Only moments after she had crushed her audition for a prominent dance program, young Ilianna Ayala was shocked when her teacher asked if her parents could pay for the program.
She believed there was not a change she would not get in after her work — until she saw the judge’s odd disposition.
Ayala was then informed that she would not get the scholarship not because of her skills or commitment but the size of her thighs.
In an interview with HelloBeatiful, Ayala recalled the incident.
“The teacher pulled me aside later on and was telling me how great I was I could tell she was pleased with how I was moving in the audition,” said Ayala.
Which was why Ayala was understandably taken aback when the teacher’s next comment was:
“Unfortunately we can’t give you a scholarship due to your thighs.”
“She pretty much like said she can’t give me the scholarship because of my size,” reported Ayala.
Over a decade later, the same story would stay with her as she looked into the modeling industry.
She shared how when she entered into a modeling competition with retailer Ashley Stewart — she did not think she would win.
“I didn’t think I would win,” she said. “But I entered just hoping that I’d have a chance to represent women that look like me.”
And despite having thousands of followers who asked for details on her hair and makeup, Ayala believed her chances were not great.
“My following was growing. I was a natural hair influencer. I wasn’t taking full body pictures or anything so yea I did not think I was gonna win,” she said.
But she did win — and was quickly signed to True Model Management after.
“It’s been amazing in the beginning I was very doubtful more so of myself because this is something that I never thought I would be doing,” Ayala admitted.
But despite the voices in her head that said she could not do it — she continued to take full advantage of the opportunity, crediting her training as a dancer to not quit.
“You’re always going to hear no, especially going to auditions and everything that really helped me when it came to modeling,” she explained.
“I love dance so much I knew I was good so I could have let that break me then and there and stopped dancing but instead I went to another school and started dancing there looking back at it I’m just glad that didn’t break me,” she went on.
“When it comes to casting a lot of people think you’re automatically going to get the job because a brand thinks you’re pretty but you’re up against so many other women and its possible that you’ll get a no,” she shared.
“Some girls will be in a funk about it but I knew from dancing and constantly hearing those “no’s” and occasional “yesses” that okay this may be a no but I may get a yes with another brand.”
It was that same attitude that allowed for her to show up for beauty castings despite the industry turning a blind eye at plus-size women.
“I would go to casting for other beauty brands and legit think they’re not gonna choose me for the simple fact that I’m plus-sized now that I am in the room like with Covergirl or Buxom Cosmetics and I’m just glad because makeup is a huge industry and I feel like all women should be represented in that.”
While working at MAC Times Square at the ripe age of 19, she was exposed to diversity in the beauty industry.
“I really enjoyed that and the artistry. I got to play with makeup and what girl doesn’t like that? I got to learn a lot and I owe MAC a big thank you because they grew me into the artist I am today. I legit worked with so many people from all different kind of all walks of life, MAC is super diverse there was people that looked like me.”
Sadly, not many of those people have the opportunity to be featured in advertisements that defined the brand’s character.
“Honestly, plus size women are not seen in beauty brands,” she shared.
“I really, really hope that more beauty brands are aware that plus-size women can do beauty. We are beautiful.”
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