While in Toronto during LG Fashion week last October, I caught up with Canadian Supermodel Stacey McKenzie, who was touring the country, raising awareness on a particular condition, that has been affecting her life and modeling career.
McKenzie who requires little to no introduction, has worked with Fashion greats including Jean-Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler, Alexander McQueen, she graced countless magazines covers, appeared in editorials for Vogue US, Japan and Spain, and starred in the first two seasons of Canada’s Next Top Model, as judge, model coach and Mentor. Quite the successful career.
I have met her countless times before, but this was our first formal interview. Towering from her 5’10″ figure, wearing an Arthur Mendoça graffiti prints dress, bold red lips and matching red Louboutin stilettos, she greeted me with a warm hug and air kisses, flamboyant and lively as always.
We walked to the Holt Renfrew’s Cafe, downtown Toronto, for a bite & chat, passing by high end stores, both resisting the urge to shop. We finally arrived at Holt’s Cafe, where she ordered calamaris with spritz of lemon and a glass water.
McKenzie who is known for her Modeling career, TV appearances and Motivational speaker roles, recently put on a new hat, that of a Spokesperson for Psoriasis. In fact, October was the Psoriasis Awareness Month, and McKenzie took it as an opportunity to talk about her own struggle with the skin condition, touring the country to share her experience to help others.
Noelly Sam: So here you are, Fierce Stacey McKenzie, embracing and talking openly about your flaws…
I know right. It’s crazy to be talking about this. I never thought I would. I was so embarrassed by it.
My condition is a milder form called Plaques Psoriasis, which I have mostly on my legs and scalp, and you know my legs are my trademark, so this was really hard to deal with. Having it on my scalp and hair line, was another issue, whenever I’d get my hair or makeup done, I’d flake, which was often mistaken for dandruff’s.
N.S: What was your reaction when you realize you had psoriasis?
When I first found out about my condition, I didn’t know what to do, because it could well have been a deal breaker for my modeling career. The worst part is that it was mostly on my legs…and I am known for my legs, so this was really, really hard for me.
N.S: How did you manage to work through this, in an industry where image is everything?
It was very tough, I won’t lie. This was the one thing in my life I never mentioned, because I was embarrassed by it, and I was afraid I would miss out on great job opportunities, if people were to find out. So hiding it from everyone is what I did. I mean, as models, we are expected to be beautiful and flawless, with perfect skin, so for me it was tough to deal with it, let alone face it, so I hid it most of my career.
You must have done something to control it, to some degree, what steps did you take?
Because you can’t really cure Psoriasis, I’ve had to work with my health professional, to find ways to ease and reduce the symptoms. For instance, I had to change my diet, such as limiting my intake of dairy products. Also, because my psoriasis manifests the most when I am stressed out, I make sure to avoid stressful situations.
There may be no cure for it, but there are ways to keep it under control and I have managed to do that successfully. A great resource I recommend to anyone affected by psoriasis, is the http://www.psoriasisconnections.ca/ website, which helped me a lot, with useful advices and information on how to deal with it, so I urge everyone affected to check it out.
N.S: You’ve kept it under the radar for so long, what made you talk about it now? Why breaking the silence?
I’m speaking about it now because I want people to be aware of it. No one is perfect, we are not perfect, not even Models, we all have flaws, but what matters is what you’re going to do with that flaw, you’re either going to own that flaw or you’re going to let it control and own you. But me, I choose to not let psoriasis own me. I decided to control it.
N.S: Has Controlling your condition helped you better control your professional career?
Absolutely. I am getting opportunities I wouldn’t have been exposed to, had I not decided to share my story. I decided to take control back of my life and career. I informed myself, got diagnosed and learn everything to minimize the effects, I keep myself informed and it’s been working great.
Today, after 15 successful active modeling years, I am still getting modeling contracts, touring the country with my Walk This Way Workshops, talking in schools, it’s just been great.
N.S: How does it feel to get this huge weight of your chest?
I never thought I’d talk about it so openly, but you know, as a Role model, I am constantly telling people to fully embrace who they are, so this was a way for me, to take my own advice, and I feel free now, I am happy.
Since I started to talk about it, I’ve had girls messaging me about, telling me how seeing me coming forward to talk about my skin condition, has encouraged them to take the necessary steps to
face their own, and that makes me really happy. I didn’t expect people to react so positively about it.
N.S: So now the huge secret is out, what’s next for you?
Continue to raise awareness, talk about it, inform as many people. It doesn’t end in October, and that’s why I love doing my Walk This Way Workshops, because I get to coach and mentor these young aspiring models, teach them to love and accept themselves, so there will be more.
N.S: What is the one ultimate advice you can give to aspiring models, for a chance at a successful career?
The one advice I always give to aspiring models is that You must treat Modeling as a Business, period! It is a business and often, many models wait on their agencies to do all the work. But the reality is harsh,
Agencies often put models on a three to six months try out, until they can find a contract before they focus on the next one, so you’ve go to be prepared, you have to be ready to work hard, knock on many doors, do your research, because it won’t be handed to you.
Being a Model isn’t just about having a pretty face and a perfect body, you have to be business minded, in addition to knowing and loving yourself, that’s what can make a whole difference.
N.S: With 15 successful modeling years, TV appearances and the Walk This Way Workshops, have you ever thought of having your own modeling agency?
Everyone keeps saying that…”Stacey, you should have your own agency” she laughs out loud in that very Grace-Jones-like voice of hers.
N.S: Maybe because you should …I continued
Who knows right? you just never know. I love working with these young people, teaching them what I know about the industry, empowering them, showing them love, so who knows. Maybe.
Before I knew it, we were already over time, her PR assistant came back to give her indications for their next stop, so we hugged goodbye and out she was, leaving the cafe suddenly so quiet, her laughter resonating from afar.
For more information on Psoriasis, visit:
For more on Stacey McKenzie, visit:
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