It is the dream of many little girls to grow up and walk the fashion runways of Paris and New York. For one little girl her dream came true. Now as an adult and a returning national to Trinidad and Tobago, Lynette Austin can proudly say that she fulfilled her ambitions having migrated to the US as a teenager with her mother.
She vividly recalls as a Standard 3 pupil answering with a unique passion and purpose, when asked by her teacher what she wanted to be when she grew up, “My reply was a model and all the children in the class laughed at me. Today I have accomplished my goal after planting the seeds from that tender age,” Austin declares with satisfaction.
Back in the land of her birth, she has a burning ambition to give back to talented Trinbagonians interested in carving their own path in the international arena. She has begun exploring the opportunity of hosting a local television show where she can motivate and inspire young talented models and entertainers to excel internationally with her connections. To fulfil this goal, she has begun hosting beauty pageants for teens and young girls. She now spends most of her time as a hair stylist and make-up artist for adults.
Sitting across from me in the quiet coffee shop, Austin shows me her portfolio of photos that propelled her career to stardom. During which time the former beauty contestant (Miss T&T/Miss World) Miss Photogenic, has also been a cover model of Essence Magazine twice, a Cover Model of Fashion Magazine (Paris, France) and she also won a 10-year professional modelling contract with Carson Products, makers of Dark & Lovely where she competed against 60 other girls in the US.
“It all began when my aunts had fashion shows and asked me to model as a child. My grandmother was a seamstress, so everyone always wanted me to be a flower girl at their wedding. This is where I got my first taste of fashion and modelling,” she recalls with a smile.
For Austin this did not come without hard work. “I remember waking up at 4 am, getting on the subway and sliding my photos (over a thousand composite cards) under the doors of several advertising agencies. In this way, my picture would be the first one they saw when they opened their door as they arrive to work.”
She explains that after this process she returned home to wait on a call and soon the phones did in fact start ringing. “I worked with two or three agencies at a time, whether it was for runway (boutiques) or private fashion shows at showrooms such as Bob Mackie or pret-a-porter – (individual showrooms) at the Jacob Javits Center.” Austin worked with New York designers such as Calvin Klein, Willi Smith and Jeffrey Beene of Parson’s School of Design Fashion Show. And with Paris designers such as Kenzo, Nathalie Garcon, Patrick Kelly and Frank-Joseph Bastille where she worked in France for one year doing magazine editorials.
But this was not the genesis for Austin. “I remember getting off the subway and people would give me their business cards to model in their shows. Then one day a co-worker at the bank was stunned by my height when I ascended from my cubicle. She introduced me to Reggie Wells who is a well-known make-up artist that works with celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and the rest as they say is history,” she shares. She was a natural and Wells introduced her to agents where she followed up to ensure that her photos got into the right hands.
It was the advice of her mother (now deceased) that led her to pursue a degree in Marketing Communications from Berkeley College (NY) and later a certificate in Fashion from NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). The passionate island girl did not stop there and soon became a NYC licensed real estate agent, a profession she still practices today back home. In NY she held positions at the bank and local law firms and did her modelling on the side until it blossomed into a full time career.
In 1995 she launched her line of Lynette Austin Cosmetics which lasted until the events of 9/11 when sales started to decline. For a few years she also operated two beauty salons in Brooklyn and Chaguanas, Trinidad until she was forced to close.
After living abroad for many years, Lynette Austin is ‘trini to the bone’ and says Trinidad and Tobago will always feel like home to her. However, when asked about adapting to life here, this was her advice.
“The pace is definitely different. I realized people seem to be going in slow motion: simple transactions at the banks and supermarkets take an hour when it shouldn’t. Customer Service is also another area we need to work on because it makes the consumer feel unimportant as if they are begging when they are paying their hard earned dollars. The roads have improved over the years but there are too many open drains and it hurts my heart to see children leaping over them on their way to and from school.
There’s also a lot of land in San Fernando especially that can be used for the construction of hotels, airports and even an Olympic sized stadium. My advice is that if each citizen does their very best and occupies their time whether it’s plumbing, electrical or some other form of entrepreneurship – to be productive, ambitious, learn as much as they can to explore their dreams instead of blaming each government and making excuses, then we can truly, collectively make T&T a much better place to live peacefully and happily.”
You may be asking what is the formula to Austin’s success. “I always sit and talk to myself in front of the mirror. I talk to myself when I am angry and when I am sad. I compartmentalize different areas of my life to always find that balance to stay focussed on my goals.” For more info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Carolyn K. Correia is the author of Thinking out Loud, How To Find Yourself and Claim What’s Yours and she missed the boat on love. She is also a communications consultant, freelance writer, blogger and motivational speaker. Learn more here www.carolyncorreia.com or stay updated on Facebook –CarolynCorreiaAuthor.