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Model

20 Years Into Her Modeling Career Omahyra Mota Remains the Face of the Future

This ’00s superstar remains relevant in the 2020s

8/3/2021 5:29:00 AM

This ’00s superstar remains relevant in the 2020s

This ’00s superstar remains relevant in the 2020s.

Photo:Renell Medrano/ Courtesy of Louisa BallouWhat fashion image sums up the summer 2021 for you? For me, it’s Omahyra Mota—defiant, proud, secure in her skin—photographed by Renell Medrano for Louisa Ballou’s pre-fall lookbook. The colorful, leave-little-to-the-imagination clothes speak to

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a new schoolof strong and sexy dressing for women by women.“We’ve always loved Omahyra’s androgynous energy and individuality throughout her career,” said Ballou, who in casting Mota also tapped into the aughts mania of the moment.Mota’s career kicked off with the new century; her first appearance in the Vogue Runway archive is circa spring 2001. She arrived on the scene seemingly fully formed. With her short, cropped hair, she brought a new energy and a new sense of self to the industry—qualities that fashion has only recently begun to value on the catwalk.

Asfour, spring 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.comAsfour, spring 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.comHow Mota ended up on the runway at all is a story of resilience. Born in the Dominican Republic, she moved to the States with her mother, siblings, and grandmother when she was 10. “We left everything behind, my whole childhood, my friends, basically my whole little life, everything I knew,” says Mota, all in the hopes of building a better life in Queens, New York. headtopics.com

Mota remembers that when she was about 15, her mother picked up a disposable camera and took pictures of her in a bathing suit. Measurements were added to the back and with a “nothing to lose” attitude, says Mota today, the photos were sent “literally to every agency in New York City.” Just one recipient called back: George Speros, then at Boss Models. After that, Mota explains, “everything happened really fast. I feel like it was my time to come in. And it just went because everybody was just very into [my] look.” Maybe not everyone, but “that just gave me more gas,” says Mota. “So when I went to a casting, I walked harder. When I went to see somebody my flow was on point, the hair was sharp and hard, just like my personality and my look.”

Head over to Mota’sInstagrampage and you’ll see that her look, which she describes now as “punk alternative,” has changed very little, except for additional tattoos and the occasional buzz cut. Tattoos and piercings, so common now, had shock value back in the day, a fact that Jean Paul Gaultier leveraged when he presented his

Les Tatouagescollection for spring 1994. Mota, with her back tat “Nicanor,” was an inked outlier in the 2000s. “Clients hiring me knew that they were going to get this edgy, strong girl that has tattoos and piercings.”Yet Mota brings more than her looks to any job. “I feel like this attitude and this energy I’m bringing to the runway—to work in general—it comes from my mom, from my grandmother,” she says. “It’s just the whole island thing, the struggle; you know, all those things form you. I just feel like I bring all this Dominican, I want to say energy…. Like Queens, New York, Dominican Republic, you know what I mean? Like the roots, the food, the music.”

Omahyra Mota as Prince.Vogue,October 2017“I have fun doing [playing the male role]. I have fun playing back and forth. It didn’t offend me; I actually was into it, and I still am.”Then there’s the added spark of her androgynous look. “When I wear suits on the runway, when I’m doing a men’s show... I am not thinking that I look like a boy. [What] I am thinking the whole time is that I am just bringing the most in strength and expression; my eyes, the way I’m looking, the way I’m moving, it’s not more like a boy, it’s just strength, flavor, sauce, like swag.” From the beginning, Mota adds, “For me, my mind sounded like strong women.” headtopics.com

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Artwork by Omahyra Mota.Photo: Omahyra Mota / Courtesy of the photographerArtwork by Omahyra Mota.Photo: Omahyra Mota / Courtesy of the photographerThere is power in choice, and Mota, who now lives in Miami, has opted to take care of her daughters, ages 3 and 8, full-time. Following in the footsteps of her mother, a painter, and her grandmother, a designer, the model also makes time to serve as creative director for her friend’s clothingline

Anger, and to paint. She’ll exhibit her artwork at Art Basel Miami.As fashion catches up with her, Mota is newly relevant. Twenty years into her career, she hasn’t changed as much as the industry has in its evolving definitions of self expression, beauty, and inclusion. It’s about time.

Miguel Adrover, spring 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.comMiguel Adrover, spring 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.comMiguel Adrover, spring 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.com

“[Miguel Adrover] is a genius. Thank goodness that he’s on Instagram and that he still posts… I’m so glad that he does it because we can really get inspired. You can really see his work. He’s inspiring, like so fucking insoiring. Every young designer should know who he is— headtopics.com

everydesigner…. He is so complete as an artist designer.”Miguel Adrover, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.comMiguel Adrover, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot DigitalAlexander McQueen, fall 2001 ready-to-wear

Photo: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for STYLE.comAlexander McQueen, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot DigitalMoschino, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.comMoschino, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.com

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Alice Roi, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.comAlice Roi, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.comDaryl K, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.comDaryl K, fall 2001 ready-to-wear

Photo: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.comRoberto Cavalli, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.comRoberto Cavalli, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.comRoberto Cavalli, fall 2001 ready-to-wear

Photo: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for Style.comGucci, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for STYLE.comGucci, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for STYLE.comGucci, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for STYLE.com

Luella, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for STYLE.comLuella, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for STYLE.comBottega Veneta, fall 2001 ready-to-wearPhoto: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for STYLE.comBottega Veneta, fall 2001 ready-to-wear

Photo: JB Villareal / Shoot Digital for STYLE.comGucci, spring 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Sylvain Belan / Shoot Digital for Style.comGucci, spring 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Sylvain Belan / Shoot Digital for Style.comYves Saint Laurent, spring 2002 ready-to-wear

Photo: Sylvain Belan / Shoot Digital for Style.comYves Saint Laurent, spring 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Sylvain Belan / Shoot Digital for Style.comBehnaz Sarafpour x An American View, spring 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Brian Edwards / Shoot Digital for Style.com

Peter Som x An American View, spring 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Brian Edwards / Shoot Digital for Style.comMichael Kors, spring 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Brian Edwards / Shoot Digital for Style.comMichael Kors, spring 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Brian Edwards / Shoot Digital for Style.com

John Galliano, spring 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Sylvain Belan / Shoot Digital for STYLE.comChristian Dior, spring 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Sylvain Belan / Shoot Digital for Style.comGucci, fall 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comGucci, fall 2002 ready-to-wear

Photo: Shoot Digital for Style.comGucci, fall 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comGucci, fall 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comSaint Laurent, fall 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Antoine de ParsevalSaint Laurent, fall 2002 ready-to-wear

Photo: Gauthier GalletSaint Laurent, fall 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Antoine de ParsevalDiane von Fustenberg, fall 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Brian Edwards / Shoot Digital for Style.comCatherine Malandrino, fall 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Brian Edwards / Shoot Digital for Style.com

“When, when I went to see Oscar de la Renta, I was already modeling…. When I finally got the show, I remember he put me in this beautiful coat with fur and beautiful hat, I mean I looked like an expensive lady or something! I want to say that I was so proud, so proud. It was almost like one of [my] goals because I knew who he was; he was like the ambassador of our country. Like, heis name is IT. So when I worked with him, I just felt like, I am working with this Domnicican, this is for my country, this was for DR. For my grandmother, for my mom.”

Oscar de la Renta, fall 2002 ready-to-wearPhoto: Brian Edwards / Shoot Digital for Style.comOscar de la Renta, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comOscar de la Renta, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comJean Paul Gaultier, fall 2002 couture

Photo: Shoot Digital for Style.comJean Paul Gaultier, fall 2002 couturePhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comJean Paul Gaultier, fall 2002 couturePhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comMiguel Adrover, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.com

Miguel Adrover, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comGucci, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comGucci, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comViktor & Rolf, spring 2003 ready-to-wear

Photo: Shoot Digital for Style.comViktor & Rolf, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comHaider Ackermann x Ruffo Research, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comHaider Ackermann x Ruffo Research, spring 2003 ready-to-wear

Photo: Shoot Digital for Style.comJean Paul Gaultier, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comJean Paul Gaultier, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comValentino, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.com

Valentino, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comValentino, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comSaint Laurent, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comSaint Laurent, spring 2003 ready-to-wear

Photo: Shoot Digital for Style.comSaint Laurent, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comSaint Laurent, spring 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Shoot Digital for Style.comJean Paul Gaultier, spring 2003 couturePhoto: Style.comJean Paul Gaultier, spring 2003 couture

Photo: Style.com“Of course I knew who Gaultier was before I met him. I remember his work being very edgy and cool, and I thought already that I was going to work with him.”Jean Paul Gaultier, fall 2003 ready-to-wearPhoto: Marcio MadeiraJean Paul Gaultier, fall 2003 ready-to-wear

Photo: Shoot Digital for Style.comJean Paul Gaultier, fall 2003 couturePhoto: Style.comJean Paul Gaultier, fall 2003 coutureJean Paul Gaultier, fall 2003 coutureHaider Ackermann, spring 2004 ready-to-wearPhoto: Marcio MadeiraHaider Ackermann, spring 2004 ready-to-wear

Photo: Marcio MadeiraJean Paul Gaultier, spring 2004 ready-to-wearPhoto: Marcio MadeiraMiguel Adrover, spring 2004 ready-to-wear Read more: Vogue Magazine »

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She lives rent free in my mind everyday. I was 15 when I first saw her in the Change Clothes video by Jay-Z and I felt so empowered to be whomever I felt like being at that moment. 🇩🇴🇩🇴🇩🇴 TAIIYIE Is this Naomi Smalls? Delighted to go through the article 💓 My fave model her & Alek Wek ❤️❤️ Very!

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