10 Year-Old Celai West Dominates Life’s Runway, Acting, and Using Her Platform For Positive Influence

The ten-year-old businesswoman, CEO, fashion and runway model is living her dream while staying focused on the bigger picture.

While growing up most children aspire to become doctors, lawyers, police officers, maybe even firefighters. On rare occasion do we fulfill those childhood dreams. The stats are a wee bit slimmer for children who are fulfilling their dream careers ahead of schedule. At ten years of age, model, business owner, actress, and aspiring fashion designer Celai West is already making her wildest dreams a reality. Some of her milestones to date include walking the runway at New York Fashion Week and staring in a film project featured at Cannes Film Festival.

Julian Peeples

Simple Beginnings

At just three-years-old, West and her family found themselves being approached by a fashion photographer who insisted on shooting the then toddler. The photographer didn’t hesitate to express “She has IT, she’s a natural almost as if she has done this in a past life,” Celai’s mother Linda West shares as she recollects the encounter. Initially taken aback by request, after the first photoshoot, West recalls telling her mom, “OMG! This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, and I want to do this for the rest of my life!”

Currently in the fifth grade, West is adamant about focusing on her education. Admitting that fifth grade so far has been fun, and her teachers are excellent, West balances school and work with perfection. Making it clear that she does not like to make excuses for missing homework; West remembers a time when she was riding back to Los Angeles from working and had to rely on a flashlight to complete her assignments.

That dedicated and focused behavior has led West to the runways of New York Fashion Week. Walking for designers, Ugochi Iwuaba and David Tupaz, West describes her experience as nothing short of amazing.

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Sometimes we get stuck in our fears, stuck thinking we can't do something, stuck thinking we aren't good enough. Well, SNAP OUT OF IT and be who God created you to be! 💃🏾 . When I got dressed, @itseringreen asked me to show her my routine. She said "No, you gotta SNAP, that jacket!". I spent a couple of hours trying my best but the jacket was too heavy and my arms were too weak. It made me think "Can I really do this? Am I even good enough?" . Mom seen me struggle so she said "Celai, you don't have to do it. Just get out there and FEEL the moment….then do whatever you want to do…with CONFIDENCE!". Her words calmed me down, I said a prayer and I SNAPPED OUT OF IT. Don't EVER second guess what God gave you, just use it….FEARLESSLY. ❤️ . Thank you @davidtupaz for trusting me and thank you @itseringreen for believing in me. ❤️ 📽️: @tachastyle at @stylefw

A post shared by Celai West (Official) (@celaiwest) on

“[Ugochi] Iwuaba and [David] Tupaz were the most amazing people ever. They were so nice, and I’m in love with the outfits they gave me. I asked my mom if these were on sale or something!”

West’s talents expand beyond the runway and into acting and entrepreneurship. Starring in I Am My Own Mother West hit the screen at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Landing her first gig at 7, West plans to pursue more acting opportunities in the future when the modeling and runway season slow down.

Mentored by her full-figure ‘model mother’ Liris Crosse, who founded the Diversity Project, West also wants to utilize her platform for positive change and awareness. ‘Shining a light on the invisible’ cue model of Project Runway, Crosse serves as creative director of the project alongside celebrity makeup artist Christopher Michael. Eager to be involved, West found herself alongside Crosse fulfilling her purpose.

With a passion for people and being a responsible role model, West started her T-shirt line at just seven years old, The Chatty Chick. West’s journey to self-acceptance began to inspire other little girls around her to accept themselves as well. “It’s never about the tee. It’s about how empowered she feels when she’s wearing the tee” says Celai’s mother, Linda West.

Celai West has begun encouraging young girls to embrace their natural hair saying “Our hair is very good and versatile. The industry makes us feel like kinky haired girls aren’t beautiful.” She admits to not seeing much representation when watching her favorite TV shows. West had even experienced the struggles associated with natural hair behind the stage when some hairdressers approached her hair with hesitation.

It Comes With The Territory

Although many people would kill for a chance to break into the modeling or entertainment industry, it’s not all photoshoot and free clothes. For a young girl balancing school and a career in the internet era, the influx of opinions, criticism, and attention can become overwhelming. However, Mrs. West has managed to keep a positive outlook on the blessings they’ve received amidst the chatter:

Some people don’t like the makeup, the heels, and the mature walk….”because she’s 10″. I get it. As her parent, I am not a fan of the makeup, and she was probably one of the last kids her age to start wearing heels because I just wasn’t ready. When I got her first pair of “real” heels earlier this year, I was surprised at how quickly she learned to runway walk in them, considering she’s never walked in heels before. And then I realized, she has a gift, and I cannot keep allowing myself to stand in front of her path to hold her back. She fearlessly follows her path because she hasn’t been crippled by fear and self-doubt like most adults have. So if I want to teach her to continue to follow her dreams fearlessly, I need to allow her to keep trusting God…and follow. She is 10, self-taught and has gotten this far. If all people can see is the makeup, heels or something else negative, that’s OK. But there are so many more who see her light, and that’s all that matters.

Walking the Talk

Both Celai and her mother have sage words of advice for those who wanted to enter the modeling or entertainment industry.

“Be very careful of modeling scams,” says Linda West who has supported and pushed, but also has protected her daughter since the very beginning. “Nowadays, everyone is trying to break into the industry, and there are so many scams that prey on them. You don’t need to pay for modeling schools or scouts to get experience or to get your kid signed. You don’t need to pay thousands to enter your kid in a showcase that agents will be at. Just submit your images DIRECTLY to your local modeling agencies.”

Mrs. West also made a point to emphasize doing your research and being patient. “If they don’t respond, wait 4-6 months, shoot with a headshot photographer who shoots the WORKING kids in your area and resubmit them again. Sometimes it’s the hairstyle, outfit, color of your shirt or something very simple that the agencies may not like about your images but once they see the right shot, you will get contacted.”

Julian Peeples

“The industry can be tough and brutal. You must know who you are as an individual before you try to enter this industry. When it comes to Celai, her image and people accepting who she is; it’s challenging to change people’s minds. We teach Celai to stay persistent, and we support her no matter what” says Linda West to the parents who are thinking of entering the entertainment business.

“My advice to girls would always be to be yourself. You have to follow your dreams, and I’ve always been told to do great in school and focus on your education” says West confidently. Following the family tradition of attending Howard University, West is already living the dream but hasn’t lost focus on the bigger picture.

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