Ask Stephane Achille about herself and most likely she’ll respond with a blank stare—not because she’s at loss at to what to say, but rather, she may not know where to start when enumerating her accomplishments. Her scholastic accomplishments include an undergraduate degrees in Nursing and near-completion of one in International Relations.
Achille is also a model. She started modeling while in her 30s, that in itself a feat, considering ageism in that industry. But she decided to take a stab at it regardless, after being stopped on the street and getting on-the-spot inquries from passers-by and photographers.
Oh, another thing: she’s an Educator, teaching aspiring new nurses at colleges in her area. Born in Haiti, she came to the United States when she was twelve years old. She initially lived in New York, then spent a decade and a half in the state of Texas, before moving to Florida.
Achille recalls being moved by how much she was welcomed by the Haitian community in South Florida, and returning the cultural squeezy-hug right back, by participating in cultural events and promoting Haitian culture at every opportunity.
And oh yeah: she’s a musical journalist, having written performance reviews for the internet-based Haitian entertainment news outlet called HaitianBeatz.
Most people think that modeling is very glamorous. Is that always the case? What goes into modeling that most people don’t see?
Modeling is very glamorous and you meet some pretty extraordinary human beings along the way and I traveled extensively and it’s quite exhilarating. Unfortunately, I was never able to pursue the career fully because I could never make the decision to walk away from my Nursing profession to model full time because I did not think that it was a sustainable way of making a living because the expectations are somewhat unrealistic at times. By that I mean, I was never able to maintain a stable weight because I fluctuated as most women do but this is not permissible in modeling because you are expected to maintain a certain weight. In addition, I was a homeowner and what most people don’t see is the amount of preparation that goes into a fashion show for example. You prepare your body both mentally and physically for weeks leading up to maybe a 45 second appearance on stage. You can spend hours in hair and makeup. And the amount of abuse your hair and skin goes through to achieve a certain look can take its toll. At the end, it’s all worth it, because models love having their pictures taken, obviously. But just like any other job, it requires discipline and you have to take it seriously because it’s a lot of work.
When you were growing up, and did you look at yourself in the mirror, did you feel beautiful?
I was a cute girl with very long hair…People picked me up endlessly and carried me; I never walked as a little girl. Someone would invariably carry me so I would not say that I looked at myself in the mirror and “felt beautiful” per se, but I knew I was very special. I have a lot of beautiful women in my family including my sister Myriam Achille. I think I was just one of many beautiful little girls growing up. There was never any real emphasis on outer beauty.
What’s a day in the life of Stephane Achille the model like?
Well, I’m just a normal woman just like everyone else—except I take extra steps to take exquisite care of my hair, my skin and my teeth. I live in my beautiful pool home in Miami, Florida which I own. And I maintain a very peaceful and almost therapeutic home life and lifestyle. I lecture twice a week as a Nurse Educator and I attend classes at Florida International University to pursue a second college degree full-time. I’m an avid reader and conversationalist. I interact with friends on several platforms including social media. I attend major events both socially and as a writer. My private time is spent enjoying my close friends and family. I have my own website and this is where I receive most of my requests for modeling jobs, but due to time constraints, I have not been able to fulfill most of my proposals this year. I consider myself a talent and I tend to shy away from the label, model.
What was it like growing up in a Haitian household?
My wonderful humanitarian grandmother named Madeleine Perez raised me. She was the Mayor of Jacmel in Haiti for almost 40 years. When I ventured out with my grandmother as a little girl, I did not have a traditional Haitian childhood per se in that I had a guard who followed me everywhere I went and they even stood outside of my classrooms in elementary school for security purposes—which was part of regular protocol for that time. Growing up, we had a [governess] Madame Robillard, a very educated woman who took great care to ensure that my sister and I had the proper home life as my grandmother tended to the day to day activities of running the town of Jacmel. I did not see my grandmother as a politician, but rather as a public servant. I remember attending official ribbon cutting ceremonies with her to inaugurate new roads in Jacmel. We had homes both in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel and went back and forth. Our homes were full of visitors and as children, we were sheltered naturally, but those were the most memorable times of my life. My uncle Robert Bauduy who was an incredible mind, instilled in me the love of the Haitian arts and culture, but especially the art of reading and the love for books.
What’s the most memorable moment you’ve had on the runway?
Because of my height of 5’5, I did not do many runway shows, but I was fortunate enough to participate in many fashion shows because of my winning personality. I remember doing a fashion show with a Haitian modeling agency and I walked out in front of nearly 10,000 people in Bayfront Park in Miami during a Haitian festival wearing nothing but a bikini by a Haitian designer! I remember the energy from the crowd as I stood fearlessly and unapologetically and I worked that runway with all the pride of being a beautiful Haitian professional woman.
It seems that from reports about the modeling industry, not only are models plagued with issues of eating disorders, and botched surgeries, now there’s this trend among some to resort to body enhancements, include artificial injections.
I pride myself on being 100% natural—from my fingernails to my hair. I have never had any plastic surgery of any kind. I don’t know what the statistics are on the prevalence of eating disorders or “botched” surgeries within the modeling industry. But I know for a fact that the women who are the most successful in the industry are those who maintain a healthy lifestyle and remain as natural as possible. Often times, a Polaroid picture with no makeup is preferred over a re-touched photo in the photo submission process with major modeling agencies. Therefore, we can conclude that the mainstream modeling industry tends to shy away from women with body enhancements, piercings or tattoos.
How do you stay fit?
Naturally, there is tremendous effort to maintain an ideal weight in modeling, but I always represented the “average” woman or “real” woman—for lack of a better word—because I was always voluptuous and the trend in the fashion industry in recent years especially for print modeling which is what I did for the most part, is not as strict because of celebrities such as Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez who paved the way I would say for fashion to include woman such as myself to even consider modeling. I was always well proportioned although I fluctuated in weight, but I don’t do as much as I would like to in order to stay fit because I eat almost anything that I want in moderation of course. My goal is to hit the gym, but so far I haven’t done so but I will! I lead a super active lifestyle, which is not a substitution, but I keep a great balance of especially mind and body, which is probably the most important thing. I meditate on my yoga mat and I stretch endlessly in a very calm and peaceful home that I created for myself to thrive on this earth.
Do you have some beauty tips in terms of how to best remove makeup? Some little-known shortcuts to beauty?
Absolutely! I don’t wear makeup on a daily basis. For school and work, I use translucent powder, a bronzer and lip-gloss! My skin care regimen is very strict. I use a light exfoliator everyday and I moisturize my skin twice a day and I stay out of the sun. I use a clarifying mask weekly and I drink tons of water. My shortcuts to beauty are to accept myself the way that I am and to remain as close as possible to my authentic self—meaning if I color my hair, it will always aim to stay as close to my natural color as possible. I don’t utilize any chemical hair relaxers or artificial hair because I prefer to take care of my scalp and natural hair by moisturizing my real hair once a week with pure coconut oil. I’m careful to ensure that I don’t strain my hair follicles with tight ponytails or braids to avoid traction alopecia which is essentially irreversible hair loss related to the pulling of the your hair strands at the root. So what if your hair is not straight? I am so happy with the number of women that have opted to embrace their natural hair texture and skin color.
How can a woman develop confidence in herself?
This is such a great question. I believe that all of us have an important role to fulfill on earth and can contribute greatly to society. I am a huge proponent of higher learning and I think that there is a big correlation between knowledge and confidence. With knowledge, you build self-confidence and the realization that we are all equal to one another regardless of our individual characteristics and backgrounds. I am a humanitarian and I help others and as I do, I also help myself. I accept my weaknesses and strengths and I am a working progress. I speak publicly and openly and lead a fairly transparent life. I don’t believe that we can thrive in a secret society and therefore, I share my knowledge with others and I learn from everyone even children. As a member of the written press/media for the Haitian Music Industry, women are under-represented and I remember times when I would go to a press conference and I would be the only woman in the room, but I assumed myself with confidence and I continuously tell myself that I belong in that room just like anyone else. I operate through my fears and face life dead on and I’m not afraid of making a fool out of myself. I just live my life and follow my dreams. I have to leave my legacy on this earth and therefore, I utilize all my talents whether acquired or God-given and I don’t compare myself to anyone else. I remain authentic to my true self and I don’t copy on anyone either. Confidence comes from accepting yourself first, then embracing everyone else the way that they are.
Some models struggle with self-esteem. How do you keep your head up in an industry where rejection is rampant?
Well, as I stated before, I did not always get selected for runway shows due in part to the standard height or weight requirements. But if I wanted to be part of a show, I would still go to the casting with my positive outlook. Sometimes, the casting directors would still select me because of my great attitude. I modeled handbags and sunglasses and I did not think twice about the rejections because I always looked at modeling as my hobby because I was so passionate about it. I was featured in a music video once and my small stature worked to my advantage because the director did not want a woman who was six feet tall or a size zero. The average consumer does not look like a runway model. There is a market for every shade of color and every age group and even every height and weight. I have wonderful hair, skin and eyebrows and I can take tight close ups that show beautifully on print and therefore, I represent the non-traditional models that also have a place in the field. In the United States and all across the world, we have senior models that represent brands that do not necessarily want an 18-year-old person because the product would not fit that particular look.
What should we expect from you in the future?
I am working on some excellent projects but most importantly, I plan on attending law school and therefore I maintain a perfect GPA of 4.0 in my second undergraduate degree in International Relations, which I should complete by the end of the year. When I feel prepared, I will sit for the LSAT—the Law School Admission Test—which is an aptitude test for Pre-Law candidates such as myself. I intend on remaining very active in the Haitian community both locally and abroad and being a role model for those who admire me. I also plan to continue to lecture as a Nurse Educator and write as a member of the Haitian Press/Media. I will continue to model until the wheels fall off and represent the women of my age group. I am fortunate enough to be race-ambiguous meaning I can represent every ethnicity which is appropriate within the context of modeling. Above all, I strive to represent Haiti in every way possible to continue to elevate the image of my beloved country. I’d like to thank Kreyolicious Magazine for this wonderful interview and I invite you to visit me on www.stephaneachille.com and interact with me on social media.