Name: Yaris Mason
Agency: EMG Models
Claim To Fame: Mason is one of the newest faces at EMG Models.
Yaris Mason was so fascinated with modeling as a child, she learned the art of negotiation by pleading to watch America’s Next Top Model. “I remember being in elementary school, like begging my mom to like stay up late,” she told HelloBeautiful. “It’s one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do.”
She would practice the skills needed to excel in modeling. “I would like be cleaning the house or vacuuming the house and teaching myself to walk in heels,” she continued. “I started to figure out my shape and my body and things that look good on me, I love being behind the camera.”
Mason believed she had the abilities, but she was discouraged by Tocarra Jones being the sole contestant that she related to. She didn’t see a place for herself in the ads and shows was taking in. “There weren’t many women who looked like me,” she said. “There wasn’t anyone who was even my size.”
With mainstream media obscuring her access to the world of the Liris Crosses and the Tabria Majors, Mason didn’t see a path to becoming a professional model so she focused on finishing her education. She attended West Virginia Marshall University for undergrad, where her weight fluctuated and made her question trying to model even more. “In college, my weight went up and down, but mainly up and I got so discouraged,” she said. “I would barely even look at myself like in the mirror.” She then obtained a Master’s degree from Kean University before beginning a career in nonprofit management and talent acquisition. When she realized she remained creatively unfilled she began looking for guidance.
She met with a coach who suggested she take steps to build a portfolio and directed her to resources including the photographer who took the shots that would get her signed to an agency. The increase in visibility of plus-size models also put her in a position to learn more. Some of the faces making headway were even kind enough to offer her advice. “I actually reached out to someone who I view as like a mentor, her name’s Halle Deneen,” said Mason. “It was such a blessing for me to be able to connect with other models.”
“This was a new world for me. So any advice that I could get, I was willing to take into consideration to make the right decision best for me,” she added.
She volunteered her time at community fashion shows to get hands on experience. “Being backstage was like the best feeling ever. I was like, this is something I want to do,” she said. “From that point forward, I just continued to like work my butt off.” She built her book by doing some grassroots work with a small vintage emporium that allowed her rights to the images. She also invested in a session with a professional photographer, had her measurements taken and began to research the agency submission process.
“I just really took a chance on myself. That was really how I got started,” she said. Taking a chance required setting aside insecurities about her body. “I was very fearful, very scared, had a lot of self doubt. Cause it’s just always been one of those things, like in the back of my mind, what if, what if you’re not accepted? What if you’re not good enough.”
Fear nearly kept Mason from getting an agent. She let the images and research sit. “I actually got my digitals and I sat on them for like two, three weeks,” she said. “Something just came over me and I felt like still I’m not good enough. Or I feel like this is still something that I, um, maybe I’m not really meant to do. But then one night I was literally up. Like I had a pretty rough day. I remember it so clear. And I’m like, I’m just gonna submit.”
She was offered a slot the next day. “I’m grateful and surprised that someone even reached back out to me,” she said. “My confidence started to increase because I’m like, ‘Wow, I really can do this. And I am doing it.”
Mason hopes her work as a model will create a relatable example for other young curvy girls in the future so that lack of representation won’t keep them from following their dreams.
“I definitely want to be for younger girls to see someone that looks like them.”