We know her as AzMarie, the captivating Americas Next Top Model contestant who got booted for refusing to wear booty-pads.
And, know it or not, weve also seen her on BETs Rip the Runway; in music videos such as Nikki Minajs Moment 4 Life and Kelly Rowlands Motivation; in Essence and Urban Ink magazines; and in cameos on the Real Housewives of New York and the Academy Award-winning movie Precious.
Now, AzMarie is coming to Raleigh as a featured model in Tim Johnsons Fashion on South West. Its a showcase of hair, makeup and fashion to celebrate Johnsons 25 years in the beauty and fashion industry. The show, one of many Johnson has held since 1992, is set for 9 p.m. Saturday at Club Bodi, 310 S. West St., Raleigh. Limited advance tickets are $20. Showtime ticket prices will depend on advance ticket sales.
Johnson known as one of Raleighs styling and fashion gems with a world-class reputation built and maintained at Tim Johnson Studio Hair salon on Hill Street met AzMarie at her Rip the Runway audition in 2010. AzMarie will join a cast of 25 models Johnson auditioned and trained for Fashions on South West.
I loved AzMarie from the start, and I knew she was a star, Johnson said. Shes a very futuristic-type, Grace Jones-type of model. Shes exotic.
Time to change things
Born Ashley Marie Livingston in Louisiana, AzMarie, 25, grew up in Milwaukee with an older brother and was raised by a single mother and a gay father whove remained best friends. After high school, she went to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Three semesters in, she quit.
I moved to L.A. to open up new opportunities, she said when I caught up with her recently by phone. Milwaukee doesnt have very much to get into to allow you to evolve. I needed that.
I feel like Im not productive if Im not getting something done that will help me progress.
AzMarie, who started modeling at 9, returned to the craft in L.A. and New York. After about a year of New York not understanding me, or not waking up, she sold her car to buy a one-way ticket to London. She worked, but wasnt taken by storm, she said. Not in Germany or Paris, either.
Thats the hardest thing to deal with, AzMarie said. Why are they trying to have the same thing; the same look? Its time to change things.
Her brand, ANTM fans will recall, is androgyny, the ability to transform my look from being masculine and tomboyish to being very feminine and elegant and graceful; flipping it from male to female with the least effort.
Thats how I am naturally, said the gay model, adding she learned to embrace her feminine side as an adult.
She chose AzMarie as a blending of her real name, Ashley Marie, which she says fits well for me in her private world. As a model, though, I wanted a name that would stand out, something that could become a household name, a branded name for the beautiful bald-headed girl with the tattoos.
After testing the international runway, AzMarie eventually landed a cameo in a dance scene in Precious, directed by her godfather, Lee Daniels, followed by Rip the Runway and ANTM.
I do consider myself a role model to anyone who looks up to me because they believe my truth and what I represent youth 13 to 25, LGBT or heterosexual even for adults as far as following your dreams and doing what you want to do, she said.
AzMarie credits her parents for her drive and ambition, her creativity and opportunities and for their support while she has tapped into her own passions and purpose.
As an adult, Ive learned how to use things around me to motivate me: nature, select friends their energy, in a way that others motivate me to get my things going not just for me but to, in turn, give back to them.
I just keep networking, but I dont ever want to take and not give.
Im not a fluke
Through a new nonprofit she co-founded, Gay Teens Rock, AzMarie hopes to use her own experience to say to youth like her, Its going to be OK, she said.
AzMarie came out to her own parents her Dad first when she was 14. She was bullied by boys confused by her tomboy nature and struggled against a once-strained relationship with her mother, initially disappointed by her only daughters lifestyle.
It took time, AzMarie said. But I always stood my ground: This is what it is. If you dont like it, I dont have to have you as part of my life.
Im not a fluke. This is not a phase.
For more information about Fashion on South West, call 919-832-8770.