I met Dara on the Marc Jacob Runway in 2017 and I immediately noticed her genuine and kind nature. Since then, I have witnessed her rising career working on fashion campaigns, magazine covers, editorials, runways, and work with renowned photographers. When she became a fashion director for Interview magazine, a role that suits her perfectly, I was so happy for her. I am eager to share her incredible journey from a small town to the vibrant streets of New York City, where she pursued her dreams in the fashion industry, surrounded by good-hearted individuals who helped shape her career. Dara's unwavering passion for fashion shines through every aspect of her being, fearlessly embracing her true self and identity. I am immensely proud of her well-deserved success. My favorite part of her is her magnetic personality - consistently kind-hearted and hard working while enjoying every endeavor she undertakes.
Here are Q&A sessions with the lovely Dara:
Did you face any challenges during your childhood in San Diego due to being perceived as different from other kids?Growing up, it was hard to find other kids who saw the world the same way I did. I spent a lot of time drawing and dreaming. I had a small group of close-knit friends who helped develop my creativity. Thankfully, even though it took time for them to truly understand, my parents were always supportive of my instincts and aspirations, so it created a safety net even if everyone else didn't understand.
You studied fashion journalism, but ultimately became a model/stylist. Did you always dream of becoming a model? How were you discovered?
I actually studied standard broadcast and print journalism in school. I always wanted to work in fashion, but I didn't know what form it would take! Modeling happened by chance, but it became the best learning ground for the rest of the industry for me.
I moved to New York in 2016, and shortly after met friends through nightlife and started doing pictures. Those pictures caught the attention of Marc Jacobs and I debuted in his Fall 2017 runway collection. That started everything.
Tell me about your first experience with fashion.
When I was very young, I remember playing inside the racks of clothing at the mall. Digging through, making forts and running along the aisles of the chaotic shoe sales. Something about play and clothing has always been intertwined with me. Fashion became integral to how I communicate with others.
You mentioned from another interview that each style phase was significant to you during your teenage years. Could you elaborate on why that was and how it has influenced your personal style and the work you do today?
Everything is forever until it's not. I think you have to commit wholeheartedly to your look, and once it feels like you've completed that version of yourself, it's okay to shed the old and welcome the new. When I was a teenager, I experimented a lot. Trying things completely outside of my comfort zone helped me refine what I like and what I don't. You can't discover yourself unless you tread uncharted waters. It's important to play.
You’ve shared that fashion is a common denominator and allows you a way to connect with people you have come to love. Could you expand on that more?
I think I've always used clothes to communicate who I am. Somehow it's always been easier than explanation. I realized after school that instead of using words, I'd rather speak my mind through visuals. There's something about telling stories through images that has always resonated with me, and has always been an easier way to express something true. Fantasy gets closer to the truth for me.
Would you say that walking on the Marc Jacobs Runway in 2017 was a breakpoint in your career?
Yes! That moment set me on a totally new trajectory. I wouldn't have had access to this path without that moment. I feel really lucky they chose me!
“I had a day off on the Sunday night before the show, so I was chilling at home napping, being lazy, maybe going to clean,” said the 23-year-old unsigned model Dara, who spends her days assisting the stylist Ian Bradley. “Then I checked my Instagram DMs.”
What she found was a message from Marc Jacobs’ team saying they’d just left her a voicemail and would like her to come in for a casting—never mind the fact that Dara didn’t set out to walk any shows this season and doesn’t even have an agent. Within the hour, though, Dara hauled herself to the designer’s studio on Spring Street and, after running into Alek Wek, found her photo already on the casting board, and already wearing Marc Jacobs: it was the cover Dara shot for Candy magazine, one of ten featuring trans models in an issue guest-edited by Hari Nef. It’s thanks to Nef, in part, that Dara's grown so comfortable in the city after moving to Brooklyn from California just six months ago: she’s known the model-actress for almost four years now, since “I met basically all my friends on the internet,” Dara said with a laugh. Next up is getting signed with an agency, though Dara knows perhaps better than most that’s not always exactly easy. “I've been talking to agencies, but it's difficult because people see me as a risk, even though I don't really see myself as a risky move,” she said. Not that that's stopped Dara. Instead, she's been carefully pursuing projects she cares about, working for forward-thinking designers like the London-based artist Claire Barrow and those who operate in a way similar to Jacobs.
“I didn't feel like I was being tokenized in any way or my existence there was being magnified, other than just being there to wear clothes and walk down the runway and stand outside the pictures and have my picture taken,” Dara said of Jacobs' Fall 2017 show. “I didn't feel like it was this message. It was just a seamlessly inclusive environment, and it was just normal.” - Dara from the interview with thefashionspot.com
Reflecting back on your career thus far, what is your biggest lesson? If you could speak to your younger self, what would you say?
Everything comes at the right time, and rejection is just part of the process.
I feel your impact on the LGBTQIA+ community is an important part of who you are. Have you ever felt that way?
I'm not sure what my impact is, but I do feel so buoyed by the shared sensibility. Having a community around me helps me feel safe to completely show myself, which makes everything better.
Your career as a model started in NYC. What does New York mean to you?
New York is possibility, freedom and risk. I'm obsessed with the city.
I see you have worked with Ethan James Green, a fashion photographer so often - how did you develop a friendship with him?
I met Ethan two weeks after moving to New York when he shot some pictures of me. When I used to follow fashion just online from home, Ethan was my favorite male model. It feels funny and inevitable that we connected. He's one of my best friends and has always believed in my creativity. There's something really powerful in creating with people you have a closeness with, so many things don't have to be said and you can just do.
What's your favorite thing to do when you are not working?
I love to go dancing!
What are your favorite nail colors from JINsoon and what is your go-to nail shape?
Vanity is such a beautiful color. I love a classic red manicure. SO chic and elegant. My go-to shape is almond!
I am excited to see what the future holds for Dara as she continues to make waves in the fashion world. Her journey serves as a testament to the power of following your dreams and staying true to who you are.