Faith is the driving force for model and motivator Stacey McKenzie’s success
‘No worries, just be your best self’
She’s a supermodel with a distinct reputation for telling it like it is. But she walks the walk. The runway is model and motivational speaker Stacey McKenzie’s safe place. But as a mentor on America’s Next Top Model, including the Canadian version, she spreads her words of wisdom — also as the focus of the latest Motivational Speaker Series. The Caribbean-born model commands attention, whether gracing the cover of a magazine or revealing in a documentary that she was once bullied for her looks.
When asked about all of the projects she is involved in at once, McKenzie exclaimed with a laugh, “I’m Jamaican, you know we always have 10 jobs. We are go-getters. We just want to do everything under the sun.”
One of the “10 jobs” McKenzie seems to take the most pride in is as a motivational speaker. The once shy woman created the Walk This Way Workshops Inc. to help others not only learn about the modeling industry but also embrace their wonderful uniqueness. McKenzie spoke about her workshop and discussed her journey from the streets of Canada, via Jamaica, to the fashion runway and beyond.
Actress, model, motivational speaker … you’re a busy person. How do you sustain?
This is the thing with me: If you have the talent, why limit yourself? I started with modeling, and from there it was easy for me to get into the entertainment industry in terms of acting, television and film. I used my modeling as a platform to get into that type of industry, and then I wanted to create my workshops. I met quite a few models along the way and they didn’t know about getting into the business. I was self-taught. I actually studied and researched how the industry works.
I started my company to help others, because from what I experienced in talking with aspiring models, nobody wanted to help them. This is such a competitive industry [that] other models, established in the business, would just keep the information for themselves. But for me, the Most High put me in this industry for a reason, and it’s not for me to keep for self. If I see anybody in need of help, then I can give them the information as well.
Motivational speaking came later. I’ve always wanted to do it, but I thought you had to be chosen. I was very nervous to be in front of a crowd speaking because I talk so much. But I found out about Toastmasters and I was able to get over my fear of public speaking. From there I was propelled and felt motivated to go into motivational speaking. A lightbulb went off, and I was like, maybe I should share with people my obstacles, my challenges and how I was able to overcome them.
I truly believe I was put in this industry for a reason, because I was told no by every single agent in America and in Canada. Folks were like, ‘This is not for you.’ I was called everything from ugly to weird and different to I would never sell products. I would never be a moneymaking model. I was way too different-looking. It took me five years to get signed! It was a huge blessing. If I had listened to those people, I wouldn’t be on the phone with you right now. Who knows where I would be? I might have been a lawyer or something, who knows. I would probably be a private investigator, because I’m really nosy (laughs).
Tell us about the Walk This Way Workshops Inc. and yourself.
There are two sides to my company. There is a modeling side, where I teach all aspects of modeling and not just for high fashion. There is also commercial modeling, lifestyle modeling, and that can be from babies up to 100 years old or older, as long as you look the part. I teach them how to get into the business and what to do when they get in.
And then I have my camp, which is the second part. It is dedicated to the youth who don’t have the opportunity to meet with people like myself or other people in the industry. They can learn about fashion, art, entertainment and business, finance, how to get grants for postsecondary education or for starting their first business. The students get to learn from all different kinds of people so each will have a different mentor within each of those fields.
I strategically choose the mentors that have been through obstacles and challenges, like serious challenges, and pursued their dreams and goals and made it. I created the camp because I was one of those youths. I came from the ’hood. I grew up in the ’hood from Jamaica to when I moved to Canada. I said to myself, if I get blessed with making it, there is no way I’m not going to share information with somebody. That’s crazy to me. You shouldn’t be selfish with it.
How do you remain undefeated?
The Bible and reaching out to the Most High God. Through all of my challenges, I would turn to people like my mom and look for advice here and there. But when I turn to him, the Most High God, and his word, it’s a totally different story. You have to acknowledge him and give him your all, because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have what I have today. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. I wouldn’t have the opportunities I get. It’s his doing.
What advice do you have on how to overcome shyness?
When people see me, they think I’m always confident. Not at all. I have my moments. We are all human. There are tools that you can use, like Toastmasters. But one other thing I did to overcome my shyness was just being myself. When you’re not being yourself, if you’re pretending, it just doesn’t come off right.
Who inspired you?
It is Grace Jones because she was a Jamaican model, and the only Jamaican model I had ever heard of, actually, I could relate to because she was considered different-looking. She was considered weird. Her personality is out there where she doesn’t care what you think about her. I was raised by my mom to never show that someone defeated me. I would always show you that I’m undefeated. It didn’t seem like that was Grace Jones. Her attitude and personality inspired me to not give a crap about what people think. I’m just being myself.
Do you have any motivational suggestions?
Be the best you. Always strive to be the best you. Everybody’s not going to like or love you. There will be people who love or hate you. We all have a lot of issues, but you always have to look into yourself and look at things you’re not doing right and fix it to be a better you.