Name: Paris Alexandra
Claim to Fame: Alexandra was the face of a Nike campaign. She has also appeared in PLUS Model Magazine.
For some models, their career begins the moment they take a ballpoint pen to a crisp white sheet of paper. Paris Alexandra’s journey was a little different.
The model, entrepreneur, and yoga instructor can be seen in a major national campaign now but was initially signed up to be an anonymous fit model. “So in 2012, I finally was like, you know what, I want to try this. I started to see and look up to a lot of plus size models and they were really inspiring,” Alexandra told HelloBeautiful.
She headed to a plus-size fashion event and began networking with those excelling in the space. “From there I took some pictures and I kind of submitted it. Like I kinda dip my toes into it but I never fully stepped into it,” she said.
She eventually got signed to an agency as a fit model. “I didn’t fit for anybody. I just got signed and then nothing happened.”
Alexandra saw the lack of traction as a sign that she should shift her focus to her other responsibilities. “I just felt like, well maybe it’s not for me ‘cause also I didn’t have a lot of money to like, you know pay for a bunch of photo shoots. And I was in school at the time,” she said.
She was studying at Goddard, and credits much of her later professional success to the concepts she explored there. As a young woman she was open to learning from others.
“My background is interdisciplinary study, so I was studying like Black women writers and just personal narrative and telling your story. I was always interested in telling stories and always interested in bringing people together through art. So I was just doing that and I was doing a lot in groups with young women talking about like identity, race, um, oppression, internalized oppression and how we unlearn that within ourselves and just critically thinking about the world as it relates to ourselves,” she continued.
“I don’t think that I’ve discovered anything on my own. I feel like I just, along in my journey have had so many different people that have influenced me. So I was doing a lot of that work, um, prior to modeling and was just in that world. Modeling was just something that was like of interest to me.”
Her experiences connecting with other women who were questioning the same things reinforced her opinion that there was a need for people like her in the modeling industry.
She wasn’t just a cliche co-ed who was content to share what she was learning by starting fights at Thanksgiving. She was serious about changing systems she saw as unjust.
“I’m really always interested in like representation and what that means and what that means for me as a black woman with lighter skin. Like what does that mean? What am I representing? Is there equal record across the board? And so even when I was dipping into the modeling world in 2012, I wanted to bring all their models, Black models, particularly together of different skin tones and different body sizes.”
She attempted to work on projects to unite and uplift Black women but had difficulty due to a lack of resources. “I tried a couple of projects. Again, I was young and broke, so they didn’t like, you know, see the light of day,” she admitted.
Alexandra didn’t let projects that died on the vine, keep her from sowing new seeds. After completing her post-graduate studies Alexandra and a partner set out to claim space in the white washed New York yoga landscape.
“I tried yoga and like the first time I tried it I just immediately fell in love with it and just continued on that journey.”
“My business partner (Alicia Ferguson) and myself, we both identified a need,” she said. They chose to create a studio in response to “not seeing yourself represented in the wellness space.”
Ferguson and Alexandra worked to make sure women who looked like them felt welcome in the whitewashed wellness movement.
“We had the opportunity to open up the studio and we did it on the weekends and then it quickly grew and then we were subleasing it. So then we got our own space. And since June of 2019 we’ve been open, became a club. And so the vision has been to like inspire inclusivity and inspire creativity and community,” said Alexandra. They’ve worked with non-profits including Brownsville Community Justice to bring that mission to young people who might now be able to afford a class or have anyone to expose them to the benefits of mindfulness.
Alexandra became a certified yoga instructor and worked with Ferguson to build their community and break the stereotypes associated with larger bodies.
“I think it’s good to see. To be plus-sized and visible in fitness is powerful because the young women or men who come before you or come after you will be able to say like, ‘I can do that. I don’t have to be afraid to take up space.’”
COVID-19 shifted that space to the virtual realm. BK Yoga Club has been holding virtual classes and relying on community support to keep them afloat throughout the pandemic.
The location has changed but the mission has not. Alexandra said she wants it to be a place people can “come and feel safe and feel seen and feel like they can get their sights of peace from like the busy-ness of New York city and like they could, you know, no matter what size they are, whatever gender expression, you know, whatever, you can come as you are and just meet yourself, where you’re at and do what you need to do on the mat.”
It was the resilient spirit behind the effort to create a thriving club that eventually made the modeling industry come to her.
“I’m in a campaign for Nike right now for yoga. It was a global campaign and that was a super powerful experience because I was there simply off the strength of like I am, which I thought was really nice and they wanted to really capture and share my story and that felt really empowering.”
The campaign provided Alexandra to achieve some of the goals she had set for herself during college.
“I also had an opportunity to bring other, other voices of black women into my work, which was amazing too. So that for me was like a really profound experience and just being able to like collaborate, and again tell stories and also model… It was like all the things that I am in one and it was like a dream.”