BLACK HISTORY MONTH — Model takes Port Arthur to New York fashion stage

Published 12:14 am Friday, February 14, 2020

Shaylan Simon went from running down the streets of Port Arthur to walking the bright runway lights of New York.

The 20-year-old Port Arthur native started her modeling journey in 2015 as a camera-shy high school student. She now struts confidently in one of the most renowned fashion shows in the world — New York Fashion Week.

Simon’s chance at stardom began when she moved to Houston from Port Arthur and began connecting with fashion forward thinking individuals.

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“Modeling wasn’t the first thing in my mind,” she said. “It was just one of many options in the fashion world, but I started doing small shoots with my friends in school and slowly started getting comfortable in front of the camera. My mother sent the photos to what we call ‘a mother agent’ in New York and everything took off quickly from there.”

The photos Simon’s mom sent in reached an agent just in time for Fashion Week in the fall of 2017.

Shaylan Simon, a Port Arthur native, participated in New York Fashion Week in September. 

“My mother agent offered me to come to Fashion Week,” Simon said, still full of disbelief. “It was my opportunity to scratch the surface of modeling. Even though I hadn’t been on a real runway before, I went. I knew that was my chance.”

Simon signed with her first real agency, Red NYC, following her first appearance in New York Fashion Week.

In 2019, she signed with MiLK London, an international model management agency in England. Since then, her face has appeared in several magazines, fashion shows and clothing stores from Adidas to Ryan Roche.

However, despite the quick advance of her career, Simon always remembers where she came from. Before every major shoot she shares her Texas pride with the world. “Before Fashion Week, and most major shoots, I do a little video my agency sends out to different clients that want to know about me,” she said. “Of course, I always mention Port Arthur.

“The first thing people notice about me in New York is my accent or that I say ‘Yes ma’am,’ open a door or say ‘Thank you.’ Whenever people return from visiting Texas, they always say how much they love the people. They always tell me how lovely the people are towards them and I’m proud of that.

Shaylan Simon, 20, was signed to Red NYC, a model agency in New York in 2017. (Courtesy photo)

“I think letting people know that I’m from a small town gives them a little faith to do something out of the ordinary. It shows them that they can do it, too. It’s not impossible. Moving to New York or anywhere new can be scary. Fear stops a lot of things and a lot of people. So when I share my story, I just want to give anyone out there a little hope.”

Simon and fellow New York model Dominique Brannon were named Entertainment Honorees at Port Arthur’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Brunch and Celebration in January.

As a black woman, and youngest on the stage, Simon was honored to be recognized in more ways than one.

“Honestly, when my mom told me I was getting this award I was super-flattered,” she said. “I was so surprised because I didn’t know that people recognized my work. I was grateful for that and to specifically be doing something with MLK, in my own community, it felt even better.”

Simon said there are things females in her position must endure in the industry as a black woman.

“I feel like once you acknowledge that and accept it, it gives you even more drive and fire to be the best you can be,” she said.

Simon said the biggest challenge has been facing rejection.

“You get a lot of no’s,” she said. “It can be discouraging, but one thing that I make sure I’m always doing is maintaining a positive attitude, despite the closed doors, no’s and turnarounds. You have to practice strength or you’ll get caught up in all those rejections and it becomes detrimental to your image. It’s hard but it’s made me stronger, more confident and now I’m set with who I am.”

Simon said her best advice to young black women, or to anyone struggling with their career or image, is to trust the process.

“Trust the timing,” she said. “Within that process, you have to make sure you do all you can to ensure success. You can have an agency or all these resources, but if you aren’t putting in the work, it isn’t going to come easy.

“Do everything you possibly can do. In order to see change, you have to move differently and work differently. That’s all I can say — trust the process, work hard, be the best you and let the rest go to work.”

Editor’s note: This is the second in a four-part series spotlighting African American leaders as part of our Black History Month coverage