The Phenom That Is Celai West
by Aida Toro
Celai West is indeed the definition of slay...all the way from her style to the way she converses. At only 11 years old, she is making it big in the fashion and acting industries, social media, and so much more.
It all began for West at a skating rink when a random guy said he’d love to do a photoshoot of her. She proceeded with the photoshoot and fell in love with being in front of the camera. After this, West began her career with print modeling, following with runway shows, and the rest is history. She even made some changes in the industry standards when she was the youngest model to walk the runway on an all-adult lineup in New York Fashion Week (NYFW), at only ten years old.
This past September West was told that she was going to be the youngest show producer for a NYFW show.
“I had to tell the guys where and how to set up the runway, which was new for me,” said West. “I mean, it was kind of strange being the boss of adults but mom kept encouraging me to speak up, so it was done right.”
For this specific show, West said a bunch of impeccable designers and public figures like Nicki Minaj’s mother, attended. Producing this show was more than she thought it would be, which was an experience of a lifetime for her because now she knows what it takes to produce a NYFW show.
Celai is also the Runway Coordinator for The Industry Fashion Show, a production company that produces fashion events, conventions, expositions, as well as fashion presentations throughout Fashion Week. She earned this role due to her being super particular about how the runway was set up when she did a show in Las Vegas or Tampa. As a coordinator, West is in charge of setting up the runway and chairs to make sure everything is centered and lined up properly.
“One time we had a surprise birthday party for my grandma and I had to help decorate the tables and I wanted to do them all myself,” she said. “I just don’t like when things aren’t aligned perfectly or set up correctly so it’s like the perfect job for me and I love it!”
As a very detail-oriented young lady, West makes the perfect entrepreneur. She started her t-shirt line, The Chatty Chick, at the age of seven. The name was inspired by West being a little chatterbox as a kid. At first, the main objective was for the line to cater to girls who had hair just like West. As many know, West has one of the most beautiful afros in the world, which she rocks with style and grace.
“I would get so many messages from parents about how their daughters hated their hair until they had seen some of my pictures,” she said.
When The Chatty Chick launched the ‘I’d be jealous of my hair too’, t-shirt, West started seeing people with all kinds of hair wear it. Girls who had red hair, dreads, blonde hair with curls, and even boys. The Chatty Chick now includes t-shirts that don’t have anything to do with hair, which can be for the whole family to wear. Of course, they are all inspired by Celai.
Aside from spreading a message with her t-shirt company, West wants to help create a space where women are respected, especially those with the same type of hair she has.
“When I’m on set most times, hairstylists don’t know how to work with my hair texture, and if it ends up getting crazy, I feel I won’t get booked again,” she said. “I just don’t see many models or actresses with hair like mine on TV or in ads at the mall.”
This is a challenge West faces throughout her career from time to time, which she tackled by doing hair tutorials with her mother in order to show how versatile hair like hers can be. She said the tutorials she and her mother create are teaching viewers how easy it is to learn about ethnic textures.
Another challenge she tackles is on the runway due to the fact that she cannot find designers to work with at times.
“I mean, I can’t just walk into an adult casting call because I’m not tall enough,” said West. “Instead, I have to rely on the exposure I get from social media to get designers to reach out and book me directly.”
Overall, West has walked for very prominent designers and is very satisfied with it.
Last but not least, West is an actress that has starred in some phenomenal pieces. The last film she did was called “I Am My Own Mother”, which actually made it to the Cannes Film Festival in 2018. She was also in movies: “Redress”, “The Statue”, and “Muppo Invaders”.
“My favorite was definitely when I played a nose picker in ‘The Statue’ because I had to practice so I didn't get grossed out and then after I dug in my nose, I had to chase a girl and try to touch her with that finger,” said Celai while she giggled.
Although West is already an entrepreneur, fashionista, actress, and so much more, she wants to go to college to study Science and Fashion Design. At home, she loves mixing products around and creating formulations for hair products. Not to mention that she is also quite the expert at hacking through her parent monitoring applications. In this case, she is looking forward to taking some science and coding classes to explore in a more controlled environment.