Name: Kalah Christina
Agency: Bicostal New York/ Mademoiselle Paris/ Wild London/ Ten Chicago/ 20 Capetown
Claim To Fame: She has walked for some of the biggest Black designers of our generation including Pyer Moss and Sergio Hudson.
Runways can be a scary place. In a traditional show blinding lights leap out at you from every direction while deconstructed shows can put you face to face with the fashion editors who matter so much to your employer. Some models try to think about a loved one to keep them centered, others look for a friendly face in the crowd to fight the frenzy. Kalah Christina chooses a different method-rage.
“Honestly, I channel a bit of, I guess you can say anger, believe it or not, even though I look calm and excited and I do feel that I can have a bit of anger in the sense of, as I think about how hard it is to even get to that point and how hard it is to just be embraced in the industry,” she told HelloBeautiful.
“So when I’m walking down the runway, I’m kind of thinking to myself like, ‘Yeah, I told you. I told you I could do this. Here I am.’ You know what I mean? That’s kinda like the drive for me. It’s kind of like ‘I told you I can do it,’ and that that kind of empowers me to go out there and just kill it.”
When she is gliding down the catwalk in Sergio Hudson, it’s hard to believe that there were people who ever doubted that she would end up there.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have people support me and believe in me, my family, friends…It’s just the industry people who have been difficult. They just micromanage every single thing in a second. It’s been discouraging a lot of ways. So I kind of think about those moments when I’m out there.”
The feedback from industry professionals was surprising to her. “It happened quite often when I first started pursuing it,” she said.
Even though she didn’t come from a fashion capital she never saw her world as small. As the now international model was growing up in Cleveland, it never occurred to her that she might not end up on major runways. Success was a given, in her mind. “I always thought I had it. I always thought I had what it took,” she said.
“My environment wasn’t necessarily a factor in my mind. I saw myself for who I thought I could be and I would see other models and see how they were progressing and I just kind of mirrored after that and just believed it.”
That clarity led her to contact a local feeder agency. “They were recruiting up-and-coming aspiring models and actors. So they sent me the information and that’s how I got to New York,” she said. She eventually tried to break into the LA market where she says she said she was, “not a fit.”
“When I first started really sending my images to agencies, I would meet with like, different consultants and mother agents and get their opinions. And I’ve had certain mother agents specify what they didn’t like about my face and my features down to the way I pose with my toes. And they were just really specific with everything they didn’t like about me. And it just really put me in a place of feeling defeated and it just hit me hard and I just felt like there was a new level of pressure that I didn’t have before, after speaking to people like that,” she continued.
She left their feedback behind when crossed into New York.
“New York was definitely a culture shock in general. Just for me being from a small town and then even coming from San Diego and LA where it’s a lot more chill. It was a little bit of a culture shock, but in a good way.”
While she stood out from the cookie cutter LA prototypes, New York reminded her that there is more than one way to be a model.
“It really showed me that there’s more competition than I thought, especially as a model of color because in the LA market it was a little difficult for me and I couldn’t find my niche so to speak. I didn’t really know where I fit. So work was a bit scarce for me. But coming to New York and then embracing my natural hair and seeing that there were a lot of models embracing that as well, and it becoming more acceptable in the past few years in New York definitely opened my eyes to just more in the fact that it’s a bit more accepting than other markets.”
The market is more accepting for designers as well, and that attitude has had an impact on her career.
“I walked for Pyer Moss two seasons ago, I believe it was Fall/Winter 2018. It was just such an amazing experience because he represents so many amazing…. He, he just represents culture and black culture and embracing models and just people in general who are embracing who they are. Just being proud to be black in this country.”
Seeing Moss express who he was through his art hit differently for the young beauty because of the talent she had been hiding from the industry. “So aside from just being on the runway and the modeling, I was just happy to share that moment since I’m an artist,” she said.
Jokingly referring to herself as a “mannequin” in the bio of her instagram profile, she has no reservations about making a living expressing someone else’s point of view but as a painter she is excited to tell her story through brushstrokes.
“I just recently started really promoting my artwork and sharing it with the world on my social media. So, it’s something that I’ve done forever. I studied fine art and a bit of fashion design actually, but I put a pause on it for so long, um, to pursue modeling and other things. I would like to be noticed more for that aspect of myself,” she said.
“I chose mannequin somewhat as like a double meaning, because a mannequin is seen to be something that’s lifeless and with no real purpose and just meant to basically have clothes on them and to make clothing look good. Which is one aspect of modeling, I guess more of a negative aspect because you’re not really seen for more than what you look like and what you bring to a garment,” she continued.
“But at the same time, embracing it is like me feeling empowered because I am looked at for, you know, how great I can make a garment look and and how I can elevate an intense designer’s vision.”
She expresses her own vision in drawings and paintings.
“When I’m painting, I have to say it’s, it’s a really empowering feeling because a lot of my paintings will, all of my paintings actually come from my imagination and it deals with something that I’ve dealt with personally in my life, something that I’ve, I’ve overcome or that I’m trying to overcome.”
Just as she defiantly walks in fashion shows, she controls the narrative on the canvas.
“So when I’m actually painting and bringing it into fruition, it’s such an empowering feeling because I know that I’m finally doing it and I’m manifesting it. And once I’m finished, I mean it’s just an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment.”
Her pieces don’t just empower her, they reflect her far better than an offhand comment from a former production assistant in a dreary casting office.
“All of my pieces deal with things that I become aware about myself. And a lot of it has happened because of the challenges that I’ve dealt with in the industry, and it has opened my eyes to different parts of myself that I can work on or, or utilized to help other people. So yeah I feel really excited to share it with, with everyone.”