Carmen Szukaitis never intended to become a model.
Yet only a year and a half after taking the plunge, the 21-year-old Ohio University journalism major scored a spot on Here TV’s docuseries “Road to the Runway,” premiering August 5.
The show follows 20 trans models from their hometowns across the country to Los Angeles as they compete in this year’s Slay Model search. The show will be a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what it takes to walk a runway, while also giving viewers a glimpse of each model’s hometown to discover their roots and what shaped them.
The Buckeye Flame talked to Szukaitis about her career goals, her meteoric rise to modeling success and the upcoming show.
What was life like growing up in Ohio?
I was born in Tennessee and my family moved us to Wooster when I was a year old, where I lived until I moved away to go to college in Athens. Life was normal for me, and then I came out as trans going into eighth grade. I then started socially transitioning the second semester of my freshman year [of high school]. That was a journey in itself, just dealing with all of the people.
One thing I remember, when I started coming out to everyone, everyone was like, “Wow, Carmen, you are so brave for coming out and just doing that.” In the moment, I never really felt brave. I was just like, “Oh, I’m just trying to be my most authentic self and live as I want to live.” But looking back, I do realize how brave I was, especially in Wooster, which is very much a conservative town.
How did you become a model?
I’ve never really had a dream to become a model, but growing up as a tall female in high school — I’m 6’1 — everyone would always stop me when I used to work at a grocery store and say, “Wow, you’re so tall, what are you doing working here, you should become a model.” I would come home and tell my mom and she was like, “Well, you should go do that.”
I just sort of wanted to try it out. So I applied to a bunch of modeling agencies and got that gig with Slay and pursued that avenue and realized that I really do like it. I do like being in front of a camera and walking and showing myself, because it’s just really empowering and powerful. It makes me feel super confident in myself. I would love to continue pursuing modeling. But also I’m really open to anything. I’m still working on my degree. So I’m going to continue that and finish in the next year and a half. After that, I don’t know what’s in store for me. If journalism is what I end up pursuing, I’m fine with that. But if opportunities arise with modeling, then I would love to also pursue that.
How did you get involved with “Road to the Runway” and what can viewers expect from it?
It was October 2021 and I was up late applying to a bunch of modeling agencies. I applied to Slay and then a month later I got an Instagram DM asking for more headshots. It was January 2022, when I got an email from Cece Asuncion, the owner of Slay, asking if I would do a Zoom with him. So I did the Zoom not really expecting too much. I had no expectations going into it. I didn’t know that this was about the competition “Road to the Runway.”
In the call, he was like, “You’re in my top 30 to participate in this competition.” By the end of the call, he was like, “Okay, you’re in my top 20 to participate, and you’re coming to LA and doing the competition.” And I’m like, “Oh, okay, I was not expecting that, but that’s amazing!” I’m really all about experiencing new things and just living life to the greatest I can possibly live it. So I was like, yeah, I’m gonna do this and just go for it, for the experience and see what happens. You’re gonna see our experience going out to LA and getting photoshoots done and doing these runway classes. And then you’re going to see all of us girls go on the runway and walk in our different outfits.
What was the biggest highlight for you while filming the show?
I would say the biggest highlight for me was being able to meet all of these trans women who had super-similar experiences to mine, and just being able to connect to them on a really deep level. Because I don’t get that every day. I don’t get to meet a bunch of beautiful trans women who are very similar to myself and feel very empowered and solidified in a group of individuals who are just like me.
- Check out “Road to the Runway” when it premieres on August 5 on Here TV.
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