To many young girls becoming a fashion model is the ultimate dream job. So, imagine the delight Jordan Tesfay must have felt when at 19-years-old, after entering a modeling contest in Mode Magazine, she was selected as a semifinalist among a group of 25,000 hopefuls. Her victory allowed her to contract with famed talent management agency Wilhelmina Models and her career traveled up from there.
The fresh-faced beauty went on to model for popular brands such as Playtex, Levi’s, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Macy’s and Vogue, but in 2010, a decade after her big break, Tesfay made history when she became the first full-figured fashion model to be a CoverGirl spokesperson, an opportunity that led to working with Queen Latifah’s cosmetics line, Queen Collection. “It really is an honor, and it sort of puts that stamp on your entire career… I definitely sacrificed and I was able to achieve this incredible success…” Tesfay tells Tinseltown Mom.
Before Tesfay was discovered she was a college student pursuing a degree in TV broadcasting so we wondered if she longed to appear in glamour magazines or strut the catwalk like many starry-eyed teens. “When I was younger I had never seen girls that looked like me, that were fuller-figured models, so I don’t think I really thought of it as an opportunity that was available to me… Mode Magazine came around and at that time it was the first plus-size magazine. …I said ‘maybe this is something I can do, and there’s an opportunity for me in this category…’”
Some mistakenly believe that being a full-figured model is easy and size is a non-issue, but plus-size modeling comes with its own set of demands. “I think when I entered the industry I didn’t have that pressure for myself, but obviously modeling is a business and there’s certain standards to be somewhat in shape. Even though you’re full-figured you should be in shape and working out and taking care of yourself in that way. I did feel some pressure to lead a healthier lifestyle, which isn’t necessarily bad… I think it’s a good thing… I think as my career progressed there were instances where maybe I did feel a little pressure to be thinner, because of the fact that the trends kind of changed in plus-size modeling… Sometimes, the plus-size models are really thin. …Maybe a size 14 was considered plus when I started, now I feel like plus is a size 8/10. The girls have gotten smaller, so I think when the industry sort of changes you feel the pressure…”
A year and a half ago Tesfay took a break from modeling after becoming pregnant with her daughter. “It was like my first break after 15 years of modeling,” the new mother explains. And although she’s had an enviable modeling career over the years Tesfay still pursued higher education, and even obtained her law degree, so she gives an informed perspective to young girls wanting to break into the biz. “I think education is really important and can help you make intelligent decisions in whatever career path you choose.”
So, how would she feel if her daughter wanted to purse a modeling career? “I would want her to continue her education, but if it was something she was passionate about then I would encourage it,” Tesfay continues.
The beautiful mom knows firsthand the type of stress that a career as a fashion model can evoke so we solicited her advice for parents dealing with children struggling with self-esteem. “…My number one piece of advice is to love them for who they are. I think that that’s something that I really admire in the parents that I see whose children may be struggling with identity issues or body issues and things like that. …Love them through it, and just hold their hands through it and remind them that you’re there for them… If you know your parent is there for you and supporting you in what you do then it gives you an incredible amount of self-confidence and it empowers you and you’re a lot more comfortable and confident in whoever you are.”
Today, Tesfay is not only raising her young daughter but pursuing entrepreneurial ventures that are dear to her heart. “I have a blog and it’s a lifestyle DIY blog, where I share DIY tips, and at-home beauty products or at-home baby headbands and things like that. And couponing tips, mom things… It’s a lot of fun. It’s a passion project for me…”
She also started a licensing company, Jordan Tesfay Worldwide, a site dedicated to helping women, especially new moms, create better lives for themselves and their families.