When Yohlanda Kerr won the Guyana Model Search back in 2009, hers was the coveted name and look. Since then, her modelling career has blossomed, and she is now vying for the Caribbean Style and Culture, People’s Choice Model of the Year Award.
As a little girl, Yohlanda never cared for fashion or the life of it until she was coerced into entering a pageant at 14. She had always been tall and slim, and friends felt she had a walk, or more of a strut that led to them giving her various nicknames over it. Then one afternoon after school, she and friends were approached by officials for a pageant scouting for contestants. Without hesitation, the other girls nominated Yohlanda for the pageant. That year, she placed second in the Miss East Ruimveldt Pageant and copped the Best Smile Award.
Pageantry, she shared in a sit down with The Scene, was just something she wanted to try, but later realized that her heart was never really in it. In the years to follow, her fascination grew whenever she looked at the Victoria’s Secret models and she began to imagine herself strutting runways. She began to feel that she was born to be a model.
In 2008, Yohlanda saw a broadcast of Guyana Model Search on Channel 11 (NCN), then in 2009 when there were casting calls for models to enter the competition, she knew it was her time. Unlike the other young women entering, she was far from ready, having had her son just five months before, but she just couldn’t pass up the offer a second time.
Describing the run up to the 2009 competition, Yohlanda said it was like “hell”. Not only was training rigid but she had rivals who said some of the most horrible things to her. In the middle of all of this Yohlanda was frustrated and was at the point of dropping out of the competition, when Jermaine Victor, a male model who was vying for the Model Search the same year and who also won, saw her in tears, took her aside and encouraged her to stay in the competition. He told her not to worry about the contestants since he believed that they were only behaving the way they were towards her because they knew she had it and were scared that she would win.
On top of that, the model said, she did not have a clue what to do with her hair and settled on putting in a weave. Fashion designer Sonia Noel, who was the one responsible for the Model Search had recruited Trinidadian designer Richard Young as Artistic Director. When Yohlanda showed up in her weave, Richard realized that her heart was no longer in winning, but he told her that he was not going to allow her to throw the opportunity. He then had the other contestants help take the entire weave out which they replaced with an afro wig.
“When I won, I was very emotional because I was happy and at the same time I told myself, look what I was going to give up. I cried a lot; it [winning] was what I had really wanted,” Yohlanda reminisced.
“Modelling for me is more than being a mannequin for designer clothes. Though I’m only five feet nine inches, I feel taller just stepping onto the runway. It gives me a sense of worth and boosts my self-esteem and self-confidence; it aids in me loving myself.”
While she believes modelling helps in building someone’s self-esteem, there are other advantages to it: learning to be comfortable in your own skin, being able to express yourself and of course, networking.
Some of the models to have inspired this stunner are: Alek Wek, an African model from South Sudan now based in the US; Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks. Tyra, Kerr says has such an inspirational story for women who were thought to never be good enough but fought to prove that their uniqueness is what makes it more than worth it. Tyra, she noted, was always pushed around for not being like the petite models splashed across magazines and put on runways. Her wide hips made this an issue for her, but she was determined to show them that she had it. “I’ve always admired that about her just recently I noticed that at the Miss Universe Pageant, women with body and curves are being allowed to enter the competition and I commend this move,” Yohlanda said.
Stepping out that first time, Yohlanda shared was nerve-racking and though she’s done more than ten shows to date, she still finds herself clicking her fingers backstage as the time for her to step on the runway creeps up. However, she’s learnt a trick she uses every time since. “Once I’m onstage I try to keep a level eye, usually looking slightly above the audience’s head instead of looking directly at them. This allows me keep the facial expression that I want to have all through instead of looking at someone then they give me a look that changes my expression.”
While modelling has its pros, it has its cons too. Yohlanda added that what she dislikes about the industry is people hiring models for jobs then deciding “how you get paid, what you get paid and when you get paid.”
She further said that she has even seen models lose focus of what they wanted to do and encourages aspiring models to never lose sight of their goals. She advised that if it is runway modelling they want to do, then they should not diversify to other areas. Yohlanda has admitted to seeing other models wanting to do a particular kind of modelling then end up doing something totally different in the industry and though it may be better paid, it often causes disrespect. “Keep your head on,” she warned.
Since her debut, Yohlanda has strutted pieces for Sonia Noel, Sidney Françoise, Olympia Small, Roger Gary, Neilson Nurse, Anita Daniels and Sasha Designs. She has walked at Trinidad Fashion Week in 2010 and at Tobago Fashion Week in 2013.
Just last November, Yohlanda submitted her pictures to the Caribbean Style and Culture Committee and in January got response that she was being considered for the Caribbean Style and Culture, People’s Choice Model Award. In order to win the award, persons are asked to visit the CSC (Caribbean Style and Culture) ‘A Call for Submissions’ page on Facebook or Instagram. Every ‘like,’ ‘comment’ and ‘share,’ affords Yohlanda an extra three points. Should she win, she will be travelling to represent Guyana in Washington DC at the Style Evolution Show which is scheduled for June 30.
The model currently works at GTT as a call centre agent. She is hoping to attend the University of Guyana in September to pursue a degree in Communication Studies.
Apart from modelling, Yohlanda also loves to write songs and poems. She has released two songs through Ssignal Productions: “What Ya Doing Tonight” and “Is We Festival”. The songs can be viewed on YouTube. Today, she will be the MC at the sashing of the Miss Earth contestants at the Aracari Resort and will also be one of the guest singers.
Her hobbies are singing, writing music and poetry and travelling.
In her free time, she likes taking walks across the Demerara Harbour Bridge with her son, going on picnics and going to the movies with friends. She is fond of cooking and is often cooking up something. Her favourite thing to make is pineapple chicken.
Voting for the CSC People’s Choice Model of the Year Award began on February 1 and runs until March 31.
Yohlanda is not attached to any modelling agency; she works freelance. She can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org