Interview with Stacey Mckenzie

Vervegirl Editor, Xania Khan sits down with Stacey to chat about growing up different and her successful career.

Xania Khan: You’ve been pretty open about your struggles, looking different as a kid. Do you still get teased?
Stacey McKenzie: It stopped maybe three, four years ago.

XK: Did you always have a fighter spirit in you?
SM: In Kingston, Jamaica, I grew up in one of the toughest hoods, Jonestown. Nobody looked like me. I didn’t start crying until I got to Canada. It was worse here because my mother and I came here alone. In Canada, they’d straight up call me ugly. I would take brown markers and draw in my eyebrows. I wanted to dye my hair, hide my freckles. I didn’t feel good about myself.

XK: Did you have anyone that you could confide in?
SM: I couldn’t talk to my mom, she’s a really strong West Indian woman and didn’t know how to talk to sensitive kids like me. When I did approach her, she said, “Don’t let anybody walk over you. Don’t let anybody get to you. Just keep going.” I always kept that in my mind. I’m not gonna let anybody get me down or stop me from doing what I want to do.

XK: Did those words become your mantra?
SM: It really did. But at the same time I was really hurting because every day, I would hear nothing but negative words about me. People don’t even know me! Just because I look and sound a certain way, people would treat me differently.

XK: What would you say to girls who let hurtful things rule their life and let that seep into their personality?
SM: You need to love and accept who you are. If you don’t, the negatives will get to you, and it will stay with you. If you don’t acknowledge and accept who you are, how are you going to overcome those challenges? I finally learned to love myself. Yeah I’m different looking, so what? I don’t wanna look and sound like everybody else. I want to stand out. I’m gonna love and accept me. I’ve got one life to live.

SM: In order for young girls to move forward, it’s important that they learn to love themselves first – . before they love anything, or anybody else. I realized at a young age that my mom and my family love me but, nobody’s really gonna love me but me. All of me. Nobody’s gonna embrace my little flaws or whatever, but me.

But your flaws make you who you are.
SM: Yeah, it took me a while but I learned along the way to accept who I am and what I have and just run with it and make the best of it. But it was very tough. I mean, every time I talk about it I get very emotional. (teary eyed)

But it’s real.
SM: Yeah, and that’s the good thing, that I still get emotional. Don’t forget where you came from, and what it took for you to get to there. I always remind myself. That’s why I’ll stay in my hood. Fancy house or whatever, I don’t care. (laughs). I hang with my boys like I used to do when I was younger. 

XK: What are three things you love about yourself?
SM: I’m kind-hearted. I treat everyone how I want to be treated. I’m really giving.

Tell me about your workshops where you boost self-esteem.
SM: I created my Walk This Way workshops five years ago. I wanted to help other models to be a part of this industry and not lose themselves. Modeling is great, but if you don’t love you, then how are you gonna love what you do?

XK: Do you realize the inspiration that you’re giving these girls?
SM: Thank you. I want them to see that we’re all human. In this business, so many people could inspire others, but they get caught up in the prettiness of the industry. I believe that God made me go through what I went through in life to prepare me to help others.

XK: Okay, last question. Five women that exude confidence?
SM: Wow. My mom. Nina Simone. Rest her soul. She was no holds barred. Um, Grace Jones! Hell, yeah. Whoopi Goldberg. She’s a woman that I love love love. One more, let me think.

XK: Who do you love the most?

XK: All right!
SM: (laughs) I wasn’t even thinking of myself! Isn’t that crazy?

XK: Thank you Stacey.

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