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Meet Kalia Lani

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kalia Lani.

Kalia, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Modeling is something that I had always wanted to pursue since a very young age. When I was little, I would dress up and put on fashion shows for my family. When I was about 14 years old, I got a camera for Christmas so I could learn how to take photos and then teach my sister how to so she could help take my photos. Growing up, I was always told that I should be a model and always knew it was something I was passionate about but never knew I was capable of it due to the industry’s standards. Fast forward to almost two years ago, I was given the opportunity to walk in a LA fashion show. I was so dedicated that on my 19th birthday, I did two photoshoots before my actual birthday plans. After this, I started freelancing and finding work on my own. I was constantly reaching out to photographers and brands to build my portfolio. At the time, I was doing anything and everything from ecom, to fashion shows, to music videos. I just wanted to gain as much experience as possible, while making a name for myself. About four months after freelancing, I met my agent and signed to my mother agency, League Models USA. I continued to work hard and built up my portfolio while going to castings constantly to be introduced to different agencies. Now, a little over a year later, I am also signed with Leni’s Models in London.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
This experience has not been easy at all. As I mentioned previously, I never thought modeling was something I could even do because of the industry’s standards. Although, when the industry became more inclusive, I thought it wouldn’t be as hard of an obstacle for me. I was wrong. Being that I am not a straight-sized model or a plus-sized model, it has been really hard falling in the middle. I was made fun of my whole life for my body and now I’m here in an industry being told my body is “too perfect” and doesn’t meet the standards. When it comes to modeling, it all comes down to measurements and my measurements were always too big to be a straight-sized model but too small to be a plus-sized model. But with this being said, I have overcome so many challenges and broke down so many barriers by being myself. I’ve learned that it is not all about looks and perfection. Your personality and your differences are what make you unique and so intriguing.

Please tell us more about your work.
I am a curve model that is hoping to do it all. I love shooting ecom but I also want to be a curve model walking runways one day. I don’t think that size or body image should hold you back and I definitely will not let it define me. I think what sets me apart from others is my mentality and my drive. Through all the heartbreaking “No’s” that I’ve gone through, I have never given up. I have had so many conversations, with my mother agent, with tears still in my eyes just ready to work harder and become better. Even when it looks impossible, I am always going to find a way because I would rather chase my dreams than be unhappy. What makes me different? How much I want this and how much I work for it every. Single. Day. And I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Believe it or not, the proudest moment of my career was a “No” from my dream agency. At the end of last year, I met with the biggest agency in the world for a scouting event. I ended up being one of the few girls to be asked to meet with the whole team at their LA office. This was one of the best days of my life. Whenever I thought about modeling agencies, I always thought, “this particular agency is the goal”. I ended up going to their office and meeting their whole team a few weeks later. Although I didn’t end up signing with them, and it was heartbreaking at first, I realized that I didn’t only meet with my dream agency once, but they asked me to go back a second time and meet with the rest of the team. People dream about the opportunity to even get the chance to meet with them, and I was given the opportunity to impress them TWICE! I was heartbroken for days but once I realized that they saw so much in me and told me stuff like “I’ve never seen someone like you before” I was so grateful. I had never been so proud of myself knowing that I had only been modeling for about a year and a half and had already had an opportunity of a lifetime.

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Image Credit:
Photograph credits: Chris Rodriguez, Monté Law, Tina Louise, and Uni

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