Name: Celai West
Claim to Fame: At just ten years old West became the youngest professional runway model to accompany an all-adult lineup during New York Fashion Week shattering industry standards.
The average ten-year-old’s sense of competition comes from participating community talent shows and school sanctioned spelling bees but for Celai West the stakes were always a little higher. The self-taught runway model and author, who began strutting around her home as a toddler, began auditioning as small a child and was stalking the catwalk beside certified supermodels before her eleventh birthday.
The runway isn’t the only place West shines. She’s lent her smile to print campaigns for brands including North Face, The GAP, Walmart, Althea and FabKids. She has also appeared in commercials for All State, Google, Mattel, and others.
Recently West has transitioned into the acting world expanding on the experience she has from commercials. She appeared as the lead in Willy Williams’ music video “The Voodoo Song, and the independent film “I Am My Own Mother” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018.
Despite her bubbly personality, on camera skills, and poise in portraits, her walk still stands out as her greatest asset.
She’s even started her own runway coaching business where she teaches aspiring models to perfect their own glamorous gaits.
Stomping the runway, no matter fiercely she does it, isn’t enough for the young creative. The pre-teen wants to be in charge of who is else is in and behind the shows that thousands flock to each season.
She plans on becoming the youngest show producer to produce a New York Fashion Week show this September with the commencement of The Industry Fashion Show creating other opportunities for young models, and beauty professionals. Her choice to do this, places her in a position of power in a business that is often exploitive to the youthful faces that propel it forward.
Modern systems put in place to protect underage models are theoretically designed to cater to West as she slays runways shows but unfortunately there are certain negative aspects of the industry that youth can’t shield you from. One of those is the time-honored tradition of realizing that the stylist on call can’t do natural hair. Runway stylists are notorious for their callous treatment of model’s coifs but with a child model the damage that they inflict by singeing their strands can be permanent. This makes their clueless approach not just offensive but dangerous.
Luckily West’s mom, Linda Ligons-West, is always at her side protecting her child’s precious kinks and coils. The two have turned their negative experiences into inspiration. They have created a series of videos demonstrating the proper way to care for natural hair for curious amateurs and ill-informed “experts” alike.
The tutorial videos are also another avenue for West to spread the message that “everyone is perfect just the way God made them,” an ethos she often repeats in interviews and to her social media followers. A self-proclaimed “quirky, STEM-girl”, she is just as diligent about her studies as she is about her career. She has spoken on panels about the need for time management skills and self-care tactics.
Her commitment to uplifting others by spreading body positivity, and championing education was recently rewarded with a Teen Choice Award. She beamed with fellow honorees Marsai Martin and Kida The Great at the Los Angeles Ceremony. She can also be seen embracing other models on social media promoting the importance of female friendships.
We can’t wait to see what she accomplishes at twelve.