Photographer: April Rose Sixsmith @aprilsixsmith Model: Claudia Engelhardt @claudiangelhardt @EMG Models Makeup Artist: Nydia Figueroa @nydiafigueroamua
Happy to have you here, Claudia. Tell us your story, how did you got started modeling and where is your home at the moment?
Happy to be here! In 2018, I signed to my first agency in Philadelphia. I was always involved in the arts in some way growing up. Singing, dancing, acting then photography in high school. At first, I was reluctant to get on the other side of the camera because I thought someone with my body type wouldn't be accepted as a model. I took a chance and fell in love. I am really fortunate to be involved in such an inclusive era in modeling, and even more thankful to have found agencies and clients that work with me. I currently reside in New Jersey, but work full time in Manhattan with my agencies.
Tell us more about yourself. What else do you do next to modeling?
The one thing I always advocate for regardless of where life takes me is inclusivity and body positivity. Since 2019 I have been competing in pageants! I’ve held the titles of International Junior Miss New Jersey 2019, Miss New Jersey Collegiate America 2020, Miss Puerto Rico Earth USA 2020, and Miss Lynchburg USA 2021. I love that pageantry allows space for women to be the best versions of themselves, and speak on topics in their community they feel passionate about. My goal is to become the first curve contestant on the Miss USA stage. I believe that diversity on a national pageant stage can lead to a lasting changed impact on how women see beauty. It’s time we update the beauty standard, don’t you think? It’s time for pageantry reimagined.
What do you love most about being a model? And, what do you least enjoy?
I love that I have the ability to let my creative side free. I find myself constantly inspired by music, art, and nature. I’m always making mood boards and working with new creatives to capture different emotions and looks. I love that working in this industry has allowed me to meet so many beautiful and inspirational people from all over the world. The one thing I least enjoy is the lack of opportunity for plus-sized models in this industry. While we have made great strides in making space, I believe we still have a long way to go for all models to have an equal amount of castings and bookings.
What is the most challenging thing about being a model?
The constant pressure of “keeping up,” being on trend, and always having to create. As a certified wellness coach, I’ve learned the true value and importance of taking breaks and setting your own pace. And how that directly affects your health and energy. I’ve found that once I was able to get in a good grove of productivity, I could take time for myself. It allowed me to show up on set even more refreshed and clear-minded to be as creative as possible.
If you could change something in the modeling world, what would it be?
I would change the stigma of what it means to be a “plus-sized” or “curve model.” Despite a difference in dress size, we still put in the same passion for our work. Beautiful and healthy women who are over a size 6 are considered curve models by industry standers. While there is nothing wrong with being a curve model, there is everything wrong with misrepresentation and cultivating a negative stereotype towards being a curve or plus-sized model. I think the more we normalize different bodies and differences the more we don’t have to create “another” category. All bodies are beautiful!
What fuels your imagination and provides you with inspiration?
Life. From the people around me to the art I consume via films, songs, or paintings. Even sunsets, rain, and other earth elements. I believe that inspiration is everywhere
What keeps you excited about life in general?
That each day is a new opportunity for creating and impacting those around me. My social media agency, Mindful Living Media, has been one of the main things that keep me excited! Since the official launch this past July, we’ve nearly doubled in clients. I have the opportunity to help manage, coach, and create content for a wide variety of clients all over the world. We’re one of the few social media agencies that offer tailored services to models, agencies, photographers, and alike creatives.
Looking back how has modeling experience changed your personal/professional life? Have you grown more comfortable with yourself since you have started?
Through modeling, I found that I’ve been the most confident version of myself. It has built me up and allowed me to be my true self. But the best part? It’s allowed me to be the inspiration for other curve models. I always welcome DMs and emails from models just starting out and asking for advice.
What kind of life would you like to have?
One full of travel and creativity! Though my creative base is in NYC and the east coast, I work towards a life where I have the ability to constantly travel for my work.
What are the achievements you are proud of most of today?
Knowing that I have helped inspire the next generation of pageant girls and models. Young women who grew up thinking that they weren’t good enough, skinny enough, or pretty enough. I know in my heart and soul that there is a space where each and every one of us can feel safe and celebrated, and to show that they can find that in this industry is amazing. I’ve done this by creating the #ONEwomxn photoshoot series! Alongside my dear industry friend @aprilsixsmithphotography we hold open castings to all who identify as female. No age, height, skin, or weight requirements. We are able to create an inclusive and safe space for these ladies to feel free in front of the camera and show that beauty knows no bounds.
Where can our readers keep up with your work and get connected with you?
They can continue to follow my personal and pageant journey at @missclaudiamichelle on Instagram and TikTok! For those interested in keeping up with my latest work and booking as a model, you can follow @claudiangelhardt on Instagram and TikTok