I thought I would address this question since it is one of several that I am frequently asked.
Well the short, vague answer would be…I was scouted…but that’s not the whole story.
When I was younger I was quite thin and always tall. Needless to say I was scouted a lot. My father and I communicated with several agencies but nothing ever came of it (not to mention I didn’t know what I was doing either). My father also enrolled me in Barbizon Modeling & Acting School, ha. Some people think of Barbizon as a scam, but I do not. Although they sort of lie & tell you work and other magical things will come of it, they do teach the young kids a good deal about the industry, which I to this day am appreciative of. So if you are totally new to the fashion/entertainment world and want to learn about the industry, I say go. If you are looking for work and to be signed, don’t.
Now after I graduated Barbizon *insert silly diploma photo here* and left with a head full of industry tips, I realized I definitely had a serious interest in modeling. Everyday after school, I would come home and watch modtv videos. You know, those fashion channels on youtube with all of the inside looks of the runway, designers, and model commentaries? Yea that. I was addicted. And surely I fell in love with modeling. I studied it, I practiced posing, all of that. I fell in love with the likes of Gemma Ward (still miss her), Lily Donaldson, Adriana Lima (who doesn’t love her), etc. Now here’s where the interesting part comes into play, I didn’t know about plus size modeling (And let’s just say after hitting puberty in high school & going through the college freshman 15…or 30 in my case I was plus size and in denial; but we’re not at that part of the story yet!). I thought that in order to be a successful model I had to be straight size, and I knew how strict that division was. So I became a bit of obsessive with my measurements. I knew I had to lose weight (Lord knows I never had or will have a thigh gap, but I sure tried to get one). I weighed myself all the time, I measured myself all the time, and I always knew my hips were just too wide. I exercised all the time, I ate strictly healthy, and while I was small…I just wasn’t going to get smaller. Part of me was totally ok with that. The other part of me wasn’t because, well, I wanted to be a model. Now, I’m not gunna sit here and tell you I had an eating disorder like a lot of great model stories will telll you because I didn’t. Thanks to my mom I knew how to eat healthy and I was also seriously into softball so I knew I would not stand for starving myself or purging because I did not want to damage my body….but I did think about it.
Now, fast forward to the summer before my last semester of college. One day I told myself, ‘Iman…if you don’t at least attempt to put yourself out there and get noticed no matter what size you are, then just quit and settle for being a journalist.’ I’ve always enjoyed journalism, but the passion wasn’t nearly as strong as it was for modeling. So, I stopped staring at myself in the mirror, I stopped worrying about every pimple I squeezed and every battle wound I [proudly] attained from softball, I put down the measuring tape and I made my own website (thanks Penn State). I also put myself on modeling websites and started working with local photographers for trade (oh fancy word). *Trade = working with upcoming photographers for free, you give them experience while they give you free photos. Boom. Trade* I also paid to get photos taken by a good NYC photographer so that I could have photos to take with me on open calls, if I ever went to any (I didn’t). Disclaimer = upcoming models don’t have to pay for photos, I just did.
Now, all thanks to God, within a very short time period I was contacted by an agency to come in for an open call thing (I guess I kind of went to one). So I went. I met other models and it was my first experience of what a cattle call (oh fancy word) would be like. *Cattle call = basically a room filled to the brim with models looking to get chosen for whatever the gig is* So believe it or not, the agency had several of us models wait for them to finish and then come in all together. I was one of them. Then they offered us a contract on the spot to which we all agreed to, duh. HOORAY I DID IT RIGHT?!…no. Now, while that was a blessing, I eventually turned down the contract. Why? Because I was pressured. The number one model rule is that you should never be pressured into anything. That was one thing I definitely knew, and after a harassing phone call I turned them down. Now around the same time I was contacted by a management team who asked to skype with me…wth right? Well I figured why not skype with them and find out right then and there if they really are rapists or the real deal. So we skyped, and I fell in love. The team of two men and one woman were hilarious, down to earth, kind, genuine, and detailed. Should I say that again? DETAILED. They explained literally everything that they could do for me without making any fluffy promises (VERY IMPORTANT). They also told me that I would be a plus size model (which they were looking for) and that plus size models were extremely successful and not only that, but there is so much more ground breaking to be done in the plus size world than the straight size. I was beyond psyched. So after falling in love with all three of them, I asked them to skype with my parents which they quickly agreed to, lovely. Now, my parents are very protective of my brother and I so when they skyped with my now current management team and my dad walked away saying “tell them to send over the contract” I knew this was it! Yahoo! So they sent us the contract to review and contact them with any questions. Can I just emphasize that, whoever wants you better have a legitimate contract that doesn’t ask you for any out of pocket expenses! We then flew down to Miami, where my managers are located, and shot my whole book (Hallelujah)! Again, within a very short time frame they sent me an email saying Ford wanted to meet me as well as Wilhelmina, two of the top agencies in the world (needless to say me and my mom screamed throughout the entire house). After talking it out with my team, I chose Wilhelmina. As soon as I walked into their office I knew I was home, the choice was easy. And well, the rest is history ;D .
That pretty much sums up my unique signing story. I hope you guys got a good look at how things work. Never give up, you too are gems waiting to be discovered! Don’t waste time trying to fit into a category that was never good enough for you and start shining your light now! Comment away and tell me your thoughts and dreams, I’d love to hear them. ♥