Name: Andrea Clark
Agency: AMAX Agency
Claim To Fame: Clark has appeared in Full Figured Fashion Week and the Style Section of the New York Times. She has also booked campaigns for Dollar General.
Andrea Clark entered the modeling industry as a way to reconnect with herself after giving birth. After hearing an ad on a local radio station, she decided to try out for a runway show. “I actually started modeling back home in Chicago and there was a plus size casting call for a runway show,” she said. “At that time I was a size 18. I just had a son and I was looking to just get my confidence back. And I said, ‘Hey I have nothing to lose. I’ll go out and cast.’ I went to the casting and they selected me for the runway show.”
Clark considered the endeavor a one time lark. She had no idea that the show would be brought to life by the legendary Harvey Star Washington, who had a reputation for erecting spectacles across the country. “I went to the casting and they selected me for the runway show. Now, what I didn’t know was that there would be like four to five weeks of intense runway training. And I would really learn how to walk in shoes, and really learn how to pose, and stand and get my stance together.”
Washington and his touring team taught Clark and her fellow models how to display the garments they were placed in the best. “That was like my crash course,” she added. The lengthy practices were unique and educational but they didn’t provide the surge of energy she was looking for. She would find that on the runway.
“It didn’t come together for me until the actual show. When I hit the runway, I was just like, ‘Oh my God! I’m going to have to do this for the rest of my life,” she said. Clark had been encouraged to try modeling once before but the outcome differed greatly from the euphoria she felt twirling on stage in the Windy City.
“My original interest in modeling one was, when I was 12 years old. My mother took me down to Barbizon, a modeling school,” she said. “At the age of 12, I was five foot nine. And I was like a size 18. I was already wearing a size 12 shoe. I still wear a size 12 shoe. So I was technically plus size at the time and they told me I was too big and they, you know, didn’t have any work for me.”
Clark arrived at the school prior to the body positivity movement hitting the retail industry. “Plus-size wasn’t in at the time,” she said. She was discouraged by their reaction.“I did not revisit that again until I heard that advertisement on the radio for the runway show.”
Her success in the show proved to her that she was meant to model. “It was nothing but a learning experience. And it catapulted me into moving forward in the industry,” she said. After the show she returned to Tennessee and started to pursue modeling.
“I came back to Nashville. Nashville is built of a plethora of colleges in the area. And there was a model coach at Tennessee State University, which was not far from where I graduated from at Fisk and he had a modeling troupe here locally,” said Clark. “And I joined his modeling troupe, which also provides runway training. So he was able to keep me polished.”
Once she felt ready she spent some time looking for work outside of the South. She began booking work right away. “I actually was introduced to the plus industry back in 2010 with Full-Figured Fashion Week. They had a show in LA and I actually casted for that show, made the show, walked in that show. And then my introduction to New York was Full-Figured Fashion Week in 2011,” she said. The achievement inspired her to invest real time in growing her career.
“In 2011 I actually moved to New York. I stayed in New York, 2011 and 2012 for six months at a time.” she said. “It was an investment. It was definitely an investment at the beginning. There was no virtual, there was no film. None of those options were available at that time. We actually had to go to the location, and cast in person, which, you know, traditionally that’s the way things, things were, but now things are totally different.”
She was able to commit to that investment due to the flexibility of her day jobs. “I used to be a substitute teacher. So being a substitute teacher you have flexibility, right? You have flexibility to work when you want, you have the summers off,” she saids. “When I lived in New York, I actually worked a second shift job and I worked for the cable company Time Warner. And that gave me the flexibility to be available during the day in case I needed to go to castings.”
Models are often required to appear at castings, go-sees, and callbacks at a moment’s notice. She worked consistently but she remained focused on why she was in the city. “I did have to work around, um, the model schedule in order to make things happen for myself,” she said. “You don’t want to get to a place, especially going to New York and then you don’t give yourself room to Excel or room to grow. So that made a big difference.”
Clark was pursuing modeling before the industry was faced with a so-called racial reckoning. Her natural Caesar cut was not popular. “I wasn’t a size 14, 16,” she said. “While I had a unique look, I wasn’t mainstream, I didn’t have a mainstream look. Now that look is more mainstream and having more natural hairstyles, or even a protective style is more mainstream, but at that time, it wasn’t.”
She faced another challenge as pounding the pavement caused her to lose weight. “When I moved to New York I dropped weight very quickly. Being in Nashville people drive everywhere. New York, with the subway, with walking on my feet all the time, I dropped probably like 25 pounds.” The weight loss negatively affected her bookings as models are required to maintain their measurements to ensure that clients are getting the representation that they agreed to with the agency. The difference between one or two inches in the waist can be the difference between securing the bag or getting sent home. “I went from a nice, healthy 14, 16 to like a 12. And so the options that I had as far as the work started to dwindle.” No matter how many struggles she endured she never compromised her values. “I have stayed true to myself and I don’t do anything that does not feel comfortable or does not stay on brand,” she said.
She opted to return home. “I signed with another agency locally in Nashville because I stopped traveling back and forth to New York. And I wanted to explore options in my areas since I knew that I wasn’t going to be traveling as much,” she said. Being closer to home gave her the opportunity to share her experiences with her six sons. “It’s an opportunity for me to expose them to a different lifestyle, to see their mom all dressed up every now and then, or in different roles or characters, Every now and then is, is pretty interesting. And they have something to talk to their friends and their teachers about.” Her children were able to see her make moves from behind the camera as well as she worked with local photographers and designers. Even when she was signed to an agency she never stopped networking and collaborating with other creatives. She styled her own digitals and worked on promoting them.
A shoot she did with Rick Jones and elleNelle Bridal landed their work on the cover of the New York Times Style section. “The bridal feature in the New York times was a surprise to me,” she said. While she did not know where the shoot would land she brought the same level of professionalism and creativity to it she did with any other. “I’ve been in the industry and surrounded by great people and great influences for so many years, I picked up on some things,” she continued.
When she wasn’t applying her time and talents to her work she was donating her time to local philanthropic causes. “I’m a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, national service organization, community service organization. We’re always doing things in the community. I’m part of the local chapter here in Nashville,” she said. “That’s very important to me.”
It was her ingenuity that attracted her current agency to her. They saw her putting herself out there and felt she would be a good fit for their roster. “They actually found me, they said they had requests for work and they didn’t have a model who could actually work. They didn’t have anybody they could submit. And so I actually was found by doing a collaboration with a bridal boutique. We shot at an expo next door to the agency and the agency saw the images and they contacted me and I’ve been signed with them ever since,” she said.
This Boy Mom Turned Her Snapback Into A Spread In The New York Times was originally published on hellobeautiful.com