Maybe you recognize Liris Crosse from Project Runway, where she was the first black plus-size model to walk in a designer finale runway show.
Could be you’ve heard about her new book, Make the World Your Runway: Top Model Secrets for Everyday Confidence and Success. Filled with straight-talking, hard-won personal advice, Liris takes the rules she uses to own the catwalk and adapts them to real life, no matter what you do or who you are.
Whether you already know Liris or not, we assure you: You’re going to want to. Her positivity and presence, confidence and charisma are catching. We got the chance to chat at this past CurvExpo, the preeminent lingerie trade show in New York City. In her exclusive Bare Necessities interview, Liris shares her coming-up story and some of the best advice from her book.
Liris grew up in Baltimore doing mall and church fashion shows. At a Model Search America casting call at the end of high school, agency after agency loved her…and asked her to lose weight. When she came back the following year, the response was tepid.
“Of course I was disappointed, but I didn’t give up,” said Liris, who was getting ready to enroll in college when she asked her parents to let her move to New York. “I didn’t want to say woulda, coulda, shoulda. They gave me a chance, and I never looked back.”
Liris is now with Dorothy Combs Models, a plus-size agency.
“I had never heard of plus-size modeling, but the Model Search America people said, ‘We’re going to send you to an agency for women who look just like you.’ These women were all beautiful, with a little more meat on their bones,” said Liris. “If this is my division, so be it. I had to make a way for myself because there was none. Even at a size 10, it was a big deal to appear in a music video or walk a runway. There’s been a major leap forward the past five years thanks to the power of social media. Consumers are now judge and jury.”
The pressure of having to make the cut again and again is the hardest part: “You get so many denials. It can really play on your self-esteem, but remember that what’s meant for you is going to continue to find you. When there’s an innate passion, you keep on. Don’t ignore the voice inside you. Let it push you into greatness. Stand in the power of who you are.”
Confession #1: Confidence is key.
“On the runway of life, eyes are on you, too. Confidence is at the heart of most successes. Confidence is belief in your abilities, worth, value and reliability. It’s nice for others to believe in us, but we must believe in ourselves even more. What I have learned is that confidence is crucial in living the rich, full lives that we are destined to live. I just did what came naturally to me. There is a supreme confidence that comes when you are being who you are.”
Confession #2: You already know your purpose.
“Many times, our purpose is shown in glimpses of our childhood. [We need to] stop forcing kids to do what you want them to do instead of what they were born to do. This doesn’t just apply to family—how have you limited yourself?”
Confession #3: Let fear fuel you.
“Refuse to limit yourself because of the fears of others. Be like me and step out there anyway! You must understand that living your dreams will require you to do things that are outside the norm, unfamiliar and downright scary sometimes. That’s okay! Don’t make yourself small for anybody. Make your voice heard. I sometimes get scared to ask for what I want and have to push myself to do it. It’s a process—you’re always growing and changing—but I have to honor myself and what I bring to the table. It forces others to honor it, too.”
Confession #4: Commit to your vision.
“Vision creates power in your life because it allows you to see the unseen. It helps you create in the now what exists in the future. I have felt like quitting countless times. What has helped to pull me through the inevitable slumps is vision. I made a commitment to keep going. Be a person who keeps your word with yourself over and over again. Because I had a vision for where I was going and refused to give up, the ‘how to do it’ showed up step by step. It’s taken me a long time to build the career I have, but I was in it for the long haul. Most overnight successes have taken decades.”
Confession #5: Use your imagination.
“It’s EVERYTHING! Big dreams take faith and determination to manifest. If it didn’t, everyone would be living large. We often underestimate our abilities and what is even possible for us. We must learn to trust the whispers and follow them. What do you have to lose? If you don’t push yourself, you won’t grow. You’ll lessen your impact. You’ll decrease your own joy and fulfillment. Life is about expansion. Dream BIG!”
Confession #6: Be prepared for your moment.
“Start where you are, but prepare. Preparation tells you and all the world that you are expecting things to happen. This helps build a level of excitement and confidence in you. Planning is a simple confidence hack. It allows you to take fear out of the equation. It makes some unknown things feel known. In making the world your runway, you must be prepared because you never know who’s watching you. You have no idea what opportunities are on the verge of appearing in your life. Be ready for your moment.”
Confession #7: Wear the right bra!
“Here’s the elephant in the room: Your clothes will look so much better on you when you wear the right bra size. Ladies, you should be getting measured at least twice a year for an accurate fit to see if your size has changed. Please invest in yourself. Your inner foundations set the tone for your outer life. You need to have the right fit under your clothes because your presentation is so important, and when you look good, you feel good.”
Confession #8: Choose how you show up.
“Stop hiding your brilliance because others are uncomfortable with it. Your presence is something you have to manage. Happy, confident people are very self-aware. You must be willing to pause and see yourself as you really are. I constantly remind myself to remain calm, not just on the runway but in life. You might fall down. That’s okay. Just don’t stay down. Work this life with all your might. All drama is not negative. Know when to bring a little more sizzle to your presence so you can leave a lasting impression.”
Confession #9: Less is more.
“To be the powerful, confident woman that you are, linger a little. Stand in the power of your moment. Allow others the joy of taking you in. Don’t rush it. We can get in such a hurry to make the next point that we don’t allow the present point to land. Sometimes, we’re just doing too much. ‘No’ is a complete sentence.”
Confession #10: Find your voice.
“It’s imperative that you know what you believe. You must be willing to take the risk of not being understood or accepted to speak your truth. Confident people take up space. When we feel powerful, we expand. Don’t apologize for that. On the runway of life, you must be assertive enough to ask for what you want. When you believe you are a star, others will start to believe it. Faith it until you make it.”