Name: Melonee Rembert
Agency: Nomad Mgmt
Claim To Fame: Rembert has appeared in campaigns and runway shows for brands including Lane Bryant, Zendaya for Tommy Hilfiger, and Kohls.
Pulling all nighters at Temple University, Melonee Rembert assumed her name was headed for fashion magazine fine print, instead her body landed in full page ads. “I went to school for journalism because I wanted to work in fashion, when it got too expensive I had to drop out,” she revealed to HelloBeautiful.
Her story was common as many college students have trouble balancing their finances even with familial support due to rapidly rising living expenses. “I was getting financial aid, but it wasn’t covering everything during my second year,” she said. “I had my mom pay out of pocket for my first semester and then my dad was paying out of pocket and then I got a job at the mall and it was just too much.”
Rembert felt lost after withdrawing from the university. Seeing her writing on the glossy pages of style publications was all she’d ever wanted. “I didn’t really know what to do next.”
Like frightened women before her she chose a new direction with the help of some metal shears. “I was kinda spiraling. I shaved my head,” she revealed. “It was scary, but in a good way. And when I walked out of the shop, I just felt so liberated and free. And I was just like, this is my look.”
She received lots of positive feedback after the big chop. “Everybody would say to me ‘You should start modeling, you should start modeling.’ So I just decided to do it, just to get my foot in the door.” She was encouraged by the presence of other models with her look in the marketplace, particularly Philomena Kwao. “I actually did see one model with my look. She won a model search competition for Torrid,” she said. “She had like a short cut at the time. So I was like, wow, like, she looks like me.”
“Seeing her like a dark skinned plus-size woman with short hair really reassured me that I was making the right decision,” she added. Rembert entered a competition of her own and when she did not win she began to pursue modeling from her hometown of Philadelphia. “I saw some girl on Twitter post that she was looking for models, she was a stylist, so I hit her up and then we did a photo shoot.” The photographer was pleased with her performance and encouraged her to continue. “I just started reaching out to more and more photographers and eventually I did Philly Fashion Week and then started reaching out to people in New York.” After working pro bono on spec photoshoots Rembert worked her way into a place where she was receiving compensation for her work. “Then I started getting paid for your jobs out there. And then in 2018, three years later, I applied to some agencies and then I got signed.”
Remebert pitched herself to agencies after doing some research to find potential contacts. “I was trying to find everybody who worked there so I could find a direct email for them and I ended up finding one. So I sent them an email and I sent them ten photos of myself. Three or four of them are just like raw digitals. And then the rest were all the photo shoots that I had done during the time in Philly,” she said. “They emailed me back and they asked me to come in for a meeting. I went in for a meeting. I took the bus to New York and then they just signed me on the spot. So that was really cool.”
She remained living in Philadelphia, and working at her day job until she was confident she could support herself exclusively through modeling, a choice often made by creatives who live in New York’s surrounding states. “I was like, I don’t want to be broke out there. And like, I know so many of my friends who are just like sofa hopping and I don’t want to do that. So I’m just going to have to like commute. I was working as a server and catering at the time, and in between I would just go to New York, like get on the Greyhound bus and go to New York for all these casting things and jobs,” she said.
The agency soon secured her some solid gigs that jeopardized her stable employment. “My first job with them was with J crew. So that was like a huge opportunity. And after that, it just, I just started working all the time,” said Rembert. “I was still commuting and I ended up getting fired from my serving job every day. They were hating on me but it worked out.”
She appeared in campaigns and runways shows for brands including Lane Bryant, Zendaya for Tommy Hilfiger, and Theophilio. She also works with the non-profit the real catwalk to promote body positivity that allows the next generation of models not to count themselves out before even getting started and runs an affirmation focused appareal line called LUNYS (love understand nourish yourself). “It doesn’t feel real, but I really feel grateful,” she said before adding“I was insecure about my body a lot, like in high school growing up.”
“I always thought that I was gonna have to work behind-the-scenes in fashion and just write about it or whatever. And I never thought that I could be the face of it.”