Charles exemplifying culture, curves through modeling


Neveah Jones

Coppell High School junior Harmony Charles models for The Dragonfly Agency in Dallas. Charles has been modeling since January 2019 while balancing school. Photo illustration by Harmony Charles and Neveah Jones

Shreya Beldona, Staff Writer

On her way to a doctor’s appointment in January 2019, Coppell High School junior Harmony Charles did not expect to be stopped by a stranger. Charles was shocked when that stranger handed her a card for a modeling agency. 

“At first, it was kind of strange,” Charles said. “You always hear about modeling stories but I never thought that [it would happen] to me. Getting scouted in America was a big deal for me.” 

Especially after living in Australia and China, being asked to consider a modeling job seemed like she had “made it.” 

“Coming from Australia and China, there is always this mentality that things are more important or more glamorized in America,” Charles said. “I felt like, ‘Wow, I actually did it,’ and I did it in America.”

Though a hint of the Australian accent remains, Charles has spent most of her life living in Shanghai and Beijing, China, attending British International School Shanghai and Western Academy of Beijing from the ages of 4 through 15, eventually becoming fluent in Mandarin. Sophomore year, Harmony moved to Coppell due to her father’s job, surprised at the changes she experienced. 

“The experience was a huge culture shock for me moving to America. The stereotype of a cliche American school with jocks and cheerleader was really scary to me,” Charles said. “I struggled at first to make friends and put myself out there and it wasn’t until second semester I really started to make true friends.” 

Coming from an international background changed the way Charles acted and thought, broadening her mindset. 

“I got to see a lot of different cultures. I had a lot of friends come and go because everyone was in the same position as me where their parents would get a new job and have to move. [I miss] the culture and how lively it was,” Charles said. “A lot of people misunderstand China. As an international student, I never experienced that kind of stress [from the government] or take notice of a lot of the things that the government did.” 

However, Charles brings more to the table than looks. Instilled in her from her diverse background, education remains a priority.

“She has a lot of the traits that models need. You can’t just have a pretty face,” said Coppell High School junior Hailey Wilkins, who is also a model. “You have to have intelligence. She’s very smart.”

Though Charles was happy to be offered the invitation to model, some uncertainty still dwelled in her mind.

“[I was hesitant] because of what people would think of me,” Charles said. “When people take a picture of you, you’re being judged. I thought that a lot of people at school would see me and see my photos and be like ‘Oh, that doesn’t look anything like her.’”

Still, Charles rose to the occasion, battling her fears, expectations and hesitations. 

“She doesn’t shy away from photographers who make her do crazy poses and go outside her comfort zone. She is also able to take friendly tips on how to improve her skill which is really good because a lot of models don’t know how to take constructive criticism and take it personally,” The Dragonfly Agency model Rachel Bedford said. “She is also very confident in herself which is good because the modeling industry is very hard and does pay a lot of attention to features that you may not like but, she is able to look past that and recognize her worth.”

Yet, her experiences gathered from her life abroad have changed her outlook and style on modeling. 

“I feel like I am very open-minded,” Charles said. “Modeling is generically for smaller girls and [I’m a plus-sized model]. I think it’s really important for me to be able to show that someone my size can model.” 

Charles’s goal and attitude caught the attention of the woman who had handed her that card: Kristen Nantz, The Dragonfly Agency agent manager for curve and developing models, now working as Charles’s agent.

“She is obviously very beautiful and has all the features that a model is suggested to have, e.g. tall height, but, she is also a plus-size model and it’s important for our brand to have all-inclusive sizes and models,” Nantz said. “She has a very vibrant appearance and was very lively when we first met her so I was instantly attracted to her energy and wanted her to be a part of my team.”

Now sharing a strong bond, Nantz and Charles admire each other and the relationship they have built. 

“She is always real and honest which makes her vulnerable but very loved and appreciated,” Nantz said. “Photographers love how open she is, how she can be adaptable and how she is constantly seeking improvement. It makes for a great model.” 

Kristen Nantz and Rachel Bedford were interviewed using e-mail.

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