Jade Willoughby Signs With Wilhelmina Models
Jade Willoughby, a Whitesand First Nation member who was born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario, has signed a contract with the Los Angeles and New York offices of the prestigious Wilhelmina Models agency.
"When I get to New York, I will hit the ground running," she told Native News Network. "I have been working for this for so long. ... My look is unique I have been told. In terms of diversity, I have been told I have the look that I could come from different nationalities."
She arrived in New York City today, May 13, where she will live and work through July. She's a thousand miles away from Thunder Bay, and in terms of lifestyle the distance between the environment she grew up in and the world of international fashion is just as great. As a young girl, Willoughby lived in a log cabin on the Whitesand First Nation Reserve. At age 7, she contracted Nephrotic Syndrome, or Minimal Change Disease, a kidney condition that causes sufferers to retain an unusual amount of water. For ten years, Willoughby struggled with the disease, which causes chronic fatigue and can give the appearance of obesity.
The illness "went into remission when I was 15,” Willoughby told Wawatay News Online. “I was home schooled. But I kept pushing myself." Once healthy, Willoughby moved to Toronto to pursue her dream of being a model. She won Grand Champion of the Great Canadian Model Search, and, in 2007, the Top Native Model competition.
Willoughby was offered the contract after a recent visit to New York during which she met with a number of agencies. "The contract entails that in the New York market, Wilhelmina will be my representation," she explained to Wawatay News. "So they will handle everything in regards to my image, likeness, my voice. They are my management agency in that market as well as LA. Anything I do as a model will be guided and helped along by Wilhelmina Models."
Willoughby admitted to being both excited and scared about the move to New York City, but is eager to embrace the experience. "The energy (in New York City) is unlike something I have ever felt -- and I thought Toronto was big," she said. Her approach to the adventures that lie in store is a simple one: "Never forget who you are and success will follow. I always remember who I am."
The photos above come from Willoughby's Instagram page, instagram.com/jadewilloughby.