When it comes to a career in front of the camera, Alex LaRosa isn’t just a pretty face! In addition to striking a pose as an in-demand plus model, Alex LaRosa has been building her social media empire as an influencer, @missalexlarosa. She also is an advocate for speaking out against racism and a champion for body positivity. So in other words, she’s breaking the mold, one bold move at a time. Keep scrolling for a conversation with Alex LaRosa about her career path, advice to fellow Black creators, and what brands can do to amplify and uplift the Black community.
You inspire us so much! Can you walk us through your journey of how you became an influencer, plus model, and advocate?
I started my career as a plus model back in 2009 when I was 18 years old. Like most plus size women, I was primarily shopping for clothes online, and was so amazed looking at all the models that I decided I had to try. I went to a model casting and 4 months later, I had booked my very first modeling gig.
I was learning so much about myself, about modeling, and about the plus size fashion industry that I began sharing my experiences on social media. This allowed me to grow my following and develop an amazing community of women who wanted to know more about modeling, plus size fashion, and body confidence.
In 2015, I launched the #VisiblyPlusSize hashtag to bring attention to the lack of size diversity in the plus size modeling industry! Through the work of many models, bloggers, and industry leaders, we are now seeing a shift toward true representation in the fashion industry. We still have a long way to go and I’m excited to see brands prioritize diversity in all areas in the future!
What’s a piece of advice you would give to Black content creators who are just starting out?
Do it!! My first piece of advice is to just start! Know that there is room for you to succeed in this industry! And know that your voice is important! Your perspective is valued and absolutely necessary! Becoming a content creator and building a career from it can be tough, but there are so many resources that can help you get started.
Here are a few things I suggest:
1.) Diversify your content. That means you should be creating content for multiple platforms. Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok are the big three right now.
2.) Collaborate over competition. There are tons of content creators out there to connect and collaborate with! I think it’s easy to compare yourself in their industry. But instead of looking to others to feel better or worse about yourself… reach out. See how you can support one another! Collaborate and build together!
3.) Talk to other content creators about any and all facets of the industry. Discuss rates, camera equipment, invoice systems, photoshoot locations, taxes, website development, etc. Share what you know freely, and others will share too!
4.) Sharing the journey is wayyyy more interesting than simply sharing the destination. In whatever kind of content you plan to create, share your learning process. Content that teaches or inspires typically performs better than content that is about impressing the audience.
5.) Be yourself. There is no need to put all this time and effort into faking a trendy lifestyle. Being authentically you is much more engaging!
In light of the past couple weeks, we as a brand have reflected on how we can do better when it comes to inclusion. In your opinion, what should brands be doing to promote and amplify Black voices and creators?
I know that ModCloth has recently taken direct action to combat racism. The company has donated to Black Lives Matter and has committed to amplifying Black voices by featuring more Black models on the website, more Black content creators and influencers on social media, and more partnerships with Black female-owned brands. It is essential that brands put their money where their mouth is and financially support Black people. Donating to a cause or organization is amazing and individually hiring Black creatives is just as important in the long run!
I believe that brands must not just commit to hiring more Black people, but must commit to equal and fair payment. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for white creatives to be paid double or triple what Black creatives are paid in the influencer marketing industry. As for models, I truly believe that a token Black model is unacceptable at this point. Only working with light skin Black models is unacceptable at this point. Brands must seek out the modeling agencies that prioritize size, race, and skin tone diversity representation on their boards. I suggest Natural Model Management, WeSpeak, and the BTWN agency.
In addition, ModCloth has committed to organizing a Diversity and Inclusion Expansion Initiative. This committee will consist of various members of ModCloth staff, meeting to discuss various initiatives and identifying potential gaps and areas for improvement. Creating a space for a company’s Black employees to speak candidly about workplace culture of the company is the quickest way to identify those gaps and areas for improvement. Brands need a diverse upper management to best create a safe space for Black employees and also to best connect with a diverse consumer base. As important as it is for brands to listen to their Black employees’ feedback, it is more important that there is structure and accountability to make necessary changes without ostracizing those Black employees for speaking up or leaving them feeling ignored.
Being a presence on social media can have its positives and negatives. As a Black social media influencer, how has social media had a positive effect on your life? In what ways has it been challenging?
There are so many positives with being a Black social media influencer! First and foremost, the community you get to create and develop on your platform and with other creators is beautiful! Connecting with so many like-minded people that you wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to know is my favorite part! Building a community that loves and supports you is one thing. But if you are able to successfully foster a community that loves and supports each other, that is when you know you’re making a difference in the world! Building something that you are proud of is also a huge positive in the influencer marketing world. Content creators are basically their own brand and their own business. You will become much more business savvy over time and that will help you with other endeavors in the future.
There are, of course, challenges in any job. One of the biggest lessons I had to learn as a content creator was to set boundaries for myself and for others. The internet is 24/7, so it is easy to all of a sudden be working 24/7. That isn’t safe for anyone’s mental health because you can start to feel like you’re not doing enough to keep up with it all. When FOMO is also connected to your paycheck, it can get really stressful. Setting up work hours and mandatory screen-free time was a huge help for me. Another challenge that may or may not be a big deal to you is negative commenters. Mean comments used to get to me, but I’ve developed a thick skin over the years. I have found that others’ opinions of me no longer need my attention.
How do you try to stay positive? What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming months?
I stay positive by spending as much time consuming joyful content as I do staying up to date on the news, protesting, and speaking out against racism. And I’m going to keep it 100% real with you all, I don’t always stay positive. I do my best and that is the most important thing! I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations about racial injustice and discovering more ways to bring about equality across race, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, and any other way we are divided.
I’m looking forward to seeing more brands take on anti-racism work head on through their platforms, bank accounts, and internal corporate structures. I look forward to more and more white allies speaking up in their families, friend groups, and workplaces. I hope that we will all continue to do the tough work of identifying our own implicit bias. And then have the strength and humility to make any necessary mindset changes. We all can do more to make this world a safer place for those who are marginalized! Together we can make a difference!