Name: Quan Michelle
Agency: Dorthoy Combs Models
Claim to Fame: Michelle was one of the faces in Universal Standard’s groundbreaking athletic attire campaign.
As a young girl growing up in Baltimore, Maryland Quan Michelle thought a model was someone who “exuded confidence.” Sadly, despite having a longstanding desire to join the industry, that description did not apply to her.
“I wasn’t confident growing up at all. I got teased a lot for my height, my weight, I was a bigger girl, taller,” explained Michelle in an exclusive interview with Hello Beautiful.
“As my journey progressed, I gained that confidence. It’s something I had to teach myself, something I had to learn,” she added. One of the methods she used to accomplish that was seeking out role models she could connect with. One of them was industry veteran Tyra Banks.
“I am a huge huge Tyra Banks fan. I used to rush home from school and watch her show,” she said. Not only was it comforting for Michelle to see Banks in the spotlight as a statuesque woman with a shapely figure it was healing to hear someone else give voice to the insecurities she was dealing with.
“It was very refreshing and nice to feel that you know I can relate to someone. She used to speak on her forehead and about being bigger and an African-American woman in the modeling industry. I just listened to how she did not let anyone stop her from fulfilling her dreams. It was very inspiring.”
The inspiration she found in her room on weekday afternoons motivated her to leave not only the city but the state. She was soon making plans to relocate to New York determined to see if like her idol she was capable of making her dreams come true.
“I was like ‘You know what? I can do this! I am gonna do this and I’m doing it!”
As she began to peek out of her comfort zone, she was surprised to a bit of additional inspiration closer to home. “There’s a model from Maryland as well, her name is Liris Crosse. She’s obviously given me such good advice. I really appreciate her support. There are some catty models in the industry, but you focus on the good and people like Liris are the reason why. she’s such a beautiful spirit I can ask for anything anytime and she’s always wiling to help.”
With the warm welcome she received from Crosse and other models Michelle has been able to build a support system that’s encouraged her as she booked major campaigns and fit modeling jobs for brands like ELOQUII, Rent The Runway and Swimsuits For All.
The opportunities she earned as a model allowed her to finally have her mother visit her in the city. “I took her out to dinner at Essex on the Lower East side and I cried at the table. I was so embarrassed! It was a very special moment for me. She told me that she always wanted to come to New York. She’s never been here, so we got to enjoy New York together and do all the touristy stuff.”
Her mother expressed how relieved she was to see her daughter was able to turn a childhood passion into a full-fledged career. “She is SO proud of me she was so worried when I left the state but now, she’s like okay you got this I see you,” said Michelle.
Another benchmark in her career has been appearing in the “liberating” athletic campaign she did with Universal Standard. “I had such a good time on set,” she exclaimed. She described the experience of working with the other models included as one that felt like “a sisterhood.” She worked with the brand to promote their collaboration with Orange Is The New Black’s Danielle Brooks as well.
“It was very nice to show that women plus-size women are active. We don’t sit on the couch. We do work out and we should be included as well,” she continued.
While some decry that brands are late to the body positivity party as just seeking coins Michelle is enthusiastic about the garment industry stretching itself.
“I feel like more brands are starting to jump on the inclusion band wagon and it’s nothing wrong with that because we all need representation, we need body diversity.”
She quickly added, “We need racial diversity as well,” acknowledging the bias Black models encounter daily.
A firm believer that, “your fitness journey starts in the kitchen,” she is working with Dominic Nell of City Weeds to promote healthy and sustainable practices in her home city. She is not only contributing financially to the purchasing of raised plant beds but donating time as well.
Her modeling career might be moving in the right direction, but she is still seeking inspiration to take her career to the next level. These days she finds it in in the books she totes with her to castings including Susan Moses’ The Art of Dressing Curves and Crosse’s The World Is My Runway. She doesn’t own a television preferring to spend her time learning.
She said, “I pretty much will pick up a book about almost anything if I feel like it will help me with my own personal growth.”
Michelle hopes to provide aspiring creatives with the support she received from connecting with Crosse. She is currently working on opening a cost-regulated studio to provide Baltimore residents with a fraction of the creative infrastructure of their New York counterparts. “There are so many talented people in Baltimore, and I feel like they don’t have the resources all the time to do what they love. I would love to be the person to help them and provide those things.”
She believes her status as a Baltimore native will helps her understand the needs of those grinding in the city in a way that way that Crosse understood hers when she was starting out. “It’s very nice to have that support from someone that understands where I come from,” she stated.