Back in 2003, Gerren Taylor (@mstaylorxo) was one of the most exciting new models in the industry. Much of her initial fame stemmed from the fact that she was only 12 years old when she hit the Los Angeles Fashion Week runway for the first time. Then her career came to a screeching halt in a process that was documented by film America the Beautiful. After years of keeping a low profile in the modeling industry, Taylor's hitting the mainstage again and conquering the runway on her own terms. The beautiful model talked to us about how she's learned from her past and why she's exploring exploring entrepreneurism wit her new venture, Taylor Made Models.
Interview by Tara Aquino
How did being on the reality show Baldwin Hills affect your career?
Gerren Taylor: I was a model prior to Baldwin Hills, but it did get me a lot of love from the urban community. My friend told the producers about me, and they asked me if I'd like to do the show. We had fun and it was a great cast and crew.
What were the downsides to you being on the show?
The downside was unnecessary drama from certain females who weren't even factors in my life.
Would you ever consider being featured on another reality show?
There were a couple of incidents in my career when I was told I was too curvy to do the type of modeling that I did. They wanted girls to be a size zero-two for the runway.
I'm actually working on a reality show right now with Thrivin Productions and Virgin. I can't talk about it yet, but it’s juicy!
How was it being the first African-American model in a Marc Jacobs campaign?
At the time, I was excited to be the first African-American female to do a Marc by Marc Jacobs campaign. Now, in retrospect, I hope that I was able to open the door for other African-Americans that have come after me.
Who are your inspirations?
My Mom, Tyra, Diddy, Kimora Simmons, Mary-Kate and Ashley all are. I love bosses; people that take over their career and branch off with different businesses.
As the only guy you named, how is Diddy an inspiration to you?
I have not personally worked with Diddy, but I would love to! His charisma and his intelligence inspire young people like me to pursue entrepreneurship. I met him when I modeled for Tommy Hilfiger at New York Fashion Week.
What runs through your mind when you're about to hit a major runway?
Sometimes I get butterflies, but when I finally get on there, I just try to work it!
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
I keep them separate. I think it's really important to make time for your loved ones, family, and friends. Life is short and things will always be there, but the people you care about are here for a moment. So work hard, but don't forget what counts.
What's the biggest misconception about modeling?
That it’s easy. It actually takes a lot of hard work and dedication.
What was your most challenging moment as model?
When I was on The Oprah Winfrey Show. After I finished modeling, she asked me some questions. As I answered the questions, she slid over so I could sit down. My legs wouldn't move! So, I continued answering the questions standing. She slowly moved back, and that was my "aha!" moment. [Laughs.] It was a great experience, and she's amazing.
In the past, you've been very active in the mission to empower young girls, is that something you're still working towards today?
I love doing motivational speaking and self-love seminars. I'm in the process of developing some empowerment seminars that I will do for young girls and young women in Africa.
Given what the documentary America the Beautiful showed us about your career, how do you think you've changed today?
Like many cinematic works and reality shows, there were some exaggerations and creative licenses used in America the Beautiful. Although the industry possibly did exploit my youth, the film blew that exploitation up far greater than the industry ever could. But, I love being able to help others. I was given an opportunity, and I want to give more curvy girls a chance to live out their dreams.
Did you have any personal experiences that motivated you to reach out to curvier girls?
There were a couple of incidents in my career when I was told I was too curvy to do the type of modeling that I did. They wanted girls to be a size zero to two for the runway.
Is that what inspired you to start Taylor Made Models?
I love all shapes and sizes. I represent runway type models and urban bikini models as well. For America the Beautiful, I was followed for about four years and although I never received any compensation for my young efforts, I enjoy the reaction that the film gets from young girls and young women. Because of that experience, I am now able to help young girls who have body image challenges and self-esteem issues. That makes it all worth while.