It was extremely refreshing to hear New York fashion model, Edythe Hughes’ point of view not only as a model but as a young professional, a Millennial in today’s society. Someone trying to enjoy what she does in life while making a difference at the same time. In my phone interview with Hughes, we cover it all — from the modeling industry, to healthy habits, her daily grind to her beautiful project bigger than herself — Hughes tells all. Read on.

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Photographed by Melodie Jeng

Growing up in a small town like Alexandria, Ohio with only one church and one gas station, the idea of pursuing a modeling career seemed unfathomable, something so far away.

All while growing up, Edythe Hughes knew she wanted to be a model but the thought of what her family and friends might think of her pursuing a vain profession scared her from taking the leap.

“I wanted to model but I was shaming myself for it because I think it had to be a vain ambition so I didn’t’ tell anyone for a couple of years,” Hughes said.

Once she decided to tell her family and friends what she wanted to do, her dream became a reality.

A few days later browsing the clothes in Forever 21, she caught the eye of an Elite Model Management scout and was sent off to New York at the age of 16. From that point on Hughes jumped head first into the modeling industry. Traveling all over the world — from Milan to Paris, Singapore, India and more — booking shows with top fashion houses like Lanvin, Miu Miu, Calvin Klein, Kenzo, Alexander McQueen and more.

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Veronique Leroy
Fall 2011 RTW & Menswear

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Spur Magazine
March 2013

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Felipe Oliveira Baptista
Spring 2013 RTW & Menswear

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Elle Mexico
June 2010

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Alexander McQueen
Spring 2010 RTW & Menswear

One obstacle Hughes encountered being rooted in a big city was a sense of community.

“Until you have your niche, you feel really lonely. There’s all these people but I don’t know any of them and it wasn’t until I took the steps to be part of a community…It took a couple of years for me to get really comfortable with the energy and now all these years later I’ve really shifted and now I really am a city person.”

After living in the city for 5 years, Hughes has mastered the art of balancing her model and social life.

“For me emotionally, I want to be wholehearted in my work and I have to set it totally aside,” she explains. “Just having a community of friends that has nothing to do with what I do, setting that balance is really important in the industry.”

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Hughes and her best friend, Kelly Pierce. Photographed by Melodie Jeng

She lives a healthy lifestyle as much as she can with occasional yoga, biking or walking to her castings throughout the city and of course, when an occasional indulgence is in order, first stop: Doughnut Plant.

Now 24-years-old, Hughes has built up her modeling resume appearing in editorials for Teen Vogue, Glamour Italy, Lucky Magazine, fronting magazine covers of the sort: D Magazine, Elle Mexico, SPUR, Madame Fagaro and more.

At times, throughout her modeling career Hughes began to wonder how the work was deeply meaningful and how she was making a difference in the world.

“I’ve always known that we’re all here for a reason bigger than selling clothes. It always felt bigger. I knew I didn’t just want to get the cash and go. I wanted it to mean something deeply to me,” she said. “I see a lot of models go through this.”

From this feeling of inspiration and desire for more, after planning, talking, gaining support and momentum, Project Model Tee was born in 2012.

“I wanted to create something flexible and easy for people to give back in their own creative way. I wanted to see my peers feel empowered in their creative passions,” Hughes said. “We wanted to create a community that sparks these conversations and do it in a creative and fun way too.”

Since its inception, Hughes and her team have raised a total of $20,000 benefitting PMT, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

EH_NAMI galaHughes, Mariel Hemingway, and NAMI President, Barbara Ricci at The National Alliance on Mental Illness NYC Gala (Photo Credit Wall Street Journal)​

“For me personally, both issues are things that are uncomfortable to talk about. There’s so much stigma and shame associated with these topics and I know personally that talking about the things that we suffer through helps them lose their power which liberates us.”

Although Hughes is still in the early stages of PMT, she hopes to incorporate additional programs — art classes for models, website development classes, music and even classes for fashion professionals who are looking to further their career in another outlet.

As far as balancing modeling and her nonprofit, one coincides with the other. Not only does she have a flexible freelance schedule, but also her involvement in the community puts her front and center at the major issues herself and her peers want to change.

“I don’t want this to be my job, it’s really just us doing this. It would never become my job to be the president that’s not the point. It’s done on a project-by-project basis,” Hughes said.

When I asked Hughes where she sees herself 10 years from now there was one thing she is sure about to hopefully own a small business one day.

“Coming from modeling and being my own boss all these years, I think fashion is like a great marriage of art and business. It works really well so I think combining art with business is something I want to pursue.”

As far as the future goes for this model/entrepreneur — only time will tell. One thing is for sure, Hughes is excited for what lies ahead no matter what it may be.

“Sometimes uncertainty can be scary and society tries to make you feel that way, this means failure and fear, but for me, there are infinite possibilities. This is a beautiful thing and letting it unfold, I try to get excited about the uncertainty,” Hughes said. “I’ve been blessed and not that life isn’t hard but there’s no reason for me to feel like more good things aren’t going to happen as long as you’re following your true thing inside of you.”

Hughes is professionally represented by Marilyn Models in NYC. Be on the lookout for a few of her upcoming work in Glamour Germany, Figaro Japan and BlackBook Magazine.

For more information about PMT and their latest projects visit projectmodeltee.org or facebook.com/projectmodeltee.

EH_PMTHughes and her friends shooting PMT’s promotional video. (Photographed by Katerina Benzova)

 

 

 

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