Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Briefs. Discussion »
OTTAWA It is a long journey from a one room cabin in Ontario's Thunder Bay to New York City, both in distance and destiny.
For 22 year old Ojibwa, Jade Willoughby, a member of the Whitesand First Nation, her journey is just about over from her humble beginnings in a one room cabin in Thunder Bay to fulfill her dream of becoming a model in New York City.
Late last month, Willoughby was signed by Wilhelmina Models, one of the world's most prominent talent management agencies in the world to become one of their models. She will move to New York City this month to get to work.
“I am terrified, but very excited,”
Willoughby told Native News Network with nervous laughter in her voice on Saturday in a telephone interview from Ottawa when asked about how she feels about being signed by Wilhelmina and having to move to New York.
“When I get to New York, I will hit the ground running. I have been working for this for so long,”
“My look is unique I have been told. In terms of diversity, I have been told I have the look that I could come from different nationalities.”
Her journey has not been without difficulties or even rejection along the way
“I was told over and over: "Your looks will never work in this industry!" I have felt challenges here and there along the way,”
“My look is constant and ever changing, just as I am,”
she commented when asked about what she thought of her looks. She paused, laughed and said no one has ever asked that question before.
She is quick. She came back with this answer: "I remain humble to the knowledge that "My Look" is defined by my ancestors. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote:
"Beauty is a manifestation of secret natural laws, which otherwise would have been hidden from us forever."
Her quick thinking and wit may be the result of much suffering she endured in childhood.
She lived in a log cabin in for a large part of her childhood living in a remote community near Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the Whitesand First Nation Reserve.
At age seven, she became ill and she was hospitalized for two and half months while it took physicians to diagnosis her illness. She was diagnosed with Nephrotic Syndrome, commonly referred to as Minimal Change Disease, a kidney disease that causes individuals to gain weight and suffer from fatigue. The rare disease only strikes one in 100,000.
The disease caused her to retain so much water that made her appear to be obese. During different episodes the disease caused her to be hospitalized until her immune system could become stabilized.
It took ten years before the disease went into remission.
She followed her dream to become a model by moving to Toronto. She realized she could never become a top model living in Thunder Bay.
Even though she is on her way to New York, she has not forgotten where she came from or those who have given her support of her dream.
Throughout the telephone interview, Willoughby discussed her family. She talked about how her great grandmother, who is now deceased, came to see her in the hospital every single day she was there. Her two Ojibwa grandmothers helped to forge her into the person she is today, someone who believes in hard work and determination.
“My family has been so supportive of my dream to become a model,”
“My mom has shown me a lot of love. Actually, my whole community is excited for me because they have known about my dream to be a model for a long time. They know I am living my dream.”
Her father, Paul Willoughby II is an owner/operator of a truck business; her mother, Tracey Willoughby, works for the Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund in Thunder Bay. She has three siblings: Paul III, 21; Kyra, 14 and Athena, 8.
As her family cheers her endeavors to be a great model, so too now will Native people throughout Canada and the United States.
photo credit: Photographer: Ema Suvajac; Make Up Artist: Erin Heather; Wardrobe Stylist: Hannah Elvin;
posted May 6, 2013 8:30 am edt