Laura Jane: Tell me a little bit about your background. I know that you do modeling now–how did you get there? Let’s start at the beginning.
Kiara: Before all the modeling, I definitely struggled with image outside of weight, with having freckles and being a black girl with freckles. I’ve always had to defend how I look from childhood. I mean, I’m fair skinned, but when I was little it was ‘Oh, you know, you’re black and white,’ and ‘Your hair is very curly and long,’ and, you know, you’re this and you’re that. When my freckles came in, it was ‘You’re Irish.’ Everyone was always telling me what I was. It was hard for me to create an identity because I had so many people telling me what I was and what I was supposed to be.
When I hit my teenage years, I started dealing with weight issues. It was really bad from when I was a teenager—about 14-,15-years-old—until I was about 25-years-old. I was always struggling with diets, trying every diet to lose weight.
I went through a period of time, years of time, where I didn’t want to be in any photos. We went to Disneyland for my mom’s birthday and I would literally be the one taking pictures. I was just looking through photos recently and I was looking at the picture of her and her friends and thought, I remember being there but when I looked at the picture, where was I? I was taking all the picture. I thought, oh my god, I’ve come such a long way. I used to be hellbent on not being in the picture because I was just dealing with so much of my own image, I couldn’t stand looking at my own reflection. I hated looking at pictures of myself and looking at what I looked like. I went through a really bad period of my life where I was just trying to figure things out, but I have grown out of that. I don’t know if it comes with age or what.
I realized that this is who you are, this is who you’re made to be and I’ve learned to accept it. I try to eat healthy and work out, but at the same time, I have thighs, I have hips, I have a butt—I have these things and they’re given to me. I can’t run from it. My whole family has a big butt—that’s not going anywhere. Same things with the freckles—that’s what God gave you so you need to use it. I accepted myself. One day, I looked in the mirror and I thought: you only have one life and you have one body. Stop trying to look like everyone. Stop trying to be everyone. They are already taken. You are only you. You’re going to waste it if you keep trying to be somebody else.
LJ: Do you feel like it was an overnight thing?
K: It was not an overnight thing. Let me give you some history. I’m an artist, I draw, paint, sculpt, I was born an artist. I do it naturally, I do it effortlessly. So that was my gift, but then I stopped. I didn’t feel like I wanted to do it anymore. I kept trying to find this thing, like what am I supposed to be doing, what am I supposed to do. So I went through a good period of time where everybody was just, ‘Oh, your freckles, your freckles,’ and I was like ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I have freckles, I know.’ And then my friends told me seriously that I should be modeling. I had these few months where it was a constant theme in my life. I felt like it was God giving me these signs, like dropping these little hints through people that would keep bringing up modeling. I kept saying, I’m not a model, I don’t model. Then finally, my best friend told me, ‘Girl, I need you to give it up and stop fighting it. If you have been given it, use it.’
I started playing with the thought. I definitely had thoughts like, ‘But I’m plus size!’ and I’m this, I’m that, I don’t look like this and that. But I decided to try it. I found a photographer and did a photoshoot. I still have those pictures and I can not stand them. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know if this is for me, I don’t like these pictures.’ But, I liked the experience. When we were out there shooting, I loved it. I liked the whole aspect of it—the atmosphere of it, the process. So, I kept doing it.
Modeling has really helped me be the confident person that I am today because it’s forced me to look in myself. When you’re trying to be savvy or professional, you have to fake it. I kept thinking, what can I do to be better? And that made me look at my body in a different way than just admiring it or criticizing it. I started thinking, ‘Ok, at the next shoot I’m going to do this, I’ll turn my face this way, or try this.” It became this thing that I wanted to do better and the more photos I took, the better I learned how to move and what’s my angles where. After that, I started looking at the images and liked them. I remember thinking, ‘That’s my face and I like it.’ Through modeling and being forced to be in front of the camera, I started appreciating what I looked like because I wasn’t able to hide. You can’t hide when you’re in front of the camera.
LJ: When did that transition happen? How long ago was that?
K: I started modeling at the end of 2015. Mind you, I had done a few prior. I did model when I was little, like little little, like 3 or 4. And when I was about 10, I did a Gap Kids fashion show. So I have that small history of it. But at the end of 2015 is when I decided to go for modeling. The end of 2016 was really busy and when I wanted to push it. I thought, ‘I want to do this on a bigger level, not just the instagram level, not just as a hobby, I want to do this for real.’ Because I know how it feels, I know how people feel when they don’t like themselves. It’s not a pity party, it’s true. People really go through things. And it’s real. It’s not just fishing for compliments, I used to get that all the time, I’m not fishing for anything, I really didn’t like who I was or what I looked like. I want to be a voice for people who don’t have one.
LJ: What has it been like being identified as a plus-size model? Does that ever feel challenging or did it change the way you felt about your identity?
K: I caught the wave. I’m not one of the pioneers or anything. I feel like when I started, being a plus-size model was already accepted. There are so many things, so many open doors, for plus. I’m not fighting all the battles that everyone else prior to me has fought. Also, I consider myself a freckle-faced model first and I am a plus-size model second. I don’t get offended by the category. I am a plus model, curvy model whatever you want to call it. I don’t have an issue identifying with it. I just don’t want to be put into a box. But I’m definitely proud to represent the curvy community or plus community.
LJ: Tell me more about being a freckled model first. What does that look like, like do you get book primarily for jobs because of your freckles? Or what does that mean for you in terms of your work?
K: I do. I get approached for work like 85% of the time because I’m a freckled face model. That’s the thing that stands out the most and that’s what separates me the most. However, when I do fashion shows it’s usually for plus. I did a few fashion shows in San Diego and LA and that was more for plus, that was more for the body. But since when I get asked to do photoshoots and when I get asked to do anything in print, it is always for the freckles, so I do feel like that’s my niche, that’s my strength.
LJ: Can you talk about what it’s like to have freckles when you get your makeup done by makeup artist? Do you feel like makeup artists know what to do?
K: No. They do not. (Laughs) They don’t. Every time I sit in a chair, I’ve learned to be a bit more vocal. I say my disclaimer as soon as I sit down in the chair and before they start putting stuff on my face. I’ve learned that now, when I sit in someone’s chair, I have to say, I have freckles. They will often say, ‘Oh, your freckles are so beautiful,’ and then I will be like, ‘Thank you! So don’t cover them. I don’t want nothing on them. My face is clean. You can mess around with my eyes, my eyelids, put eyelashes on, do my eyebrows and my lips, but that is it. I don’t want no foundation.’ You have to be a little bit more up front.
People will try their best and try to use things that are more transparent or more liquid. But I’ve tried that and they don’t work for me. I have run into a lot of makeup artists that are wonderful. They’ll do my eyes and everything else and leave my freckles alone. But in my experience, not too many people understand and know how to do a face of freckles. There are some people who have lighter freckles, there’s not too much difference between freckles and their skin tone versus people like me who have darker freckles versus my bare skin. When you have such a big contrast, those techniques don’t work as well.