Tyrrell Winston

In moving to New York I struggled with comparison. I was still heavily connected to California and had all these friends buying houses and having families. My thought process was that I should be doing that. Then I realized that that was not my journey right now. I was going to be spending a lot of money on rent and there are certain things in New York that are a different beast than anywhere else. But becoming comfortable with what I’m doing and the fact that this is going to be my life was one hurdle I overcame.

Tyrrell “Ty” Winston knew since he was a child that he would find his way to New York City. And so at the age of 21, Ty moved from his home in California to New York in order to finish his college career. He matriculated to Wagner College on Staten Island. Before his enrollment, however, Ty was majoring in Communications; Wagner did not offer a like major so Ty chose Art Administration, not fully understanding what this major course of study entailed. “Just that kind of fluke, of making that decision, changed my life forever.”

A major in Arts Administration meant Ty would have to take courses in Gallery Management, meet with gallery owners and artists. Although this was mandatory for his schooling, Ty found himself loving these obligations. Ty’s seminal moment came when he saw a Retrospective exhibit at MoMA on Dadaism. At the exhibition Ty was incited by the works and thusly inspired to influence others the way he was impacted.

After graduation Ty took jobs with only money in mind and did not pursue his passions. That changed when his sister and he started a freelance designing company. Within three months of starting the business they both quit their jobs to put their full efforts into their startup. After five years Ty’s sister decided to move to Los Angeles and so they split client basis in order to keep the company operating. Also in that time, Ty developed his own style of art, ridded his life of bad influences, and got focused. 

This maturing paid off last year when Ty received a call from MTV to help with Re:Define – an art auction in Dallas, Texas benefiting local art organizations as well as MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation. This was only supposed to be a role that lasted two weeks and when it was concluded MTV asked Ty to help in other ways. Ty has since aided in production on MTV Movie Awards, interviewing on the red carpet, the VMAs, and a short film in Mexico.

Ty also spends a lot of his time working on his art which is focused on social justice inspired by the grittier textures of the city. "Living in seedier areas in Brooklyn for a while you see a lot in terms of inequality and social injustice. My art is part spectator, part provocateur." 

Mariah Strongin

Being in New York has taught me endurance! It’s extremely fast paced and if you can’t keep up to speed then you fall behind, and I think that’s the same in any career here. There’s always someone in New York City that is going to be trying to push up ahead of you.

Growing up on ranches since the age of three in Medford, Oregon, Mariah Strongin began riding horses; entering into barrel racing competitions, showings, competing in junior rodeo, and leading up to becoming a part of equestrian in high school. At age 15, Mariah began modeling. Initially, Mariah received an offer to be in a pageant and sought sponsorship from a woman who is now her "mother agent." This mother agent looked at Mariah and declined to sponsor and instead took Mariah to New York City to be a part of IMTA, a collection of competitions for modeling and acting. While at these competitions, she took the Model and Actor of the Year awards, and Most Sought After.

After these competitions, Mariah signed with Wilheminia, primarily working in catalogues. Wilheminia required her to travel, spending seven months in Miami at age 16, and then a move to Los Angeles at age 18 where she spent the next few years. During that time, she went to London for three months to do more editorial work and where she experienced a controversial and contradicting shift in the modeling industry. Depending on the agency, Mariah was either too big or too skinny and trying to accommodate both sides was detrimental to her career. "Going from too big to too skinny was not a good idea because agents would get confused and clients wouldn't know how to deal with you. As a model you have to find the right weight that works for you and stick to it."

Following her experiences in London, Mariah moved to Milan, Italy for three months and continued her work. After retiring to Los Angeles, Mariah knew it was not where she needed to be and that New York City was.  Many advised Mariah not to go to New York because there was too much competition there but she felt it in her heart that they were wrong and she was going to move, regardless. "And if it is the most competition why wouldn't I go there because I want to push myself as hard as I can, I want to see how good I can be."

In October, 2013, Mariah uprooted herself from Los Angeles, leaving Wilhelmina, to start over in New York. Now, with no one to represent her, she stayed at a friends apartment for a week and began searching for employment. After a week, she signed with New York Models with the help of her "mother agent". "They were the most welcoming, the most interested. They were going to take me and [transform me]...which is what I needed."

When she signed, Mariah moved into a "model apartment," a two bedroom, four bunk bed, eight girl, living situation. "There was no choosing who to live with and during fashion week everything is full, the bunk beds, and the couch"

Four months later, Mariah decided it was essential to have her own place but this was difficult because during those months she wasn't afforded many opportunities to work and had to live off of savings. She worked one job near Christmas which allowed her to pay back debts she accrued to the agency. Shortly there after, Mariah took another trip to London and Milan for three months. When she came back she had more tests in her book, more shows, and more clients than ever before and it's been work ever since. Since coming back her career is vastly growing to the next level with her being booked on a few big campaigns and she has had an acting role in the show Gotham. "Moving to New York has helped me to realize that you have to invest in yourself, you have to invest in your career, you have to put back into things. You have to take that acting class, you have to see what you look like on camera. You have to get to know your clients and agents, and be personable with them."

See more of Mariah's work at New York Models and watch Gotham tonight on Fox! 

Photographed by Evan Rummel 

Alexandra Reese

I think my biggest sacrifices have been time and family. To move forward as a professional, you often have to sacrifice both of those things to immerse yourself in the workplace, become indispensable, and build your career.

Alexandra Reese got her start in the fashion industry when she attended the University of California, Davis. At first, Alexandra’s undergrad goal was to become a veterinarian but, when conversing with a friend taking a course in fashion, Alexandra learned of the only University of California system run fashion design program; she began to change majors the following day.

In the summer between her junior and senior years, Alexandra took a summer program at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City and took an internship under Tracey Reese. During that summer, Alexandra’s love for New York City was founded. “I got a taste [of New York] and it was in the stars at that point.”

After graduating in 2005, Alexandra moved to New York City. Unemployed, she aspired to work for Proenza Schouler but knew she may have to take other jobs at first in order to work her way there. Replying to one of Alexandra’s anonymous online applications, a representative from Proenza Schouler contacted Alexandra to fill the role of Production Assistant.

Several months after she started, Alexandra moved from production to design. Because Proenza Schouler was a small company at the time, Alexandra had to fill roles and make sacrifices to make sure the job was done. Working six weeks in advance of fashion weeks, her days would start at 9:30 in the morning, often going to midnight or later, five days a week. She also gave up most weekends and holidays. 

Two years later, Alexandra left Proenza Schouler to pursue other opportunities, landing sequential jobs with designers and companies such as Brian Reyes, Donna Karan, and Narciso Rodriguez. In November of 2013 a former coworker and her husband proposed to Alexandra a new venture, bestowing unto her the responsibilities of product development, creative direction, and merchandising.

For a time Alexandra worked two jobs simultaneously, with Narciso during regular business hours and the new venture during the later hours of the evening. During this time, another former coworker approached her asking for her consultative services. This sparked an idea. If she could have two clients to begin with, she could start a consulting business. “I wanted to help the growing designers that were emerging and just didn’t know exactly which steps to take to get them off the ground.”

Taking on this entrepreneurial endeavor wasn’t without its risks as Alexandra would have to go from two paychecks down to one but in order to fulfill her dreams; it was another sacrifice she was willing to make. Alexandra now has her own company, working with clients on a consulting basis and focusing on all aspects of their business in order to help them grow. Alexandra's current clients include Rosie Assoulin, LIVERY, Sarah Stevenson, and Yeon Park. Find out more about Alexandra's company www.alexandra-reese.com 

Photographed by John Castillo

Madlin Cowart

I’m so thankful to even have the chance to live here!

All throughout high school, Madlin Cowart knew she wanted to live in New York City. In June of 2010, after graduating in Atlanta, Madlin moved to New York City with no jobs lined up. “I went around everywhere applying for jobs…anywhere because, even if it’s something I don’t 100 percent like, all I need right now is money."

The first to respond to Madlin’s many applications was Chipotle where she immediately took a position. During her first week and a half of employment, two patrons offered Madlin opportunities to interview with their companies. The first was with Abercrombie and the second was with Crosby Street Hotel. Madlin decided both of these were better than fast food and took both jobs.

For the following four months, Madlin worked a grueling schedule. Her day would “start” with her time at Abercrombie working from 9am to 2pm. She would then go home, arriving around 3pm and sleep until 10pm when she would wake up and head to the hotel to work from 11pm to 7am. ”Those three or four months were probably the most miserable of my life… My sleeping patterns were off, my eating patterns were not right… During the day I couldn’t sleep…"

This overload eventually caused Madlin to move back to Atlanta. While at home, Madlin knew her time in New York was not over. She met up with a youth group leader from her church that informed her of a new church opening in New York City. After two months Madlin of being home, she moved back to the Big City. She began focusing more on her church life and took her position back with hotel, only this time working the day shift.

Madlin has stayed in the hospitality industry, since. “I never knew that I would have liked working in hospitality… [but since] I started working in it is when I actually started falling in love with it.” Madlin works in the front office, fulfilling the needs and requests of guests.

For now, Madlin couldn’t imagine herself anywhere else. “I’m so thankful I even have the chance to live here."

Photographed by John Castillo

Drew Villani

I guess my biggest sacrifice in coming in New York is comfortability. How can one expect to impact the world by being comfortable? I left behind everything I ever knew to pursue a vision I didn’t understand. It’s trusting yourself and the one who instilled the vision within you, and knowing that it’s not about you. The world needs your vision and the process it takes for it to evolve into existence. It’s selfish and unfair to the world to not pursue your vision relentlessly. It’s like never giving someone the gift that they’ve always wanted.

A native Australian, Drew Villani moved to New York City in order to pursue a life dedicated to fashion. Only three years into his journey, Drew has created his own line, DREU, and isn’t showing any signs of letting up in the future.

Drew got his motivation from a friend that posed a hard question asking him if he wasn’t going to pursue fashion, what was he going to do with his life? “When I came to the realization that fashion was the industry that I wanted to be in, I figured I needed to be where it all happens."

After saving for a year and going through the process of obtaining his work visa, Drew moved to New York City. A place he’s never visited, full of people he’s never met. Three days after setting foot in his new home, Drew found a job with Ralph Lauren at their flagship store on Madison Avenue.

This opportunity gave Drew his first real exposure to the industry of his dreams. “[I saw] the whole corporate world, their showrooms, the design team, the archives, the references."

It was also in this role where Drew would meet fashion consultant, Nick Wooster who took on Drew as his assistant and would give Drew invaluable experience having him work on fashion trade shows in New York and Las Vegas.

Drew had to couple this unpaid internship with his job at Ralph Lauren, often working seven days a week. It’s this work ethic and drive that have gotten him where he is today. Drew sacrificed his nights sketching and his days off with Wooster in order to gain the proficiency in his trade he knows is necessary.

When his work visa expired, Drew had to leave Ralph Lauren and his apprenticeship. “Not being American is the most difficult thing. They don’t make it easy for you to stay here. You’re always jumping through hoops and it never leaves the back of your head."

Now, without any income, Drew focused on designing his own full collection. Putting all of his time and money into this endeavor, Drew debuted his collection at Fashion Week “blowing away” his former mentor and receiving the attention of prospective investors. “You throw yourself in the deep end and you really surprise yourself what you can do and what you’re capable of."

Funding continues to prove to be a challenge but Drew will endure, as he has, and will continue to follow his passion. See more of Drew's talent and exquisitely designed brand at www.dreunewyork.com

Photographed by John Castillo

Photographed by John Castillo

Nai Vasha

My greatest sacrifice in coming to New York was having to destroy my comfort zone and leave it behind for new things to find me.

Nai Vasha, known by friends as Vasha, grew up in Stockton, California until age 17 when she alone moved to San Diego. After only a year, Vasha made the move to Las Vegas in order to attend the University of Nevada – Las Vegas where she attained her BA in Theatre Design and Technology. By working a multitude of various jobs in order to pay for her education, Vasha claims important qualities for her life and later career were forged and ingrained in her during her time in Las Vegas.

After graduation, Vasha moved to Los Angeles, not knowing where life was about to take her. Shortly after her arrival she was offered an opportunity to run the Visual Design Team for Forever21 Corporate on the East Coast, relocating her to New York. Yet, in this corporate role, Vasha felt as if her creativity and ideas were being repressed and she realized this was not the direction in which she wanted her life to go. So, she took a leap of faith and left her job to spread her wings.

While unemployed, an unlikely opportunity presented itself. A family friend was leaving the country and offered Vasha their car during their year abroad. Vasha set out to travel across the West Coast. Going from Seattle to LA to Las Vegas, and living out of the car for the entirety of the trip, Vasha gained more experience in her craft working on production and set design, and even a few music videos.

After year of traveling, it was time to return to New York. Penniless, Vasha began working as a freelancer, creative consultant, as well as being involved with video projects for Estelle and in creative direction for Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dreams album. Her creativity did not stop there. She also directed art pieces for Puma and worked for the brand Stussy doing build outs about every six months. Her philosophy was to say “Yes!”  to everything, even if she had to learn the task she had agreed to do.

In the midst of everything she has created Undo Ordinary with Robin Arzon, a lawyer turned street athlete. Beginning a year ago, Undo Ordinary is a fitness movement for street athletes. It started with running and has moved into spin and club nights; any way to get cardio or calisthenics movements in.  The movement has blown up and from that, Undo Magazine was created and launched on July 3, 2014.  Grab one for yourself to see what Nai Vasha is up to now.


Photographed by John Castillo

Tara Crowl

I’d say my biggest sacrifices were, when I moved here I decided that this is what I wanted and I am going to go for it and because of that my life wasn’t going to look like what I thought it would, or probably not like a lot of my peers.
— Tara Crowl

Tara Crowl grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and always dreamed of writing books one day.  As she grew older, she decided that she wanted to work in Hollywood and moved out to LA to attend USC film school. Working at a talent agency, although a great job that she was doing well at, she realized there that she still wanted to pursue her childhood dream of becoming an author.  

Tara started writing and sent out manuscripts to a few publishing agencies.  After receiving interest and constructive feedback, she began looking for grad school programs that offered creative writing for children and young adults.  

In 2010, Tara found a program out in Sydney, Australia and dropped everything, quitting her job and left everything familiar behind to take a chance on a dream.  She described her time in Sydney as though “my whole life opened up, [that] there was so much possibility.”  Tara began contemplating what the next step for her would be because she could really live anywhere to work as a writer. The idea of moving to New York became the next, not so logical, choice.  

In August 2011, with no job, no place to live, and no real plan of action, she encountered a stranger on the street and received a catering job on her second day in the city. She moved in with four other people in a small apartment for her first apartment in the city.  She continued writing on the side and worked various jobs to make ends meet in the meantime. Her second apartment, which she shared with two other girls, was really just a half bedroom that was a converted living room divided by curtains. She never had a steady income and was often working a different job every night to keep her head above water. 

Always continuing her writing though, Tara ultimately finished her book in June of 2012 and began sending it out to agents.  Gathering interest, she signed with an agent in March of 2013 and after a final revision, sold her book in October of 2013. Her first book “Eden of the Lamp”, a children’s fiction and coming of age story, will be published in fall of 2015.  She is currently working on the second book and expects to publish that work the following year. 

Photographed by John Castillo