North Carolina native Hannah Matheny may be a newbie on the block, but her dedication and discipline—rooted in her love of dance—will stand her in good stead. After laying the foundation with The Model Coaches, Hannah signed with Muse’s Curve division—home to activist and body positivity champion Charli Howard.
Tell us about what your childhood was like.
I grew up in North Carolina and spent most of my time in school and the dance studio. I was very busy throughout my adolescence, as I was also involved in various clubs, volunteer experiences, weekend dance competitions, and I worked as a cashier in a grocery store. I started dancing when I was four and it helped me develop discipline, an appreciation for the arts, and a foundation for my future modeling career. At the same time, dance also initiated habits of disordered eating, and body image issues that I continue to work on to this day—especially remaining in an industry plagued with similar ideas. I left the South when I was 17 to attend college, and I found independence and opportunity in New York City.
Talk to us about how you were discovered.
The moment I reached 5’10”, classmates, friends, and even strangers on the street began to comment on how my height could easily lead me into modeling. I did not give their suggestions a second thought until I moved to Manhattan to attend college. After hearing further comments from my new friends—and living in a prime location—I finally looked into it. That’s when I found Trudi Tapscott. After attending a live coaching event held by The Model Coaches I signed on, making them my mother agency, and my journey began.
You worked with The Model Coaches before being signed to an agency. Talk to us about how that prepared you for modeling.
Anyone who shows curiosity about my modeling journey in the hope of beginning their own career knows that the first thing I will recommend is a mother agency. The Model Coaches specifically prepared me with resources that I would never have considered on my own. I had very little experience before I signed on with Trudi and The Model Coaches; however—within a few months—I learned the basics of shooting with a photographer, preparing digitals and a portfolio, interviewing with agencies, rehearsing a runway walk, and finding authenticity in everything that I present. After just those few months with The Model Coaches, I was fully prepared to sign with Muse Curve in New York City.
Before signing with Muse’s Curve division did you feel pressure to conform to a “straight” size?
I knew it was going to be a challenge being an “in-between” or midsize model from the get-go. I questioned where I fit into the modeling world. In the past, because of pressure I felt from society and myself, I had tried to work toward that smaller size, but I found that it was essentially impossible. I am not built to be a “straight” size model. After finding an agency who never expects me to change my body, and continuously provides me with equally welcoming clients and jobs, it was much easier to accept that myself. All that said, the modeling industry does still have some growing to do.
What misconceptions did you have about modeling when you started this journey?
The biggest misconception I had before entering the industry was that modeling was easy. I find a lot of people—even those who speak to me about it now—believe that. Just standing in front of a camera and smiling, right? In reality it’s much more difficult than it looks. Practicing poses, speaking to the camera, training for the runway, spending entire days on set beginning at the crack of dawn, going to castings daily just to face rejection, and waking up sore from a photoshoot were all things I had not previously thought about. After my first few shoots, interviews, and castings, my respect for people in this industry grew so much.
Who are your role models and what about them has inspired you?
I was lucky enough to grow up with a family that encouraged me to discover my passions and run with them no matter how risky or non-traditional they were. My entire family is inspiring to me, always demonstrating that you can do anything and everything that you want. I was fortunate enough to enter the modeling industry after necessary changes to diversify began. Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), and plus-sized models have paved the way for people of all races, sizes, and abilities to gain visibility on social media and in fashion. Seeing people that look like you and who are proud of their bodies—as well as their character—is so important. Charli Howard, an English curve model, is one of those people for me.
What do you hope to get out of your career?
I have so many dream modeling jobs that include walking for various designers, shooting covers for magazines, and appearing on billboards. It is a dream being able to continue to create art with my body, like I once did with dance. I never want to leave the world of creatives. Models, photographers, agents, and casting directors are some of the most innovative, artistic, kind, and compassionate people I have ever met. I am already beginning to feel the impact of my modeling career, despite the fact that I am still beginning my journey.
What are your goals for the future?
As a person with far too many interests to choose, I can only hope to do a bit of everything that I love during my lifetime. Modeling is the main priority at the moment; however, as I work full-time, I also attend an online university part-time studying Psychology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, as well as intern for a relationship, sex, and mental health therapist. A dream would be to incorporate my interests, potentially gaining a platform where I can speak on my mental health, queerness, and body acceptance journey, and be a role model to anyone who may relate to my experiences.
What would people be surprised to discover about you?
I am vegan and I have been for a little over four years, and I care a lot about sustainability. I typically thrift my clothes and shop from sustainable small businesses when it’s possible. As for my groceries, I try to buy in bulk when I can and carry all my reusable jars and bags to a food co-op store in Union Square to fill them up. I also love to cook. Right now I am obsessed with making vegan penne alla vodka, various curries, and a chili my dad curated a recipe for.
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