Ambitious / Environmentalist / Adept
21-year-old Angel Strong is the current spokesmodel of Vizcaya Swimwear, as well as Miss Earth USA Fire. She will be graduating from Drake University with her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science this December. This last summer, she has been living in Grand Cayman, where she spent much of her time volunteering at thModel: Angel Strong @angelmariestrongModel: Angel Strong @angelmariestronge Cayman Turtle Centre.
In 2017, she founded Earth Angels, an environmental education program to support students interested in STEM. She is also a World Wildlife Fund Panda Ambassador and Climate Reality mentor. While currently pursuing her modeling career, she aims to work with the UN Environmental Programme, one day.
She speaks French fluently, can read in Korean, and is currently learning Vietnamese, Arabic and Spanish. Her ultimate goal in life is to travel to at least three countries on every continent, which has driven her passion to learn as many languages as she can.
She has thus far traveled to Nicaragua as well as the Cayman Islands, and has plans to visit Morocco in the near future. While in Nicaragua, she met her now-godsister, of which Angel and her mother sponsored through her university education until she graduated on Angel’s birthday this last March—breaking a four year streak of what she calls “bad luck birthdays,” having started with getting her diagnosis of Celiac disease on her 17th. Still, Angel is a forever optimistic person, who lives by the saying “what matters to you, defines your mattering” (John Green).
Moevir Magazine August Issue 2023 featured edition
Model: Angel Strong @angelmariestrong
Can you tell us about your journey into the fashion industry and how you became a successful model/blogger?
I was (and still am!) a pageant girl. I did my first pageant at 6 years old, and spent most of that time dreaming of getting into modeling. However, a couple people in my life would always compare me to another pageant girl, and as I got older and saw her working to achieve the same dream to no avail, I pretty much gave up.
I acted like I had no want or interest in becoming a model, because I honestly just thought if she couldn’t do it, then I couldn’t. It wasn’t until I was Iowa Teen USA in 2021 and had met a ton of incredible photographers and people while visiting at the Texas USA pageant that I started to rethink whether or not I could achieve this. I started building my portfolio in 2022, and competed for and became the new Vizcaya spokesmodel in July of 2023.
A lot of my personal drive to see what I can become, and the amazing support of those around me, like photographer Zac Grimaldo and RGV USA director Debi Lou (both of whom I met at Texas USA) have really pushed me into becoming this version of me that I truly didn’t believe could exist just a few years ago.
What inspired you to pursue a career in fashion and how do you stay motivated?
Actually, I was inspired by meeting some great people at Miss Texas USA in 2021. I was visiting royalty as Miss Iowa Teen USA, and made friends with lots of people at the pageant, including some local directors and photographers. They really were the ones that inspired me to try and pursue this career!
I actually wrote down in my journal something one of the photographers said to me, when I expressed that I hadn’t tried modeling because I felt like I wouldn’t succeed due to someone I knew not. It’s what motivates me to keep working for this career.
“You’re not her, and will never be her. That’s a good thing, because it means your journey will never be her journey. Stop determining your chances for success off of anything but your own drive and passion—you can do this.”
As a fashion model/blogger, how do you keep up with the latest trends and maintain your own unique style?
I have pretty severe ADHD, but luckily I have cultivated a FYP on Instagram that is so fashion-based that it’s actually hilarious. I will doomscroll and soak in every new style, trend and industry news for hours at a time. It’s really inspiring for me, because I love trying new things, and getting creative with how I showcase who I am.
It also means regardless of the style dress code for an event, I have thousands of ideas on how to incorporate my own style into it! It really helps me bring out the best in myself!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a successful fashion model/blogger?
Please, if not for yourself, then for me: don’t enter this industry until you’ve made peace with yourself and until you’ve built a community that will lift you up until the world’s end. This is not an industry that tends to build your confidence, but it requires you to have it. It really needs to come from a routine place, both internally and externally. I think the best advice I have for this is to learn to only care about the opinions of people who care about you. Choose wisely whose criticism you’re willing to internalize, and normalize surrounding yourself with people who will always remind you to love yourself over your modeling career.
Can you describe your creative process when putting together a photoshoot or blog post?
My priority is making my mark in all of my photoshoots. I always try to have a plan before I arrive, and make sure I am confident in this plan. I select some poses I like in others’ photoshoots, and in front of a mirror start mimicking them. During this, I slowly adjust the pose to focus on the features I like about myself and want to highlight—tilting my head to highlight my jawline, pressing a shoulder forward to showcase my collarbones, etc.—until the pose feels fresh, and suits me and my style.
I just keep repeating the process until I can settle comfortably into each pose! I also try really hard to focus on the photographer’s directions—they’re behind the camera and can see for certain what’s working and what isn’t.
How do you balance your personal style with the expectations of clients or readers?
I am a bit of a fashion chameleon. I love experimenting with different styles, and blending them together for something unique to me. However, when meeting with clients I tend towards professionalism in my style, but always try to add a fun twist—maybe some rings I really love or some beaded earrings! The goal is to meet their expectations without fully sacrificing my individuality, even if I’m only expressing it in a small way.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing the fashion industry today and how do you see it evolving in the future?
Like most mainstream forms of media, the fashion industry is still really disconnected from the social media fashion scene. There’s a portion that overlaps—typically where large influencers begin traditional modeling careers.
But there’s whole sectors of fashion designers, trend-setters and style gurus that focus themselves in some pretty specific niches that really help fully round out the accessibility of unique styles that I think the industry should really work more closely with. It’s actually amazing to me how revolutionary social media is for fashion, yet there’s still such a large chasm between the two, where social media is more used to market traditional fashion and scout models than for exploring new opportunities in fashion!
How do you use your platform as a fashion model/blogger to advocate for important social and environmental causes?
I actually work really closely with a lot of environmental causes. I post a lot of eco-related content, as well as social advocacy. I post speeches and recreate slide decks of presentations I have given, and try to use my face and brand to attract viewer attention. In a world where social media engagement is the best way to inspire people, fashion is one of the best niches on the internet for making change.
Can you tell us about a particularly memorable or challenging experience you've had as a model/blogger and how you overcame it?
I think going to my first shoot was probably both the most challenging and memorable. I had scheduled it just to build up some photos of myself for social media and my portfolio. I was really out of my depth, unsure how to take direction from the photographer, and woefully underprepared. I was absolutely mortified for the first fifteen minutes. It didn’t take him long at all to realize how new I was to all of it, though, and he began showing me what he meant. He really guided me through, very kindly, and helped me build my confidence in posing!
What role do you think diversity and inclusivity play in the fashion industry and how do you strive to promote these values in your work?
I’ve always been a huge advocate for diversity. As a woman with Celiac Disease, who is involved in the pageant community, I was really distressed to see a lot of hate towards fellow Celiac-sufferer, Miss Universe Harmaaz Sandhu and her body, so I did my best to be informative while defending her. I find there’s a lot I’ve been able to do to encourage my fellow models and queens, and defend them. I really believe that active engagement in their work—showing their potential clients that people want to see them—helps a lot.
Can you discuss your thoughts on the relationship between fashion and sustainability?
As an environmental science major, the role the industry has played in destroying our environment really distressed me; from the introduction of unnecessary micro plastics to the unending waste produced, largely by fast fashion. To me, the biggest issue is the overindulgence in things like “$500 hauls,” not just by the consumer (often a social media personality), but by audiences who encourage this content style. While there is a lot of environmental degradation that happens despite the will of consumers, it really feels to me that being a bit pickier in our consumption of media could create significant change in reducing fashion waste.
How do you think technology is changing the fashion industry and your role as a model/blogger?
I’ve actually recently seen the first fully AI-generated magazine cover that a mentor and friend of mine, Lisa Opie, was a part of. It was a really cool thing to see! While I don’t know much about how things will continue to shift and change with evolving technology, I think there can be a good balance between respecting people and adapting to a new frontier in the industry, like seen in that collaboration. I am personally really excited to see it!
How do you stay authentic and true to yourself in an industry that can sometimes prioritize appearance over personality?
It’s interesting how this industry fluctuates through highlighting personality to trying to push it away from you. I’m personally always an advocate for you to prioritize being true to yourself and expressing your personality on your terms. This industry relies on your passions to thrive and create unique looks for the public eye. Keeping that in mind, you have to understand that especially for models, your appearance will always be your biggest draw. But if you know who you are and love that person, you’ll carry yourself far better and your appearance will reflect that confidence.
Can you talk about any upcoming projects or collaborations that you're excited about?
I’ve got quite a few projects in the works right now in Grand Cayman—including working with Vizcaya and Miss Universe Cayman Islands on a collaboration! But what I am most excited for is a fundraising showcase for the World Wildlife Fund I’m trying to plan right now! As a spokesmodel for Vizcaya Swimwear, I’m hoping this collaboration will benefit the brand’s visibility, but also help uplift some of the gorgeous, wonderful women I am fortunate enough to have in my orbit. Turtles have always been my favorite animal, and I just adore the idea of combining my fervor for protecting wildlife and love for fashion together!
How do you approach working with brands or designers whose values may not align with your own?
This isn’t something I’ve personally run into, yet. I’d like to imagine that journaling out my frustrations with this disconnect (and e screaming into my pillow a bit) would be enough to keep me focused on my work. I pride myself on my overall professionalism when I work, and I can be very diplomatic. Always have your values close to your heart, but keep in mind that there will always be people who disagree with you in life. This isn’t just about what you believe, but fundamentally they’ll disagree with who you are from time to time, so just standing strong and pushing through is really the best you can do.
Can you share any tips for maintaining a healthy work-life balance as a fashion model/blogger?
I’m notoriously bad at this balancing act, but it is super important in order to prevent burnout and maintain your own peace. I feel like when I best have a hold on this, it’s because I’m doing a good job with planning out my schedule, and utilizing inconspicuous downtime for “me time.” If I’m driving to school or work, I’m singing awfully to whatever my favorite song of the week is, or engaging with my friends while in a waiting room online. Luckily, I have a really awesome network of people behind me—modeling and pageant friends, my family and many more. It’s probably why I function so well despite always wobbling off my good work-life balance, because no matter what, I know they’re only a message away.
How do you see the role of fashion evolving in society and culture, particularly in relation to self-expression and identity?
Fashion used to typically be an extension of social identity, where all people were expected to fall in line. This has transformed into a reflection of the people engaging with each fashion style, where we continuously push the boundaries of ways to express how we feel, what we enjoy and our passions through what we wear. With the advent of social media and the internet, people are able to gain style inspiration for what they want to individually say, where fashion has helped cement a sense of self and chosen community for many across the globe. For a long time, our communities shaped what fashions we wore, but now fashion has facilitated the creation of communities we feel safe, happy and comfortable in. I, for one, think that’s a magnificent thing!
Can you discuss any personal style icons or influences that have inspired your own fashion journey?
One of my first ever photoshoots I did to build my portfolio was a full Winona Ryder-inspired fashion shoot! I love a lot of the photoshoots she did in the 90s, especially. Bold backgrounds, simple hair and makeup, and a lot of color blocking in the wardrobe—it’s phenomenal. On the other hand, I also adore the edgy style of Ruby Rose’s work. There are few models that always feel like they’re on the cutting edge, and Rose is one of them. They have a certain intensity in their work that I adore too! I mimicked her style for a really long time, and love the punk vibe.
How do you think the pandemic has impacted the fashion industry and what changes do you see on the horizon?
I think it pushed designers to get creative in how they announce new work or show off their creativity. I think we will continue to see this creativity flourish, pushing the boundaries on how we consume and showcase fashion. I also think, for consumers, it’s really reinvigorated a lot of people to explore new and more daring style choices, which is an amazing thing to see! I love seeing influencers explore maximalist, vintage and other innovative fashion choices online, and I hope the industry continues to lead in diversifying style showcasing like the online fashion community has!
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to find their own unique style and voice within the fashion industry?
Be open-minded and allow yourself to explore. Spending some time looking through different style categories, and seeing what catches your eye. If there’s a staple from one style you like, but you prefer another, find ways to incorporate it in your preferred style category! Creativity and pushing boundaries is how you differentiate yourself.