If there is one thing that Melissa Vanessa Guy hopes to show the fashion world, it is that the Rio Grande Valley can be “fierce.”
Guy, 24, started Runway Eleven School of Modeling in Harlingen almost a year ago after seeing a niche market to teach aspiring models in the Valley about not only how to walk a runway and pose, but about the fashion business and history, how to create a portfolio and about professionalism in the industry.
“When I came back here I saw there was a need to provide more to people interested in becoming models than just what one might learn for pageants, like walking and posing,” Guy said.
Guy, a model herself, got her start as a model for Melrose clothing store after being discovered by their lead photographer shopping in the Walmart in her hometown of Weslaco.
“At first I thought it was a joke,” Guy said. “I played sports and was a tomboy. But after my brother signed me up, I worked with Melrose as a model.”
After modeling for Melrose, Guy also worked modeling for a designer in Acapulco and Elite Magazine.
She eventually landed a job working for Betsey Johnson, a New York designer, running the outlet in Mercedes, where she learned a lot about the business and styling side of fashion. The company also honored her with the Pink Spotlight for her talent as a stylist.
“This is where I learned a lot about fashion,” she said. “Betsey Johnson is an amazing designer and I was so happy to be able to work with those who were close to her. They taught me so much. I was there for four years.”
Guy was even eyed by Victoria’s Secret at around that time, as well. However, she decided she wanted to start a family with her husband Roel Murad, with whom she has two children, Achilles, 9, and Azura 3.
“My children and family are my life and when I am not (at Runway Eleven) I am spending time with my family,” she said. “My kids are number one. They, along with my family and my in-laws, have supported me so much through all of this.”
Guy said it is not uncommon for makeup artists, photographers, designers and hairstylists to attend classes at Runway Eleven. She said one of her other goals is to bring out and connect all parts of the fashion industry in the Valley in an effort to drive the local art and fashion business.
“There is so much talent here. What I hope to help do is to bring the unique and one-of-a-kind options in fashion that New York City has, here.” Guy said. “I like to use the analogy of why buy frozen vegetables, when you can buy fresh? Here people buy from department stores that offer the same clothes everywhere, its not unique. Why go to a department store when there are local designers who can create a wardrobe or dress for you?
“Having a place to pull that talent is a part of doing that,” she said.