Polished Models is everything you look for in a model agency. They advocate for plus size models and models of color, and as former models, they understand what their models have experienced. When I spoke with Polished Models founders (Prestina Glover and Tiffany Stewart), I was reminded of their passion and their desire to make sure the next wave of models were well taken care of. The women of Polished Models and I are very familiar. I’ve known both of these extraordinary women for years so I’m not surprised at the path their careers have taken. I’m well aware of the impact that they’ve had on models in the Metro Detroit area and how they make models feel comfortable. This is one of the many reasons that they’re being featured this month.
In this feature interview, we discuss how Polished Models started, what void they fill in the modeling world and their plans for the future.
Stephanie: Tell me how Polished Models got started.
Prestina: Polished was started as a styling company. And it kind of moved on from there based on the feedback that both me and Tiffany were getting from the local modeling community. With us both having been plus-sized models, people were seeking us both on both sides about just where do we get models from? Can you come here and do this? And we were getting that individually.
From there, we took it from this styling aspect to what it is now. Anyone who’s had a business knows your business kind of takes on, to me, a mind of its own. You guide it but when you see that it’s doing something great, you follow where it’s going. That’s how I look at it. Tiffany and I have been doing training and coaching for a couple of years, and then it moved into being creative directors on a lot of smaller local brands. And now, as of January 1st, we officially became an agency.
“When you’re a Polished model, you’re a part of family! Being a part of the Polished family from the beginning has been nothing short of amazing! It’s not just about them making you money. It’s about them cultivating you to be a better person. And when you’re better, you model better.” ~Clarissa
Stephanie: What need does Polished Models fill? What kind of demand is out there for a company like Polished Models?
Tiffany: We became an agency on January 1st and we’re a brand that focuses on minority models and models of color. So, that is our, I don’t want to say our specialty, but that is our main focus. A lot of modeling agencies cater to Caucasian models. That’s still very prevalent in the modeling market. We wanted to open up an agency that caters to models of color to promote models of color more. To get them work. We want to be an agency that, if a company is looking for models of color they know where to come, they know where to find a very diverse group of models of color. And that’s not just African Americans, Hispanics, that’s Albanian’s, that is Indian’s, Bengali. Any model of color, we want them to be able to come to us.
Stephanie: Do you think that brands are to the possibility of having models of color and they just don’t know where to go to find these models?
Tiffany: I think that brands typically use tokens. You always have one black model and the black model is usually light-skinned with curly hair. Or they have one racially ambiguous person. For me it’s like since Black Lives Matter has really come out, brands are starting to notice that we have a voice. We want to be represented in the media. We want to see ourselves. They’re starting to use more models of color. They’re starting to use more models that have natural hair. So it’s becoming a trend.
Prestina: I feel like we serve a need that people don’t know that they need. That’s not to sound arrogant or anything but I do think within the local community, there’s been plenty of people here that have brought a standard to Michigan, to the Detroit area, and to the Midwest area. But I don’t think that there’s enough of us putting out a certain standard. So, I think what Polished does is continue to bring a standard to the modeling industry that’s definitely necessary in this big social media movement where everybody considers themselves a model. If anybody has studied the modeling community, you know that it goes beyond just being a pretty face and being able to take a good selfie. That’s the need that Polished Models is meeting right now.
“I wish I had polished when I first began modeling. They actually take time to help develop you as a model. Also I they make me feel special about my look and body type.” ~Janette
Stephanie: How do you prepare your models for the harsh realities of the modeling industry outside of the metro Detroit area?
Tiffany: I think preparing our models for modeling outside of Michigan, it’s making sure they’re industry-ready. We do industry style training meaning that, whatever we teach you is going to be a standard across the board. It’s going to give you the foundation. We know every state has its own thing, its own quirks, and things that they like to see. But there is basic training to being a model and a standard that every agency in modeling has. We teach the industry standard.
Prestina: We make sure that they have a basic understanding of posing, runway, and etiquette as a model. We’re always teaching in those three areas. Being able to pose when it comes to taking a picture. We’re always reiterating, who are you? Who are you as a model because that’s an important thing that is necessary so that models have a way of understanding what they’re going to do and what they’re not going to do. What kind of agency do I want to be with? Who don’t I want to be with? What type of shows do I want to carry? What don’t I need to carry? The problem is that people do a lot of quantity and now enough quality. Within the etiquette portion of what we teach, we’re always trying to get them to understand, it’s not about how much you do, it’s the quality of work that you’re doing. And before you go into working, do you understand the foundations of what you’re supposed to do? Because anything that doesn’t have a foundation is going to fall, it’s going to fall apart. We call ourselves a nest egg. We’re a little nest and we want to get our models ready to be able to walk into any arena from backstage to the top of the runway. We want them to be able to know what they’re doing and how to conduct themselves.
Stephanie: When did Polished Models officially start?
Prestina: 2016. Yes. So, Styles by Polished was established in 2016. By January of 2017, we became Polished Models. And it’s weird because we really had to just do some real backtracking on social media to look at how long we have been around. When you’re a person that does a lot, sometimes you forget what you do. And so we constantly have to go back and say, no, we did this and we did that. And we’ve been established since August of 2016.
Stephanie: Congratulations. You’re approaching five years now.
Prestina: Thank you. Yes, we are.
Stephanie: Many companies don’t make it to 5 years.
Prestina: I always credit Tiffany for just seeing something that I did not see. Although I can say that Polished is something that I started, Tiffany brought the meat to it. She was the one that came in and saw that we are two people that work in this arena and everything that we have worked on together has done well, so we might as well just join forces. I always credit that to Tiffany and I thank God that she saw something that I didn’t because I am a person that’s just kind of, “I’ll do it by myself” type of thing. She saw something very different and I’m so glad that she was able to see that aspect.
Stephanie: Let’s talk about your Polished After Dark Series. You started off with very few models and now you’re up to over 20 at each installment, is that correct?
Tiffany: Yes, that’s correct. We had 24 models last time. Polished After Dark is Prestina’s brainchild. She was like, hey, we should do these boudoir shoots so we can expand our models’ reach, they can expand their portfolio. At first, you know me, I’m a little like, what? But she saw something, she had a vision and at first, you be like, you really want to do lingerie or boudoir? How is this going to look? But it manifested beautifully. I think we started with six models, and the six, they were all models, local models that came out for the first one. And they came out and absolutely loved it. The pictures came out so tasteful and so beautiful. I was like, “OK, we’re on to something here.”
Tiffany: From then, the next series- So those pictures leaked. The next series came around. Not only did we have models, but we had a few girls who were not models who just wanted to do some boudoir. Then 90% of the people who shot in this last series of these 24 women were just regular women, not models, who wanted to just liberate themselves, feel free, feel sexy in their body. They wanted to conquer some fears about their body or things that they were going through emotionally. It transformed into, not just a picture, but a healing session. It’s been quite an experience.
It’s definitely a healing session. It’s definitely an experience that, I think, every woman should experience no matter what your insecurities, no matter your size. In that moment, you are absolutely naked and you are letting go of all insecurities in that moment.
Prestina: One thing that people don’t know, some people saw the picture I released but both Tiffany and I got in front of the camera. It’s not just something we’re asking people to do. We haven’t released our photos but we both have been in front of the camera to experience what that feels like. It’s very vulnerable. You do see the outcome of the picture but just being there in that moment, it’s a very vulnerable place. If you’ve been the kid that somebody has downed you about your body, body shaming, all of that type of stuff, to come to a place to stand scantily nude in front of a camera, it is such a different feeling. And then for this photographer to bring that image to life with his lighting and his editing and just even with us behind- Because what we do behind the scenes, we’re helping with the styling, we’re making sure they got the proper makeup artist. We make sure they have wine and good music, just things to relax them. It has become an overall experience. And I’m glad that I shot because I have more of a sensitivity for our participants.
Stephanie: As business owners, I’m sure there’s a lot of things that you guys have learned along the way. What’s one thing that each of you wishes you knew prior to launching Polished Models?
Prestina: Well, I guess what I’m experiencing right now. I never thought that people that you would consider close to you would end up trying to be competition or backbiting. That is something that’s kind of hard to deal with, especially because I’m a person that, I’ll be having a mean face sometimes but I truly do care about people. My little sensitive heart gets beat up really bad when I watch people who were supposed to be on my side come against a business because you see that it is growing. It’s very hurtful, and I guess if I could go back to Prestina in 2016 I would tell her when this comes along, you have to know that it’s just a part of the process. It’s a part of the process because I’ve talked to other business owners and they’ve all said the same thing. They’ve been through the same exact thing. People you never would expect that come against you that way and you just sit there like, what are you doing?
Stephanie: It’s unfortunate. When I started selling T-shirts, instead of buying a T-shirt from me some people were like, “I’m going to buy me a press machine.” For every person that tries to compete with you, you’re going to outlast them because your intentions are pure. So, don’t worry about them.
Stephanie: What about you Tiffany. What has entrepreneurship taught you?
Tiffany: I think, I guess for me, starting a business is not for the weak. It requires a lot of time and a lot of attention. And I must say, when Polished Models started, Prestina carried the bulk. Me, I’m developing a family, I’m working full time. And I thank God for Prestina saying, I’m about to be just a sole entrepreneur and stepping out on stage and literally pouring her all into the company. I think that she’s the backbone. She’s the reason why we’re where we are, why we are where we are today.
Now comes COVID 2020, I recently lost my job. She has made me feel secure enough to be like, “I don’t need no job. I’m about to just focus on the business.” She’s made me feel comfortable, seeing her being able to survive, being just an entrepreneur and not depending on a paycheck every two weeks. And really out here hustling and making your own money and being your own boss. She made me feel more comfortable just doing that. I think now that we can both put our all into the company, I’m just excited to see where it’s going to go. So, what I’ve learned is that you have to step out on stage. You have to be willing to invest your life into your business. You have to know that what you are creating is going to flourish. And you have to know that you can make it. You can make it on your own with just your business.
“Polished models is an AWESOME agency to work for. They are very honest, knowledgeable, transparent and well-rounded. They have helped my modeling career by giving me valuable honest advice, boosting my confidence as a plus size model, and embracing the uniqueness of my complexion.” ~Jackie
Stephanie: Yes, we can do this. In addition to becoming a modeling agency, what direction do you see Polished Models going in in the next five years?
Prestina: Tiffany and I want to be the largest modeling agency in the Midwest. That’s a goal of ours. I even like where the fashion industry is going now where they’re looking at what we considered oddities before, gaps and freckles and all of these things, and how people are embracing that. We hope to be an agency that can embrace people with all of these things to continue to show the world that beauty is beyond the standard that they’ve been feeding us for years.
I want to be a company that five years from now, what we produce is indicative of our name. #WearePolishedModels is one of our hashtags. And when we say Polished, we mean it from the inside out. We don’t want you to be pretty and be a damaged model. We want our models to be beautiful and healed in every aspect. We are bringing on therapists and all kinds of things for our agency so that our models have this at their fingertips because we don’t want to leave people feeling like, you’re not enough, move on. We want to tell you what we see and then try to heal you.
Even in our model one on one class, one thing we ask them, is where do you see yourself? Because we want to make sure that we’re the right agency for them. It’s like a give and take thing. It’s not about what do we want for you? There’s enough companies in this world that’s about taking. We want to be a company that gives. We’re going to tell you what you’re up against. We’re going to tell you about this ridiculous fashion world that you want to be in. This finicky fashion world where one year you’re the “IT” girl and your look is in and then the next year you’re out. We want you to know that it’s constantly changing. That if our clients never pick you, you don’t walk away from here feeling defeated like I can’t do anything with my brand because yes you can. It’s not about always being on some big marquee or somebody’s book. If you don’t make it there, it doesn’t mean that you can’t find a way to brand yourself or get some satisfaction out of this industry. There’s a way that you can do that. That’s another thing that we want our models to experience when they come to us. That you don’t walk away feeling like you’ve been rejected. You walked away empowered knowing what you’re up against and giving you some idea of how to attack it because this industry can truly destroy with their words and their rejection and the way they make you feel.
Tiffany: I guess that comes from us being models. You go to a typical agency and it’s all like, what are you going to give me? What are you going to get me? Does she have the look that they’re looking for right now? Yes. OK, we want her. I don’t care about what’s going on, go. Go do this, go do that. Bring me back my money. I think we want to be different. We want to be an agency that can get our models paid work because that’s kind of hard to find here locally. It’s hard to get companies to pay for their models because they can get their friend off the street or their cousin to model for them. I think that from being models to being on the other side, we want to be an agency where our models feel comfortable being with us and our models are happy to be a part of Polished. We want to take care of our models because we’ve been models. We know what they go through and we want to make sure that we can keep them from going down the wrong path. Keep them from making mistakes or keep them from being overworked and underpaid. That is a big thing for us, that we really care about our models from the inside out like Prestina said. What are they going through emotionally? How can we help? That is a big thing for us as well as a company. In five years we want to be the number one modeling agency in the Midwest. We want to have work with big clients like Target and Walmart. We want to build our network outside of Michigan but still be a Michigan based company.