On modeling experience: I have been modeling for approximately six months. From local boutiques in Mississippi, to this: New York Fashion Week.
On walking in NYFW: When the top 10 got to New York City, we had only six days to get our walk, our face, our hands, and everything else that goes into a runway walk right. We practiced our walks more times than I can count. On the day of our walk in NYFW, I, personally, was not nervous. I felt like I belonged there, as I checked into the show and was given a pass to put around my neck. It was official. It was real. I was ready to slay that runway. I had my hair done, then my makeup, my nails, and finally: it was time to let the stylist dress me backstage.
As it was my turn to walk, my soul left my body. I was not scared, I was not nervous, I was floating on the runway. It was an out-of-body experience. I got to the end of the runway, put my hand on my hip and did the most awesome thing I've ever done with my face. I don't know what it was, but damn didn't I slay it. As I heard the crowd cheer for me, my heart was beating out of my chest. I got backstage, changed, then went to find my mom. When I found her and hugged her, I cried. I was so happy for myself. She was so happy for me. We cried together. I walked in NYFW, and it was an experience that will leave memories with me for as long as I live.
On breaking into the industry as a plus-size model: I have definitely stumbled over challenges that I never would've thought would lead to a rewarding moment. A few months ago, I was told by a modeling agency, "Let's start with you losing 25 pounds, then call us and we want to sign you." When I was told that, I started to doubt myself. I started thinking that I needed to starve myself to lose weight. I lost touch with my dreams, and wanted to conform to someone else's definition of a "plus size model". One day, I had a heart-to-heart with myself. I told myself, "You shouldn't have to conform to their definition of 'beautiful.' " However, to this day, I broke through so many doubts that were formed against me. I, Sara Smith, size 22, have walked in NYFW. That is the biggest, most honorable reward that I could ever ask for.
On inspiring a more inclusive runway: The industry, society, globally, the idea of beauty has been so singular. You must be tall, you must be thin, you must perfectly perfect. What's so important to me, is for women across the world to see that while all those things are beautiful, so am I; so are all of the other girls sitting at home on their couches wearing yoga pants in a size 3X; so are all the ladies that go shopping with their friends and feel "different." I am so in love with the idea of a breakthrough within the industry, where a woman that wears a 26 can tune into a livestream of NYFW and see me walk that runway and think, "Finally, a model that looks like me."
(Credit: Sara Smith; Getty Images / Frazer Harrison)