Name: Nikeva Stapleton
Agency: Wilhelmina Models
Claim to Fame: Stapleton has modeled for Balenciaga, Athleta, Vitamin Shoppe and more. She is also a professional dancer who appeared on BET’s Rip The Runway.
Nikeva Stapleton was once one of those sun-kissed twenty somethings circling high-priced hoodies in a Hollister store.
“I started modeling right after college. I went to school in New York and I’m a dancer,” she said. “I actually took a job as a model at the Hollister flagship store.” The gig was a godsend. “I took that job while I was auditioning for dance things like through my agent and while on that job, I was scouted by an agency in New York. So I took that on and just jumped into the modeling world and started going on castings.”
Hollister provided her the chance to capitalize. “The good thing about that role is that it’s like made for models,” she said. “They would allow you to leave and go to castings, so it was very flexible and it was the only ‘job job’ I’ve had to this day.”
She began booking right away. “I was very blessed that the modeling took off from there,” she continued. Her studies at “Fordham University and the Alvin Ailey school,” gave her a literal and metaphorical leg up in castings. She would go on to work for brands including Athleta and Balenciaga and soon she would be on a Time Square billboard mere blocks away from where she would be sitting in classes and shuffling to her work shifts.
“I was naturally comfortable in front of the camera growing up as a dancer and constantly performing,” said Stapleton. “So it was a very smooth segue into modeling, coming from a dance background too, you’re very comfortable with your body. ”
“The body has its own language,” she added.
“I am so blessed that I started out as a dancer at such a young age because I felt like I learned that and it has really helped me in my modeling career, as well as my acting career.”
The athletic build she developed dancing allowed her to serve a niche in the industry. “That language for me knowing my body as a dancer and as a former athlete, it translates on camera very organically,” she said. “I feel like I’m just aware of where my body placement is, so I don’t necessarily need to depend on the mirror to know what looks good or feels good.”
She hopes to add to body diversity in swimsuit modeling. “I have a very athletic build and back in the day, Sports Illustrated was very curvy and like large chests which is beautiful in its own. Right but it’s really nice now to see other models being included that are different body shapes,” she said. “I think one that is often left out is that athletic build and I would love to do that.”
“It’s not just about the body, but you’re emoting, you’re telling a story, so your face is incorporated into that,” she added before later noting. “There’s so many muscles in the face.” Stapleton connects those muscles to what she’s hired to sell through visualization. “If you find the intention behind the movement or behind the face if you find that intention you’re able to- I think -get across a better story and present a better piece of art,” she said.
“I love that I’ve truly become comfortable calling myself an artist and a multifaceted artist. I think that the modeling work is art and the acting is art and the dancing is art. So overall I present myself as an artist, but these are different facets of my artistry.”
Modeling comes with the same rejection experienced by dancers. Stapleton booked Athleta after years of courting them. “I had them on my radar since I began modeling like 10 years ago,” she revealed. She did aerial stunts during one of their fashion week events. “This is a brand I really wanted to work for and it’s athletic and it honors dancers and it just felt very aligned and I felt very powerful and it was so honored to be flying through the air.”
When signing with a new agency, she informed them it was where they wanted to be. “As a model to the quicker you become aware of what, who you are and what your brand is naturally, the faster you find, like, you know, you, you, the faster you can make your way,
Stapleton shares her gifts with others by donating her time to the Art Saves Lives foundation where she works closely with Nicole C. De Weever. She teaches dance classes in Saint Marteen for the organization. “I was really interested in getting into nonprofit work, especially in the arts realm,” she said. As an island girl from St. Kitts the work is special to her. “I’m really interested in continuing to work throughout the Caribbean because that’s where my roots are and it’s more than just a place to that. Tourists can go and hop on a beach, you know, there’s so much life and culture down there that I respect and love.”
As she grows as a model she is excited to have more opportunities to give back.
“I’m dreaming even bigger.”
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