Name: Tazah Richardson
Agency: Van Zandt Management
Claim To Fame: Tazah Richardson went from staring at models in store windows to showing up on the cover of Model World Magazine.
Growing up as a plus-size child with slight difficulties learning in Northwest D.C. Tazah Richardson was faced with judgement everywhere she turned. Everything from her academic performance to her address was criticized by the people around her, with her size being the primary offender. She told HelloBeautiful how the constant judgement impacted her and how she overcame it in an exclusive interview.
“I had really low self-esteem. As a kid I stayed back in the first grade, and I was much bigger than all the other kids. In the second grade I was bigger than my second grade teacher which was super weird and I got teased a lot. As a kid I didn’t have very many friends.”
The children in her life weren’t the only ones who hurled negative comments at Richardson. As she navigated her childhood in a neighborhood considered “the ghetto,” she encountered the effects of an educational system padded by those without a genuine interest in encouraging children.
When she went to inquire about joining the band in middle school she was slammed by the leader immediately. “I’ll never forget it. My mom was in the band, my dad was in the band, my mom was a majorette so I already knew how to twirl. I could twirl circles around the girls and when I went to her to ask her about being in the band she said ‘I got four words for you baby. Can’t fit the uniform.’ That crushed me.”
“I was told I was too big in junior high school and high school even though I could dance just as good as the other girls. I could twirl the baton just as good as the other girls. I was never given an opportunity they told me I could play the clarinet.”
The cruelty she was faced with actually had a bright side. “So I played clarinet and it got me to college.”
She returned from studying at Norfolk State University determined to make sure the girls growing up in her neighborhood had different experiences. “When I came out I started tutoring music theory at the junior high school that I went to and the band director asked me did I want to work with the dancers.”
In addition to the negative feedback she received about her body her world lacked positive representation. Few examples of confident plus-size women existed in her everyday life. Her first encounter with body positivity was actually birthed from a store window.
“I remember going with my mom to PG Plaza Mall. We would go past Ashley Stewart and I would see the models in their displays and I would always think to myself ‘They look so beautiful and confident! I wish I could you know feel like that and I could be like that.’”
As she strolled through the halls in Hyattsville, Maryland at her mom’s side she found inspiration the smiles found stemming from the silhouettes that reflected her own body. These women weren’t hindered by their curves, they were willing to celebrate them and soon so was Richardson.
“Initially I started modeling because I wanted to be like the girls on the advertisements for Ashley Stewart.”
Her journey to becoming a model might have started out of a desire to emulate those confident women but ultimately it became about creating new ones. For Richardson there was no question about whether or not she should take the opportunity she was offered when she returned home. “So the same lady that told me I was too big to fit the uniform I ended up taking her job.”
The job reinvigorated her modeling career. With a room full of young girls watching her every move, she had to work even harder to make her dreams come true off of the clock.
“It actually furthered my drive even more because I was working with young girls who were from the same neighborhood that I was from which was in Columbia Heights Northwest D.C., where we see lots of violence and lots of crime and lots of gentrification and lots of nobody caring and lots of homelessness and all those other things.”
A bond was built between her and the young women entrusted in her care. With every routine perfected and every baton twirled Richardson felt like she was making a difference. “They really looked up to me even though I wasn’t modeling at the level that I wanted to be modeling on they saw that and it motivated them and it inspired them to do anything that they wanted.” She took their respect seriously.
“It almost turned into like a selfless thing I almost felt like I had to do it because if quit it would only let them down, and eventually I landed the BET Rip The Runway opportunity, which like to them is like the biggest thing that I could have ever done. Just to see how inspired they were by the things that i was doing just made me feel like I couldn’t quit. I just can’t stop now, I have to keep going.”
Plus size bodies are often hyper-sexualized by mainstream media outlets but the environment Maui Bigelow and MadameNoire created was all about admiring one another. The moment returned Richardson to band practice. “It brings you right back to that feeling that I had when my girls were proud of me!
It’s just like its nots a courageous thing for me it’s an insult to tell me ‘Oh you’re brave for going out there in lingerie.’ You don’t need to be brave, you just need to be confident in yourself and know that you’re worthy of this.”
Being hyped up by a room full of beautiful Black women allowed her to double down on the purity of that feeling. “It’s not a lustful thing you should be feeling like this anyway it’s the affirmation of what you’re supposed to feel.”
Part of what she felt was freedom.
The CurvyNoire event allowed Richardson to reach a higher form of self actualization. “It was definitely like the most liberating, because it’s I don’t wanna say it’s taboo for a fat girl to be in lingerie but it’s like they don’t look at us in the same way they look at someone with an hourglass figure. So for me to walk in that room with my nipples out and to get the applause and get the accolades and the encouragement that I got in the room, it made me feel like you really are sexy it’s not just something that you think in your head and it’s not just something that a man tells you but it’s something that’s true that you really are sexy and worthy of that adoration.”
We’ll second that sis!
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MODEL MONDAY: Tazah Richardson Is Liberated, Living Her Best Life, And Looking Out For Black Girls was originally published on hellobeautiful.com