Gibbs student defies modeling stereotypes

Gibbs High senior Danielle Russell is off to college and a promising start as a model.
Published April 21 2016
Updated April 21 2016


Fashion models, whether in magazines, on the runway or on TV, are traditionally on the thin side, to say the least. But Gibbs High School student Danielle Russell is one of a growing number of teen models who is changing that.

The senior, a "curvy" model for MSA modeling agency in New York, has been featured on Cosmopolitan's Twitter feed and modeling on New York designer Tally Taylor's website.

Her agent, Susan Georget, was asked why she signed Russell and replied: "Have you seen that face?"

The New York agent, who also cited Russell's work ethic, compared her to Ashley Graham, the plus-size model who recently graced the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue.

"Danielle has the same kind of attitude, body and beauty like Ashley Graham and so many of the other very successful models had when they were Danielle's age,'' Georget said.

Russell landed in the modeling industry after going to an open call at an agency in New York two years ago.

"We signed Danielle on her 16th birthday,'' Georget said. "She was a wide-eyed kid. Look at her now. She is a confident, beautiful young woman."

Russell grew up taking part in pageants so modeling came naturally.

"I never really wanted to be a model," Russell said. "It just popped up."

She thinks she inspires girls who are her age and her size.

"People think that because you're not really skinny that you can't be a model or successful," Russell said.

"Size is just a number, it doesn't determine your worth or how far you can go in life," Russell said. "You determine your own worth, nothing anyone says about you or to you is going to make you worth less or more. I think you have to be your biggest supporter, always."

Russell went back to New York last summer for a modeling internship of sorts and was able to meet other models who are like her.

"I love New York. I felt like a natural," Russell said. "I knew how to ride subways, and walk wherever."

Now Russell is getting ready to graduate. Although her agency is based in New York, she plans to go to college in Los Angeles where it has a satellite branch and the modeling industry is booming.

She's ready to get out of Florida and explore new things.

"It's cool to tell people you're a model," Russell said. She added that she doesn't get too caught up in labels like "plus size."

"It's just body, it's just skin," Russell said.

Her mother, Sylvia Russell, has worked in the beauty industry for a number of years as a hair stylist, makeup artist and consultant. She's the manager of Marilyn Monroe Spas Glamour Room at Sundial.

"Danielle's interest started from being entered in beauty pageants at age 7. I think it was a natural fit," she said. "I am her biggest fan and toughest critic. … I teach my kids to spread their wings and fly. So this mother bird is dropping her baby out of the nest into the world to fly on her own."

Rachel Brown is a student journalist at Lakewood High School.

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