Stacey Mckenzie is lively. A vivacious Canadian supermodel that rose to fame through her amazing story of maneuvering rejection and success in the international modelling industry, Stacey keeps with her a modestly endearing attitude as a top model. Originally hailing from Kingston, Jamaica, the 5’10” photo-friendly Canadian commands an instant presence. I recently had a well-coveted window of time to do a Q&A with Stacey, from the comfort of The Counter at the Thompson Hotel.
- You have an amazing story laced with travel and rejection. When I hear you describe it, it seems like you just dust yourself and keep on. How do you go about doing that?
- Tell me about Walk this Way – I sat in on one, but what kind of girls come into the workshops and how are you building it?
- You’ve become such a media sweetheart in Canada – I attended the Bustle Show in 2009 at LG Fashion Week which was so fun to watch. Why is it important to focus on Canada and giving back?
- You do a lot of speaking now – what’s important when choosing what you’d like to speak at?
- Any pivotal moments you recollect?
- Music and Jamaican flavour – what inspired it?
I had patience, and I always believed in myself. I just refused to be torn down, to think that I wasn’t beautiful enough or pretty enough. I learned quickly that perseverance keeps me going. When I was growing up, I had to train myself to be confident. I’d look in the mirror and play out scenarios to myself, make fun of myself. Eventually I grew to realize that I had to own me.
The second source of confidence was my mom. She’s gang-ster. She’s a strong Jamaican woman, and made sure that her children had the best of the best. She’d protect me – when I was young I was made fun of constantly for being different. My mom thought to hide me, but decided to push me to be who I was and not apologetic for it. She’s always strong and beautiful, she gave me pep talks. I’m blessed to have a mom like her, and God made it easier as the days and years went by.
I was living in Paris when I decided that Walk this Way had to be created. I realized that there was no step-by-step guide to doing this, and the people with experience needed to share this with aspiring models. There were some models out there that had literally no clue. I had to learn everything on my own, and I knew that I had to give back somehow.
People always think it’s easy – but between castings, managing your finances, always having to be “ON”, agents, and business, you have to learn how to manage yourself. I started it originally to help aspiring models, but all types of girls would come through. From fashion people to 9-5-ers, there were people writing to me to sign up and it started to grow into a self-esteem workshop. I leave it open to everyone, and I find it extremely rewarding. I’m looking to do more when I can, and eventually the vision is to do a school all over Canada. It’ll forever be about self esteem and building confidence. It’s one little thing that puts a pep in my step.
Me?! My goodness. The Bustle Show was actually a show where I had a case of psoriasis (I’ll get to that more later). Canada is always going to be the place that made me and gave me opportunities. In the 12 years that I was in Jamaica, they never seemed to quite embrace me the way that Canada did, and since I’ve left Jamaica and did them proud, I’m welcomed back with open arms. But Canada was the place where I could take risks and was rewarded for it. No matter what, it’s important to come back and support the Canadian fashion scene, and I still hold great love for the sea, sun, and food in Jamaica.
It always has to be something I can relate strongly to. For example, I recently committed to do speaking on the issue of psoriasis – it’s something that’s been an lifelong struggle of mine. I was misdiagnosed 10 years ago for it, and I hid from myself because of my outbreaks. I wouldn’t own up to it, because in this industry your have to be perfect. I chose to speak up about it – people look up to me and I had to live up to what I share with others. 100% honesty. Being real. I had two choices – either learn to control it, or hide. And for awhile, I did hide. For two months at one point in my life, I had been bed ridden. At one point I had enough and decided I had to do something about it, so I took control. Acknowledge what you have to do, and manage it – there is always a way.
Absolutely. I remember being in New York when I was first getting started, going from agency to agency trying to get signed. When an agency finally saw potential in me, they asked me to go home to Canada, drop out of school and pack my things for a new life. I was ecstatic. Hopped on a Greyhound (I was on so many that I should really have been their spokesperson), returned to Toronto and dropped out, packed my things, and returned to NYC after several days. I walked into the same agency that I had just been in a mere few days before. The women that booked me came out of her office, asked me who I was (not recognizing me), bluntly told me she wasn’t interested, and disappeared back into the door she came from.
I had no money and no place to stay, and knew no one there. When I recovered from the shock and rejection, I went back to the station to drop off my bags and plotted visits to all of the agencies again. My last visit changed my life. An agent put her job on the line for me, and I had three months to succeed.
[Laughs] My music! I love Grace Jones and I’ve been told I sound like Nina Simone. I’ve been approached before by producers at events, people that thought I had such a unique look and style, but voice too. I decided to prove myself on the mic, and suddenly I was in a studio with Tricky and 20 men, and laying down tracks with Foxy Brown, Kool Keith, and Naughty by Nature. It’s not my first passion, but I do love music.