Name: Monica Ahanonu
Agency: IMG Models
Claim To Fame: Ahanonu has been featured in a Wolk Morias spread in Vogue and a beauty segment for Refinery29. She has also appeared in campaigns for Alex Jewelry Studio, The Uprising, and P.MAI. Recently she illustrated The Hip-Hop Queens Oracle Deck: A 52-Card Deck and Guidebook and #SheCametoSlay by Erica Armstrong Dunbar.
Monica Ahanonu was literally drawn into modeling. “There’s a brand Wolk Morias and I met them at an event where I was showing my art,” she told HelloBeautiful. “I kept in touch with them afterwards. And then they started using me in their different campaigns each year which is really fun. So that’s kind of how I got started.” She stepped into the role of a fit model for the brand as well.
“They would use me as a fit model sometimes,” she said. “And we became very close so that’s kind of where it got started in terms of like any type of professional modeling.”
The model and illustrator previously considered the profession in “middle school and high school,” but opted out. “I always was like, oh, I want to be a model, but I’m not tall enough,” she revealed.
“It’s something I actively thought about. But then there was a point where I just was like, okay, I have no interest in that anymore.”
Her interests shifted to her first love and she became a successful illustrator working on high profile projects like Kathy Iandoli’s Queens Oracle Deck: A 52-Card Deck and Guidebook and Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s She Came To Slay. Her artistic signature floods our timelines everyday and she brings the signature “energy,” to her work that she totes with her to modeling sets.
“When I was creating a different cards and interpreting them into my style, I try to bring like their individual energy out,” she said.
She was expressing her creativity on a spec project when IMG came across her talents. “I got signed with IMG actually earlier this year and that came about after I did a photo shoot during the quarantine where I recreated a few iconic photos of Grace Jones and they saw them online,” she said.
The agency had the foresight to value the artistic talents she brought to the project with photographer Brandon Almengo as well as her appearance.
“They signed me as an illustrator and a model and I’m like the first illustrator they signed, which was really cool.”
Her previous athletic experience helps her excel in the modeling field. “I was a gymnast for a long time, for about 14 years growing up. So I think that has helped me. I have some sense of awareness in that sense of like my body when I’m moving and movements.” Like Olivia Burgess and Ashley Chew she has discovered that there is an advantage to “being an artist,” in the field as well.
“When I’m drawing people, I have to look all the little details and I have to know like the, you know, the way their body is going to look at different angles when I’m drawing it. So I think it helps a little bit,” she explained.
She wants to allow young people to paint their own pictures of their lives in the future. she hopes to lend time and resources to “mental health,” causes that lift “younger people’s confidence up.”
She is interested in “helping them be happy with who they are and be proud,” and “present themselves authentically as they are.”