Runway and print model Maisha Sha’ Nay used to play dress up with her dolls as a little kid. She went through the whole getup process, working the makeup and clothing accessories as she played make-believe with her dolls. From the outfits to the shoes to the fixing of the hair, Sha’ Nay parlayed a vision of what she did with those dolls into a reality for herself.
“I liked playing dress-up when I was little,” Sha’ Nay said. “I always liked wearing makeup, just becoming someone else…being a character. I thought it was fun. I really liked that.”
Now Sha’ Nay is doing the modeling gig for real. A recent psychology graduate of Cal State Los Angeles, Sha’ Nay has embarked on her journey as a runway and print model, posing for various shows and events-both locally and abroad.
Modeling is a dream for Sha’ Nay, a childhood fantasy lived out. Every show she books, every event she snags puts her one step closer to realizing an ambition to become an international face on the runaway circuit. That’s a dream that many young women have growing up.
The designer clothes, the makeup, the hairdo, all of that comes within the fictional realm of modeling.
Sha’ Nay wants that lifestyle. More than that, she wants to exemplify to other young women and girls what they can become, what they can strive for and to see their purpose in life. Sha’ Nay wants to be their Tyra Banks. She wants to be the next generation’s Beverly Johnson or Naomi Campbell.
Sha’Nay is black and beautiful like the aforementioned world-famous models. What those women have become is something Sha’ Nay seeks. But she is no different than any other young lady eager to be the next superstar model. Then again, not too many runway and print models can fall back on a psychology degree as Sha’ Nay can.
It’ s not all about looking pretty on some magazine shoot or walking the down the aisle of a runway for Sha’Nay. It’s also about encouraging young girls dealing with low self-esteem and other adolescent issues.
“I wanted to do it because of what models represent and how much value little girls and adolescents play in that,” Sha’ Nay said. “I wanted to get into it (modeling) because I wanted to better my self-esteem and to help little girls and teens feel about themselves as well. I want to help change the industry.”
Sha’ Nay enjoys studying human behavior. It intrigues her. By being such an observer on the way humans interact and demonstrate their characteristic traits, modeling is another the type of platform she wants to engage in to help and assist other people, particularly young women.
“I am very fascinated with human behavior, the human mind and the human brain,” Sha’ Nay said. “That’s why psychology will never get old. You’ll never stop wanting to know different things about people. You’ll never not want to know about patterns and personalities and stuff like that.
“And so, I’ve always been interested in (knowing) how your past can affect your future and how your childhood and all of that is connected. It helps me interact with people and it helps me to learn more about myself. I just wanted to learn more about human beings.”
Sha’ Nay said her ultimate goal is counsel or become a therapist to at-risk teens and adolescents, an area she believes she can have biggest impact. And believe it or not, Sha’ Nay had to deal with and slay her own self-esteem demons growing up.
“I want to focus on self-esteem, peer pressure, areas that are really, really important when you are growing up,” said Sha’ Nay. “I believe in your teen years it is really important about the support you have. It ultimately determines what kind of an adult you’re going to be.”
Sha’ Nay is not average runway model. She has the height. She has that rare cross appeal of exotica and the striking looks of an African goddess. And to add her distinctive flavor is the caramel-coated, flawless beauty she has been bestowed with.
However, as a black woman, Sha’ Nay come with the luggage of curvy hips that has been an absolute blockage to the dreams of many of her African American contemporaries hoping to make a name for themselves in the modeling and fashion industry.
There are a few full-figured models making waves in the industry. Sha’ Nay believes the day has come that more models built like herself and other full-figured models will gain more acceptance.
“I don’t know if we’ll come full, full circle to healthier models, but I think there is going to be a change,” Sha’ Nay said. “When we first started out like with the Marilyn Monroes and when we had Naomi there, we had more curves. Then we slowly went skinny. Now we’re starting to go back. Heavier models are going to make their presence known…It’s only getting better.”