Aria Francis is more than your typical 22 year old. At such a young age, she's accomplished what most should and more. The college grad and model has already walked in the MODABOX Runway Show, Caribbean New York Fashion Week, and the Harbison Showcase at Made Fashion Week. As early as 11 years old, Francis was getting interested in the modeling and fashion industry and set out to pursue her goals. This Caribbean model gives Creative Smart Girl some insight to the realities of what it means to be a young, ambitious, Black woman in fashion:
Tell us a bit about you? Where are you from? How old are you? Fun facts?
I am from Grenada, I am 22 years old and I am a humble and goal oriented person. I am [a graduate of] Social Work, at the T.A. Marryshow Community College in Grenada. I have siblings I live with in the south of the island. I love keeping busy – love being a part of creative activities and love helping others.
Your Instagram bio says you're preparing to be plucked out of obscurity, how's that going? Tell us a bit about your goals and dreams and how you plan to take the fashion industry by storm?
I am prepared to challenge the world with my talent, be it regionally or internationally. 2014 has been my best year thus far; I have accomplished the majority of my short-term goals which included both regional and international fashion weeks. By living up to my goals - keeping toned, eating healthy and targeting as many agencies as possible – I expect to achieve my dream of being a full-time, professional model, among other things.
What would you say was your biggest break at this point in your career?
My biggest break happened when I traveled to the United States of America, during New York Fashion Week this year and participated in Charles Harbison’s showcase at Made Fashion Week, during New York Fashion Week. It was my first time to model for such an important international designer. Vogue Magazine has recently featured Mr. Harbison. His work is really elegant and different. He was even interviewed, prior to this year’s New York Fashion Week, by Vogue.com’s Fashion News Director, Chioma Nnadi. Well, fortunately for me, Mr. Harbison invited me back to do a private showcase title “Muse”, for some very influential persons, including the first black model to ever be on the cover of Vogue magazine, Ms. Beverly Johnson. So, that was a great highlight for me, as I got to present for her and also got to meet her. I also made some really important contacts from both of those events, that are already helping me to achieve my goals way faster than I ever imagined.
You're currently still living in Grenada, do you feel any pressure to relocate to one of the fashion capitals?
Yes, I do feel like if I am away from the agencies and opportunities that can help me to build a good career. Being away from all of that can stall my progress. I am longing to be in a situation where I am always active in modeling, getting all the experience I need and being that professional model.
How do you book jobs overseas?
Through casting calls. I keep my eyes open for opportunities, refer them to my manager and we work on making things happen. This is how I got to participate in this year’s Caribbean Fashion Week in Jamaica, through Romae Gordon’s review of my portfolio and also, Caribbean New York Fashion Week, through an interview with the Face of Fashion Director, Ms. Carla Hazel, who invited me to participate at her event. While I was in New York I also got referrals to casting calls for other shows, such as the Modabox Fashion show, which was held on the first day of New York Fashion Week. That was also amazing. I even got to meet Eric Mena from Love and Hip Hop!
You're really active on Instagram, what role had in played in your career?
Instagram to me is one of the coolest social networks that I use to interact with others, including professionals.You never know who's there looking at your work! It’s part of my routine, to keep my profile active. People have been very supportive of me and I am so blessed by that.
You've had quite a breakout year, tell us about some of the gigs you've had this year and how each have helped you build your portfolio?
Yes 2014 has been a good year for me thus far, some of the things I have done were all on my short-term goal list. Regional fashion week (Caribbean Fashion Week in Jamaica ) , Internationally ( Caribbean New York Fashion Week ) along with casting calls and getting booked for MODABOX Fashion Show , the Harbison and photo shoots.
Obviously, NYFW had to be such a dream come through, was that your first time being at NYFW? If yes, please describe the experience. If no, please describe your first time at NYFW.
Yes it was my first time and a dream come true! The experience was magnificent, my days were very hectic, moving from casting calls, to whole day fittings. There was one day I actually got an email – this was for the Muse show by Charles Harbison – while I was in Coney Island. I had to change my plans – actually I and another model from Jamaica, Vernissa Bruce, who got called back. We had to rush out and get to the location, but it was so worth it. I also enjoyed getting to network and work with different kinds of people, like Make-up artists, designers and photographers. It was awesome. Although my time in New York was very short, I accomplished a lot which I am happy about.
I have to ask, we always read the stories of models being catty and not so nice, how was your experience working with other models?
I read of stories like that myself and also experience it, however I focus on being a good sport and being myself. I know that this profession is one where you will find hundreds of girls fighting down each other. I don’t want to be one of them.
Also, as a black woman the fashion and beauty industry can be very cruel, how do you deal with some of the challenges that come your way because you are a black woman?
The fashion industry can be very biased, however I never experienced any racism or rejection, because of my ethnicity, so far.
I also noticed that you participated in Caribbean fashion week, what was that like?
It was also another great achievement for me, getting to walk for 11 designers, being featured in Vogue Italia, and many others newspapers. My photos actually got featured in Vogue Italia twice this year, the second time being after the Harbison Showcase. That was awesome.
You met, Beverly Johnson at NYFW, who are your fashion model icons and inspiration?
Yes I've met Beverly Johnson, who was the first black model to grace the cover of Vogue Magazine. I have a few fashion model icons, who include Beverly Johnson, Alek Wek – I recently read her amazing autobiography, Jenneil Williams and Naomi Campbell.
Island gals aren't that into dieting, so how do you stay in such amazing shape? Give us some tips?
Well I have a goal and to achieve that goal I have to be disciplined in order to achieve it. So, I try to eat as healthy as possible, consume plenty water and exercise to remain toned.
What's next? Where will you be popping up next?
Things happen in mysterious ways. Who knows? I may end up in Europe – Paris, Milan, but for now I am preparing for the U.S. market.
Who is the one designer or brand at the top of your list to work with?
If that is ever possible I will say all, however I am a model and I am looking forward to representing as many top designers and brands as possible, be it Prada or Valentino.
Your career is really taking off, how proud are the people back home of your success?
It has been a long wait. There are a large number of people here who are very supportive to me and the youth, in general.
What advice do you gave for your aspiring?
Nothing happens over night, dream big and work hard to achieve your goals.