Kayla Manjarrez, Senior
On February 18, up-and-coming model Maria Justus took time out of her busy schedule to come speak to the B’s at Buzz about the recent success she’s had in the ever-changing fashion industry.
After a hectic couple of days, Justus was able to unwind (a little) by chatting with a room of 20-or-so budding fashion students, before heading back to New York City for more fashion shows and then flying to Costa Rica for two months of volunteer work.
“I’m fine in front of a bunch of photographers, but here I’m like, ‘Ahhh, high school.’” she joked.
In the days leading up to our meeting, Justus spent her time in New York City, where she went to castings and walked in New York Fashion Week for designer Mengru Liang, a Parsons graduate whose work has been featured in major fashion publications including Women’s Wear Daily and Vogue.
Justus prefaced what she had to share by expliciting the inconsistent nature of the industry, as she’s come to recognize it, as she only began modeling about three months ago and now has modeling at NYFW under her belt.
“Everything in the fashion industry is a giant question mark,” Justus said. “You can go up, you can go down, any day, any time of the month. It’s crazy.”
“Who are you?!” an audience member blurted out. The room laughed, and we got to know a bit more about the woman behind the name.
Photos by Lindsay Harner
Justus graduated from Emmaus last year as a “huge jock” (as she described herself). An acclaimed track star, she always thought modelling was fun, but never something she would eventually pursue as a career. Amid her junior year, she decided she didn’t want to go to college, however laziness has never been a part of her character. She began debating modelling as a viable life course, weighing the pros and cons, and overcoming the fear of failure.
“I might as well go all out,” Justus thought. And so she did.
In effort to bring you all the highlights of her visit, I’ll leave you with just her words.
On deciding to go into modeling:
A lot of people that go into modelling do it not because they think they’re gorgeous but someone will tell them ‘You have a weird face’ or ‘You have something that comes across well on the screen.’ My parents’ friend, who works at the Banana Factory, was like “I really want to take pictures of you,” he just liked my bone structure I guess. So I did that with him and was like “Oh this is kinda cool, taking pictures,” but I was a huge jock so I never really gave that a second thought. But then junior year I just decided I didn’t really want to go to college... I started looking at magazines and getting a little bit girlier, and was like ‘You know what? I think that [modelling] would be a lot of fun.’ For once, I finally listened to what someone else said.
On starting out:
I made an account on Model Mayhem, did a few shoots, and then an agency contacted me, Orb, and I signed with them. It wasn’t until this Fashion Week that I really gained confidence and was like, okay, I really wanna go big.
I walked on my first runway 3 days ago. It was like: wake up, hair done, makeup done, go out, do the after parties, go to bed. Pain is beauty. I got this really big buzz, a lot of confidence, a lot of connections. A lot of exposure. I met photographers, a lot that actually want to pay me. Go for it all, or go for nothing. Put it all out on the table. Just do it.
Someone offered me drugs when I was there. I said “No, I’m not about that life.”
On the future:
In two months I want to be living in New York, signed to a bigger agency, and model for the rest of my life. Or until I’m like, 30. And I want to open up a cafe.
On what she wanted to be as a child:
I wanted to be a professional athlete. Mainly a football player.
Biggest fashion girl moment:
When I got these mom jeans. Just kidding. Last night. We all got to wear this girl’s line. We wore her line and this girl, she did stuff for Forever 21 and Pac Sun, and that was fun. I actually got to work with someone that was known. Like really well-known.
On male models:
Oh my God, dapper suits. I love the men. It was cool because we got to model with them. I felt cool.
On what people first notice about her:
[Note: She prefaced this with, “I feel rude talking about this.” Not only is she gorgeous, she’s modest too!] Cheekbones and eyes. And height.
On her model girl crush:
Karlie Kloss. And Kate Moss. And Cara Delevingne.
Advice to people aspiring to work in the industry:
Be yourself because personality is key. If you get one bad reputation, you’re done. If you’re true to yourself, then people will like to work with you. If you respect people, they’ll respect you back and you’ll get many more opportunities.