Name: Dr. Summer Wayans
Agency: Bicoastal MGMT
Claim to Fame: Wayans has booked campaigns with Footlocker, Ashley Stewart, Wet Seal+, Forever 21+, and K-Mart . She has appeared in She is also making her way to television. She recently appeared on Just Eats with Cheff JJ on TVOne.
Models deal with rejection daily. It usually means taking a hit to their income, self-esteem, or both. For Dr. Summer Wayans a splash of rejection jump-started her career instead of stalling it. “I was about to graduate with my bachelor’s and I didn’t get into my master’s program,” she revealed to HelloBeautiful.
“And I was kind of like, wait, what do you mean I didn’t get in? So I ended up having to take a year off. And in that year I did a lot of research for universities and I ended up going to Alliant International University, which is a professional school,” she said.
There she studied psychology and became invested in the idea of total mental, physical, and spiritual wellness, something that has served her personally and professionally. In 2017 she received her Doctorate in Psychology with an emphasis in Multicultural Community Psychology and she credits her rough path to achieving that goal with much of what distinguishes her as a model for some of the biggest brands in the business.
“It was a whirlwind. I had no idea what I was doing. I stumbled all the way through,” she said.
That stumbling included a stint where she shunned the spotlight. Despite coming from a family that included comedy royalty she initially wasn’t interested in anything but getting her education.
“I grew up in the entertainment family and I was the one that was like, not doing entertainment. No, no, no. Everybody else did entertainment. I’m going to do something different,” she said.
Adding, “I wanted nothing to do with entertainment. I wasn’t with it like I was like, no, no, no. I’m going to go to school. All my family projects, not one have I auditioned for, I was like, no, it’s okay. I’m good. I’m okay.”
She admits that was a lonely path and when the door to grad school shut closed, she wasn’t really sure what was left on the other side.
“I’m a first-generation college student. No one could really help guide me. Everyone was just really excited that I wanted to go to college,” she admitted.
Not being able to look to her family for guidance made navigating her path to higher learning difficult. But it also placed her in a position to really think critically about what she wanted before committing herself, a process that would serve her well throughout her modeling career. She briefly studied business, before settling on psychology and imagined and reimagined her career several times before choosing what direction she wanted to go in.
“I wanted to be business savvy and be able to run my businesses and things like that. So I was like, alright, I’m gonna double major. And after my first four business classes, I got my first four CS ever I realized, my academics and business may not go so well together.”
Thankfully while her family might not have been very useful in the bursar’s office, they were easy to talk to and observing them provided her with enough general knowledge to advocate for herself on sets.
“My teachers were like you know this stuff,” she said.
She acknowledges that like many other models she felt pressure when she arrived on sets but her ability to realize that the world wouldn’t end if she didn’t book a shoot helped her remain mindful.
“I don’t know that I felt less pressure. I think that I just, you know, I just really wanted to be diligent in thinking about it, you know, and not allowing the pressure to necessarily change me. So I listen, I take information in, but ultimately I have to sit with it and see ‘How does that sit with me and what I want for my life?’ I’ve done photoshoots and then I go and I’m like, ‘All right mom, look at these pictures. Which ones would you be okay with me posting?” she asked.
“That’s important to me. Those are different things that I feel like I felt comfortable saying, you know. Okay. Well, let me check in with somebody real fast about this because it’s important to me. Or, let me hold this for a second and think about it before I take a step forward doing it.”
Continuing, “I didn’t start off modeling until I was older. And when I say older, I’m meaning not as a teenager or kid, you know. So I kind of had a grasp on the things that I wanted to do and things that I didn’t want to do. And so I sought out opportunities that would allow me to do those things.”
Her family and friends were surprised that one of those things included modeling in the first place.
“It was really funny and interesting for people because people who know me know I have a really big personality, but I’m actually kind of shy. So me as a model is like, really you want to do that? So when I finally came around like, this is something that I’m going to do, you know?”
Adding, “I was on my way to grad school, I was in college, I was on that path and so my brother’s kinda like, “Wait so, you’re going to be a doctor model?’ And I’m like, ‘Actually, yeah.’ He calls me the trailblazer cause he was like, you know, I don’t know anyone doing, doing it the way you’re doing it and you’re always doing something different and knocking down some wall, you know, facing a challenge in overcoming.”
One of the challenges she actively overcomes every day is the stereotypes projected onto plus-size women. As a psychologist, she has committed herself to observe the bias against larger bodies in the average person and as a model and budding television personality she actively combats it by telling her story and displaying her body. She was actually so used to fast shaming in society she assumed she would not book her first casting because of her size.
“I was online and I saw a casting call and it said casting models of all sizes. And I was like, ‘Yeah, right!”
Growing up in thin-obsessed Los Angeles she seriously doubted the ad’s claims.
“Being a plus-size woman, especially a plus-size African American movement I have come across so many different stereotypes and stigmas regarding me, assumptions about how I eat or the ideas of being healthy and unhealthy.”
A lifetime of judgement inspired her to prioritize understanding who she was and how she felt over societal standards.
“At the end of the day I’m like, well, I want knowledge, right? I want to know how to be my best self, not based on imagery, but based on facts and evidence and how I feel and to be aware of my body and my mind. I work with people, right? To understand it, but everything is connected, you know. And so I set out on a mission for myself to understand. And even my doctor had some bias.”
Like many plus-size women and Black women, she experienced the struggle of dealing with a health care provider who wanted to make recommendations before the first drop of blood was drawn.
“You know, I walk in and immediately her first thing is, you know, she wants to talk about weight and then I’m going to have to lose some weight. And then after we get blood work, she’s like, well wow with your family history and quite frankly at your size, you know, like I thought you were gonna have this problem, that problem that. And she’s like, I mean all your levels are great. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it. And so it’s just kind of like one of those things that you sit back and you’re like, wait a minute, the world has me thinking I’m about to die. You know?”
As a large woman who has always been active and health-conscious, she rejects society’s idea of plus-size women as sloths without self-control.
“I grew up in a household with five kids. You know, I had a bunch of siblings, we ate the same foods and played outside of the same times. You know, I’ve always been busy and everybody else was, it’s not been an issue. But on the outside, people like to find issues.”
She presents her personal approach to health with her initiative Fit My Way, where she emphasizes the importance of self-care. She exercises self-care daily by choosing who she surrounds herself with on set and off.
“When I’m happy and I’m in a place where I’m being supported, that’s where I’m gonna flourish because I know what I want and when it’s not, you know, that’s where you start to have to like, okay, I gotta go the other way now.
Along that other way are commitments to Educational Alliance Foundation, the Los Angeles County Alliance of the Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Wayans Girl Foundation where she can put her skills in practice to combat bias.
Recently she has been developing new skills in front of the camera. After being approached by a content creator she agreed to appear in a short-form comedy. After a lifetime of walking away from the family business, she was bitten by the bug honestly. Her voice perks up when descries taking on the new challenge.
“It’s similar to the feeling that I get, you know, when I’m, you know, killing a photoshoot or I hit the runway for the first time, you know, in a show, you know, it’s just, it’s exhilarating and it’s amazing to be able to share that art with people and for people to be able to connect and relate with you in different kinds of ways and in different forums.”
“So it’s really exciting.”