We Interview Yamell Rodriguez On Modeling, Body-Positivity And Being A New Yorker
One of the agency’s rising stars now.
These days, diversity means a lot of things. The sheer breadth of our collective experiences, appearances and cultures is literally mind-boggling (and mad cool). In the fashion industry, diversity is now at the forefront of the conversation and we love to see it.
One of fashion’s emerging diversity champions is a digital lifestyle platform and body-positive modeling agency The Btwn. The Btwn represents a diverse cast of models with the goal of promoting inclusivity within the industry by being “Beyond size, beyond shape, and beyond labels”.
We got a chance to snap a few shots with one of the agency’s rising stars, Yamell Rodriguez. Yamell is an afro-Latina, plus-size model with vitiligo, but above all, a New Yorker. Through hustle, chance and talent, she has come to work with top clients such as Target, David Yurman and Refinery29. After the shoot, we caught up with her to chat about her personal experiences as a model and the future of the industry!
Yamell, you’ve been doing so much lately. We have to ask, what made you get into modeling?
Naomi, Tyra, Kimora. They were just everything to me growing up. They displayed a level of confidence that I didn't have and craved to embody. I remember always posing in front of the mirror making-pretend that I was posing for an episode of America’s Next Top Model with Nigel Barker. I laugh thinking about it now.
With that being said, I was a short plus-size girl who was then diagnosed with Vitiligo at 13, so the idea of actually being a model never seemed realistic or fathomable to me.
Last year, I was scouted by The Btwn, that was the first time I realized this could happen. I could be a model looking exactly the way I look. I now have the opportunity to represent individuals that look like me, that may have once thought they would never see themselves in fashion, beauty and the media.
What has your experience with The Btwn been? How did you encounter them and what made you sign with them.
I love my agency, it's literally a big family. Some of us have never met and when we run into each other at castings we always go crazy about finally meeting.
Prior to signing, I actually was already following The Btwn’s Instagram page and was obsessed with their content. I went all the way back to their very first post. It was apparent that true inclusivity was their passion. One day I was contacted by [Jane Belfry] she's The Btwn’s founder, we spoke and she mentioned an interest in meeting. Of course I was ecstatic. We met and the rest is history.
What’s your favorite job you’ve been cast for?
So far, my favorite job has been for Auden by Target. It was my first shoot in intimates which took me out of my comfort zone, and that's something I always welcome. I love that someone buying bras or panties can look at a picture of me and see a real person, unedited with belly rolls and all.
What does it mean to you to be a model?
For me personally, it's being a representative. A representative for those who otherwise aren't seen. So that the next black Latina, plus-size girl with vitiligo is seen.
What is your biggest goal this year?
I would say my big goal this year would be to make the audience uncomfortable while viewing images of me; because it makes them acknowledge and hopefully combats their inner programming of what they feel they should be seeing in the media.
In my mind, every time someone is exposed to someone that looks like me, we make small steps towards a future with true representation & inclusivity.
What do you think the future of fashion is?
I think the future of fashion is brighter and more creative than ever. As we're seeing now, so many things are being challenged and explored in fashion. I'm looking forward to new designers that emerge and new fashion barriers that will continue to be broken.
Ok, how have you kept busy in the midst of COVID-19?
I've been taking advantage of this time to read. There's a couple of books that were on my to-read list, so now is the best time. I've also spent time drawing, painting, dancing, cooking and brainstorming among other things.
Who are three of your dream clients?
Rihanna Fenty/Savage-Fenty, Chromat, Kerbito- Pyer Moss.
How do you reflect on your own personal style when modeling?
I feel like my style is reflected through my personality regardless of what I'm wearing on set. It's reflected through my spunk, my confidence and my humor.
Who are your favorite designers right now?
Right now... Tamara Malas and Kerby Jean-Raymond.
Who are some of your favorite music artists?
This is hard to narrow down, but if I had to pick a top 5, these would be it: Rihanna, Lauryn Hill, Adele, Jah Cure, Jhene Aiko.
Thanks for the chat Yamell!
Interview & Photography: Philip Harris
Model: Yamell Rodriguez | IG: @yo_itsyaya
Photographer: Philip Harris | IG: @philandhispictures
Creative Director: Mab | IG: @mablacasa
Stylist: Margot Hughes | IG: @installationbk