Breaking the mold: Diversifying Arizona’s modeling industry

PHOENIX – Models from across Arizona will take part in Phoenix Fashion Week’s Model of the Year search on Saturday. The organizers will choose 40 men and women to walk their runways for the weeklong event in October in Scottsdale. But how diverse will the top 40 be?

Ce-Ce Marie, a plus-size model who has worked from coast to coast, said body types other than tall and slender have been rarely seen on runways in Phoenix.

“You go to fashion week here in Arizona and you don’t see plus-size models. They don’t cast them here at all,” Marie said, adding that the focus on fitting into certain categories can be detrimental to mental health.

She’s one of several members of the Arizona fashion scene who strive to bring plus-size models, as well as those who are more diverse racially and ethnically, to the forefront.

Steph Rosa, who created her own agency to promote different types of models, said the lack of diversity in the Arizona fashion scene goes beyond body shape.

Models Kevin Martin and Chelsey Ryann practice for Phoenix Fashion Week's 2019 Spring Into Style runway event. Martin hopes to inspire other plus-size models to “break the mold” in pursuit of a modeling career, despite traditional industry standards. (Photo by Thalia M. España/Cronkite News)

As a creative director for fashion shoots and events, Steph Rosa (center) always tries to include models of all shapes and sizes. Here she's helping direct model Sky Lian for photographer Trent Brown. (Photo by Thalia M. España/Cronkite News)

Steph Rosa touches up Sky Lian's hair and makeup between shots of a photo shoot. (Photo by Thalia M. España/Cronkite News)

Models of all shapes, sizes and colors are a signature aspect of fashion shows directed by Steph Rosa. (Photo by Thalia M. España/Cronkite News)

As a plus-size model, Ce-Ce Marie says she credits the body positivity movement for her confidence and involvement in modeling. (Photo by Thalia M. España/Cronkite News)

“The ‘typical’ models would get a really long interview,” Rosa said of her experience at casting calls. “I’d see people of my race or other races and their interviews were super fast.”

Kevin Martin, who is Thai and plus-size, tried out for Phoenix Fashion Week for three consecutive years and never made it. But the fourth time, was chosen to walk in Phoenix Fashion Week’s 2019 Spring Into Style event earlier this year – the first plus-size model to do so, he said. He hopes more diverse models will be cast now that he has broken the mold.

“I think it’s going to help take that next step toward widening the industry standards here in Arizona to where now we can be seen on a larger scale like New York, like LA, because we have all these diverse models,” Martin said.

Martin will be competing to make Phoenix Fashion Week’s top 40 this year.

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