It’s every girl’s dream, at one point or another, to become a model. Walking the runway, modeling clothes by famous designers, being on the cover of Vogue, Elle, Seventeen…what’s not to want? However, as much as being a cover girl may seem easy and breezy, so many things happen behind the scenes: Photoshop, body-shaming, height-shaming and the pressure to be and look like the ideal, just to name a few.
Shortstack Modeling Agency wants to break that mold. Founded in 2006 by Olivia Mignone, Shortstack is one of the main not-for-profit groups under the organization Windows of Opportunity, Inc., run by Hal Eisenberg. The goal of the teen modeling agency is to allow young women who don’t meet the mainstream modeling standards to participate in fashion events for different charities. A vital part of the program, which comes before the modeling, is building the young women’s self-esteem. Hal Eisenberg said of Shortstack:
“If you were to say that every agency has a heartbeat, then Shortstack is our heartbeat. It has given WOO life, inspired the birth of other programs, led the way to the success of many young ladies and taught me that the vision I had for WOO could actually be obtained. To be a part of Shortstack and to see its growth and impact, truly makes it a “model” program, pun intended! It’s by far the most innovative and impacting program I’ve had the pleasure of being part of. I see Shortstack in every fashion capital in the world and in many other places, inspiring hope and making dreams come true.”
I sat down with one of the models from Shortstack Modeling Agency, Denay Richards, to talk about her experience.
Anna: Shortstack sounds like such an amazing agency. What are some things about Shortstack that you feel set it apart from other modeling agencies?
Denay: One thing about Shortstack that’s so different from other modeling agencies is that before we went through this process the directors spoke to us about our self-image and about loving ourselves. They told us, “you’re going to see all these things in the media. You’re going to see ads for plastic surgery, breast-implants, butt-lifts and Liposuction everywhere. There are going to be people who tell you you’re too fat and too skinny all in the same day. So what you have to do is love yourself and use your own quirks to sell the product and to sell your personality.” They refer to our ‘flaws’ as quirks, which I think is really special. Another thing that Shortstack does that I admire is since they incorporate women with all different body structures, Photoshop isn’t a huge tool. We still use it, but we use it for minor things like blemishes. Shortstack doesn’t alter your skin tone or body structure or your facial features. Another thing that’s so important about Shortstack is that it really is a family, despite the age gap between some of us. If you have an issue, you’ll have 17 girls texting you, asking if you want to go get your nails done.
Anna: I like what you said about Shortstack referring to your flaws as quirks; that’s definitely a catalyst in boosting self-esteem. How important do you think the power of positive words is, especially on young women such as yourself?
Denay: The power of positive words is so major! We throw words like ‘fat’ and ‘curvaceous’ around all the time, and think they’re synonymous. But there’s such a difference between the two, and connotation plays a huge part in how we portray others and how we use words. The right choice of words can completely change your outlook on something and can change how you feel about yourself. It’s so important to have a great support system behind you, to tell you that you’re unique and beautiful.
Anna: How important do you feel it is to get the word out about Shortstack Modeling Agency?
Denay: Getting the word out about our cause can do so much, both for the agency and for the charities the money goes to. The consumers have a power they don’t even know about. If the consumer decides they don’t want to shop somewhere, their decision really does affect business. Consumer awareness can change any industry.
Anna: So I know that you’ll be attending Princeton in the fall. Congratulations! Are you going to continue to model in college?
Denay: I would really love to! Modeling is honestly my life, and it’s allowed me to be proud of who I am.
If you want to be part of a movement that promotes self-esteem, sisterhood and consumer awareness, go fund Shortstack at www.gofundme.com/wooshortstack. Also, be sure to check out these amazing women strut their stuff on the runway, Saturday, June 27th 2015, at Shortstack’s 9th Annual Fashion Show at 267 5th Ave, NYC at the Midtown Loft and Terrance at 6:30 P.M.