Name: Taj Cutting
Agency: Nova Management
Claim To Fame: Cutting is a fixture on the runways at New York Fashion Week. She also appeared on Season 18 of Project Runway.
Taj Cutting was initially nudged towards the runway by her fashion designer father. “I started modeling actually, when I was a kid, I grew up in a family where my dad, you know, he kind of pushed us. I have two younger brothers and he always wanted us to get into the modeling world,” she told HelloBeautiful.
“So it kind of was natural for us to do so,” she added. Cutting and her brothers grew up in New York and had more access to an early start in creative careers than many other kids did in other parts of the country.
Her father saw the opportunities that the industry could provide but initially Cutting only saw a world that she didn’t quite fit in to.
“I started modeling, I guess, around the age of 14, 15, and then it was kind of the awkward stage though,” she said.
“When I was in high school, I mean, I wanted to model and I really wanted to put myself out there to, you know, go and sign with the agencies and work everywhere. I needed to kind of start my career, but I was very self conscious and I didn’t think I could do it at all.”
Cutting took a break and returned to the industry with a bit more perspective. It wasn’t long after she decided to give the career another try that she started to experience success. She worked her way into New York Fashion Week, onto the set of Project Runway, and into major beauty campaigns.
“It wasn’t until I was 21 when I really was like, ‘Okay, you know what? I can do this. I’m going to start doing this.’ And I just did it. And it happened.”
Having an important ally at her side helped her approach the industry with a new level of calmness.
“My youngest brother is a model. He is with an agency in New York. He’s been modeling for about two or three years now. So we both kind of do this world together and talk about a lot of things together,” she said.
It was helpful to be able to vent so that she could fully move on from past experiences.
“We’re very honest with each other. We joke about it at times, but we’re honest. We say, you know, I went to this casting, waited for hours, didn’t get the job. Or I was an option for this job. Didn’t get confirmed or even worse when it’s things, when it’s things like, Oh, you know, they didn’t need another black model or we weren’t right for that type of job. We talk about it all. And I think we’re very comfortable with just being honest about it,” she said.
She also kept her father’s advice close by.
“My dad, he always would encourage us to just get out there. And to just one thing he always said is that when you walk into any room, you were the, you were in a light, you are the bright and you bring that and carry that with you. And he always encouraged us to kind of hold our heads high, walk into the room, capture the intention and just to be ourselves, because that’s all we can offer.”
Cutting balanced the second leg of her modeling career with her education.
“I went to FIT for my undergrad in interior design and I just finished actually my masters in December of 2019 in exhibits. So I kind of switched a little bit more into exhibit exhibition design, but that’s what I do in addition to modeling,” she said. “I grew up in Brooklyn, I’m from, Crown Heights and I would go to the Brooklyn Museum a lot as a kid with my brothers during the summer. So they have those period rooms. And as a kid, I was always so fascinated by the period rooms and just looking into someone’s home and, you know, kind of seeing the past and as I grew up. I was always rearranging things in my house, always redoing my room. Um, and when I was in high school, I took some high school classes that fit on interior design just to see if I would like it more. And I did, and I still love it to this day.”
The ability to think creatively added to her appeal as a model.
“I find telling a story as an interior designer for another person, I’m trying to put myself in their shoes and see what works best for them, what I envisioned the space up in life from their eyes. And I think the same goes for, for modeling and being on the runway. You want to be able to portray the designers, envision how they envision the clothes to feel, to look on a woman’s body or a man’s body or anyone’s body,” she said.
She was so committed to learning more about design that she selected an agency based on their respect for her goals.
“So at the time my agency was pretty brand new,” she said.
“I felt comfortable with it because I knew I wanted something that was smaller, where I felt as if I was getting more of a personal experience, as opposed to kind of just getting lost in the shuffle. I also knew 2018 was when I was about to start graduate school. And so I knew I wanted an agency that would work around my schedule. And so I was able to go to school as well,” she continued.
“I had a good feeling about it and it’s worked really well. So I was glad I trusted that feeling.”
Design wasn’t the only interest she pursued outside of the spotlight.
“I’m a travel writer. I write about travel and where I’ve gone as a traveler. And I also worked for a couple of other online publications and magazines, kind of just writing SEO and content for them. I also write about design.”
Cutting also made room in her schedule time to volunteer with local organizations including God’s Love We Deliver and New York Cares.
“It’s important because as a native New Yorker, I owe so much to the city that I grew up in and giving back to the city to the people here has always been something that’s been in my heart and something that I’ve wanted to prioritize.”
As the former epicenter of the global conundrum New York has needed a great deal of support in recent months.
The turmoil in the city made Cutting question if she wanted to continue modeling.
“COVID started in March. I actually was thinking to myself, all right, well, this is it. You know, I don’t know how I’m modeling, how I would go back to being on really big sets with lots of people and, you know, having a makeup artist touch my face. I didn’t know how comfortable I felt with that back in March. And so I was thinking to myself back then, all right, well maybe this is the end of modeling. Maybe this is time for me really, to focus on other things, which I had already done anyway, but I was starting to divert my attention more towards them.”
Seeing how modeling has morphed with the help of technology expanded her view of what the field could look like.
“But now a couple of months later, I’m starting to see just, just how fluid the career is. And I think it’s something that I will continue to do. I don’t want to put a time limit on it. I think I kind of just like going with the flow with it, which is kind of how I got into it again,” she said.
“So I think I’m on this ride until it stops.”