Model Monday – Shandra Rouse
Shandra Rouse is from a tiny island in the Dutch Caribbean called St. Eustatius or Statia as the locals lovingly call it. Her father is from Statia and her mother is from New York City. She moved to Miami when she was 14 years old, and currently still lives there. Shandra has a degree in Marketing & Management, and currently works in the travel industry. Her goal is to one day get signed to an agency, move to New York City and model full time in the city that never sleeps!
Congratulations on all of your success as a Plus Size Model. How did you get started modelling?
I’ve always LOVED modeling, so for fun I’d dress up and have my sister take my photos. Then I’d post them online, all my friends & family would encourage me that I should consider modeling as a career. While I loved the idea, I thought that wasn’t an option for someone my size but my love for modeling still remained. The passion for modeling just wouldn’t go away! So I kept posting photos from my shoots, all of which I orchestrated myself, from selecting the wardrobe, doing hair & makeup, and selecting the theme and locations for all of my shoots. One day a friend of mine told me about a casting call for a runway show, and I decided to give it a shot! I didn’t know what to expect and I was rather nervous, especially when I got to the location of the casting call I thought to myself “is this legit”?? Because the location of the casting wasn’t in the best area. However, I went ahead and did my best, I couldn’t tell if I had done well or not from the reaction of the judges making the selection, they told me if I made the cut I would receive an email. I walked out knowing I gave it my all and if it was meant to be I would hear from them. The good news, I made it! I received an email at 4 in the morning about 2 days later. I was so excited, and couldn’t wait to tell my family! That show built my confidence, and since then I have modeled for Macy’s, Ashley Stewarts’s Love Your Curves Tour, David Tutera’s bridal fashion shows, promo model for Mixed Chicks hair products, endless photo shoots & several runway shows, and I even made it into FabUplus magazine modeling for Curvy Girl Fever!!! And this just the beginning for me!
What has been your favourite experience thus far – the one you are most proud of?
My favorite experience that I am most proud of is definitely making it into FabUplus magazine! I was unware of it being in the works, and was taken by surprise one night while scrolling through Instagram and I saw a picture of myself in the magazine. I was so proud that I even cried, I literally couldn’t believe my eyes, it was a “MAMA I made it!!!” kind of moment. The very next day I picked up 6 copies and still pinch myself every time I see it.
Just like any craft there is a learning curve – how did you learn how to model – both print and runway if applicable?
I learned all that I know on my own. Print modeling I’ve had so much practice from when I did it for fun, that I became a natural at it. Runway modeling is where I struggled in the beginning, as it was completely new to me. So to better my runway strut, I would watch high fashion shows on YouTube and study the models walk. Every chance I got, I practiced. This includes random hallways ANYWHERE, the mall, in my house, sidewalks, the grocery store, at work, you name it! Eventually I got better, but I am always trying to perfect my skill!
Did you have mentors or role models who helped and inspired you along the way?
Definitely my sister Vanessa. She has been the driving force behind me, reassuring me that I can accomplish my dream and to never give up when things aren’t going the way I’d like. She’s also been my photographer for the majority of my shoots, and I may be biased when I say this but she’s the very BEST. We help each other sharpen our passion. We’ve come a long way from us having fun taking photos of me in the backyard… I’m pursuing my dream of being a model & she’s a thriving photographer! I think it’s pretty amazing that I was so closely paired with my best friend who happens to believe in everything I do, and help me achieve it all!
The Plus Size Industry has changed and continues to evolve – how do you think as a model you are able to help make an impact in how the world sees plus size women?
I love how the Plus Size Industry has evolved, honestly I think it’s about damn time! Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, our worth isn’t determined by the size we wear! As a model, my goal would be to help women see the beauty within themselves. I will show the world that even though I am not a size 2, I am SEXY, worthy of love and respect, and will not be dismissed!
You exude confidence with every step you take, were you always this confident? Tell us a little bit about the journey to confidence.
I’m so glad for the confidence I now have, as it wasn’t always this way. Society tricks women into thinking that we must all be stick figures, and at one point I believed that. I was never skinny, and early in my teenage years I struggled to see the beauty I embody. I was always very shy, and struggled to make friends. I was so shy that I wouldn’t even change my clothes in front of my sister or my mother. Today these struggles are no longer mine. I realized that first and foremost, you’ve got to love yourself or no one will. I now have the belief that this is ME, and who doesn’t like it TOO BAD for them! I’m such a social butterfly and make new friends everywhere I go. I love who I became, and I want to share the unfiltered version of myself with the world!
For our readers who are interested in starting a plus model career, what would you suggest are some top tips to get started?
The first thing you’ve got to do is believe in yourself. Tell yourself that this is something you CAN do, no matter what anyone else says. Whenever I mentioned to naysayers that I want to have a career as a model, the most common thing I’d be told is that “that’s a harsh industry”. Truth be told, I’ve met some incredible people along the way in the fashion world. Although it can be difficult to break into, don’t take no for an answer, keep pushing down doors and never stop believing in yourself. It all starts with YOU!
As a model you’ve had the opportunity to wear a variety of different styles, but what would we catch you in on an ‘off duty’ day? What would you call your fashion sense and how has this evolved through your modelling career?
More than likely a midi dress, I’m obsessed with dresses! I recently took a look at my closet and made a mental note to purchase clothing other than dresses. Old habits die hard though, because that’s the first thing I look for when shopping! My fashion sense is definitely a combination of many different styles, it all depends on my mood that day. Some days I feel edgy, so I wear a T-shirt with graphics on it with ripped jeans, paired with Converse sneakers or if I am feeling boujee then I’ll wear the same outfit with a pair of heels. I love to play with bold colors but I also have a soft side and on those days I want to look super girly and chic! One of my friends jokes around and tells me that I’m like a Kardashian, because she’s never seen me in the same outfit twice!
What are you some of your favourite places to shop your style?
Oh the list is endless! I LOVE a good bargain, so wherever I can get the best bang for my buck is where you’ll find me! I love shopping at JcPenney’s, Kohl’s, Forever21(my favorite place for fashion jewelry), Charlotte Russe (favorite place for shoes), JLUX label, Fashion Nova, and Amazon!! I love finding new boutiques on Instagram that aren’t well known because I feel like my look will be more exclusive. Although lately I’ve been doing a lot of shopping from Amazon, you’d be surprised at the deals you can score and still look SUPAH FLY!!!
What does life look for you outside of the modelling world?
I still work a 9-5 job, so that keeps me pretty busy. Other than that, I’m a self-proclaimed foodie! I love trying out new spots, my favorites are little hole in the walls that I stumble upon and end up leaving pleasantly surprised and full! I love going to local art events, meeting new friends, and of course shopping! I have a great love for traveling as well, I recently came back from Dubai and had such an AMAZING time there. Next on my bucket list is a European tour, kicking off in Santorini, Greece. I also volunteer in the community when I can, to give back to the less fortunate. It’s a lifelong dream of mine to end hunger and homelessness around the world.
Thank you for taking time to chat with us today! What is one message you would like to leave with our readers today?
Take the chance! It’s okay to dream beyond your reality. Great things can happen when you believe in yourself. So whatever your dream may be, go after it with your fastest running shoes or in my case, your sexiest pair of heels!
Vanessa Rouse: All photos with navy blue floral dress, gold body painting, white dress with sand dunes background, body painting on my back (my island flag), and photos when I am wearing a white head wrap.
Dustin Godin: photos in red dress & white jumpsuit.
Samuel Henderson: photos in maroon & pink lingerie, black Nike shorts, and jean shirt.
Crediting hair & makeup: Shandra Rouse
Crediting apparel sponsor: Stylist Shandra Rouse