McKenzie she got the job."I was like 'Really? How about you call my booker at the agency – in fact, call all the bookers at the agency and tell them you're booking me for the campaign. And tell them I'm the only girl, other than Kate Moss, that you booked for this campaign from Women Model Management.' And he did it, right in front of me. He said, 'if that's what you want, no problem.'"Today, McKenzie's focusing on conveying her wisdom to a new crowd of models, through her company, Stacey McKenzie's Walk This Way. Combining personal style with a formulated technical approach, she also focuses on grooming and styling , and brings in a guest designer to give real-world advice. There's also a surprise in the final session, but McKenzie wouldn't give up what that is.

Aside from the industry basics, McKenzie also hopes to give new models a message. "Don't give up on it. No matter what, keep pushing. Keep going. Like me, all of them said no, but I made sure I kept going back to them and saying 'you need to say yes.' Just keep at it. They want you to give up on it. Don't!"

"What we need to get across to the new agencies is that they need to stop following what's going on and stop having a token black girl, a token Asian girl, a token Indian girl. The new agencies need to change people's minds and be more open to different races. Because once they start doing it in the new agencies, we'll be so much better off. And for that token black girl that's trying to get her foot in the door, it'll make it so much easier."

"There's so many other stories, but the main thing for people to know is that you really have to fight. The main thing for people who want to pursue this industry - it is a business. Stay on top of everything including your finances. And don't take the rejections personally."

***Taken from***


CHIC NOIR said...

A woman after my own heart. I love the models too. She was one of my favs in the 90's. I think she was featured on the Ameircan version of Top Model.
I think she had a with Tod Olman or Issac Mizari campaign also.

Meikmeika said...

I've seen her before but didn't know her name and thought she was gorgeously astonishing.... and a great personality to boost.

I'm sure the CD will be amazing as well.

Bygbaby said...

When I saw her for the 1st time in ANTM, I was wondering if it was a guy in drag, I just was not sure. Well I guess now I know & good for her!!!


Naturally Sophia said...

chic noir- I absolutely love models and fashion. In my dream world, I woud be like a bad azz designer since I'm too short to model. :)

meikmeika- her voice is interesting so I think her album could be really good

bygbaby- LMAO!

Lola Gets said...

Ive seen this woman before, and Ive always thought she was striking! Im glad shes doing her own thing now.

cheleski68 said...

oooooooh!!! I like her!!!!!