How Renee Bhagwandeen carved out a space for herself in the modeling industry

Fans of “America’s Next Top Model” may recognize Renee Bhagwandeen from the 2013 season of the show. But while she found success on TV, modeling was never an easy career path for her.

After moving to New York City and signing with an agency, Bhagwandeen noticed that her jobs started slowing down. Her booking agent told her to visit one more casting, which is where Bhagwandeen met Tyra Banks, the host of “America’s Next Top Model.”

“I had no idea that this was a ‘Top Model’ casting, because I would’ve never went,” Bhagwandeen told In The Know. “It was really stressful but I was going to do my best and be proud of me.”

Bhagwandeen ended up placing in the top five during her season.

“It’s surreal,” Bhagwandeen explained. “I had a binder as a child with, like, top models. I watched TV and, like, I’m one of them. I didn’t see very many women like me growing up.”

Bhagwandeen admits that she didn’t even think it was possible to have the type of career she has now. She thanks Banks for paving the way and allowing her the opportunity to go on the show and prove her worth.

But Bhagwandeen has been carving out her own path years before she was on “America’s Next Top Model.” When she was 15 years old, she became one of the first Black girls to place at the Miss International competition in China.

“I don’t really like it when the younger girls say, ‘I want to be like you when I grow up,'” Bhagwandeen said. “I’ve done what I could do. Now, the world is changing — I’m booked with my own hair, there’s makeup artists that actually have my skin color.”

Bhagwandeen’s business is called Sole Ties and it’s a shoe subscription service. Bhagwandeen wanted to start figuring out her own brand rather than continuing to represent everyone else’s brands.

“It’s my way of getting to know myself and helping other women get to know themselves too,” she explained.

From growing up with a binder filled with her idols, Bhagwandeen told In The Know that she can confidently say she grew into the person she’s always wanted to be.

“It was not because I went on TV, it’s not because I did things that I never expected to do, it’s because this is the best me that I can possibly be in this moment,” Bhagwandeen said. “I’m proud of who I am.”

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