Name: Taryn Harvey
Agency: EMG Models /Anita Norris Models/ Fusion Models
Claim to Fame: Harvey was featured in one of the few socially distanced shows at this September’s New York Fashion Week. She has also been featured in Toronto Fashion Week and Pump Magazine.
Taryn Harvey was having a tough time pursuing a career in dance in Toronto when she mentioned to a friend that she might want to try modeling. “I don’t have that that fantasy story of getting scouted at McDonald’s or like scouted while you’re shopping. My story was pretty literal,” she said.
“I would say I was interested just from wanting to kind of combat my shyness and seeing mom was on the runway and models in magazines, they look so confident. So I was like, you know, ‘Let me try this.’ It’s so opposite of who I was at the time,” she admitted. “I actually talked to friends about it.” She didn’t know her off-hand comment would lead to her sitting in the hot seat at three agencies when her friend placed action behind her thoughts.
“He’s like, ‘Get whatever pictures you have.’ And he actually walked me to several agents at the time and I signed with one that same day.”
The process was daunting for the Jamaican beauty but she was afraid of what would happen if she didn’t move quickly.
“I had this idea in my head and I wanted to start like right away,” she said. “I thought I was going to back out of it. I thought I was going to procrastinate and then not go back and, and not follow through with it,” she added. The signing led to a crash course in the dynamics of an area of the Fashion industry that many remain unaware of.
“Every person that I looked up to say, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, they were all from the US. So I never had a perception of like a Canadian model,” said Harvey. “I didn’t know what would take place. I didn’t understand, like I knew that there was a Toronto fashion week. I knew there were Toronto magazines. I knew there were Toronto brands, but I didn’t really have that perception. I think all that perception was from like the Vogue magazines, where I was looking at French models and American models,” she continued. Learning the logistics of navigating unfamiliar territory was a tough task. “I kind of jumped the gun a little bit. I didn’t do a lot of research cause I probably should have, but at the time I just really wanted to start. It just seemed so fascinating and interesting to me. So I kind of just went into it,” said Harvey.
Adjusting to new information was something she had been required to do before, so she knew she could make it work.
“I was born in Jamaica. I grew up between Jamaica, Houston and Toronto. So previously I lived in Toronto before and then I went back to Jamaica to finish up high school and I came back to Canada. It was kind of just adjusting because each time I moved around a lot as a kid. So each time I moved around, I had to adjust and, you know, Toronto was an adjustment to make.”
Harvey had to make a huge personal adjustment to pursue dancing. As a tween and teenager she worked to overcome her shyness and insecurities. “I was always shy, always. I remember, when I was really, really young, I wouldn’t really speak a lot. I was always observant. I always kind of watched everybody else. Obviously I’d talk with my cousins and stuff, but I was just extremely shy,” she said.
Her muted demeanor grew stronger as she changed addresses repeatedly. She didn’t want to draw attention to herself but her circumstances constantly placed eyes on her. Each time she was in a new place she had to create new relationships and sometimes would wonder if the friction she was feeling was typical “new girl,” struggles or if it was about her.
“Moving around a lot too, you kind of internalize everything,” she said. Later those experiences helped her as she was modeling in Cape Town, South Africa and other cities. “I kind of got comfortable with being in a place for not too long. And I got comfortable with like moving around on my own, and I got comfortable with feeling awkward and in strange places,” she said.
Harvey began dancing in her home country of Jamaica was where she began dancing. “I got into dancing when I was younger, when I was in high school in Jamaica and I loved it. I loved being on stage. For me it was one place where I felt not like I wasn’t asking for attention, but I felt like I was showing a part of myself that was hidden because of my shyness,” she said. “Being on stages, I just, it really, I loved it.” When it came to expressing herself in other arenas she had trouble. A family member encouraged her to find her voice as a child. “I remember my aunt said to me, she was like, ‘if you don’t speak, no one will know what you’re saying’.” The feedback stuck with her and she worked to become comfortable putting herself out there.
“I wanted more for myself and I just felt like I wasn’t going to get more from myself if I was curled up in a corner, shy and afraid to speak,” she said. “And it wasn’t like an egotistical thing at all. Like I just felt like I really wanted to combat my shyness because I just felt like I had something to say to the world, but I just, I couldn’t, I couldn’t voice it. And I didn’t want to grow up being that person that couldn’t speak because of fear of my shyness and couldn’t do things I want to do because of my shyness. So combating it, I joined every club in my high school, in Jamaica, every single club, every single tourism club, the environmental club, the key club in the club I joined just so I could be around kids. I just like trained myself to socialize and try to get that shyness out.”
“I felt like I knew I wanted to do more. I knew I wanted to do more,” she added. “I was always dreamer, even being shy. I was always kind of stuck in my head, always a dreamer.” Part of what she had been dreaming of was being a fashion designer in her own right. “I wanted to be a designer before any of this,” she said. She studied fashion, business and merchandising at George Brown college in Toronto. “iIf I have the space to ask questions, I talk to the designer. If they’re comfortable with me, you know, asking them questions. But that’s another part of why I like modeling too, is I get to see fashion first,
While she was willing to satisfy her curiosities, she was reluctant to speak up as models’ opinions are not always welcome on set. “I was always intimidated to speak up for myself,” she said. “I’m not a confrontational person, so it was hard for me to. You know, you can feel when, when you’re not comfortable in a situation, but sometimes I would just ignore it. Or if I said something, I would just kind of, you know, slightly say it.” As she got more experience she began to get comfortable with using her voice on set. As she worked her way up to working for luxury Canadian brands and the runway at New York Fashion Week she found a way to communicate her needs and share her point of view.
“I feel like now I’m understanding the benefits of really speaking up for myself and calling something outward where it’s not right,” she said. Harvey has faced consequences for doing so but she considers it worth it.
“I’ve had instances with agencies where I spoke up for myself and the agency dropped me,” she revealed. “I’m learning how to do it in a way that whatever happens I’ll still be happy with the results or the outcome.”
Recently she had a chance to put together a spec shoot where she used her voice and perspective to assemble a team. The experience allowed her to collaborate with other creatives on a different level allowing her to reconnect with the dreams she had as a girl in Jamaica, and a student in Toronto. It provided her “something for myself where I was kind of somewhat in control of my career,” she said. “I actually put together a shoot for myself, which is something I’ve always waited for agencies to kind of put something, put things together. I’ve always waited for a client to book me for something,” she said. While she is spending time social distancing she is developing ideas for future projects. “I’m a creative person. I’m very ambitious,” she said. “The next thing I do is going to be something like a career that I create myself.”
She hopes that the people seeing her in ad campaigns and runway are uplifted by the confidence they see to find their own creative fulfillment.
“When I was a kid I looked at these women and I thought they were inspiring and beautiful,” she said. “I hope that if anyone sees me on the runway, they feel that energy of inspiration or confidence and they too, whether it’s modeling or anything else, they have the energy to go for whatever it is they want in life.”