Alexis Henry is a plus size / curve model and mental health advocate based in New York City. As a model, Alexis has worked with several top brands, such as Ashley Stewart, Dia & Co., Fashionova, Nike, Old Navy, Rebdolls, Savage X Fenty, Universal Standard, and Urban Decay Cosmetics among others. She has also walked down the runway at various Fashion Week shows. As a mental health advocate Alexis champions body confidence and self acceptance, she has produced workshops on body confidence and has also mentored childen in NYC’s charter schools. We recently had the chance to interview Alexis about her career and work to date, here’s what she had to say...
Solstice: Please tell us about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get into modelling?
Alexis: I was raised in a small town in Ohio. I always wanted to work as fashion writer and I saw myself working up to becoming an Editor of a major magazine. That was my plan at around age 9/10. I was enamoured with makeup and clothes early on but never considered modelling as an option.
I was scouted by a couple who opened an agency and wanted me to come in and talk about signing. I learned that I would be considered as a plus model and should focus on commercials and store ad type modelling. I never signed with them though, as they seemed like a scam and my mother wasn’t convinced by them. I still wanted to work in fashion, so I ended up moving to L.A for school and did freelance modelling on the side.
I think L.A is where I learned to love the art in creating photographs and concepts. I met a lot of other artists that love what they do. We would collaborate and work on really fun shoots. I loved working there but I knew that if I wanted to really make it in fashion, I had to move to N.Y.C. So I submitted to a few agencies and got signed to one. This lead me to moving to the city and continuing the journey here.
Solstice: What is the best and hardest thing about being a plus size model?
Alexis: I’d say the hardest part is not wanting to be put in a box. It always feels like a fight for a seat at the table, which is exhausting. Who knows who. Who went where. Who’s invited there. Working in a very reserved industry feels like constantly being vulnerable and trying to fit in. Sometimes I don’t always follow the rules of what people expect of me. However, I like being me and I like creating. It’s how I express myself and cope with life. A big part of my career is based on projects that teams and I create, to push narratives, messages and maybe even boundaries at times.
The best part is making a message through my work that sticks with people. Whether that be with a brand/client or my team, I want people to always see realism in media and on social media. When people see and understand why progression is necessary to the point of also becoming more open and inclusive themselves, that always feels good.
Solstice: What is the biggest misconception about being a curve model?
Alexis: I’d say the biggest misconception is that there is only one lane for curve models. That we all belong to the E-Comm world and not with high fashion concepts as much. People are breaking those stereotypes of course, but nonetheless, it’s something still needing to progress.
Solstice: What are some steps the industry can take towards being more inclusive ?
Alexis: One thing is to actually care about representation enough to hire creatives of different sizes/shapes/ethnicities. Put the same thought and detail you do with straight-size clothing into plus.
Another tip would be to talk to different kinds of people. Don’t take their ideas and retell the story. Take these people off of your mood boards. Hire these people. Pay these people.
Solstice: How would you describe your style?
Alexis: My style is really based on my mood of the day. I love mixing flowy, feminine fabrics and things that fall on me with sneakers. I love to be comfortable but also well dressed, like I threw my outfit on effortlessly.
Solstice: Who are your style icons?
Alexis: Rihanna never has or probably will ever disappoint. She’s always first to mind when thinking of stylish people. Eartha Kitt was major, too. She was revolutionary and sultry at the same time and made you feel like being a woman was something just divine. I also really love how young and iconic Zendaya is. Her style is everything. Solange, Janet Jackson and every black woman in the 90’s.
Solstice: Do you have a team? What is the hardest thing about collaborations in your opinion?
Alexis: I do! I have a few different creatives that I work with but one constant is my best friend and stylist Kafui. He’s the brains behind most shoots I do. The hardest thing about collaborations is time and communication. Trying to get things finalised for magazine submissions in a specific way and time frame can be hard because not everyone communicates the same. But we make it through and always make it work.
Solstice: Who are some of your favourite designers? Why?
Alexis: Christian Siriano is really influential because he’s amazing at what he does and believes in inclusion with his work. You see that every NYFW. Fe Noel and Anifa Mvuemba of Hanifa are my two favs right now because their pieces are amazing and tell a story.
Solstice: Who are some other models that you think are affecting change in terms of inclusion?
Alexis: So many! Roseline Lawerence, Kendra Austin, Tara Lynn, Charlie Howard are just a few that come to mind. Love what they do and what their work says.
Solstice: You are known for your mental health advocacy. What are some tips you have to maintain mental health in the industry? What are some tips you have to maintain during quarantine?
Alexis: Solitude is one of my favourite practices for my day to day. When I find time to sit in silence and stretch, I feel like it’s a nice start or break from the day. I can think about what kind of day I want to have or am having and set good intentions for the day. Also, I’m not being hard on myself during this quarantine and taking things very slow.
Solstice: Could you please tell us about what you’re actively doing to advocate body-positivity and mental health?
Alexis: As far as projects go, I launched a podcast recently to showcase other creatives talents and struggles in this industry to really just provide some sort of realism in what we do. It was a great learning tool, especially when COVID-19 first came about, people were able to learn new ways to hustle and how artists were keeping afloat. Last summer I was able to host a few panel discussions in NYC with artists, designers, and therapists about mental health and finished an internship with the Bronx Charter schools, focusing on mentoring 5th grade girls.
Solstice: Was there a particular turning point when you felt you were really reaching people with your messages about body positivity?
Alexis: Within the last two years, I’ve picked up a lot of traction in my career and many beautiful people will send me notes of
Affirmation and love. I realised that what I’m doing is not only valid but respected by so many people. People see you being vulnerable in an industry that doesn’t always serve our body types or race, yet it’s dope to get confirmation that what I’m doing is important and seen. So no, no real turning point but a lot of love over a long period of time.
Solstice: What’s the key to helping combat a lot of womens’ unhealthy obsession with being thin?
Alexis: People like me and the rest of the plus size models in this industry. It’s slowly becoming a normalcy in fashion; that not everyone is the same. By creating fashion editorials as a size 18, my goal is to prove we deserve space. We can do high fashion concepts. The key though is not associating with diet culture. Don’t drink the tea. Say no to the fat busting gummies. Don’t promote the toxicity in wanting to be thin. Want to be healthy? That’s more important.
Solstice: What advice would you give young girls who look like you and want to be in the industry?
Alexis: The best advice I would give for those navigating through this industry is to really fall in love with your own individuality. Step into what makes you unique. Celebrate yourself more often. I would emphasise on learning new skills and expanding your creativity by fusing your gifts together- whatever that may mean for you. Also, this industry is very black and white no matter how colourful it may look via Instagram. Find people you can trust and build good connections with. Communicate. Always communicate change of plans, thoughts, uneasy feelings at a shoot, if you’re going to be late, etc. Smile and be kind to people. Be prepared. People will remember how you made them feel. If you love what you bring to the table and who you are, not much can stop you.
Solstice: What are some of your long-term and short-term goals as a creative?
Alexis: Hmm, so my short-term goal as a creative is really to just get through the quarantine. Still finding new ways to create with my friends remotely has been a challenge but fun. Also, I launched a podcast that has been so fun to work on and talk with people from all over the country. I’m really just trying to connect with people while tending to my own needs.
My goal long-term is to definitely be a mogul. Whatever that looks like in a few years, I want to known for my work and getting paid well for it. I think that’s every creative’s dream, but yes! I want to be on more covers and more tv screens. I want to build a foundation for my mental health group and work with the best of the best. Legacy is my long term goal.
Solstice: You’re radiant! Are there any beauty tips you can share?
Alexis: Sleep! Sleep and water are some of the most vital things that our skin thrives on. I also try to be very consistent with my skin care. I like to do a weekly steam on my skin and follow up with a face mask.
I’m in my late 20’s so I’m paying attention to more authentic and vegan friendly skincare brands. I love Pacifica beauty’s line and currently trying their cleansers and serums.
Interview conducted by Kafui Akakpo
Photographers: Bash Duncan, Sydney Claire, & Victor Tejada
Stylist: Kafui Akakpo
Make Up Artist: Christina Lubin
Hair Stylist: Patrick Slaygod
Nail Technician: Dan Renée
Assistants: Camille Felicity & Jillian Mcgarry