From Picayune to the Runway: Local makes history as plus size model

Published 7:00 am Saturday, August 6, 2016

 MAKING HISTORY: Chearice Vaughn was one of the first plus sized models to walk to the runway at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week event in New York.   Photo submitted

MAKING HISTORY: Chearice Vaughn was one of the first plus sized models to walk to the runway at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week event in New York.
Photo submitted

From the time she was in elementary school, Picayune native Chearice Vaughn dreamed of walking fashion runways.
About ten years ago, that dream came true when Vaughn became one of the first plus sized models to appear on the runways at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York City.
Next Saturday, she will be sharing her experiences with aspiring models during a modeling workshop in Picayune.
Vaughn is the daughter of Gladys and the late Chester Vaughn. Her mother’s involvement with the civic organization, The Shades of Ebony, is what sparked her interest in modeling.
“They hosted fashion shows at Friendship Park,” she said. “A lady had a cape on and she was working that cape when she walked. It was amazing and I knew I would love to do something like that.”
During her childhood, Vaughn said there weren’t many plus-sized models.
When she graduated from Picayune Memorial High School, Vaughn was awarded a scholarship from the United States Department of Agriculture.
She graduated from Alcorn State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance. After graduation, she moved to Washington D.C. to pursue a career with the USDA.
“I’m still here after 20 years,” Vaughn said. “I process loans for rural telephone companies.”
Her dreams of modeling never waned so in 1998, Vaughn entered her first runway competition in Baltimore, Maryland, where she won eighth place.
After that initial competition, Vaughn began networking and participating in fashion shows in the Washington, DC area.
She met Gwen Devoe, founder of the full figured fashion show runway competition, who gave her good advice, Vaughn said. She also met Qristyl Frazier, a former contestant on the television show “Project Runway.”
“Qristyl called Gwen about needing plus-sized models in the DC area and Gwen referred me,” Vaughn said.
Through her connection with Frazier, Vaughn had the opportunity to appear on the television show “Rip the Runway” for two years.
Since then, Vaughn has modeled clothing for Levi’s, Walmart, MiracleSuit, Sydney’s Closet and Ashley Stewart.
In September of 2013, Vaughn made history when she become one of the first plus-sized models to strut down the runway in one of fashion’s biggest events, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York City. She wore fashions designed by plus sized designer Eden Miller.
“This was the first time a plus-sized designer had been invited to Fashion Week,” Vaughn said.
Overnight, Vaughn and the other plus-sized models became a media sensation. After the show, she was interviewed by members of the media from almost every country and featured on Entertainment Tonight and ABC News.
“I got a text saying I was trending on Yahoo,” she said. “It had my picture. It was a really big deal. At first I was shocked, but afterwards I was extremely humbled, grateful and blessed. At some point, I want to be able to tell my future kids, ‘look at what your mom did.’’’
Vaughn can be seen in a recent commercial for Burlington Coat Factory and has been featured on the cover of Plus Model Magazine. She has won the award for Best Plus Runway model at the Maryland Fashion Awards for the past three years.
For the past few years, Vaughn said many people have contacted her for advice about modeling and she has wanted to host a workshop.
“It’s my desire to come back to Picayune to share what I’ve learned over the years,” she said. “I want to inspire others to follow their dreams and be a resource to those that are interested in the modeling industry.”
During next Saturday’s workshop, Vaughn plans to cover a variety of modeling topics including: the different types of modeling, runway and modeling etiquette, health and beauty, skincare, booking a photo shoot and posing and fitness.
She will also cover “go see,” where the model meets a client for an interview or audition, she said.
“It’s about building confidence,” Vaughn said. “Modeling is more than just walking the runway and taking pictures. You have to have thick skin and be confident when you’re walking into an interview or a party. It’s a fun way to build confidence and I wish I had had someone do something like this for me, then I would not have been so intimidated.”
The majority of the women in this country wear a size 12 and above, Vaughn said.
“We grow up in a society that glamorizes slimmer bodies,” Vaughn said. “I’m happy there is a movement where people are confident in their own skin and a breakdown of these stereotypes that large equals unhealthy. Size is not an indicator of health all the time. I’m not saying it’s ok to be obese, but a healthy body doesn’t always mean skinny body. I’m excited that companies are making more for women like myself who are stylish. I’m happy to be a part of that.”
Vaughn’s modeling workshop will be held on August 13 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Senior Center of South Pearl River County, located at 45 El Patchway Parkway in Picayune. It costs $50 to attend the workshop. Lunch will be provided and models of all ages and sizes are welcome. Interested parties may contact Vaughn at

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