Name: Somalia Knight
Agency: We Speak Models
Claim To Fame: Knight has appeared in London Fashion week, New York fashion week, and spreads in Nylon, i-D, and Scorpion. She was also featured in a Laquan Smith presentation.
When the lights turned down at London Fashion week in 2017 Somalia Knight strutted out first on the runway because she had the courage to turn her fashion obsession into a full-on extracurricular activity. “It was something that I was very interested in high school. I started a fashion club,” she told HelloBeautiful. “We used do annual fashion fashion shows.”
At some schools a fascination with the modeling industry might have made a young Knight popular but sadly it turned her into a target where she was enrolled. “I was always into fashion, I was like the number one fan of America’s next top model. As a child, I was bullied a lot for it,” she revealed. Her classmates were more concerned with touchdowns than the catwalk. Some seniors even added her to a Mean Girls style “burn book,” where they mocked her goals.
“Our football team was like known throughout the state of Florida and a lot of like a lot of football players there, they’d go off to be like NFL players.” Setting up a non-athletic student organization wasn’t easy. “It was a whole long process because I went to a predominantly sports school so it was very hard to get as approved.” She lobbied school administrators and eventually pulled it off. She even helped turn the events into charitable initiatives. Proceeds for ticket sales for the shows “went to two different nonprofit organizations.”
“One was for eating disorders and then the other one was to help kids get adopted.”
Knight reached out to nearby modeling agencies in Miami to kick start her career off campus but received the feedback that her look was “odd,” and that she was better off “being a fashion model than a commercial Miami model.”
After years of practicing her walk, and preparing for her future the rejection was discouraging for Knight. “I literally did everything underneath the sun. I was submitting via models.com. I was going to open calls, and I was doing some emails, just like finding whatever, whatever way I could get some agencies to be like, ‘Oh, okay. Somalia is somebody, you should know.’ I was literally doing it.” It also affected her family. “They kind of were a little bit nervous because of the ‘Nos’ I was receiving and they thought it kind of took quite a bit of a toll on my personality. I was sad most of the time because I wasn’t fulfilling what I wanted to do. So that’s like the only time that they were a bit worried, but they’re okay now.” Part of the reason her family could set aside her fears was that they helped her get signed when they took a trip to New Jersey where she connected with a mother agent with fashion experience. The rep submitted her to larger agencies after “building her books,” and one asked her to meet.
“I got signed in person,” she said. “The agency asked to see me and then, I left and then literally, maybe 30 to 45 minutes later, my agent is calling me, telling me that I need to go back in ‘cause they’re offering me a contract.” That contract would lead to others and eventually Knight became one of the most sought after models in the industry. She walked for Tracy Reese, Wiederhoeft, Vfiles, and more. She also appeared in Nylon Magazine, i-D Magazine, Scorpion magazine and a campaign for E-Spirit.
Her success proved she really did know what she was doing when she carved out a path for herself when she was still forced to attend homeroom. She described the conviction that allowed her to keep going when rejected. “I felt like God put this in my head and I know I’ve got it put in my head, then it was meant for me to do it.”
She wants to contribute her time and resources to anti-bullying causes in the future because she knows the harmful impact bullying can have. “I was bullied for so long thinking that I was just absolutely horrendous looking this and this most of my life now to get booked because of my looks and my ears, it doesn’t erase it,” she said. She’d also like to contribute to creating more opportunities for photographers who are women. “I think in my lifetime, I’ve probably only shot with three in my, in my lifetime,” she said.
Currently she is breaking into “360 digital modeling” and considering returning to school.
“They’re doing a lot of these virtual runway shows, and Somalia Knight is going to be there.”