I had the opportunity to go to several conferences during my first year of college. The most memorable one was when I got to meet the cha cha diva herself, Jaslene Gonzalez from cycle eight of America’s Next Top Model.
One of my clubs was hosting an event and bringing in industry professionals. As soon as this event was announced, I remember running up to the stage and being the first person in line to buy my ticket. Seeing an ANTM winner in real life was going to be my childhood dream come true. I religiously watched the show when I was a kid. Tyra Banks might be my biggest idol, so this was basically going to be one of the best days of my life.
I remember being eight or nine years old and watching Jaslene on TV, so it was so surreal when she was in front of me telling her story. Her presence when she walked in the room was unlike anything I had seen before. Jaslene talked about a lot of topics that all girls can relate to. She was so open with her stories, and she told them in such a sassy way. I loved that she made it known that a lot of who she is she owes to her roots and her culture. She talked about the importance of self-love through stories of leaving a toxic relationship and finding your confidence again after unforeseen events. Empowering girls and helping build confidence is a big part of what Jaslene does today through her project On Set with Jaslene.
In a breakout session of about ten students, Jaslene told us more about her career, traveling and allowed us to ask questions. I was too nervous to even speak. I couldn’t get over the fact that I was even sitting that close to her. At the end of the breakout session, she taught us how to runway walk the way Miss J Alexander taught her on the show. Of course I was about to fall out. It was all too much. Despite being in the presence of an America’s Next Top Model winner, I did not lose my awkwardness. I remember being lost and jumping on the same elevator as Jaslene, not speaking a word on the ride because of intimidation, then looking like an idiot when I didn’t know where to go after I got off.
At the conclusion of the conference, Jaslene read us some final words for the day. In those words, she told us that when she was in high school she wrote on a piece of paper that she would become America’s Next Top Model. She still had that piece of paper with her on that Saturday afternoon after all of those years. She had done it, and she was proof that dreams can come true. After the event was completely over, another girl and I walked up to Jaslene when she was alone and asked for pictures. I stiffly walked up to her and gave her a hug while also shaking. Several pictures of me being in shock were captured before we finally got a good one.
I want to take advantage of any chances I can to get closer to success. Conferences have allowed me to do that. I am grateful to attend a school that gives me opportunities like this. Meeting a top model was a dream. Going to fashion school has been a dream. Because of the industry professionals and professors that I’ve had the privilege to listen to, I have a little more belief in myself. I want to share some of my favorite advice that I’ve gotten from conferences this past year. Hopefully someone can find inspiration in it like I have.
- Have the spirit of an entrepreneur and the heart of an artist.
- Light your own fire and demand what you need to succeed.
- What kind of artist you want to be shouldn’t limit you, it should open you.
- Find what makes you unique.
- Believe in yourself despite competition.
- Be insatiably curious.
- You are your own advocate.
- Create your own opportunities where there isn’t one.