From the age of 18, Liris Crosse knew that modeling was her thing—and that somehow, someway, she would make it. Fast forward a decade later and Crosse, now 30, is a pioneer in the fashion industry for full-figured and African-American models. Gracing the pages of magazines, acting in music videos and hosting events, she is now back in the forefront as one of the faces of the new Ashley Stewart spring fashion campaign nationwide.
Voluptuous and curvy, Crosse went through an intense journey looking for her niche to fill in the modeling world. From borderline ridiculous diets for losing massive amounts of weight to finally giving up on trying to “fit in” and find her home within the plus-size modeling community, Crosse shares her experience with EBONY.com, and gives thorough advice to those young women aspiring to follow in her footsteps.
EBONY: What is your journey? What’s your story?
Liris Crosse: I would say the short version would be a girl who’d always dreamed of modeling. When I was a little girl, I always wanted to model. My father was running for congressman in Baltimore, and he had a photographer come by for brochures, to take family pictures. The photographer was like, “Your daughter is so cute. Do you mind if I take some pictures of her by herself?” So he took some pictures of me by myself. When he sent some pictures of the family, he also sent a big 8x10 of me by myself, and put a little note like, “She’s really photogenic. She should model.” That started to really resonate within me.
EBONY: When did you get your first break auditioning?
LC: In high school I was in the modeling troupes and high school fashion show. Any time I could get on a runway, I would. Then I went to this company called Model Search America. They would take all the agents from all the major agencies and fly them into a town that was closest to you. They would have an open call, and if you got an invitation from an open call, they would invite you to the convention that was happening in D.C. So I got a call and my mom did some research on the company and found out they were legit, so I went.
From the convention, I got callbacks from a few great places like Seventeen magazine and Elite Models. When you get something from Elite, which is like the top agency in the world, you have to go forward with it all.
You have to understand that when you model, you open yourself up to criticism. You have to be solid in who you are, or this industry can chew you up and spit you out.
EBONY: From there, what was the process like booking work?
LC: They all loved me, but they all wanted me to lose weight. I thought, “Lose weight? I’m in shape, what are you talking about?” So I tried to lose weight, doing ridiculous stuff. Running all the time. Let me just have an orange and a chocolate milk at lunch. Let me eat a bunch of salad.
So I lost some weight, and I went back to the convention they had the next year, and I got only one callback, from the agency that was already in my area. So it was like, “What? This is crazy.” By this time I was about to graduate. But I couldn’t stop thinking about modeling. I eventually told my parents, “I want to move to New York.” I’d already enrolled in college. But I wanted to go to NY and try to model before I got too old. So they said okay. I moved on Christmas Day.
After going back to Model Search America, they told me, “You know what? You’re lovely. We want to send you to an agency that has women that are just like you.” So they sent me to Wilhemina Models. They sent me to their 10-20-size board. I went and met with my agent at that time, and she loved me and wanted to sign me that day. That was pretty amazing.
EBONY: What’s special about plus-size modeling?
LC: I think plus-size modeling is a bit more forgiving. You can start later in your career. Also, now there are people who are getting signed off of emailing their agents, or finding their agent’s emails and emailing their pictures.
EBONY: Can you compare what it’s like to be a Black model now as opposed to what it was like when you first began?
LC: I would say slowly but surely the world is becoming more colorless. But you may still hear something like, “We want White, ethnically ambiguous, Latina, Asian or Pacific Islander...” They’ll ask for everything but Black.
EBONY: Right now, you’re a part of the spring campaign for Ashley Stewart. Excited?
LC: Yes! I’m not their face per se, but they had me and another model featured in their spring campaign. They rotate the models there, so right now I’m not an exclusive face for them. But I love it.
EBONY: What advice