WKU student stars in television fashion show

Louisville senior Joia Talbott has been modeling since the fourth grade. Her biggest break so far is an appearance on the show Rip the Runway, which airs Wednesday on BET. “With hopefully more to come,” Talbott said.

Zirconia Alleyne

Strobe lights beaming, cameras rolling and the crowd roaring were all a dream to Louisville senior Joia Talbott two years ago.

But on Feb. 29, she stood backstage at the Hammerstein Ballroom in the Manhattan Center realizing her dream was now reality.

Draped in a chained, black and gold swimsuit from the Selita E. Banks collection, Talbott was ready to strut in Black Entertainment Television or BET’s nationally-televised fashion show, “Rip the Runway.”

“I just couldn’t wait to get on the stage,” she said. “Once I was on, I didn’t want to get off.”

The beat dropped, and hip-hop star Meek Mill rapped one of his latest tracks as the models took the stage.

Talbott sashayed down the catwalk in Louboutin stilettos.

However, this wasn’t the first ballroom where she’d modeled — she was in WKU’s Rip the Runway, produced by the Black Student Alliance. The show was held in the Garrett Ballroom.

Henderson senior Raemia Higgins said she saw Talbott in the show on campus and was captivated.

“When she hits the stage, she has your attention,” she said. “It’s not that you want to take your eyes off of her — it’s that you can’t.”

Higgins, a design, merchandising and textiles major, had Talbott walk in her fashion show for Alpha Kappa Psi, a business fraternity.

“I knew she’d be great for the show because I’d seen her versatility in her pictures,” she said. “She transforms into a high-profile, high-fashion model.”

Talbott said she became interested in modeling in the fifth grade.

“My mom put me in modeling classes because I was really shy,” Talbott said.

She learned the fundamentals like runway walking and posing, which essentially built her confidence.

In 2008, she signed with Cosmo Modeling and Talent Agency hoping to jumpstart her career.

But after two years, Talbott realized she was being shortchanged.

“I paid thousands of dollars for a comp card,” she said. “It was a complete waste of time and money.”

So she took the reins and became her own agent by social networking with local models and photographers.

Fellow model LaJarvis Evans, a sophomore from Columbus, Ga., said he was honored when Talbott reached out to him for a photo shoot.

“I felt like I was modeling with a superstar,” he said. “When she gets big, I can say I modeled with her.”

The pair did a steamy shoot that Evans said opened the door for him to do more modeling.

Talbott said she’s learned it’s all about who you know.

She booked many of her jobs through email, Facebook and Twitter.

Talbott had the opportunity to become a Victoria’s Secret Angel because of a photographer she knew but didn’t make the cut because of her size.

“In this world, I’m skinny, but in that one, my thighs were too big,” she said.

Talbott didn’t let it discourage her aspirations.

“You can’t take it to heart because everyone has a look they’re looking for,” she said. “It just opened up doors to other opportunities.”

Another modeling colleague recommended her to the Rip the Runway casting director in New York.

She received an email a day before the auditions to go tryout but didn’t know how she was going to make it on such short notice.

Her No. 1 supporter came through.

“My mother held off on her mortgage to send me to New York,” Talbott said. “Not many parents would have done that.”

She said her mother encouraged her to stay in school while modeling in her spare time.

“There’s been many photo shoots I’ve had to turn down, because I have a test or can’t come up with the money to be where they want me to be,” she said. “But if you have a passion for something, you go for it.”

When she graduates in May, Talbott wants to take on modeling full-time in New York.

“I told my mom I want to go there for a month, and if that goes good, I’m staying,” she said. “I’m dreaming big here— I want to go as far as possible.”