Beyond the Stereotype: Tanaya Henry
It’s 2011 and, let’s face it, if sex sells then beauty is an absolute gold mine. Beautiful people seemingly float effortlessly through life having everything handed to them on a diamond encrusted silver platter. We ignorantly envy, judge and scrutinize the beautiful, never once stopping to think that maybe, just maybe, they struggle the way we all do.
The beauty possessed by model, designer and owner of Lace By Tanaya, Tanaya Henry is praised by many. Her doe eyed elegance (shining bright on this summer day in Hollywood even though she’s dressed in oversized sweats with her curls in disarray) has been seen decorating the videos of everyone from Jamie Foxx to Sean Paul but the petite, soft spoken and self proclaimed “computer nerd” is a living, breathing example of the struggle behind pretty.
Born in Minneapolis, MN far away from the big city where she got her start in the industry, Henry spent much of her younger years alone. “There was so much racism”, she says, “I was trying to fit in and they didn’t want me to. I got picked on a lot”. For a second she appears distant before letting out one of her infectious giggles and confessing, “ a girl dressed as me for Halloween one year, she wore a boa and heels. It was intense”. Though failing to be down with the “in crowd” in school, Tanaya lived a life many would desire at home.
“My father was a bodyguard for Prince, Mary J Blige and a couple other big names, so I’d spend my time with him hanging out backstage”, she says while adjusting her now Indian style crossed leg position, “he introduced me to things outside of Minneapolis and that’s how I knew I had to move away”. Upon finishing high school, Tanaya made the decision to move East to the city that never sleeps and it was there she began to harness her skills as both a model and a creative designer. Living in a remodeled pudding factory that came equipped with not only other young artists but video and editing equipment, the imaginative nerd that had once been an outcast knew she had an upper hand that could help her go from just another pretty face to the only pretty face who can brand herself.
“I used everything I’d learned, literally. I knew how to make my own website, I could edit my own videos. I would get really creative”, Tanaya explains, “so when I started experimenting with jewelry, I’d make a piece and then I’d go downstairs and shoot a crazy video for it”. Her forward thinking in marketing herself also benefitted her modeling. Shortly after, Tanaya announced a campaign in which she’d pick a new brand everyday for one year and rock their company’s t-shirt at a small price in a professional photo shoot to be displayed on the aptly named website, SheWearsYourTee.com. Companies jumped all over Tanaya’s idea and she quickly became the talk of the town by being featured on countless blogs and eventually landing in Huffington Post. It was clear that she understood the value of her marketing ability being a highly sought after model and budding businesswoman, but was she ready for everything that would come with it?
When we move into discussing how Tanaya has adjusted to being recognizable, her wisdom is evident. Having already been run through the rumor mills, she has had a taste of the bitter medicine that Hollywood can serve up. “Growing up and seeing how this business works, there’s a lot of crap and there’s a lot of people talking, you have to make people take you serious”, she explains with an uncharacteristically cold tone, “my childhood in Minnesota prepared me in many ways to deal with close-minded and heartless people, it’s no different in this industry”. Often stigmatized as a video model, Tanaya is constantly looking for ways to further distance herself from the here today gone tomorrow nature of her field. With her Lace By Tanaya earlace empire growing in popularity,(spearheaded by the patented magnet that only her design features) thanks to the dozens of placements she’s had on some of the biggest talent in the world, her business mind has helped her to see that most of her power comes from a simple thing: her sex.
“Being a woman, that’s all it takes sometimes. I didn’t realize how much power we have. Men run a lot of the entertainment business but knowing how to use your power but not sleeping around, simply using what you have to make people notice you. I didn’t realize it at a first. But being a real woman and just staying true to you, can take you so far”, she says with a mischievous grin before bursting into laughter.
And in that moment it’s clear to see why she is so adored by those who take the time to see past her physical.
Inside of Tanaya Henry is a strong woman not content with hiding behind her beauty but instead brave enough to expose her scars, have a mind of her own and use it to build an empire…while everyone around her is busy being captivated by her smile.
Written by: Iman Milner
Photos by: Ashley Nguyen
Stylist: Maeve Reilly http://www.maevereilly.com , @StyleMEMaeve
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