Teaching 15+ Models How to Walk Runway
They say you really don't know a skill until you can teach it to others.
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of coaching over fifteen models for the annual African Students Union(ASU) Fashion Show. I actually coached the year before, when the former ASU President reached out during my senior year to help sans gratuit.
But this time was different, aside from getting paid this time around, I was coming back as an alum. It felt like more of a job rather than an extracurricular project you do in college. I was glad when May, ASU's new president, asked me to coach again and told me her vision for the show—she wanted choreographed walks that told a story. I knew that I could deliver.
For three months, every other week, in between work and other projects, I would go to the main University of Miami campus to train the models for the show.
First things first, the castings. I knew that the models auditioning had little-to-no experience walking so I was looking for raw talent. Their walk did not have to be on point but their confidence and personality had to shine through. I remember May and I seeing 40-50 models over the course of the two days, and making the cuts were difficult.
There was one model who lacked confidence —I won't say her name, she knows who she is—and I decided to cast her because she had potential. I saw myself in her and wanted to give her the chance to be more comfortable moving as a model. Modeling helped me build confidence and if I was going to teach this cohort anything it would be to embrace their beauty to the fullest.
I first got into modeling by doing runway shows. When I freelanced my first big gig, my former agent was in the crowd and after the show offered me a contract in Miami. I love runway, more than shooting editorials because it is live. The fact that shows happen in real time is exciting; the adrenaline rushing through you as you strut down the runway is incredible— you feel the energy of the audience.
Nonetheless, I had to convey my love for the craft to ASU Cycle 2. I decided to focus on the basics and build their walks from there. I always start with footwork first. For the first few rehearsals, I had them do an 8-count walk in drills. In eight counts they had to walk down, pivot their feet, shift their weight, and turn around to walk back. Once that was down, we added the routines.
Head Up, Shoulders Back, Heel-toe, Heel-toe
The veterans from Cycle 1 helped by leading an example for the new models. As the show's date came closer, the models were surprised to find out that I didn't care about them following a strict 8-count walk. Having the models count provided them with muscle memory, the fundamentals to not worry about their feet and to move with more confidence, and so they did.
It was showtime. The models looked good at rehearsal but I had to make sure that they looked good when it counted, for the fashion show. This time is very hectic because of the short amount of time the models had to change between each segment. I don't like to yell, I am a calm person, but during rehearsal and especially for the show day I had to be very vocal.
I had to run backstage to call for models, give them a pep talk, and then tell them the appropriate walk for each segment. Everything had to flow. Along with coaching the models, I worked with the designers as the show's runner.
The crowd was so animated! The dancing, the fierce walks, and the singing all showcased African culture beautifully. Seeing the models walking made me smile, their hard work paid off and they were having fun.
Once it was over, I was so happy we produced a great show. This show was a great way to celebrate the end of the semester. I love modeling for moments like this.
Overall, It was a rewarding experience.