Celai West, a ten-year-old professional fashion model, whose talent is shown on and off the runway. West has already caught the attention of some of the industry’s top insiders, like Miss J. Alexander. She amazed the crowd after closing for the opening show, David Tupaz Couture, during Style Fashion Week in New York. West was the youngest professional runway model among the lineup and is the first African American kid supermodel to do so. West’s signature walk and natural hair has generated attention from 6 million plus viewers on social media. Not only is West a gifted model, but at the age of seven she became an entrepreneur, launching The Chatty Chic, an apparel line that features bold statements and inspiring affirmations. West saw this as a stylish way to encourage self-love in children and adults of all ages.
We had an exclusive opportunity to chat with West and her mom Linda Ligons-West, and we’re sure you’re going to be just as impressed by their talent and dedication as we are.
MillBuzz: What was it about modeling that made you fall in love with it at such a young age?
C. West: I just loved the way it sounded. I liked the concept of it. My family calls me photogenic so that made it more likely for me to like modeling because I am photogenic.
MillBuzz: What is the best part of your job?
C. West: It would have to be everything. I like everything about my job.
MillBuzz: What’s the hardest part of your job?
C. West: Sometimes with modeling, the poses can be a little hard. They’re really weird, but when you actually take the picture it looks really nice. It looks better on the camera than it feels.
MillBuzz: What would you tell other young children who may be interested in modeling?
C. West: I would just say be yourself, have fun, and do good in school.
MillBuzz: Tell us about “The Chatty Chick”. How did you come up with that idea and where can we purchase them?
C. West: We named it The Chatty Chick because I used to talk a lot; well I talk a lot. The logo is actually my lips. My mom designed it for me. I came up with it because there are some kinky hair girls out there, and I want to represent them, and as time passed it got bigger and I thought maybe it should be for all genders and all hair types. They can be purchased at TheChattyChick.com.
MillBuzz: So, it seems that both of you ladies are very creative.
L. Ligons-West (Mom): I’ve learned that sometimes the industry puts you in a box a little bit and there are some creative people who can only be creative in certain circumstances. I don’t know about other people, but I felt like I was in a creative block but now that we’ve taken a step back from the industry a little bit and doing our own thing, it’s definitely coming back.
C. West: Yes, it’s really fun and we get to spend quality time together.
MillBuzz: Who is your modeling role “model”? Who do you look up to as a model?
C. West: It would have to be Liris Crosse because she’s doing a diversity project and I could represent the kinky hair models and the shorter models.
MillBuzz: Do you love to travel?
C. West: Yes, I do. When I get older, oh my gosh, I want to go to every state and every country. I want to be like my English teacher because he goes everywhere.
MillBuzz: How do you balance school and modeling?
C. West: I tell my teacher in advance when I’m leaving for a couple days and they’ll give me my homework. I read and do my homework while I’m gone. Sometimes I do it in the car. One night I had to use my mom’s flashlight to do my homework because I want to be responsible.
L. Ligons-West (Mom): She’s a stickler about making sure she does her homework and not making excuses because she’s gone.
MillBuzz: Do you like missing school?
C. West: I do not like missing school.
L. Ligons-West (Mom): She’s really into school. I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions people have when they see a kid model. People like to assume that models aren’t smart and can fall back on their good looks.
C. West: I’ve made honor roll every single year since kindergarten. I’m always going to keep up with my school work.
MillBuzz: That’s very rare for a young child. Were you shocked by that?
L. Ligons-West (Mom): No because she’s an old lady. We like to call her an old lady because even when she was little, she was a little version of an old lady. You know those older ladies in church with their really nice suits and matching hat? That’s absolutely Celai. She’s this little, classy, sophisticated, old lady. Even now we’d be driving home from school, and she’ll have her legs crossed in the back seat. So, to me this all makes sense when I see this old lady on the runway, I feel like she was showing us this before. I feel like the average person who doesn’t know her, just throws her in the box of another kid who’s trying to grow up too fast, but I’m thinking she’s already old. No one taught her how to do this. People assume she’s been trained really well, but she wasn’t. She’s never had to be coached for her walk. She taught herself. I’m just as shocked as everybody else when she gets on the runway. I never know what she’s going to do because it’s never anything we practiced. I’m always like, “wow… who is this kid?” I don’t know who she was in her past life, but clearly, they did runway.
MillBuzz: Did you ever expect that your child would be where she is at such as young age?
L. Ligons-West (Mom): No, I never expected it to be what it is. This has been a ride, and I’m just as shocked as everyone else when things happen for her. It’s been a journey and watching what she does is the epitome of faith. It’s God’s gift. That’s my testimony every single day.
MillBuzz: Can you tell us about any projects you have coming up?
C. West: I’m going to be doing a runway class with Liris Crosse, my model mom, in New York on January 20, and I’m super excited for that. The cast director for Project Runway is going to be there because Liris Crosse was on Project Runway as one of the models. It’s going to be really fun.
Be sure to follow West on social media @CelaiWest and her site CelaiWest.com.