The life of a model isn’t always what it seems from the outside. The romanticization of free designer clothes, brand deals and super-aesthetic pictures to post on Instagram is what often overshadows the dark, degrading world that modeling can also be.
From the time Penn State student Rosina Natter was a young girl, she loved being in front of the camera and at the young age of just 13 years old began her career in the modeling industry.
“I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, but I was just having fun with it,” Rosina says.
An experience she remembers from her modeling career was when she went on a ‘modeling’ cruise ship in the Caribbean where she and a bunch of other young models networked and photographed with different photographers. It was this experience that allowed her to learn a lot about not only the industry but about different types of people and cultures as well.
On the flip side of that experience, she also noticed these people being categorized by their features, race and gender to conform to what type of ‘look’ certain photographers and brands were going for. They would actually put certain groups of people on separate sides of the ship, based on these features and body shapes. This is what Rosina says taught her to be more accepting of all different types of people.
“It was kind of just learning from there that there are a lot of judgments and stereotypes that people will put on you,” Rosina says. “But it also taught me a lot about confidence and being okay with what I look like and being okay with what size I am.”
Although modeling was a big part of her life growing up, Rosina isn’t as interested in making modeling her full-time career anymore due to the classifications and unfairness that come with the industry.
“I just feel like I’ve grown so much from modeling because I’ve learned so much about the differences in people,” Rosina says.
“I’d rather voice my opinions and advocate for something through communications and through women’s studies and gender studies,” she says. “But don’t get me wrong, if someone hits me up for a photo shoot, I’m there.”
Rosina found that her experience in the modeling industry left her wanting to work toward an education in many fields of study such as women and gender studies and communication arts and sciences, while also working on minors in business and liberal arts. After college, she plans on going to graduate school to continue her education in the world of communications.
Rosina definitely has many different sides to her. She might be a bit of a bookworm when it comes to her studies, but she also runs a kick-ass social media account where she expresses her love for fashion and advocates for the topics that she believes in.
“I just think fashion is just a way to express yourself, and I think everyone’s fashion sense is completely different and that’s why I love it so much,” she says. “It’s so individualistic.”
Living in Pittsburgh, Pa., Rosina never really felt like she could own her style choices, that was until she visited New York City.
This was where she found that she could truly be free and her style choices and didn’t have to conform to any certain box.
“I would wear like my communion dress with cowgirl boots and a black hat and things like that,” says Rosina. “I just wanted to be so free and open to trying new looks, and New York is huge on that.”
Breaking the boundaries of fashion didn’t stop there for Natter, and it wasn’t long after that she stopped caring about the judgments people placed on her.
“At some point, I was just like – ‘you know what? I don’t care. I feel good, I look good and I’m just going to wear whatever I want.”
She describes her style now as streetwear and loves the look of 90s vintage clothing. Natter says most of her clothing is thrifted, and she loves making a statement with one item. Whether that be through her accessories like rings or shoes, she is always making sure something stands out.
“If you ask me in three months, my fashion sense is going to change, but I think that’s why I love fashion so much,” Rosina says.
Another part of her identity Rosina feels passionately about is her nails, which she makes sure to get done every four weeks by small business owner Aliya Wray back home in Pittsburgh. In choosing a design, she looks to music artists in genres like rap and R&B, pop culture moments and trends to pick out her new funky nail look.
“I plan my nails like I plan my outfit. I am really into the style and aesthetics of them,” Rosina says.
Rosina says in some ways modeling gave her the confidence to just stop caring about what other people thought of her and her fashion choices, and the rest of her ‘strong woman’ attitude she says she definitely gets from her mom.
“I got my female empowerment from my mom. She is everything that I want to be, and she embodies everything that I want to be,” Rosina says. “She’s strong. She’s independent. And she doesn’t need anyone. She gets things done herself and doesn’t rely on anyone, but at the same time, she’s vulnerable and accepting of other people.”
Self-growth takes time, and Rosina explains that accepting herself and breaking boundaries didn’t happen overnight.
She grew up in an ‘alpha male household’ where she, like many women, had experienced toxic masculinity, and she was slut-shamed for her clothing choices. Rosina explains this perspective growing up made her fashion sense become more rebellious, and it wasn’t until it was just her mom and her that she fully embraced the true sense of who she is as a person.
“It really took it being just my mom and me to be like, ‘F– what anyone has to say. I’m gonna do what I want, wear what I want, dress how I want and talk how I want,’” Rosina says. “And if I offend someone, I want to talk about it and tell you that I’m sorry for offending you, but I’m not going to apologize for being myself.”
Having this sense of self-confidence also allowed her to expand her interests in not only fashion, but also advocating and speaking out about the topics she believes in such as women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I think that just comes full circle with everything that I’m into with gender studies, women’s studies, with LGBTQ and race studies. All of that just kind of ties into who I am with fashion and everything,” Natter says. “I just use myself as a platform for being so comfortable and confident with myself, but also learning to accept others and to make other people feel as confident as I do because everyone is beautiful in their own differences.”