Briana Michelle: ‘There’s Only One of Me’
Briana Michelle is going places. Literally. After walking in three New York Fashion Week shows this season, the bubbly 20-year-old is heading to L.A. to diversify her portfolio with commercial work where she can “get her smile on,” she says. “My biggest motivator with modeling is definitely to travel,” says Briana, who is from Orlando, Florida. “My goal is to make it around the world—Europe, Tokyo.” Here, the stylish model talks to Other Suns about standing out and staying sane in the social media age of modeling.
Amirah Mercer: What shows did you walk in this season?
Briana Michelle: I walked for Alice + Olivia, Bonnie Bouche by Angela Simmons, and Caló.
Amirah: This is your third NYFW season. Does the fashion industry feel diverse to you?
Briana: Compared to what I’ve seen in the past, it’s super inclusive [now]. There’s so many different girls I see from different cultures or different looks, and it’s super cool. Red [Model Management], especially, has a very diverse look—a lot of people of color and people from all walks of the Earth. But it also depends on brands and designers themselves. There was a show for Fall/Winter 2019 where there was, like, no people of color casted for their whole runway show. There’s always room to grow to include more people, and I feel like [the industry is] on a positive trajectory.
How have you evolved as a model?
Briana: I’ve done three seasons so far, but technically I’m still a new face. I know what to expect now, and there’s not as much of the anxiety. The casting directors already have the look in their head of what they want when these girls are walking in, so it’s nothing against my face or my look. There’s only one of me, so I have that against everyone else. My first Fashion Week was last September. My agency worked with me a little bit, but I felt like I was just kind of thrown into the environment. It was a lot of pressure. Even though I know myself, I felt like I was the curviest girl there sometimes, and I had to understand, that’s just my body and I have to appreciate that difference.
Amirah: Back in the day, models didn’t have to worry so much about their public persona, but now you guys have to curate and craft your Instagram pages. Do you find yourself thinking about that a lot?
Briana: Yeah, I sometimes think about it too much. I’ve started just to post things and put my phone down for the rest of the day. You’re looking at your numbers constantly, you see other models with 10,000 followers, and you’re like, ‘What about me is different?’ So you can’t really think that way. There are ways, of course, to curate Instagram. It’s about consistency and the time you post and all that. But that’s just a lot for me to worry about. I feel like it’s unnecessary stress. The more work I do and if I’m just being genuine, the more followers I’ll have and all that. Of course, brands want that exposure, as well. At castings, on the sign-in sheet you will have to put your follower count. It’s an interesting theory, knowing if another girl has a completely different look but more numbers if they’re going to get the job instead of me. So it can put the pressure on you, but at the same time, there are models with not a large following who are constantly getting booked, or [models] who do have a bunch of followers who are not working as much as you think.
Amirah: What was your first introduction to fashion?
Briana: My mom’s always been into fashion—she likes to look good. I love going through old photos of her—the ’90s style is super cool. I started in high school, putting things together that don’t really work. I love baggy clothes and thrift shopping and just finding cool things I can recreate and make my own. I always think, ‘It’s not the clothes wearing you, it’s you wearing the clothes.’ So whatever you’re putting on or putting together, it’s really how you go about it—your swag and how you bring that expression out through the inside.
Amirah: What’s your favorite garment right now?
Briana: I have a pair of mom jeans that I reworked and destroyed. I have this dark blue corduroy patch on them, and I’ve been wearing them, like, so much. I just feel so cool wearing them, knowing that I made them. [When people notice] I’m like, ‘Yeah, I did this the other month and I’m super proud of them. I’m glad you like them.’
I really enjoy fashion in the sense that I like clothes and I like how they look put together, but personally I’m not that deeply invested in brands. I would love to do more research.
Amirah: More research on the brands that you’re working with?
Briana: Yeah—the brands, the photographers. A lot of times, you’ll go into castings or go-sees and they’re like, ‘What’s your dream brand to be the face of,’ or ‘[Who’s your] dream photographer?’ And I never really have an answer. I love Petra Collins, she’s a very cool photographer I’d love to work with one day. I’d love to be in the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. But I’m also in school, so I want to keep my options open to things I’m pursuing.
Amirah: What’s next?
Briana: My biggest motivator with modeling is definitely to travel. My goal is to make it around the world—Europe, Tokyo. I live in NY right now, but I’m about to leave to spend some time at home for a few days and I’m actually spending October and November in Los Angeles. I’m signing with an agency called The Industry, so I’m hoping to get work there, because LA is a completely different market than New York. It’s more commercial with brands like J.Crew, Urban Outfitters—more smiley, more laidback. I’m excited to have a different feel.