Lydia René is doing it all. The creative is a singer, a songwriter, an actor, a wife, and a soon to be mother. Needless to say her schedule is busy these days. However, that’s never stopped her. The beauty is new to the modeling world but quickly making a name for herself. In an exclusive interview with Hello Beautiful she admits, “I signed with my agency in December 2017. Prior to that I had only booked one job that year with Dia & Co. modeling for their online ads.”
While she has had jobs modeling for retail companies like Dia & Co. as well as ModCloth, what has really set her apart in the modeling industry is booking a beauty campaign. Plus size models scoring beauty campaigns are only recently more frequent. Some of the pioneers for this include plus size model Robyn Lawley, whom booked a Barney’s New York ad in 2013 and Queen Latifah who shared her flawless skin and smile for CoverGirl. Even then, these were well known faces and the industry continued on this trend by booking models like Marquita Pring for L’Oreal.
These larger than life presences can sometimes be disconnecting; however Lydia René is a plus size model championing for the everyday woman. She admitted, “There was certainly a time growing up when I never would have seen this kind of representation from women of color in the magazines I read or the makeup stores I went into, and I certainly did not see plus size women of color.”
Well, this beauty is helping to change that.
She is currently starring in an ULTA Beauty ad where she’s laughing in the photo. I remember seeing the ad come across my timeline and I loved how natural it looked and that I myself felt seen as a Black, plus-size woman with Type 4 hair. In an industry that is just starting to break barriers and where casting plus size women and Black women are still headlines, Lydia René shared that the ULTA team was looking for someone just like her. She revealed, “I remember being EXTREMELY excited about this casting because when the breakdown (description of what they were looking for) came through my agent, it basically almost described me exactly. They were looking for an African-American woman between the ages of 35-40, who wore a size 16 to 22.”
We hear so many horror stories of Black models on set and discrimination for plus size models; however, Lydia René had the exact opposite experience: “I’m always somewhat insecure walking into situations with other models. I’m very new to this world still and don’t know much about it. But everyone was really nice and I got along well with everyone there.”
Natural hair on set can also be a nightmare with hairstylists not being familiar with Type 4 hair; however, ULTA ensured it was a seamless experience. Lydia René revealed, “We had a full salon day before the day of shooting.” She admitted, “I was nervous but I was hopeful. BUT when I saw the stylist was a sista, I was able to let my guard down and my face lit up!” The ULTA team didn’t just hire any makeup artist, they hired celebrity natural hair stylist Pekela Riley. Lydia René gushed that she “literally revived my 4B/4C hair and it looked so amazing!”
However, the entire experience wasn’t seamless. On the day of the outside shoot, it was raining…hard. Any Black woman with Type 4 hair knows that water on a fresh style is like kryptonite for our hairstyles. Lydia René hared that her “hair started to lose its curls and get frizzy,” however, because they had a Black woman stylist, who specialized in natural hair, “she was able to combat that and still had me looking amazing!”
Lydia René recently had a a baby shower for her soon coming arrival. Pregnancy can be nerve wracking for model, but for Lydia René her ULTA campaign was the first day of her pregnancy! Nine weeks later, she booked another campaign and admitted that she was “absolutely terrified” because she was modeling clothing and “felt very sick, sweaty and nauseous the entire time” but hid it until the end of the day.
Lydia René is a plus size model and shared that not only is she plus sized but she also has “very large hips and thighs and butt” admitting that she can be a “bit harder to fit than the abverage person.” However, she was dressed in an Eloquii fringe dress and jade jacket for her ULTA shoot and revealed “the whole team was super nice and thankfully all the looks they pulled for me fit BEAUTIFULLY.”
The models career is taking off and she is certainly one to watch. We chat on the phone effortlessly and it feels more like a conversation with a friend versus an interview. Being honest about her insecurities and despite booking campaigns for major brands like Benefit Cosmetics, she shared, “Sometimes I create a narrative in my head that I don’t belong or that I’m not good enough to be where I am and it’s not because of anything anyone said or did, it’s just my own insecurities casing doubt.” Discussing her ULTA experience she admitted that “everyone including the other models on set were really awesome to be around.” Lydia René is gracious, ensuring to give credit to the entire team, something you don’t often see in this industry. “Makeup team was super cool, everyone we e-mailed and spoke with the entire time for ULTA that was on set with us were really great. And especially my girl the photographer! She made me feel like a GODDESS which is so important.”
We’re at such a time for diversity and inclusion, with plus size women breaking barriers. We’re not just seeing one type of Black woman, or one type of plus size woman and it’s refreshing. Lydia René emphasizes, “We are all beautiful every color, shape, size, height and I think that should continue to be represented to the world in all forms of media.” While Lydia René may not have grown up with images like herself, she is now that image that is sparking confidence and visibility for plus size women nationwide. Mom first, model second, she comments, “I want my daughter to grow up seeing herself and seeing that all women are beautiful.”
You’re doing it sis!