LaShawnna Stanley: Ethnicity Models

By Frances Moffett

It takes a lot to become a pioneer in an industry, especially the fashion and entertainment worlds. But LaShawnna Stanley has done just that. With the only modeling agency that caters to women and men of color, Stanley has taken urban modeling to a new level. She has worked with some of today’s best known video models (like Melyssa Ford, Kia Samuel, Esther Baxter, The Glenn Twins, and the list goes on) and created an empire that has forever changed the way ethnic models are perceived. Read on as Stanley opens up about how she got started, her future plans and the show “Candy Girls.”

GlossMagazineOnline: You went from working in corporate America to opening your own clothing boutique. How did you make that vast transition and what inspired you to do so?

 LaShawnna Stanley: I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. I would baby-sit, sell candy and shovel snow. My mom dated a guy who owned a fireworks stand, and I even sold fireworks on my block to all the kids. If they didn’t have enough money, I would open the pack and sell them one firecracker for a nickel (laughs). I’ve always been a ‘jump in the ocean head first and learn how to swim once you’re in there’ type of person, so I can’t really say how the transition happened — I just did it! But if you’re asking how I could afford to, I worked for a stock market firm in Kansas City. I worked there for about 10 years. I quit, prematurely liquidated my funds, paid the penalties and opened the boutique one rack of clothes at a time.

GMO: When you first made the move to Miami, what was your plan? What did you do when you got there?

I sold my boutique in Kansas City to open one in South Beach; my plan was to have the hottest boutique on South Beach with a huge celebrity and international clientele. Everything happened pretty naturally when I got to South Beach. There weren’t any Black-owned businesses on the beach at the time so everyone was pretty receptive to me. I was just myself, networked and told people that I was new to Miami and let them know what I was going to do. I recruited models on the beach to do fashion shows for the store and soon the models and our shows were the talk of the beach. There were hundreds of other boutiques on the beach, so the modeling took over.

GMO: What inspired you to start Ethnicity Models?

LS: I would recruit models for my boutique in Kansas City to do local fashion shows to promote my store. That started a local buzz, so I started a modeling troupe with the models in Kansas City. I couldn’t think of a name for the modeling troupe to save my life, but one day I was in my boutique dusting and I dusted a photo in a frame of a black, white and mixed model and the word ‘Ethnicity’ popped into my head…it was perfect! When I moved to Miami, the people here are so diverse, and there are so many modeling opportunities for ethnic models that “Ethnicity Models” was perfect! It was divine timing.

GMO: Who are some of your clients?

LS: Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Kanye West, Jamie Foxx, Lil’ Wayne, TI, Akon, Trina, Ciara, Apple Bottoms jeans, African Pride Hair Care, Luster Hair Care, Crème of Nature Hair Care, Vibe Magazine, BET, MTV, Burger King, Chevrolet. Just about all of hip hop and any corporations targeting the urban market are my clients.

GMO: Who are some of the models you have worked with?

LS: All of the big name models got their start with Ethnicity: Melyssa Ford, Esther Baxter, Natasha Elie, Ashley Ragland, Abeba Davis, The Glenn Twins, LaShontae Heckard, Kia Samuel, Sara Pickett, Sincerely Ward, Tameka Skanes, and the list goes on.

GMO: You have made a pretty good name for yourself. Would you have expected any of this years ago?

LS: Yes, I’m a visionary. I saw it! I’m a firm believer of ‘If you believe it, you can achieve it.’

Not only are you a pioneer in the urban modeling industry, but you are a speaker. What made you venture out and become vocal on topics that are important to you?

LS: I’ve always had a big mouth! My mouth was the number one thing I got in trouble for in school!

 Image from Ethnicity Models: On the set of Rick Ross' "Magnificent" Video

GMO: In addition to that, you are an advocate for getting real women in the media and not conforming to the stereotypes of the mainstream fashion and modeling industries. You also work hard to help these models get what they deserve. Why are you so passionate about breaking this mold?

I just believe fair is fair. I’m a woman, and I know how I would want to be treated. I also have a daughter and three granddaughters, so that is also a big motivation for me. (I know, I know, pick your jaw up…I have ID to prove it!)

There is always the belief that women in videos are objectified and the misconception that they are “video hoes.” What have you done to disprove that belief and change the image of women in music videos?

I am very selective about the roles that Ethnicity Models chooses to participate in; if it’s degrading, we pass! I also have strict guidelines for my company; the number one rule is no fraternizing with the clients. I also try to spread these values to girls who aren’t represented by Ethnicity. Whenever I have an interview, I try to share what really goes on behind the scenes and the fact that, yes there are video hoes, but not everyone is like that. You can’t stereotype a whole group of people by what a few girls choose to do.

How do you feel about the new E! show “Candy Girls”? Do you think it properly represents this industry and the world of fashion and urban modeling?

LS: I feel like somebody got a hold to my treatment for my reality show “The House of Ethnicity” and figured, 'Oh we can script a show and do this with any woman and a few models.' No, it’s not a true representation of the industry; it is totally fake and scripted. The girls and the agent do nothing in my opinion but further feed into the negative stereotype that is already out there about video girls. Nobody in the music industry knows the owner, the agency or those girls. My phone has been ringing off the hook with people asking, ‘Who the hell are they? Did they try to copy your show?’ But everything happens for a reason. Because of that catastrophe, I have four offers on the table for my reality show. I guess people want to see the truth now. Stay tuned!

GMO: What are some goals you have for the future? Are there any different endeavors you are working on now?

LS: My reality show “The House of Ethnicity” is my biggest project right now. I have also been back and forth to Africa and Paris working on some things to take Ethnicity international. We have our own Ethnicity Models Comcast/Time Warner On Demand channel. Ethnicity has also partnered with Cyclops Multimedia; we are a full service production/multimedia company producing reality shows, short films, websites, DVDs, etc. 

Our new website ( is a casting talent database that offers modeling and acting opportunities to new talent to start gaining experience in the industry that they normally wouldn’t have access to. The Ethnicity Modeling Academy’s coming soon. Like I said, I’m an entrepreneur at heart so the list could go on and on and on.


Frances' Facts: Frances Moffett is the Midwest Editor of A graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, she is also a PR coordinator and editorial assistant for a not-for-profit organization and has written for a variety of publications, including Jet Magazine and The Chicago Defender. In addition to journalism, she also writes poetry and short stories. To contact Frances, email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .