“Is that you in ESSENCE?” says many a text message to me over the last week. The girl with the big-afro on page 32 of the May issue kinda resembles a glammed up version of me. And well, she is.

A few months ago I was asked by the magazine’s EIC to possibly model sometime. Of course I smiled a “yes.” Of course I was also terrified, but figured I had time to get ready. Less than two weeks later I had a call sheet for a shoot on Friday. My first magazine modeling experience exposed me to a lot of emotions.

First up was fear. I saw the three other models on the call sheet. They were professionals, including one from Wilhelmina. How was I, whose only cute pose was a smile, going to measure up?

I also felt discomfort. How the world viewed me had shifted. I’ve always thought I was uniquely made and beautiful in my own right. But how I looked was never my selling point. I didn’t grow up the “pretty girl” but a “smart girl.” Compliment me on my work or writing and I’m all smiles. Compliment me on my looks and I’m hemming and hawing.

But there was no room for a hem or haw as the shoot began. This was work. I showed up to set in a fresh curly ‘do for the occasion. The hairstylist blew it out into a massive ‘fro. As he styled, I played Chaka Khan to channel the mood of my big hair and get my diva juices flowing.

Before and After Makeup

After my hair transformation and makeup artist Theresa Francine worked magic, it was time to get dressed. I rocked two cute Qristyl Frazier dresses. And I must say I have a much deeper respect for models. As I got on set with bright lights, a fan blowing on me and over half a dozen people looking on, it was time to look like I was having the time of my life, while remembering to keep my face in the light, my feet positioned properly, my back straight and my tummy in. Patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time now feels like an amateur act.

Just as quickly as things started, we wrapped. I was back to the other side of the camera and the experience left me more comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t cringe as much when coworkers or friends asked about the shoot. And when the picture went up on the layout wall with all the pages of the magazine, I actually felt proud. I had stepped out of my comfort zone and into my light.