Founder of Alup International, Lu Celania Sierra

There comes a point in every model’s career when their ascension to the top peaks. Therefore, preparing a financial plan and pressing reset on your career path are critical to ensuring long-term success.

International fashion model Lu Sierra’s plan included establishing Alup International, which hosts seminars, workshops and private instruction for young women on topics like image improvement, pageantry, modeling and building self-confidence. Alup’s clients include prominent organizations such as Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. Here, Sierra speaks about navigating the fickle world of the fashion industry.

The modeling and pageantry industry emphasizes physical attributes. How do you balance that by teaching emotional development?

I have found that teaching by example is best. I teach with positive reinforcements, attempting to gain trust and therefore allowing room for a nurturing relationship to develop. I set standards for every young lady that I work with and coach. The objective is to raise the bar and challenge them to bring out the best of themselves so that they stand strong in their own confidence.

How do you determine which clients you will work with? For example, if a young girl has no obvious physical potential to be a model or titleholder, do you still work with her?

I am not here to be a dream crusher, so I turn no one away. I am here as a reality check. First I find out what is each girl’s goal. I then make it clear what I think of their goals, even if they are unrealistic. My role as a pageant and runway coach is to figure out an alternative that will help them fulfill their dreams. Not every young lady is going to be a titleholder, but every young lady should be given the opportunity and direction to be the best that they can be.

Modeling and pageantry are both often short-lived careers since they are youth-driven. How does this reality impact the work that you do and your strategy in preparing youth for this industry? 

From the very beginning, I speak to each young lady about the time line of her goals in this industry. I tell them that this career should never be their financial plan. It’s about being realistic from the beginning with them and helping them figure out how this industry can be a launching pad for bigger things in their future.

 

The column, On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of arts administration company, Souleo Enterprises LLC.