Name: Veronika Collins
Agency: Yanii Models/New Icon NY
Claim to Fame: Collins began modeling as a child booking jobs for Target, Land’s End, Children’s Place and Aldo Kids. Recently she has appeared in campaigns for Tom Ford and Sergio Hudson.
Veronika Collins was clutching her mother’s hand on the A train when she had the moment most models dream of. “I started as a child way back when. I was scouted on the train, when I was with my mom and that’s how I first, like, was introduced to the industry,” she told HelloBeautiful. “I was probably about five.”
The Brooklyn native found herself going from playgrounds to photoshoots before she knew it. “I was doing Children’s Place. I was doing Land’s End and Target, Halloween costume stores, haircare, Aldo kids, uh, Benetton a whole bunch of stuff,” she said. Her mother was at her side for every shoot. “Our car was literally like a dressing room, a changing room going from casting to casting some school to you know with crayons in the bag,” she said.
“My mom, she definitely allowed me to have every experience and every opportunity, that she found that I was interested in,” she said. “She definitely helped spark my creative side.”
As she grew older her mother held her to her commitments but also provided her the flexibility to explore. If she wanted to take a dance class, work on her singing voice, or try piano lessons she was encouraged to do so.
“She definitely pushed me but she also let me kind of make my own choices as well, which I feel like is great because I am an only child. So I’m just naturally curious, independent and like, Oh, let me do this all over the place. So yeah, that’s like my sister pretty much.”
Once Collins grew a little older she used what she learned from her early professional experiences to branch out on her own. “I took it into my own hands,” she said.
As a teenager she auditioned for Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and after belting out her own take on Baraba Stresidenad’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” she was admitted. “I ended up being a vocal major and I was honestly the best four years of my life. Like, I know people hate high school, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.” She attended college briefly after graduating but soon began focusing on her career. “I tried to balance school and modeling, but you know, once I graduated, I was like, ‘No, this is my full-time job.”
Navigating the industry without her mother to hold her hand was unnerving. “It was definitely very intimidating,” said Collins. “I feel like there was like a different vibe.” Even as a young veteran with a decade of experience she encountered difficulties. She felt like her look was not what agencies were going for a few years ago.
“Compared to way back when I feel like there’s definitely a lot more, a lot more inclusivity, for sure. Especially with being a model of color, usually I would feel that there was only enough space for at least one or two of us. And I feel like now that people are, I guess, waking up and realizing that, ‘Hey, like we don’t have to only have one quote unquote representation of a Black model.’ We come in various shapes, sizes in textures, hair textures and everything like that. And I also love how, models also have been making a community for themselves in order to share their experiences and to kind of have our own network of, I got your back, you got mine and we’re going to speak about like everything and, you know, like kind of bring awareness to it,” she said.
“We can’t just close a blind eye anymore. Like we’ve come way too far.”
She continued to search for and show up at castings determined to make things happen until she found an agency home where she was happy. “Thank God for social media. You could find anything nowadays,” she added. “I was very nervous of course, especially when it comes to, I would say walking more than taking digitals because it’s like, everyone’s just staring at you and it’s like, ‘Oh God, like don’t fall, don’t mess up. Like you have one chance literally. So, it was definitely a little nerve wracking”
“It definitely was a little scary but I never let no stop me,” she said. Collins described the difficulties of breaking into an industry that often shuts those who aren’t considered insiders.
“Like of course I got discouraged sometimes and it’s hard when you’re just freelancing and you’re, um, kind of not with the right people or not in the right place at the right time, or even have people that were supposed to support you, but then they also don’t,” she admitted.
She attributes her significant success to her decision to keep working even when things were not paying off.
“It’s also kind of like a give and take of, either you let it make you or break you. But you know, it all comes with the craziness. So yea it just kind of helped mold me to be the person that I am today.”
That person is someone who is passionate about giving back to her community. “I’m definitely going to go back to, the conservatory of music that I grew up playing piano and singing at,” she said. Shortly after she graduated high school she spent time volunteering in the Park Slope area. “I used to work with autistic children and adults, doing music therapy.” She dreams of having her own program to serve those with similar needs one day.
“Most people don’t understand that music can heal more than medicine,” she said. “These are sick children and adults, most of them can’t really communicate or speak. So through music when they have episodes or when they’re feeling anxious, it can definitely help to calm them down, to learn how to communicate, to kind of just soothe them, you know, for a day, like have them looking forward to something. It was definitely a great experience.”
She plans on consistently giving back to the borough as she becomes more successful.
“I rep Brooklyn all day every day,” she said proudly. “Brooklyn was shunned once upon a time, but now it’s popping and it’s hot, but you know, we’ve been on the block we’ve been here, so it’s just kind of like paying tribute to my community and where I’m from,” she added.
“I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a Brooklyn girl from Bed-Stuy and I will rep that forever.”