They say that first impressions are everything — this certainly was the case with model Nicole Zepeda‘s first visit to Times Square, the hectic tourist destination she calls her happy place. We revisited it with her for a surprisingly Zen moment of reflection on her past and looking towards what the future may hold; both for her and for the plus size fashion industry.
“The first time I came to Times Square I was about 16 years old and I was with my dad walked down to this area with my dad the sun was going down and I just saw the lights, and the place where the ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. I was like, “There are so many lights and there’s so much color!” I just felt like there was so much magic and energy. I was like, “I’m home!”
As someone living in New York, you must be aware of Times Square’s reputation for being a crazy tourist trap that is to be avoided at all costs, yet for you, Times Square is a place to come and center yourself — a place to refocus.
Yes. A lot of people say Times Square is wild and crazy, and it is, but you can find the peaceful places anywhere that you go. When I first came to New York I sat right here and I looked out at all the signs from the shows that I grew up performing in (I’m a theater baby) and suddenly it just got really quiet and I was just with my own thoughts and was really happy. And I thought “I can do this, I can move here.”
So to you Times Square represents possibility.
You see pictures all around you. When I became a model I would see the huge ad campaigns here and I’d think, “Okay, some day that’s going to be a plus sized model.”
Do you see the fashion industry growing to encompass a fuller range of sizes?
I would love to see more women pushing that size range. The plus industry has changed a lot since I started. I’ve been modeling for 4 years and now I see it’s turning into women displaying confidence.
Even as a model, I was so body conscious when I began my career. I was really, really shy. I didn’t want to show my legs, I didn’t want to show my arms, I had to have the perfect hair… Now girls are taking off their sweaters and showing their arms and they’re wearing shorter skirts — it’s empowering. I see women gaining a lot more confidence and hopefully the major brands like will show us in their stores and I want them to watch as their sales increase.
Modeling isn’t the only way you’re working to make a positive impact. We recently dressed you for an event for a non profit organization that you’re involved with. Tell us more about that.
Scenarios USA is a nonprofit organization based out of Brooklyn and I started working for them when I was 14. They had a national screenwriting competition and they write films about AIDS, teen sex awareness, health, and other issues that people are afraid to face. So I entered the competition and won, and they had professional filmmakers fly out to my hometown in Texas and film a movie. They filmed my script. So now that script for 15 years has been available all over the U.S. in libraries.
They’re the first people that brought me to New York. They’re based here and so they have their big Gala ceremony. They flew me out and had me start speaking at schools. So I mostly worked with educators and students to convince them to let us show the films and it opens the doors for kids to start talking. I have the largest impact with the youth, I just always have.
It seems like you have a lot going on! Where would you say your focus currently lies?
My focus is definitely acting right now. Just after the ceremony with Scenarios Doug Liman was there and he came up to me and asked, I know you’ve been pushing yourself in modeling, but what are you doing to push yourself in acting? ”
I’ve been wanting to do it for so long but I kept thinking “no, I can’t, I can’t.” Honestly, years ago what held me back was my size. I kept thinking I’m too big. But when Doug targeted me and came to me and started speaking I thought, okay, if Doug believes in me I need to get on this. So right now I’m putting my reel together, I’m getting my resume together, I’m already submitting myself and looking for an agent here and in California.
Any words of advice for our Gwynnie Bee members?
Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Your personality will shine through the clothes. And don’t be afraid to show your arms!
What’s your happy place? Comment below!