Name: Taylor Hawkins
Agency: New Icon New York
Claim To Fame: Hawkins has been featured in a Bobbi Brown beauty campaign and a Marc Jacobs fragrance campaign. She’s also walked the runway at NYFW and been featured at ESSENCE Fashion house.
Taylor Hawkins began modeling as a teenager in Philadelphia with the Reinhardt agency. “I got signed at 15,” she told HelloBeautiful.
“I ended up going to a camp. It was a charm camp. They taught us how to walk. They taught us how to do photo shoots and poses,” said Hawkins. The program also focused on the elements of modeling that take place off camera.
“They really emphasized that being a model wasn’t just about, you know, being pretty, but it was also about being like a role model as well,” she continued. Hawkins booked several gigs soon after getting started but they weren’t with the high end brands she had been envisioning working with as a kid watching marathons of America’s Next Top Model.
“The first few jobs I booked were like really, really commercial,” she said. “I used to do those, those circulars that you get in the mail every week, like from Target and Macy’s and all that. I used to do it for Boscov’s. So I was in the Boscov’s circulars. I would do like Deb Shops, a lot of e-comm stuff, nothing that I was really passionate about.”
The commercial market was closed to Hawkins after she switched up her look in college.
“I ended up pretty much shaving my hair – getting a buzz cut and bleaching my hair. I gained a little bit of weight in that time too.” she said. “My agent was like, ‘You know, your look is cool, but it’s not really marketable out here.’ So after that, I ended up being freelance for four years.”
“I got a lot of doors closed in my face,” she admitted. “A lot of people were like, no, you know, we don’t see it for you sis.”
Freelancing gave Hawkins the opportunity to create the type of images that didn’t come attached to weekly coupons. She worked with local photographers to build her book while balancing her public policy and Africana studies classes at Rutgers University. “I would just try to get all my work done Monday through Thursday and then Friday through Sunday, I’d be like, this is my creative time,” she said.
“I just wanted to create, I just wanted to make content. I wanted to put myself in photo shoots that I knew agencies didn’t see me fit for,” Hawkins continued. Her improved book helped her book a beauty campaign with Bobbi Brown through a casting agency without official representation. “They have me like in their database from previous jobs and they reached out about Bobbi Brown and I just went through the casting process and I ended up getting cast for it,” she said.
She then used the images she created to get the attention of executives from Marc Jacobs during their perfectly imperfect campaign. She submitted a video entry for their open casting on her own without waiting to be invited to do so. “I was like, why not just like, try, let me shoot my shot real quick. Like, it’s freaking Marc Jacobs,” she said.Hawkins was selected to be a part of the campaign and was given the opportunity to express opinions on set using the skills she had developed settling her own portfolio. She enjoyed the experience. “That was really, really fun because I felt like it didn’t just feel like they were, you know, using me as a Black girl just for representation,” she said, “There was a really, really big mix of different types of people, all body shapes, all shades.”
“It was a really creative and like, I guess, eye opening experience. I mean you feel like anything is possible,” she added. Hawkins networked with some of the models on set and learned about their experiences with their agency without realizing that she would soon be signed there as well.”
“I was working part-time as a server and that’s pretty much how I was paying my bills and eventually I just saw the open casting for New Icons,” she said. The agency snapped her up after seeing what she was able to accomplish solo. But she hasn’t let having reps slow her hustle down.
Hawkins plans on continuing to advocate for herself professionally using her education to create her own NGO so that she can advocate for others and introduce children to Black history she discovered as a young woman. She wants to “actually be somebody that makes a difference, that does what they say that they’re actually going to do.”