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Interview: Model, Actress, Educator: Aushia Smith

Model, Actress, and Educator Aushia Smith represents women all over the world, who are taking charge of their journey and forging their futures. It is always an inspiration when these women not only walk in their vision but also teach others their life lessons to forging success.

Aushia is the founder and one of the teachers at the Réussir School of Acting, Modeling, and Refinement.

As a second-generation model (her mother was a model for Revlon), Aushia is no stranger to the fashion industry. It seemed as though she was destined to make her mark on the fashion world. Although she is a curve model, she did not want to stop there, Aushia decided to take matters into her own hands and pass along the knowledge she has gained over the last twenty years in the fashion and entertainment industry, by opening the “Réussir School of Modeling, Acting, and Refinement.” In addition to being a leader to her students which she calls “achievers” Aushia still models, coordinates, and advocates, among other things in the industry.

Recently, I got to talk with this inspiring woman.

MJ: Since fashion month is over, and everyone can finally breathe, tell me a little about what you were up to this season?

AS:  This season I worked with J. Crew on their “Street Hustle” which was a fashion show in which they incorporated models off the street and professional models, and we staged and organized them with the 17/18 collections. It was phenomenal to see people embody fashion and to incorporate looks that people would not usually see and people loved it. I was all for it, but I’m not breathing yet.

MJ: Being a curve model, how do you feel inclusivity has evolved since you started modeling?

AS: When I first started in the industry, I was a “Gerber” baby, and going through everything and seeing my mother who was a model for Revlon, and my grandmother was a model. Also working as a teacher you get to see the evolution of things. When I became about 18 and started embracing my curves and that they were a good thing, curvy models and especially models of color were rare.

MJ: Over the years there has been a stigma about plus size models and body positivity, and it’s so refreshing and beautiful to see women speaking out and embracing their bodies and becoming comfortable in their own skin. Even better is that the industry is evolving as well.

AS: You know the thing about it is, it’s not that we haven’t accepted it, it’s that the industry is just now accepting it. We had Beverly Johnson who was considered a curvy model, and she was gorgeous and voluptuous, as well as Marilyn Monroe who was a curvy model, so to see so many Beverly Johnson’s and Marilyn Monroe’s we have now in so many shades and cultures is phenomenal.

These women are saying “These are my curves, live with it, deal with it, love it. Now we have so many productions that have come up like “District of Curves” and “Full Figured Fashion Week” and the fabulous movement that Ashley Stewart, Lane Bryant have put on the forefront that other designers are starting to take notice and follow suit.

Fashion is very trendy. But, I do not think that full figured fashion is a trend; I believe that we have finally made a stamp on the industry and you cannot ignore it, You cannot ignore these curves.

AS: The good thing about having the school is that they get to see me in the industry and I am still evolving, I’m evolving with them. So I have been to auditions and castings and shows with students that I have taught. It’s exciting to teach and then live their journey with them, is an amazing thing to be involved in.

MJ: It is amazing to be able to go through that and see someone who is your role model and not have them say “Back in my heyday,  you still see the drive, and the effort,  and the evolution. You’re still doing it so that in itself is inspiring.

AS: My dad and my mom used to tell us all the time “Your Heyday should always be today.” So you should always live for your next level today. I am all for that just seeing where I am supposed to be.

MJ: That is so inspiring to be able to have a teacher who is living the experience with you.

AS: The great thing about it is that my older sister and my mother is a part of the staff as well. My mom is the reason why we all got started. My sister is the teaching aspect of the school because I saw her teaching for our now competition. We were the first to black directors of education and the two youngest in that region. I worked there for about 15 years, and I learned the book, and everything after that would be from experience. I thought about this school when I was 19 years old, and now I am in my 30’s.

I walked past my reflection not too long ago and said to myself, I see a woman who didn’t stop chasing the dreams she started as a girl. I did not quit when I wanted to when I was a girl, and I could have many times.

MJ: I think all of us hit a point where we just decide that we are going to go out and grab our dreams when was that for you?

AS: When I first started modeling, being a curve model I got told ‘No’ all the time. So I started producing fashion shows and featuring myself. After a while people were starting to notice and saying “Who is this girl?” and that’s how I started going after my modeling dreams.

MJ: So you made a way out of now way. Sometimes that’s the most successful way to do things create it for yourself.

AS: Yes! Exactly! I have my parents to thank for that; they are the most influential people in my life. I remember after doing so many shows and talking with so many people, many of them wanted me to help them with their businesses and said that they wanted to be involved with mine as well. But, when it came to investing in mine, there would always be an “I’m interested But…” and one day after a show I was talking to my father about it.

He said “I don’t want to hear about this anymore until you start your school. You tell me these things about how people want you to help them, but you won’t get things together to start the school. What are you afraid of?” And I never had an answer for him. It was then that I made up my mind that I was going to go ahead and start Réussir.

I tried one last time with a flimsy investor and fell through before I decided I was going to do it on my own. I saved up for over a year and started this school with my own money. No investors, it was mine.

MJ: One of the most gratifying things in the world is to accomplish one of your dreams and know it is yours, and no one can take that moment from you. When you make a decision to do something for yourself and accomplish it for yourself, I do not think people realize how amazing that is.

AS: It is a self-awareness moment, when you realize what you have been looking for in other people has been inside you the entire time.

A lot of people like to use the term Boss B*tch when talking about women who take charge, and I dislike that term. I like to see myself and others as leaders. If you think about it, what do bosses do? They dictate. Leaders set the bar by example and delegate.

MJ: You know, I don’t think many people know the difference between the two. There are bosses walking around all over the place, but Leaders are the innovators. They are the ones who take businesses to the next step.

MJ:  Speaking of Leadership,  tell me about National Curves day?

AS: National Curves day is in the DC area and we have a chapter in Houston, Puerto Rico, and New York. The big celebration is in October; We honor people who are making great contributions within and for the curvy community. We make a point to make sure that we celebrate all curvy women of all sizes. You can be a size eight and be curvy, and you can also be a size 16 and be curvy. We like to emphasize that all curves are beautiful. At this last event, we had a fashion show at Lord & Taylor, and I spoke on a panel about the curvy community and how I have maneuvered through it myself. Being a part of National Curves Day, has opened my eyes up a lot.

I love National Curves Day because it talks not just about the size of the woman, but being a woman, embracing those curves, being a lady in your curves, how to dress your curves. The curriculum at my school covers a lot of that. We teach you wardrobe planning, what colors go well with you as an individual, what clothing will look best on you etc. When you are curvy and still want to be trendy, you have to know what looks best on you just like women of a smaller size.

Where you fit in, that’s how you present your best self.

MJ: I have always struggled with my weight, and I am glad that National curves day celebrates all curvy women of different sizes. It has always bothered me that people don’t think that women with curves are healthy.

AS: Yes a common misconception is that you cannot be curvy AND healthy. But you can! I work out and eat healthy on a regular basis. Through my journey, I learned that it is all about decisions.

MJ: We talked about modeling, tell me about acting. Who is your inspiration?

AS: One of my greatest inspirations is Queen Latifah. I always wanted to be in music, but I couldn’t sing. I danced, though. I wanted to write like she did on “Living Single,” so I was on the newspaper staff at school. As time progressed, I found myself producing and being involved in theater. Therefore, as she evolved, I changed too.

One of the things that is on my bucket list is to be a Las Vegas showgirl for a day; I have to be on the line.

Another inspiration was Dianne Carroll, and most influential my mother. She balanced it all, children, marriage and career.

MJ: You love teaching, and I can tell, what is your proudest moment as an educator?

AS: One of my achievers, I don’t call them students I like to call them achievers, was on the cover of Model World Magazine and Fashion Avenue News Magazine.

My mother, who is a recent graduate helped some of the students at a school she works at with their yearbook poses (below).

One of my five-year-old achievers, chose a photo with her family and me as her inspirational photo.

Most recently my niece graduated the program and now she is an intern at the school.

All those moments happened in the past few months and we have moments like those all the time so seeing my achievers receive what I say and use it is a big achievement for me. Therefore, when they get it, and enhance what they have is a proud moment for me. I am not going to make you what you are I am just going to help you see what is already there and enhance it.

MJ: What is your next move?

AS: Two more locations, one in the U.S., and another internationally. I want to be able to leave a legacy and employ others.

MJ: What would you tell a 19-year-old you?

AS: Do not be timid. Be fearless. Trust yourself.

 

Inspiring words from an inspiring woman indeed. If you would like to see more of Aushia and her work, or are interested in the Réussir School of Modeling, Acting, and Refinement visit www.aushiasmith.com or Reussirschools.com

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