Photographed by Derick Marquez, Styled By Sofia Maame
5’3” chocolate skinned, former Howard University tennis player Ama Osei is one of beauty’s freshest faces and proof that good things do indeed come in small packages. Born of Ghanaian descent, Ama’s mesmerizing looks are like that of melanin goddesses with an attitude that’s as equally fierce. When Ama isn’t appearing in commercial ads from D.C to NYC, she’s offering West African cooking tutorials on Instagram. I interviewed Ama on what it’s like to be a petite model in all of it’s excitement and truth. Here’s what she had to say:
Ama: Hi this is Ama Osei, I don’t know what else to say [haha].
Sofia: Let’s start off with a quick game. I’m going to mention three things and I want you to tell me the first thing that comes to mind.
Sofia: The first thing: Modeling.
Ama: Fun [pause], Glam.
Sofia: Being 23.
Sofia: That was a good answer [haha]. Now that we got that out of the way, tell me more about this modeling career of yours. How long have you been actively pursuing modeling and how did you get into it?
Ama: I’ve been actively pursuing modeling for four months. I started because people really pushed me, like: ‘why don’t you do it? You’re not in grad school.’ Not only did I need a push, I think it was time for me to take a risk. To see what I’m comfortable with and grow.
Sofia: When you’re modeling, being the subject that brings a creative’s vision to life, how do you hold on to Ama in the midst of it all?
Ama: I’ve made some mistakes. But number one before I do a shoot I always ask them: ‘can you send me your vision board?’ Because they chose me for a reason. Sometimes people will ask me to be their muse because they think: ‘oh she’s so gorgeous blah blah blah.’ But actually at the end of the day I’m a human being and I have to see if I can execute their vision. But I do believe that God doesn’t give me anything that I can’t handle. I try to hold on to myself by being me. A lot of the times before we start shooting it always starts off with conversation. We’ll often just talk about random topics and share different ideas; but through that I’m able to get to know them and they’re able to get to know me and I feel more comfortable. I get to hold onto myself by being [me] prior to the shoot. So that during the shoot I can be more comfortable to deliver what they want.
Sofia: It’s as if you’re an actress.
Ama: Literally. Even when I put on different wigs I can channel different alter egos.
Sofia: Which one’s your favorite?
Ama: I have a lot. It depends [haha]. I don’t think that any of them are my favorite. I just like them all. It depends on what mood I’m in. How creative I feel that day.
Sofia: I hear you girl. Despite the glam and the fun what are some hurdles you’ve had to overcome since starting this adventure?
Ama: Of course the financial aspect because I’m pretty much financing myself in all of this. I go to New York so often and I’m the one financing myself day in and day out. One time, the first time I went to New York, the artist decided to cancel on me the night before and that showed me the reality of this industry. That if I’m going to model I’m going to take some L’s. But some L’s are going to be worth taking. I always ask myself: ‘is this going to be worth my time?’
Sofia: In terms of hurdles, when it comes to your appearance how is it being a dark skinned model who is 5’3?
Ama: You know it’s been tough. Just recently I actually booked a bridal designer. They were like, ‘we love your look blah blah blah.’ They contacted me. I sent them my rates and my measurements and they were like, ‘hey how tall are you? Well good luck but our height requirement is 5’9-5’11.’ I’m not even close to that.
I can’t say that I’ve had too much difficulty being a dark skinned model because I’m not too dark and I’m not too light. I’m right in the middle. So it’s not like I go to a shoot and they can’t find my foundation shade. Definitely when it comes to my appearance it’s my skin. When I was first started out my skin was really, really bad. I remember one time a makeup artist saw me in person and they were like, ‘hmm you have sensitive skin huh?’ Being a competitor from [years of playing] tennis, I know that there are some people that are going to be shady. So I just have to take it in stride and pray about it. Now my skin has improved greatly. And all I did pretty much was relax. Everything is going to work out. If I don’t work with this person then it means I wasn’t meant to work with that person. But just remember that the next time they want to work with you you’re going to have to charge them double. Not to be rude but this is life. You have to play your cards right.
Sofia: Do you feel like tennis prepared you on how to use your body when modeling? With people not being able to tell your actual size in photos, do you consciously elongate yourself during shoots?
Ama: Lately I’ve been doing a lot of beauty [shoots]. But when I went to Ghana and I did a fashion shoot they were like, ‘your face looks great but you’re just short.’ I don’t really see it as I elongate my body but now I’m more aware of how my body moves. I’ll be in the bathroom practicing in the mirror, but the thing is I’ve been doing it for a long time so it’s kind of natural for me.
Sofia: It’s like the little girl singing in the mirror with a brush before she becomes a pop star.
Ama: Yes! It’s natural for me to serve face!! I smile more so that one… my skin doesn’t wrinkle. Two, when I go on set it’ll be like this *snap* *snap* *snap*
Sofia: Basically, it’s a balance between preparing yourself and knowing what the client wants.
Ama: Exactly. This past shoot that I did, the theme was hair happiness. One of the reasons why I was casted is because of my smile. But I have to channel into that.
Another thing with playing tennis is that growing up I encountered a lot of different kinds of people. Some people want to test you and make you better. My dad advised me that the people that care about you will correct you… because of that I’ve made sure that I’m able to take direction well.
Sofia: One of my last questions… what is one thing you wish you told yourself yesterday?
Ama: When the time is right the door will open.
Sofia: What are some ways you stay motivated and confident in an industry that is primarily based on looks?
Ama: I just pray. It’s only God that keeps my spirits up. Sometimes, I look at my face and I think, ‘Why would someone want to work with me?’ And then I go to shoots and I’m like, ‘I’m fine.. I’m being dramatic [haha].’
Sofia: [Haha]… what do you want to be known for? What will be your modeling legacy?
Ama: I don’t think I’ve thought that far. But I hope that they got to know the real me. I’m very silly. Very very silly!! I like to crack jokes. I often think, ‘I hope I made them laugh enough.’