Name: Iyanla Galletti
Claim to Fame: Galletti has appeared in major editorial spreads in magazines like Vogue Italia, and shot beauty campaigns for IMAN Cosmetics, Garnier, Arrojo and others.
It’s often repeated that it’s lonely at the top but for a determined few the climb there can be a solitary pursuit as well. Iyanla Galletti is familiar with the sacrifices necessary to transform a dream into a reality.
The Bronx native, who began working on getting signed when she was still in high school, was her own manager, agent, and best friend while growing her fledgling career. In an exclusive interview with Hello Beautiful, Galletti explained her strategic approach to success, the origins of her cheeky nickname, and how her Buddhist faith became her secret weapon.
“I’ve been a performer since I was four, so I’ve been on stage since I was four. Being on stage is like a second home to me,” said Galletti who also sings, and dances. It was her comfort in the spotlight that led to the “crazy tangled story,” of how she got signed.
She participated in a local beauty pageant at age 15. “I didn’t win but the modeling coach that we got but she kind of had her own freelance business if you will, called Catwalk Caterers. She would host fashion shows and stuff like that.”
“I did a show or two for her and I met some designers and photographers when I was 15. From there I was building my portfolio since I was 16. When I graduated at 18, I was shooting with people that I had met and they kind of took me under their belt. We did a lot of TFP work (trade for photos).”
After receiving her cap and gown Galletti opted to give herself a year off of school where she could focus on modeling exclusively. “I was kind of was hesitant on going to college ‘cause I knew my family couldn’t afford it. I just knew going I didn’t wanna waste my time.” A petite young woman with a smattering of freckles and enviable bone structure, she saw modeling as not only a viable career option but a springboard for other creative endeavors like music which she describes as her “first love.”
“I was like if I get signed at least I’ll be in the business that I want to be in already.”
She was methodical about her approach. “That whole year I applied to over 100 agencies online through email submissions. I went to open casting calls at agencies, I was constantly being told I was too short, too this and that.”
It took nearly the entire year for her persistence to bring forth results. “In November into my year off of college, my agency emailed me back from my submission and they said that they wanted me to come into the office so they could see me and talk to me.The photos that resulted in that phone call almost weren’t taken as not everyone around Galletti saw as much value in her TFP work as she did.
“When I was 17 and I was shooting for TFP I wasn’t getting paid,” revealed Galletti. “So my mom would be like what are you doing? You’re shooting with people how do you know it’s safe?”
Her mother, leery of allowing her daughter to become one of the examples of scams that litter the streets of New York, was relentless in her criticism. “You’re not making any money, you’re spending money to go take the train,” were some of the things said to Galletti.
“It’s not that she wasn’t excited or happy she was unsure,” she said fiercely defensive of her mother’s good intentions. “They don’t know this life she didn’t understand it at all.”
The media’s constant reinforcement of the rags to riches model story didn’t help provide context to the people in her support system. “I think everybody has this idea of instant gratification. So when she saw me taking pictures she was like ‘Okay, where’s the money?’”
“At first you don’t make any money,” stayed Galletti echoing a lot of models experiences. In the end she had her say through her refusal to give up.
“Yea now that they money’s rolling in and the campaigns are out, now you’re like a celebrity at family events,” she joked. She’s able to be jovial about it but she doesn’t deny the impact of that time in her life. “It hurt so bad,” she said.
“And I got a lot of that I even got that from my boyfriend,” she said before sharply course correcting. “My ex-boyfriend.”
“He was a jealous boyfriend and he literally- I just wanted to go shoot. I was like I need these for my port (portfolio). It’s funny how life works. These were the last photos I needed for my portfolio I had just cut my hair bald and I was like I need these shots. He did not want me to go. He wanted me to go sit in a park with him to watch him play basketball or something and I was like ‘I’m gonna go do these’ so he was super mad at me.
So I went and I did my shots and I went straight to the park after and I tried to show him the pictures and he still wasn’t happy about it.
He wanted to maintain this attitude and I was like, ‘What the heck man?’”
Not only was her boyfriend’s attitude surly, his comments were snarky. “He said ‘what are these photos gonna be in Vogue or something?’ Then he said something to the effect of it ain’t Vogue so like what are you doing? He was the only person I had at that time too so hearing him say that was like ‘Wow, I thought you believed in me’.”
Despite her hurt feelings, Galletti pressed on more concerned with securing that bag then her boyfriends insecurities. Shortly after she was scouring over the contract that would change her life. “They offered me a two year non-exclusive contract and I reviewed it and I signed it.”
The pictures from that shoot were used to book her first corporate gig. “It was with Garnier. I was bald. I didn’t even have a little bit of hair. I just remember being so nervous and scared and I’m not a person like I don’t get stage fright that’s not a thing for me, but going into castings I would be. I was so nervous I went in and they slated me.”
Eventually her persistence paid off for each of them. “You wanna know something else? I got that boy signed! When I went to go get signed I told him to come with me ‘cause he was a handsome kid so I knew they would sign him and that’s exactly what happened.” Later she got the type of high brow revenge that Jackie Collins novels are made of. “We did a shoot together that got submitted into Vogue Italia so life is really funny.”
It would be easy to assume things were easier as she got further into modeling but that had its challenges as well. “My first year walking fashion week was at Cipriani’s and I didn’t have any friends, like model friends with me. I was pretty alone throughout the whole process. Fashion Week in general is pretty messy backstage there’s 100s of people. There’s news outlets back there and you’re trying to like change and not be seen by anyone. But later on I’m backstage and I’m getting my stuff. I was leaving with my luggage,” she explained. The industry is notorious for having limited space for models to store their personal belongings despite requiring them to be at shows that often take place on opposite side of the city back to back to back.
“And I remember this one model that I really liked her work apparently she was dating one of the guys that was in my set and she gave me the dirtiest look as she walked out. And I didn’t have any relation to her boyfriend we had never even said ‘hi’ to each other during rehearsals or anything. I just glimpsed and as I glimpsed she was given me the dirtiest look I have ever seen and I was like, why does this girl even care about me? I’m new. I know who she is, she doesn’t even know who I am. So that was my first experience being backstage. It was kind of sad.”
Her ability to seek the positive when some might have snapped is a credit to her faith. Her line of stickers inspired by her nickname Ya The God (a moniker given to her by a friend complimenting her people skills) is an unintentional nod to her Buddhism.
“It ties into my beliefs,” she stated. “The God thing is kind of ironic ‘cause we don’t pray to anything in Buddhism. It’s about meditation and looking inward. Whatever God is supposed to do for you you’re supposed to do for yourself.”
Clearly she’s more than capable.