‘Tis the Season to relish in all things BLACK! It’s Black History Month and we are reclaiming #Blackfriday! Every Friday, we will be featuring Black Owned Businesses you should know. To kick the season off with a BANG, our very first #Blackfriday highlights Jennifer Michelle; the engine behind the It’s Jennifer Michelle Modeling agency. This beauty is “More Than A Mannequin,” and has lead a purpose driven life as a model, mom, minister and entrepreneur
As a teenager, Jennifer had always wanted to model, but was never confident in her look. “I didn’t see myself reflected in the supermodels of the time,” she said reflecting on her start in the industry.
It was a prophetic word from her pastor that ignited Jennifer’s confidence to step out on faith. Through heavy involvement in her church and community, the door to the runway had been unlocked.
Like most, Jennifer received much criticism on go-see’s. At a dainty size 2, she was too curvy for white designers and too small for black designers. Jennifer described one of her most memorable moments of being told she could not walk in a show because she was, “not a real person.” In an industry that glorifies small women, Jennifer was being told she was half a person because she was too small. Jennifer would go on to walk the show for this designer, and KILL IT! After what she describes as a fierce and exhilarating experience, the designer nearly begged her to walk her future shows. But, her requests fell on deaf ears. As karma would have it, Jennifer went on to coach that same designer’s models. Look at God! #bookedbusyblessed
As Jennifer grew as a model and coach, she became very selective about the brands she worked with. Maintaining her dignity, integrity and identity in the industry allowed her access to opportunities such as “Everyday Runway”, and produce a four-year beauty and fashion segment for WCCB.
Though success seemed to effortlessly follow, Jennifer is no stranger to dark days. As our conversation progressed, Jennifer admitted while her journey was unique and undoubtedly lead by God, she had missed opportunities out of fear. Late one evening, after spiraling as low as she thought she could get, she went to church to say her final goodbye to her son and mother. She recounted a chilling moment she experienced with her pastor who, for the second time in her life, planted a prophetic seed. He said, “Yes, you’ve done everything they say you did, but you are not who they say you are.”
Jennifer remembers going up for alter call and her pastor whispering in her ear that if she followed through with her plan, she would not know all God has planned for her. She recalls the disbelief she felt, because she had told no one what she planned to do that night. That would also be the night Jennifer gave her life to Christ and would find clarity and peace in her purpose.
Juggling entrepreneurial endeavors, acting, modeling, producing, parenting and coaching, can be overwhelming. But, Jennifer says the impact she’s been able to have on the women’s lives is worth it. When asked the three things Jennifer would say to her 18 year-old self, she said, “you are good enough, don’t give up, and enjoy the ride.”
Her advice to aspiring young black models is to, “be 100x better than everyone else, have thick skin, and take care of yourself mentally, physically and emotionally. Because your face will tell it all!”
Jennifer advises that by being your authentic self, you are able to break barriers and stand out. Now at 45, Jennifer is breaking barriers and standing out in her own right. Defying the industry standard that promotes ageism, Jennifer remains booked, busy and blessed on and off the runway. She described the turn of the tide in the modeling industry as exciting, seeing major brands such as “America’s Next Top Model” eliminate their age requirement. She boasts to her clients she will always model because age and other limitations society places on individuals mean nothing. Jennifer tells clients and those inquiring about working with her that as long as you have the “it factor and passion,” she will work with you.
There is always an avenue, and there is always a market find your niche and transition as you are lead.
A triumphant tale of a black woman in business. Harken to your calling and operate in your purpose.
Jennifer Michelle is more than a Mannequin, she is an agent of change.