Meet Yasmine. Our Monday Model!
Yasmine “YazzieSpeaks” Arrington was born and raised in Washington, DC. She is a 2015 graduate out of Elon University with a Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communications and History, and a 3rd Year Master of Divinity degree candidate at the Howard University School of Divinity. Yasmine holds the title of Miss District of Columbia Plus America 2016 and was named a Radio One WKYS 2017 Top 30 Under 30.
Congratulations on all of your success as a Plus Size Model. How did you get started modeling?
Thank you! I started modeling my freshman year of college, in 2011. I had a friend who I met in Statistics class named Rachel. Rachel was a photography major and one day she asked me to be her muse for one of her class projects. That was my first photoshoot outside of taking class photos for grade school. Rachel mentioned to me with conviction that I should try modeling. At first, I did not take the suggestion seriously. However, her suggestion had me curious so I began researching modeling online and discovered what is often referred to as plus or curvy modeling.
Following my research, I began taking modeling workshops and walking in runway shows in North Carolina, Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, and New York. After several years of runways shows and test shoots, in 2017 I was signed with TRUE Model Management in New York.
How did you hear about the CGCC?
I heard about the FabUPlus Curvy Girl Cover Contest on social media – I saw the posts on Facebook and Instagram! I believe I first saw the contest posted on José Pagan’s Facebook page.
What motivated you to enter the contest?
I love what FabUPlus represents! Some time ago I committed myself to being a positive example of someone who is body positive, living my truth and loving myself and my body at every stage! As a former Communications major and someone who is passionate about media and media messaging, I do not see a lot of diversity in beauty, culture, racial background or body types–especially on magazine covers. I believe as a size 22, African-American woman, I can serve as a positive example to plus size women, brawn or big and tall men and people everywhere who have ever had any insecurities about their bodies or doubts on what is possible. I decided to enter the contest because I am certainly FabuPlus in mind, body and spirit are engaged in making a difference in my community.
How would you describe your personal style? Where do you draw your style inspiration from?
My personal style is colorful and vibrant! I love feminine dresses that compliment my shape, fitted jeans, leggings, floral tops, crop tops and high heels! My favorite seasonal styles are the Autumn styles –leather, suede, sweaters, and boots. I draw my style inspiration from my grandmother –she was my first stylist and influence. She still buys me many outfits for my wardrobe!
Do you have any advice for our readers who perhaps were not confident enough to enter modeling contests, but would really like to model?
I would say to give it a try! You never know what can happen unless you try. Sometimes we psych ourselves out into believing that we have to have everything together or have to be perfect to do the things we have always wanted to do. However, sometimes the best results come when we step out on faith and along the way your tribe will find you. You will not have to do it alone, people who believe in what you are doing will support you.
As for modeling, start with research. In order to understand the industry you have to be a lifetime student –always ask questions, invest in model workshops, try out for your local runway shows, learn all of the models’ names, influencers, designers, stylists, brands and clients and agencies and follow them on social media. You will learn a lot from following their journeys and sometimes they will give free modeling tips and advice. Plan to attend fashion and networking events in your state or plan a girls trip to events in other states. Lastly, you will have to perfect your craft –do test shoots with credible photographers. Not all photographers’ work is strong model print or agency quality. In this case, quality matters more than quantity. Look at the agency websites and professional models’ photos and compare those with the quality of the photographer’s portfolio that you want to work with. Do not underestimate the power of an image –especially a strong, clean image. If you can invest in having a professional makeup artist, hair artist and stylist on set, do it.
Just like any craft, there is a learning curve – how did you learn how to model – both print and runway if applicable?
I study and invest in my modeling craft. In the beginning of my modeling interest, I attended some of Liris Crosse’s Life of a Working Model Bootcamps, Jeannie Ferguson’s Walk This Way Runway class and I took a webinar with Christina Mendez. Additionally, I learned how to model runway by watching other runways models on YouTube and in person at shows. The first plus runway show I saw in person was CurvesRock Fashion Weekend in Baltimore. The next year I went to the casting and made the show. Runway shows often have runway practices and intensives leading up to the show. There were consultants there and other models who would instruct me on the dos and don’ts –like how to walk, how to pose, how to pivot, etc. Print modeling is an ongoing process. I have learned this from studying the images of famous and working plus models. If they have behind the scenes video clips of them posing –I watch them intently, how they move their bodies, their arms, legs and facial expressions. Lastly, I learn from professional photographers. When I work with them, they will always give me guidance and direction and provide feedback. A good photographer should interact with you in this way.
Did you have mentors or role models who helped and inspired you along the way?
Oh yes! I certainly have role models and mentors. My close mentors are Liris Crosse, Christina Mendez, Jeannie Ferguson, Terri Murray and Rick Jones.
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 am currently larger than the average plus size model. The average working plus size model is a size 12, 14 or 16 and they are usually 5’9 or taller. Additionally, I am an African-American model with large arms (not the slim and sleek arms that plus models typically have), a round face with high cheekbones and full hips and thighs. As a model, I can serve as a positive example and role model – that a woman can be beautiful, healthy and successful outside of the box that society always wants to put all of us in. I am living my best life now as an educated woman who came from humble beginnings and an entrepreneur. I am an exemplar that plus size women of any orientation, religion, socio-economic status or cultural background can accomplish anything she desires and that is not just limited to a size 12-18 with a flat stomach and slim arms! Sometimes life gives us a little pudge and we ought to embrace ourselves and goals at every stage.
You exude confidence with every step you take, were you always this confident? Tell us a little bit about the journey to confidence.
No, I was not always this confident. I was teased in elementary school for being a ‘nerd,’ ‘a goodie two shoes’ ‘teacher’s pet’ and for being larger than most of my peers, wearing silly looking glasses and having oily skin. My journey to confidence started with watching my grandmother and mother maneuver with confidence, style, and grace in the world as beautiful, full-figured women and in church. In church I was constantly reading and hearing scriptures that told me that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” that “the Lord shall be my confidence,” that “while the world looks at physical appearance God looks at the heart” and that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” In 8th grade, I developed an eating disorder and lost a lot of weight, yet I was still insecure. I had an amazing counselor who spoke positivity into my life and ultimately helped me to realize, “Who cares what they think of you?” What is important is what you think of yourself.” I learned as a young teenager into young womanhood that I am who I say I am! I have truly come to love myself flaws and all and I am determined to succeed and build meaningful relationships and give back to my community. I was also fortunate to have had family, friends, church members and significant others who love me as a person and who loved me for me inside and out –they would always speak positive, kind, empowering words to me. This is why it is so important who we associate with, who we spend our time with and value opinions –words have so much power.
For our readers who are interested in starting a plus model career, what would you suggest are some top tips to get started?
Research. Invest by taking classes, workshops and attending events. Study those in the industry and ask questions.
You are the founder and executive director of ScholarCHIPS Inc. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what it is, what you do and why you are so passionate about it.
ScholarCHIPS is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides college scholarships, mentorship and a support network for youth with incarcerated parents inspiring them to complete their college education. To date, we have awarded 43 scholars over $110,000 in college scholarships and have celebrated two cohorts of college graduates. I am passionate about this work because I am the child of a formerly incarcerated parent and I believe in the necessity for funds and support for disadvantaged youth for education access.
What inspired you to start such a great scholarship program?
As a junior in high school in 2010, I was a fellow in the LearnServe International program. LearnServe challenged us to find a creative solution to a problem that mattered to us. For me, my issue was finding funding so that I could afford to go to college. One evening, my maternal grandmother made an observation that “there are so many scholarships out here, but I do not see any for youth with incarcerated parents.” This was the ah-ha moment and the idea I developed was a mentorship-scholarship program for youth with incarcerated parents. I presented my idea to a panel of volunteer judges who approved us for a $1,000 seed grant from Ashoka’s Youth Venture. Then Petula Dvorak, a columnist at the Washington Post, wrote an article on ScholarCHIPS and more donations came in. I hosted a kickoff event in October 2010 as my Girl Scout Gold Award project and I haven’t looked back since.
Was there ever a point during the process of creating ScholorCHIPS that you wanted to give up? If so, what was it that kept you determined to not give up?
Yes, many times. Nonprofit management, especially for someone who has never run an organization before, as a full-time student is difficult. We have literally been building the plane as we fly since inception, but it has been a rewarding and ultimate learning process in leadership, development, fundraising, relationship building, capacity building and more.
When I started I faced a lot of ageism –some people believed that because of my age I would not be able to stay committed and maintain the organization. In the beginning, because we did not have a track record, it was hard to get donations or grants. Over the years I have faced challenges and discouraging moments with trying to secure funding, trying to be a problem solver and balancing school, management, fundraising, and modeling.
You have changed the lives of 43 scholars thus far, how difficult is it to choose who is awarded the scholarCHIP? How many people apply each year?
So far, mostly all students who apply receive an award from us, whether it is a renewable $2,500 scholarship or a renewable $250 book award. However, it is extremely difficult to decide which scholars get the scholarship and which students will get a book award. All of their stories are very powerful and their resilience in the midst of great obstacles is so inspiring. We cannot yet award all scholarships because we do not yet have the funding, though we are diligently working to secure more funding in order to increase our award amounts. We usually receive an average of 6-13 applications a year. As we continue to cultivate partnerships with local high schools and organizations our application numbers will grow.
You have 9 people who have received the ScholarCHIP and went on to Graduate from college. How does that make you feel knowing you helped changed these students lives?
I feel like a proud mama! Though I am not yet a biological mother, I understand the feeling of a proud parent who loves their children and wants the best for them. I have watched our scholars grow and mature over the years and am beyond proud. I am beyond blessed to be able to pour into their education, lives, and careers. However, it takes a village. I have an amazing village and tribe who supports me and ScholarCHIPS in our work to support these youth in as many ways as possible and as is needed.
Have you gotten any feedback from parents who are currently incarcerated that have heard about your amazing ScholarCHIP program?
Yes. Most parents we have heard from in person, via Facebook inbox message, email or letter telling us about their children, how proud they are of them and mention how grateful they are that our organization exists. Most parents are very grateful for the work that we do! There are a few parents who are embarrassed about having an incarcerated spouse or child with an incarcerated parent, who refuse their child apply for our scholarship –those cases are rare; however, we are fighting against that kind of mindset and stereotype. A child’s parent’s past should not determine their future or prevent them from receiving funding for college.
What does life look for you outside of the modeling world?
I am also a full-time student. I currently attend the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, DC. I am currently in my 3rd and senior year towards my Master of Divinity degree. I juggle my studies with running scholarCHIPS, occasional model gigs, preaching and speaking engagements. During the mornings and afternoons, I am sending emails, making calls, having meetings, doing homework and running errands. In the evenings I am in class. My Fridays and weekends are usually my relaxing and wind down time –though I will often have events or speaking engagements on those days. I enjoy everything that I do though. It keeps me going, excited and motivated! I get to travel to some really cool places and meet a lot of amazing people. Every day for me is unique in its nature and assignments. I pray that one day I will have a loving faithful, wise and fun partner who I can share these experiences with and build a family with.
Thank you for taking time to chat with us today! What is one message you would like to leave with our readers today?
Stay encouraged! Whatever you are going through, know that it is just a season in your life and things will get better if you make a decision that they will and stick to it! Never be afraid to ask for help and advice. Keep being FabUPlus! –Love Yazzie
Website/Blog: www.scholarchipsfund.org, www.yasminearrington.com
Facebook: ScholarCHIPS; Plus Model: Yasmine Arrington
Twitter: @Scholarchips @yazziespeaks
Instagram: @Scholarchips @yazziespeaks @yasminethemodel
Photographer & Makeup Artist: Carla Taylor @ctshoots @carlataylormakeup
Hair Stylist: @Stephdahairqueen