Eva Marcille Sterling doesn’t consider herself a diva. It isn’t her fault her presence shifts energies; It’s a talent. Despite earning the moniker “Eva The Diva” in kindergarten, the model, whose 5’7” frame makes her an anomaly in the fashion world, was born with confidence she says is often misunderstood. Her downtime consists of cooking for her family, cleaning her house and hosting Sunday dinner because she’s “extremely domestic.”
“I’m sitting here with no makeup on, and my locs are frizzy,” she casually explains during a morning convo. ”I have a hoodie on, my pants have a food mark on it.” She laughs, “There is no diva” in the literal sense.
For the All The Queens Men star, being a “diva” is more about a mindset than a lifestyle and she finds power in that. “My presence is so confident that you feel there has to be something there. But the beauty to that is the fact I shift your energy when I walk into a room. I can do that. It’s great.”
Want To Be On Top?
That confidence made her a standout on the third cycle of Tyra Banks’ reality TV competition America’s Next Top Model. Winning the overall competition was an affirming moment for the girl called “too short” all her life. “As a teenager, even young adults, we search for this thing that says we are enough. There was something that did for me, winning Top Model and Tyra saying my name and seeing my picture. That ingrained in me that I was more than enough.”
Tyra Banks wedged the industry door open for Eva, who is forever grateful to the woman she calls her mentor. “What Tyra did was make a space for people that the world would not deem beautiful enough and show that we were beyond beautiful.”
Banks recently faced backlash when a recirculated clip from ANTM showed her berating one of the Black contestants. From weight-shaming Keenyah Hill in cycle four or attempting to coerce cycle six winner Danielle Evans to close her gap stating, “It’s not marketable,” the show had problematic moments.
Nevertheless, Eva fiercely defends Banks: “You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t. Tyra created this show to give a platform, a voice, and a visual to beautiful people—women and then men alike that would not normally get any kind of attention because of the standards of beauty. She worked to try to dismantle this machine that said, ‘This is beautiful and this is not,’ giving people like me, and one of my closest friends, Toccara a chance.”
I Said What I Said
Similar to her mentor Banks, Eva found herself defending comments she made during her time on reality TV. On an episode of season 12 of Real Housewives of Atlanta, the former peach-holder used the term “nappy head.” She was also called out by Kandi Burruss, who took issue with a comment she made while referring to Shamea Morton being ‘black, but not with a Q’ — a pun on the group Blaque.
“That was a Kandi hangup, not an Eva issue,” she explains. “And we talked about it, we shook it out and we dealt with it on the show. It was very frustrating that they edited it and decided not to air it. I took large grievance with the fact that they would trivialize colorism issues, which is something we deal with in so many communities from Latin, Afro-Latino to Cuban; all the way across the board.”
She defends her right to use the Black “colloquialism.” “Nappy head is something I say that I have and my daughter also has until we comb it out. I’m a Black woman and it is a colloquialism that we have used. You will not dictate, because your skin is a little darker than mine, what colloquialisms I can or cannot use.” She reminds me she’s from South Central Los Angeles, attended Clark Atlanta University, a historically Black college, and that her brother is “dark as cherry wood.” “My other brother is as light as the sun. We run the gamut. I have two Black parents.”
She calls out her former co-star Porsha Williams, for hypocritical behavior like using terms like “ashy.” “[The criticism] specifically came from Porsha who had a big issue,” Eva tells HelloBeautiful. “‘Why is you saying nappy head?’ And, ‘Bye ashy’ is okay?!”
She adds, “You will not dictate my speech as a Black woman. You will not shun me or quiet me. I’m not mixed. I’m not biracial. I’m Black. I’m going to say what I want to say to my community and in my language. Period.”
Break The Mold
The spotlight may come with hang-ups, but Eva Marcille enjoys being on screen because it provides her with a platform to be the representation she was missing growing up. “Young girls and even older women, women my age, my peers can look at that and see themselves. From my natural hair to minimal makeup, to my wide lips, to not contouring my nose and just being an example and a representation,” she acknowledges. “When I was a young girl, you only knew a few names—it was Tyra, Naomi, and Vanessa Williams. If you didn’t look like them, then you weren’t beautiful as a Black girl.”
While the industry still has a long way to go, there are more Black women representing the spectrum of beauty. She gushes over Caymanian model, Selita Ebanks; former Sudanese refugee turned supermodel Alek Wek; as well as fellow ANTM alum, Winnie Harlow, a model and spokesperson for vitiligo — a skin condition that has not hindered her career. She also stops to praise Lizzo, “You are not going to body shame our sis! She is beautiful. She is gorgeous. She could be the face of any campaign, just like any other entertainer.”
With a career spanning almost two decades, Marcille welcomes the change: “We have come a long way with being able to use our voice and finally speaking how we feel, because before we would just hold it in, but now we’re talking about it.”
Don’t Call It A Snapback
Eva traded in her mini skirts and crop tops from her ANTM days and adopted a boho-chic lifestyle that compliments her motherhood style. “I have had three kids. I have been postpartum three times. Your body changes and it shifts.”
So she goes with the flow, literally: “There’s something about flowy boho clothes that make you feel beautiful, no matter what you’re doing, you could be bloated or you could be snatched under there, but your beauty isn’t in your size, it’s in your flow.”
After having her second child, Eva reveals she didn’t immediately go back to her “model weight.” “I was fluffier and I was heavier and I was happy as hell. Nothing changed with my happiness.”
She adds, “I don’t like the word snapback because I think we give people this idea that if you don’t go back to a size that you were previously … there’s something wrong or you didn’t do something right.”
“Snapping back” after her second pregnancy was the furthest thing from Eva’s mind. She was caring for a newborn with jaundice after suffering blood loss while giving birth.
“He was in the hospital for quite some time. I hemorrhaged after having him. So I had a lot of blood loss. I had gotten into a really bad car accident. So the fact that I am even here and healthy and my baby is to my weight and getting it to any ideal number was the last thing I worried about.”
Loving The Skin You’re In
As a natural beauty, Eva has always leaned into her buttery smooth skin, frequently photographing sans makeup when she’s not on set or shooting. The former Cover Girl keeps it easy and breezy, professing, “When it comes to makeup now, after having kids and living in the hot south, I like to promote natural beauty only because I feel sometimes women think it’s not an option.”
She’s not anti-glam but rather pro the everyday woman, “I want my sisters who live in rural towns, that work regular jobs, that have no reason to put that on, to know that they are just as beautiful too.” Marcille’s Instagram stories feature her life in the industry but also everyday occurrences.
“I don’t want to portray an image of perfection because it’s not real,” she says. “Perfection is unreal and unattainable but confidence is all about you. I wanna encourage my sisters and brothers to be the best version of yourself. You are beautiful exactly how you are and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Still On Top
In addition to a budding beauty brand, cEVAd, and other entrepreneurial endeavors, Marcille is keeping busy with her new podcast, The Undressing Room, with her co-hosts Lore’l from The Morning Hustle and Dominique da Diva from the QuickSilva show. Together the trio brings their individual expertise from nationally syndicated radio shows, owned by HelloBeautiful’s parent company Urban One, to talk about any and every topic from the “Quarantine 15” to her RHOA co-stars.
“I love undressing topics as it pertains to relationships because perspective is key and finding out other peoples’ perspectives really helps in growth,” she says.
She adds with a laugh, “I realize that I am a lot more like a man than a woman.” In addition to her podcast, Marcille is starring in Tyler Perry’s new show, All The Queens Men, focused on the life of Marilyn ‘Madam’ DeVille, portrayed by Eva. Madam, a no-nonsense, successful businesswoman in the nightclub industry, is a “dream role” for Marcille, who shares her character is “layered and she is complicated and she is a woman and she is such a boss.”
Madam realizes that more power and more money can equal, in the words of The Notorious B.I.G., “more problems.” All of which Eva can relate to in her personal life: “It is absolutely true, but I think it’s all about finding a balance. And knowing what the whole point of money is. Money is not your power. Money is a tool.”
After almost 20 years in the game, it’s clear Eva the Diva has evolved into Eva Marcille. She has paved the way for other Black models, particularly shorter ones, illustrating that your uniqueness is your best asset. She reflects, “I didn’t see anything that was unique about me as a deficiency. I saw it all as my strengths. My individuality, my height, the way I look, the way I talk—I think that’s my power. So instead of it being an insecurity, I use it as my strength.”
You can see this all throughout her career and one should prepare to see Eva for another 20 years. She jokes, “As long as this face stays intact and the happy stays inside of me, then I want to find myself always back on camera.”
She adds: “You know, white models, Christie Brinkley, they are able to model until they are 60 years old. Why can’t we? I want the same platform and allowance for me and my girls. For us to stand and be bold and great for as long as we want to.”
Eva may have won ANTM years ago, but she’s still on top.
Managing Editor: Shamika Sanders
Cover Story: Danielle James
Photography: Mel Belder Jr.
Photography Assts.: Kalin Stanley, Marquise Eppinger
MUA: Jamillah Simmons
Hairstylist: Elijah Cohen
Wardrobe: Winnie Stackz
Project Coordinator: Handz Dirty PR
Project Coordinator Asst: Courtney Ward
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