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