McKinley Sterling – Top Model Interview

Name: McKinley Sterling

Age: 30

Height: 6’2

Hometown: Dallas, TX

Agencies: Two Management (LA, Toronto, Copenhagen), Abrams Artists Agency (LA), BMG Models (Chicago), Kim Dawson Agency (Dallas), Directions USA (North Carolina).

Instagram: @mckinleyjr1

How did you get into modeling?

Modeling was always my calling. From a very young age, I had always had an interest in modeling and fashion. I was very into GQ Magazine and looked up to the male models in the magazine, believing it was something I could do one day. I also remember when America’s Next Top Model with Tyra Banks came out and I was very inspired by that. The world of fashion seemed so glamorous and fun. I was obsessed with style and I would spend hours practicing my runway walk around the house. Everyone I grew up with knew it was my destiny.

I found my first LA modeling agent in a chatroom as a teenager, but because I didn’t live in LA, it wasn’t very serious. It’s also not a strategy I would advise. When I was about 13 and just starting puberty, I convinced my parents to take a vacation in LA and let me go to open calls for all the top agencies – Ford, Elite, LA Models, etc. This was a time when I had serious acne and other physical concerns and wasn’t ready to model, even though I thought I was. I was crushed when many of them said no, but it was good early preparation for harsh rejections you constantly face in the business. In high school, I had tried going to some local open calls but didn’t have much luck. I fell into a lot of pitfalls including scam agencies and conventions. I was determined though and I never gave up or lost hope. My parents weren’t really “showbiz” parents, so I had to navigate a lot of the industry myself and figure things out, which can be a challenge when you’re so young. Nevertheless, they were always, and still are, very supportive – and I couldn’t be more grateful for them.

I was voted “Most likely to appear on the cover of a fashion magazine” in high school. I had decided to go to college in DC, but my passions lead me back to Los Angeles. I transferred to USC, but It wasn’t until around the age of 21 or 22 during my senior year that things started moving. My Senior year, I secured a commercial agent who sent me on a few auditions, but I was really more interested in fashion modeling. With pictures in hand provided by an artistic fraternity brother of mine, I went to some open calls and was told no again. Then, I got laser-focused and disciplined with my diet and exercise and tried again after graduation. I was much more confident.

When I made my second go around in LA I only went to 3 places. I went to BMG LA, because my frat brother was with them, and they wanted me immediately. Wilhelmina told me to come back when my book was more developed, and my last stop was at Next Models Management, where they told me they loved me and not to go anywhere else. I was thrilled to accept a contract with a leading worldwide agency. I remember running down the streets of Beverly Hills on the phone with my parents screaming with joy how I finally made it. The rest is history.  And it’s all coming full circle now with me recently relocating back to LA.

For me, one of the reasons I love modeling is because it’s about mastery of self-more than anything else. You have be physically, mentally and emotionally ready.

I was rejected so many times when I first started and I always tell people you can never give up!

What are you doing if you are not modeling?

I think it’s very important to have other interests and a life outside of modeling. It can get unhealthy waiting around for your agents to call you. Being active is key. It’s very important for a model to stay in shape, so going to the gym regularly and making healthy diet choices is a natural part of my routine.

I also enjoy spending time with friends and family. Live music, travel, exploring new restaurants, social outings, the outdoors, playing with dogs and animals, going shopping or to the movies – these are all things I enjoy doing.

My other career pursuit is digital marketing, where I am at Strategist/Consultant level, and I enjoy creative writing tasks such as social media marketing, email marketing, and content marketing. I currently have my own marketing consulting business.

The most spontaneous/difficult/strange thing you’ve ever done?

The most spontaneous thing I have ever done was probably the decision to transfer from George Washington University in DC to University of Southern California in LA, after my freshman year of college. I was happy with GWU and had made a lot of friends. Even though I wasn’t crazy about the weather in DC, I really liked the culture and people of the city. As a high-school debate champion, I was originally studying Political Communications on track to be a CNN broadcast reporter, then decided that I wanted to get into Communications, more generally. The Annenberg School at USC was highly rated. In addition, I knew that I wanted to be around the film/tv, modeling and entertainment industry, so LA was very appropriate. Finally, I was chasing someone romantically who attended USC. I decided to transfer on a whim. It helped that I earned a debate scholarship. It was very rough in the beginning, but I believe everything happens for a reason. Despite recent press, USC is still a top-notch college and I am proud to be a USC graduate.

What do you love on Social Media? – What do you hate on Social Media?

You can be anybody you want on social media, and that has it’s pros and cons.

I love that social media makes it easy to connect with people from all over the world who share mutual interests. Even when I connect with strangers, it’s fascinating to follow their journey and I get invested in their lives. I follow a lot of other artists and I love all the creativity and artistry I see on it as well. It’s crazy because social media is still a relatively new phenomenon, but now it’s like we can’t live without it.

I started modeling at a time when Instagram just came out, so learning how to use Instagram for the progression of my entertainment career has been new territory. Instagram is now the go-to social outlet for the fashion world. Speaking specifically about Instagram, there’s a reason research studies show it’s one of the most depressing social media outlets. It’s important to remember Instagram, and basically all social media, is the highlight reel. People very rarely advertise their problems or things going wrong in their lives. I think that’s one reason why people crave authenticity online so much today… because nothing online seems real. Sometimes things can really get in your head: the subliminal cations (which you’re unsure if your friend directed at you), why so and so unfollowed you or isn’t liking your pictures anymore, unhealthy comparison games, etc. I frequently take social media vacations when it gets too much. My goal is to have my social media completely externally managed one day, if I use it at all. Overall, I think social media is neither good nor bad – it’s your intent with it and how use you it.

Describe your personal style – Favorite Brands/Fragrance?!

Yves St. Laurent said “fashion fades, Style is eternal.” This is my style motto and I really believe it to be true. I’m not so much into heavy logos, busy prints or fashion of the moment. Timeless style is what I go for. I like to mix and match – maybe a designer top and pants from a thrift store. Sometimes you can find the best things at Walmart. A good fit is also very important.

I love a lot of brands and am grateful for every brand I get to work with. One brand I’m really into right now is Scotch & Soda. it’s contemporary, luxury, well-fitting and classic. My all-time favorite fragrance is Fierce by Abercrombie & Fitch. Crisp, light, young, familiar and masculine – you can’t go wrong. Their signature fragrance never goes out of style.

Describe yourself in 3 words:

Charming, sincere, fun.

Where are your roots – The best thing about/to do in your hometown?

I was born in Stamford, Connecticut and moved to Dallas, Texas when I was 3 years old. I was raised in Dallas and I have a lot of love for my hometown! Living in Dallas is becoming increasingly popular. The best thing about Dallas is probably the low cost of living, the people (with their friendly southern hospitality), the easy accessibility and all the good food! If there’s one thing Dallasites do well, it’s eating and drinking. Speaking of food, Dallas is known for its Tex-Mex and barbeque. Try margaritas and tacos on the patio at Gloria’s on a weekend for Tex-Mex or check out Lockhart’s Smokehouse or Pecan Lodge for some good BBQ! If you want to do something a bit more active, try going for a run on Katy Trail and cooling down with an ice-cold beverage at Katy Trail Ice House when you’re finished. In Fall, the State Fair is a lot of fun. Also, if you love hot weather, Dallas is the place for you.

Name one celebrity you’d like to get naughty with!

Pleading the 5th on this one!

Do you have any special Talents?

Acting. I was in the theatre program at USC and will be taking classes in the LA area again very soon. I’m excited to transition from modeling into acting. Lots in store!

What is the most interesting thing online at the moment?

ASMR videos on Youtube and deepfakes.

Photo Credits:

Jay Heatley

Mark Aquino

Matt Jordan

Jennee Johnson

Marco Bedford

Andrea Pascalau