Boston Fashion Week starts Sunday. “Boston” and “Fashion” might seem like an oxymoron to the snobbish, but the series of fashion-related events highlights the local industry and its talent. For models such as Tachou Dubuisson-Brown – known as Tachou – the Sept. 30 to Oct. 6 showcase is an opportunity for a fond reunion with her peers and a chance to see up-and-coming talent. During Fashion Week, Tachou, a longtime model with Maggie Inc., will be on the runway for a local designer’s winter collection and is looking forward to GlamSlam, a storytelling platform that allows fashion professionals to share significant moments in their careers. For Tachou, those turning points include the time she rejected sexual advances by a director and was unceremoniously fired from a shoot. It was years ago, but today it reminds her of the #MeToo movement. Devastated by the experience, she recovered by reminding herself that her integrity was worth more than any paycheck.
Tachou — who describes herself as a Naomi Campbell lookalike — has been modeling for almost two decades. She was once the token black woman in the room, something she says sometimes worked to her advantage because she was more likely to get booked for catalogs, commercials, promotions, corporate advertising, and online images.
Tachou is married to cinematographer Evans Brown, whom she met on the set of the movie “The Pink Panther 2,” and has two sons who also model and often pose with her in mom and kid castings. Tachou, who started modeling when she was 27, took on teenager roles at first because of her youthful appearance. At 45, she’s a regular in marketing campaigns and trunk and runway shows. “When I first started, models had a shelf life, but now beauty is ageless,” says Tachou, who lives in Hamilton. She’s inspired by longtime model and friend, Linda Cole Petrosian, a Boston socialite and model who recently succumbed to cancer and is being honored as Boston Fashion Week’s muse. “She once said to me, ‘You can do this at any age and don’t let anyone tell you differently,” says Tachou.
She spoke with the Globe about making it as a model.
“I grew up in Beverly, and at the time, there was only one other African-American family in town. My mom worked long hours in the health care field and raised us as a single parent. We were raised with the Haitian culture, which places an emphasis on discipline and family hierarchy. In Haiti, ‘beauty’ is a label for fair or light skinned people. You had to have long, natural hair and thick curves. I was dark skinned, had afro curls, and a very thin build. So I grew up believing I was not the pretty one and [tried] to fade into the background. But in the all-white community, my dark skin and statuesque build was inescapable. That’s when I started being told how beautifully exotic I looked. I brushed the compliments aside and focused on schoolwork, earning a degree from Colby College, being the first in my family to attend and graduate from college.
“I quickly became successful in the corporate world as a business analyst but it was just so monotonous. One day I called in sick and opened up the Yellow Pages — they were still around back then — went to Newbury Street, and visited every agency on the block. I had no appointment, no experience, no photos. It sounds so cliched, but literally, the last door I walked into, [they] seemed interested. I was asked to do a ‘runway’ walk, which is sort of a sashay across the floor, and ended up getting a booking. Three months later, that agency closed, and I went over to Maggie Inc., signed a contract and have been there ever since.
“I can earn between $100 to $500 an hour and I’ve walked the runway for Gucci, Zac Posen, Carolina Herrera, Oscar De La Renta, and so many more. Boston may not be known for cover girls but what makes it a strong market are all the Fortune 500 companies that need models for marketing.
“My work ethic helps set me apart from the competition; I understand that this a business of profit. The designer, stylist, photographer, seamstress, producers, and models all have a role in the bottom line. I’ve seen many aspiring models who don’t get that. In this age of smartphone cameras and filters, too many people think that a good picture posted to Instagram is all it takes to launch a career. Most ‘professional selfie takers’ don’t have what it takes to actually pull off a modeling career. There’s a need to weed out the selfie takers from the marketable talent.
“We have come a long way in the fashion industry, but there are still inequalities, whether it’s fair treatment, sustainable practices or just respect. And many people think one has to be dumb if they are pretty. Why is being pretty and smart such a hard concept to grasp? I haven’t carved out a lucrative career by being dumb.”
Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.