Name: Alexis Henry
Agency: Yaniimodels / Select Models/ Next Models / One Management
Claim to Fame: Henry has modeled for Saks Fifth Avenue’s newest designer Fe Noel. She has also appeared in campaigns for Universal Standard and Nike.
Alexis Henry was on the sidelines in “a little town in Ohio,” when confronted with the idea she might be fit for the runway.
“I was walking to the concession stand and this random lady just came up to me and she passed her card out to me,” she told HelloBeautiful. Today’s Henry is surprised her early aughts look caught anyone’s attention. “I think I was probably wearing like an Aeropostale double polo,” with “the Kanye shades,” she added. Henry hadn’t imagined her body ever facilitating her dreams. “I had always loved fashion and everything, but modeling was not something I’d ever considered,” she revealed. “I had always had a dream since I was like nine or ten years old that I was going to move to New York and become this fashion writer for a magazine.”
“I loved fashion in that regard,” she continued. “Modeling was not something that I really thought I’d get into because I was kind of like awkward.” Beauty standards favoring the demure and diminutive didn’t boost her teenage self-image. “I was always the tall, bigger friend. I was that girl. I had a bunch of beautiful, smaller friends. One of my best friends was cheerleader, and I was considered popular and I was cool with everybody, but I wasn’t like the most athletic person. I wasn’t the smartest person. I just was like the funny girl, you know? And I think that was kind of like something I just latched on to,” she said. “I was going to be the girl that was the writer.”
Henry was unimpressed at the meeting. “We got my test shots done and they made me pay $40 for them to take my test shots and they were horrible,” she recalled. The worst part of the experience was not her pockets being lighter but their attempts to put her in a box. “You will be considered a plus model,” they told her.
“That was the first time I’d ever heard the term plus-size model but the way that they had told me it was like, they were breaking bad news to me,” she said. Henry resented their choice to “make this awesome opportunity sound kind of like lame.” She ditched their program but held on the dream they planted on the 40 yard line. After an ill-fated freshman year at the University of Cincinnati, she headed across the country so that she could study but “also pursue what I wanted to do.”
“I ended up moving to LA to go to art school,” she said. She did some modeling for classmates working on clothing lines and other grassroots projects while “finding herself.” Ultimately she found herself making her way to another creative hub. “I ended up moving back to home again to save some money and then I moved to New York,” she said. “I had two jobs, actually. I worked as a bartender and then I worked as a banker in the daytime and then at night time, I’d go bartend and I just saved up all my bread.” Henry landed in Park Slope, Brooklyn where she earned hard-won victories on the runway and in front of the camera. “For like two years, I wasn’t doing anything, my first agency did nothing for me. I had this whole issue with trying to figure out how they’re going to market me. I wear my natural hair, but back then they wanted me to have this long weave and I actually hated it. I wasn’t booking ever.” Models of Color Matter has documented Black models’ dissatisfaction with mainstream agencies for several fashion seasons.
Henry’s journey towards finding career stability coincided with a “toxic relationship,” she was struggling in. “It wasn’t until August this past August that I had been booking consistently and doing everything that I’ve ever dreamed of doing like this year has like legit turned my entire life around in so many ways,” she said. Two colleges, three cities, and one breakup later she was on her way to her seventeen year old dreams coming true. She called walking in the Harlem’s Fashion Row show for Fe Noel one of her “golden moments.” She felt beautiful in the “deep green two piece with some super dope Nikes,” selected for her,
“I felt honored in a lot of ways to be in front of LeBron who is from Ohio, like me, you know, he represents our whole state. It was wild,” she said.
Since moving forward she signed to Yanii Models and has appeared in ads for Nike, Universal Standard, Ashley Stewart and more.
“The theme of this year was sustainability in my career,” she said. “The next few years, my focus is getting more of the editorial clients,” she said. “I want to be on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. I want to do the things that Precious Lee is doing and Ashley Graham is doing.” She wants to see plus-size visibility match the voracity of conversations about plus-size visibility. “We’ve had that conversation as a society,” she said before declaring “plus-size models are editorial.” She and a group of colleagues in her “creative team,” work on making their own images to distribute to editorial entities and e-commerce companies.
“We’re not going to keep talking about plus bodies [and] being inclusive,” she said. “We’re just going to be that.”