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Stacey McKenzie returns to Ryerson for Mass Exodus 2014

Photo courtesy of Eugene Gallegos 

Jennifer Joseph 

Stacey McKenzie crashed her first modeling gig at the age of 14 at Ryerson. She was a force to be reckoned with. With her slicked hair, black catsuit, stiletto booties and her signature red lipstick—her confidence and attitude stood out from a crowd of models. Ryerson being her stomping ground, it’s only right for Mass Exodus to name her the newest modeling coach for this year’s production.

This is also McKenzie’s second year as their curator. She first got involved  when the fashion design program selected her to be last year’s curator. She gets to introduce the show, talk about its history and choose the fourth-year designers with the heads of the Ryerson fashion program. McKenzie is thankful to have been a part of the production and believes it’s a full circle. “It feels great, I am not gonna lie,” she says. “It is just a blessing and an honour.”

McKenzie’s love for fashion started at six years old in Jamaica. She flipped through fashion magazines and practiced her poses in the mirror. Back home, modelling was not considered a viable career option. You could say that she discovered herself at the start of her career. “I would call modeling agencies myself pretending I was an agent to book gigs,” McKenzie says. One of her most memorable moments was one of her biggest castings in Paris. She met with Jean Paul Gaultier and he immediately noticed her. McKenzie portrayed a quirky, sexy and different type of model—that’s what first attracted Gaultier to her. “He was just so sweet and loving,” she says. “He encouraged me to stay to true to who I am. People tried to change me.”

With so much negativity surrounding her during her modeling career, McKenzie remained positive with the help of influences such as Gaultier, Grace Jones and most importantly, her mother. Being a fearless model, she had the opportunity to not only travel the world and learn another language like French, but also to improve herself. “It’s enhanced my confidence. Fashion has made me realize it’s not about all ego—it’s about me,” says McKenzie. She tries to incorporate this motto into her everyday life. McKenzie decided to help other models with their craft by opening Walk This Way Workshops, a camp for young models to learn more about themselves and improve their modeling skills.

“Back then when I was modeling, models didn’t know their craft. I naturally was sharing info with other models helping them make their journey. I am a very spiritual and godly person so I never kept information to myself,” she shares.

McKenzie’s workshops are all about models owning themselves and their craft. It’s a two-day model workshop for boys and girls ages 14 and up. She provides her students with the knowledge necessary to pursue a career in a cutthroat modeling industry. The workshop first got popular when a producer from Star TV, (which is now E!) went undercover to one of them. “I was shocked when she revealed who she really was and that they wanted to do a story on me and my workshops,” McKenzie says. Her ultimate goal was for her students to leave her classes believing in themselves.

“Love yourself first, believe in you. Don’t try to conform to fit in,” she says. “Don’t take it personal, you are gonna hear so many no’s because designers are trying to find a particular type of look.”

Mass Exodus –which will include an exhibit and runway show –takes place on Thursday, April 3 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. A group of 58 students will have the chance to showcase their work with the help of a communications and production team. Judging for the first collection will start at 12:30 p.m. and Nicholas Mellamphy, this year’s curator and president and buyer for The Room, will be selecting the top 20-25 for the 6 p.m. show. They will be looking for the latest young designer that thinks outside their comfort zone while still delivering designs that are sellable with great finishing on their garments. M


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