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Curvy Model of The Month: Jaana Santiago

The Puerto Rican and Black beauty fearlessly knocked on agency doors. After several contract offers, now she's gracing the pages of ESSENCE magazine.

I was discovered: I had a friend that modeled and she brought me into her agency in Miami where I was living at the time. Unfortunately the agency did not represent plus-size models but suggested I take a test shoot and bring them back the images. So I went for it! I did the test with a fantastic photographer and provided the images to my friend’s agency and they loved them. I then decided to take things a step further and take the initiative and go around to different agencies that did represent plus-size models. All of the agencies that I provided these pictures to offered me a contract. I chose the one that brought me the best energy, Wilhelmina! 

I’m currently working on: Building my portfolio by working with different photographers in New York City. Since I am new to New York as a model, I am getting to know new clients and networking myself. I am exploring one of my greatest passions as well, which is cooking.

My best feature is: My confidence which empowers me to be results driven. Confidence in this field is everything, if I don’t believe in myself, who will?

I’m beautiful because: I have a great family foundation that instilled qualities in me that are a reflection of my inner beauty. I am beautiful from the inside out and I take a lot of pride in that.

My favorite thing to wear to feel special is: A combination of a sexy dress, the highest possible heel (even though I’m 5’10 1/2″), and my MAC Ruby Woo red lipstick. 

My beauty routine is:  My makeup of choice is Mac. The key items I like are Matchmaster foundation, blot powder, Ruby Woo lipstick. As far as proper make-up removal: never fall asleep with my makeup still on). Neutrogena oil-free cleansing wipes and Pink Grapefruit keeps my face clean. I also believe moisturizing is essential and I like to use vitamin E oil and Palmer’s Cocoa Butter. I like to use brown sugar, tea tree and lavender scrubs to exfoliate my body. 

My health routine is: Exercise. I am not really a gym person, instead I just enjoying being active. Some of the activities I like to do to keep me healthy are dancing, African dance classes, belly dancing, running in my neighborhood and flag football with good friends. For my diet—since I love to cook so much, one of my favorite places to go to is the produce department in a grocery store. I don’t care for fast food at all. I just enjoy fresh food and try and eat as healthy as I can.

The best trick I use to flatter my curves is: Wearing garments that hug my waist. Because I’m bottom heavy I think clothes that hug my waist flatter my shape better because they accent my curves instead of hiding them. It’s all about knowing your body and proper sizing and feeling amazing in your own skin. 

My advice to budding plus size models is: Have thick skin. Different clients, agencies, photographers are all going to have an opinion on you. Take everything as constructive criticism and don’t lose yourself.

I get into the zone while shooting by: The collective efforts of the entire team on a shoot. From the hair, make-up to the stylist and production team all contribute to my vibe. The transformation that takes place is an exciting rush that happens every time and I live for it! Oh! and throwing on some Rihanna or Beyonce never hurts and always get me in my zone!

My curvy style icons are:  Diana Ross and Chaka Khan. I don’t know if Diana Ross would be considered “curvy,” but she screams femininity. They embraced the women they are. From the big hair to the form-fitting sequined dresses, I still can’t get enough of it!

My favorite places to shop: I enjoy shopping in boutiques. I also like BCBG, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Christian Louboutin, and I love a good vintage store. I’m pretty simple when it comes to shopping. I really dislike the mall shopping experience. 

My favorite style blogs are: I’ve had a chance to work on a job with an amazing stylist, June Ambrose. I fell in love with her energy and passion for fashion, so ever since then I’ve been following all her blogs. I have such a love for the ESSENCE family since I’ve had a great working relationship with them over the years. I follow ESSENCE on my Instagram and Twitter, to keep up on the latest fashion trends, beauty regimens and lifestyle tips. I also have been featured on Madison Plus blog. I enjoy their hands-on involvement with the plus-sized community. 

Where can we look forward to seeing you next?: My love for cooking has lead me to open a catering company recently. So that is a very exciting and ongoing project. With that, I am working on a project that will allow me to combine my two favorite things, cooking and modeling. I’m extremely excited for what’s to come. Hard work will pay off.