Talk about radiating light! Vanessa Romo is the kind of model whose images offer a sense of calm confidence. Once a shy girl who tried to hide from her body, Vanessa has become a women with grace, one who embraces her shape and encourages others to do the exact same thing. Only a few years in the modeling game, and she's already at the forefront of making change in the industry. Here, Vanessa spoke candidly about how she honors her heritage and continues to push herself, even on down days.
Describe the connection you have with your culture. Has it always been the same throughout your life, or has it evolved?
My culture has been a strong source of motivation in my life. As a daughter of Mexican immigrants I was taught to be resilient. My parents always spoke with pride of where they are from and made sure that I knew about Jalpa, the beautiful town in Zacatecas, Mexico, where our family lived very humble lives. I spent many of my summers there and it became another home for me. I’m so glad that my parents made sure I knew exactly where we came from.
How does that connection find its way into your life–from career and style, to relationships and passion projects.
Over the last few years, I’ve realized how significant it is to keep your culture in America, where many times we feel the need to assimilate and not be too different. I feel like I wear my culture with more pride than ever now because I see how significant it is to embrace it. I think it’s important to pay homage to my culture with my work. I have done many photoshoots that do so, and I’ve created those images with other Latinx creatives, so it’s very special to me.
How did you get started in modeling, and what made you go after it?
I was a very shy kid growing up and that turned into having low self esteem. I hated so many things about my body because of my size and it kept me from being happy and doing things I was interested in. It hurt my mental health a lot, and at one point in college, I realized that I was wasting my life being miserable in my body. I decided that I needed to work on my confidence and appreciating the body that I had in the moment. I started pushing myself to dress in clothes I normally wouldn’t be comfortable in, and posting it on Instagram under the body-positive-movement hashtags. The photos gained a bit of attention and I got scouted by my agency, Natural Models. So it all started as a personal journey with my confidence and it turned into an amazing career opportunity. I feel like it was meant to be. I never considered being a model, it just happened and I’m so grateful.
Growing up, did you ever feel under-represented in the industry? Have you seen the industry shift its perspective since you’ve been modeling?
As I was growing up, I didn’t see women who looked like me in the industry, and it made me feel like there was something wrong with me. It made me feel like an outsider and less than. Within these last few years the industry has changed so much and it's amazing to not only see the change, but to be a part of the change. I felt very challenged when I first started working in the modeling industry. There were very limited opportunities for plus-size women and even more limited for plus-size women of color. Today, I’m still only one of the very few plus-size Latinas we see in the media, but I know that we are headed in the right direction. The inclusivity that we see now is going to help so many people feel visible and empowered to push for more. That’s a beautiful thing.
What aspect of your career brings you the most joy?
I love getting messages from women who tell me that I have inspired them to be more confident and feel beautiful in their skin. That was my goal since the beginning. I want to reach as many people as I can to change their perspective and see that they need to treat their bodies with love. This perspective has done so much for me in my life, and I want others to feel the same way.
What’s the fuel that keeps you striving for more in life, your career?
Truly, the fuel the keeps me pushing for more is remembering where I came from. As a child, I wanted to be a performer but it seemed completely impossible to me for so many reasons. Especially because of my body and ethnicity. I felt hopeless but suddenly this opportunity came out of nowhere to use what I thought were my “weaknesses” as something that made me special. I strive to keep breaking the barriers of this industry.
When all is said and done, what do you want to be most known for?
I want to be known as someone that inspires others to keep chasing their dreams. I never expected to be working in this industry considering my background, but here I am. I got into modeling with no connections or knowledge of how to get here, but once I saw the opportunity, I knew that there’d be nothing stopping me from making an impact in this industry. I’m working hard and looking forward to seeing how far I’ll get as one of the only Mexican- American, plus-size models.
Any empowering words of wisdom that you’d love to share with other women?
It is up to you, and only you, to make your dreams come true. Ask for help when you need it but make sure to check in with yourself and see that you are doing everything in your power to make things happen. Keep pushing yourself to work harder and smarter. You are stronger than you think. Plan things out and set up a timeline for your goals. Don’t forget to step back and take pride in your accomplishments so far and enjoy the journey!
Follow Vanessa Romo on Instagram.