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Raisavanessa - Runway - September 2019 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows

Source: Mike Coppola / Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Raisavanessa

Name: Dujonette DJ Smith 

IG: @xoxodjsmith

Agency: Bicoastal Management 

Claim To Fame: Smith is a regular fixture at NYFW. She has walked the runway for major designers including one of Michelle Obama’s favorites Sergio Hudson. 

Dujonette DJ Smith once sat in a chair with a stranger trying to rake a blowdryer through her hair murmuring to themselves “I got it.” They did not have it. 

Not long after she was shaving parts of her hair. Smith shared her experience with others in the fashion industry to prevent someone else from having to do the same. “I kind of shaved my head last year because I had a little bit of damage and I felt like I had to speak up against the person,” she told HelloBeautiful. Her efforts to combat the damage eventually resulted in a cute style but Smith was understandably frustrated she had been forced into making that choice. “I’m happy with the choice I made now. But at the time I was a little upset because I had my hair got damaged and I had ended up having to shave it. And I had to speak up because the hairstylist clearly was not prepared to deal with my hair type.” 

Studio 189 - Runway - September 2019 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows

Source: Mike Coppola / Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

The seasoned runway model was no stranger to the lack of preparedness some of those backstage could have. She often brought her own makeup when stylists wouldn’t have her shade. “It’s a learning curve for most people. Some people, they, they come on set and they think they know everything about everyone, every hair type, skin type,” she continued. “You have to learn that everyone’s different. And they, I think a lot of people take that for granted and when they get there and they get put in that situation.” Actresses like Gabrielle Union and Monique Coleman have spoken out about the lack of educated stylists on set. Union recently installed a provision in her contracts to include culturally competent stylists but for someone like Smith, without that level of financial security or professional credibility it wasn’t an option. 

Smith began modeling after abandoning her pre law studies at University Of Central Florida. She wasn’t famous, had no connections and worked her way into the industry on her own to fulfill a childhood dream.

“I was honestly bored at school and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do when my parents pushed me towards going to school. So I guess on a whim decided, you know what, I’m going to do, what I want to do.” The whim worked out. Smith quickly found an agency that placed her in a commercial show. “I submitted a lot of photos, via email and I would just drive down for interviews if they wanted to see me in person,” she said. ”My first job was actually a fashion show for Mattel, it was a Barbie fashion show in Miami and I booked that home Orlando while I was still in school. And I was just like, you know what, I’m tired of driving back and forth. I’m just gonna move down there permanently.” Smith was encouraged by the agency’s feedback. 

“They were super excited to have me, which I was very happy about because that you never want to go with an agency that doesn’t seem that excited to have you, you might not end up booking much, or you just might sit on the board just waiting around,” she advised.She anticipated pushback from her family but they were supportive. “They were okay with it right away. So what was odd was they were like, ‘You need to go to college,’ but I think they just knew that I wasn’t that into it. So when I said I was going to quit school and go down there to model, they were like, ‘okay.” 

Her ability to demonstrate modeling’s potential helped them accept her decision as well. “I was a hostess at a restaurant. And about three months later I was consistently booking and I had some e-com clients that I would shoot with,” Said Smith. Because E-commerce retailers are frequently updating their offerings, they can offer reasonably steady work for models. “So then I didn’t need the job anymore. So I quit that. And I think that was when they were like, okay, she’s got this.” Unlike the stylist Smith really did have it. She expanded into editorial and became a fixture at New York Fashion Week, walking the runway for brands like Sergio Hudson, Temraza, and Raisavanessa. She believed her willingness to be agreeable keeps her working, “I think personality does play a huge role in booking jobs.

CAAFD Emerging Designer Collective - Runway - September 2019 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows

Source: Noam Galai/Getty Images / Noam Galai

As her career grew and she began to walk the runway she used some of the skills she learned in her classes to manage her finances, a crucial component of the generally freelance industry. “You kind of have to keep track of that because people make mistakes, everyone’s human. So you have to basically follow your money.” When Smith isn’t balancing the administrative and public facing portions of her job she’s working with her family to support a non-profit that serves autistic children. “My sister-in-law, she runs a charity,” she said.  “Whenever she needs help, I’m there.” 

She plans to keep learning new techniques to advance her skill set so that she can go further. She recently began taking acting classes to prepare herself for commercial castings, so that she can be prepared when opportunity arrives. 

“I can always still learn, even if I’ve been doing this for a very long time.” 

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