Meet the MMFW Models: Phyllis Williams

Fashion & Beauty / Lifestyle / Stories / September 12, 2017

Several models participating in Mid MO Fashion Week Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Jefferson City are from central Missouri. Read about these models, and find out more about Mid Mo Fashion Week at or here.

Phyllis Williams

Model Phyllis Williams (Photo by Sara Kano Photography)

For modeling purposes, Phyllis Wilkerson uses her maiden name, Williams. She is originally from Chicago but relocated to Jefferson City in August 2006. She has modeled for more than seven years. She is married to Alfred D. Wilkerson and has two amazing boys that keep her on her toes, 15-year-old Noah and 4-year-old Solomon. Williams received her Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice in 2011. She is attending Lincoln University and is enrolled in the graduate studies program for Guidance Counseling-Agency. She is also the program coordinator for Lincoln University’s Women’s Resource Center and a freelance plus-size model.

HER: What inspired you to get into fashion, and talk about your first experience in fashion?

Phyllis: Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to model, but my parents could not afford to invest in the modeling schools and coaches. The opportunity to model became possible around six years ago when Mary Beza asked me to participate in the Lincoln University International Student Affairs segment of the Jefferson Multicultural Forum Fashion (JCMF) show. After participating as a model, the following year Ms. Beza gave me the opportunity to coordinate the fashion show. Pleased with the outcome, I was allowed to coordinate the fashion shows for the JCMF for the following four years while also modeling.

My official first shoot was with the extremely talented Marco Devon Patterson. I was nervous and excited at the same time. The shoot didn’t last long.  When a photographer has a vision and a model can follow directions, a photo shoot should not go longer than an hour, unless there are wardrobe changes. Working with Mr. Patterson was an unforgettable experience. I have also had the opportunity to work with another amazing photographer, April Heckemeyer. My photo shoot with April lasted six hours. It was amazing because April wore the hats of a makeup artist, stylist and photographer.  She educated me on the different lighting, posing and equipment in photography. It was a great learning experience. My first big show actually took place at Lincoln University at the Springfest fashion show. I had the honor to walk for designer Jasmine Breakfield for the House of Imon.

HER: What did you do to get recognition from those in the industry? How have you made yourself stand out to designers, event casting directors, photographers and other professionals?

Phyllis: Since I decided to pursue my dreams, I have participated in several shows. I have distributed business cards, created a Facebook and Instagram page dedicated specifically for modeling. I keep in contact with the designers that I have previously walked for. I stand out as a model because I am a non-traditional aged model.  I am always focused on making sure I am able to bring the vision of a photographer to life and make sure that I walk, look and have the “attitude” desired of the designer of who’s garment I am showcasing. I make sure I carry myself in a manner where consumer know I am attempting to sell the garment I’m wearing — not my body!

HER: What you have done during your career in fashion. 

Phyllis: I my career in fashion, I have participated in other fashion shows, assist with model workshops (focusing on walking only) and serve as the casting director for the upcoming Mid MO Fashion Week (MMFW).

HER: What is the biggest misconception you find people have about models and the fashion industry?

Phyllis: The biggest misconception I believe people have about models and the industry is that models automatically start off as paid models and you have this glamorous life from day one. What people fail to understand is a model can do 100 shows before someone offers them a penny or a free meal at the event. Often times, models break the bank to be a part of shows just to get exposure. Unfortunately, Jefferson City does not have a modeling agency and/or events for models to participate in, therefore, local models travel to bigger cities such as St. Louis or Kansas City (sometimes Chicago) to participate in a non-paying fashion show. Travel expenses can really put a dent in a model’s wallet. It takes more than a good walk and a pretty face to be a model. You must have the finances along with the passion, desire and drive to be a model.

HER: What are activities and experiences you are most looking forward to in participating in Mid MO Fashion Week? Why do you think it is important to have a fashion show like Mid MO Fashion Week?

Phyllis: A few things I am looking forward to for the MMFW is just seeing the dream of Enjoli Dixon and the MMFW team manifest. They have been working extremely hard to make this happen. I’m looking forward to seeing the local models get their chance to shine on their own turf. I’m looking forward bringing something new and exciting to the community. I’m EXTREMELY excited about walking for these amazing designers and building relationships and partnerships with these talented-futuristic thinking individuals. I’m also excited about representing REAL women — women with curves, women with flaws, women bigger than a size six, women over the age of 25 and women that love fashion.

HER: What has Enjoli and her team taught you or helped you with so far in this experience?

Phyllis: I would say that Enjoli and the MMFW team have taught me to be persistent and consistent when it comes to doing what is necessary to see your dreams manifest. What has been helpful is the constant contact with everyone and keeping models informed of other modeling opportunities outside of working with the MMFW. I would like to say to them: Thank you for your hard work and dedication. This is a great opportunity you are providing the local models to help gain recognition, exposure and experience.

HER: What are your future goals in the fashion industry and things you would like to achieve?

Phyllis: My plans for the fashion industry is to become the African-American version of Ashley Graham. African-American women need to see more successful models that look like them.  I want to be a positive household name for little girls. Not only do I want be a fashion model, but I want to be a role model that models love, pride, confidence, compassion, kindness and wellness. In the next year, I am praying for the opportunity to have paid shows and to audition for Kansas City Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week. I hope to inspire more designers to design clothes for REAL women. My goal is to break the model barrier and get more non-traditional models on the runway.

HER: What encouragement would you offer to others who want to pursue modeling or any other job in the fashion industry?

Phyllis: It’s important to have a strong support system.  I would STRONGLY encourage anyone who wants to model to listen to their hearts and the voices of the people that are genuine and who support their dream. I would encourage them to attend model workshops with people to who really know the industry. So many people get tricked by these gimmick “managers” because they are desperate to be seen. Do your research!

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Madeleine Leroux

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