Meeting up with Meri J: A Peek into a Young Model’s Rise to the Top

When I sat down to write my first online feature for MOD Magazine, it was a no-brainer who I wanted to interview. I’ve been following LA Model’s Meredith Vancuyk online for nearly two years now, and have watched her grow in so many creative and personal ways. From a small-town Ohio girl to a big-city fashion model, Meri has remained the same passionate, down-to-earth, and caring person we all know her as. I’ve been drawn to her humble personality and crazy success in the fashion industry since I first hit that “follow” button, and was so honored when she agreed to this interview.

So take a seat, grab a snack, and delve into Meredith’s cat-filled, high fashion world with me!

model monday
Oscar Malo (IG: @malofx)

To start off my interview with Meri I kept it simple – I wanted to know a bit about her life growing up in Ohio, what drove her to start a career in modeling, and a brief overview of her life story. These were my questions:

A: Where are you originally from and what’s the best thing about your hometown?

M: I’m from Columbus, Ohio and the best thing about Cbus is the atmosphere. I think it’s so young- adult friendly, it really has everything a young person needs to grow and flourish. It is huge on music and the arts, has a huge dedication and a pride around sports (GO BUCKEYES!!!), and it is developing fast, yet not too intensely. I also love that it is so versatile.

Yes, I’m from Columbus, the capital city of Ohio, but I grew up about fifteen minutes from the city, where it is rural and beautiful. I could drive five minutes and be in the country. I grew up surrounded by the city and the countryside, and that’s something that really molded me into the person I am today.

A: What drove you to make the big move to L.A. and what’s it like living on the West coast?

M: I was a nationally signed model and didn’t want to waste time in my contracts. Why be a model if I wouldn’t go to where the work was and where I was signed? I wanted to experience model life and take advantage of my potential.

A: Who is your biggest inspiration career-wise and why?

M: Marjan Jonkman. Man oh man, she’s a different being. She doesn’t give a damn about how she comes off; she literally does and posts whatever she wants. She has this energy around her that is indescribable. Her clients and her work are unbelievable. I aim to work with a number of her clients and have even worked with a few, such as Fendi! She has an incredible editorial, funky style that I LOVE and her runway presence is outstanding.

A: What inspired you to want to model, and what’s your favorite thing about being a part of the modeling industry?

M: Making and becoming art. Art, to me, is anything that creates emotion. It is a beautiful thing. I just want to create and express beautiful and different art, to have someone look at my art and feel something, to relate it to their own life and their own circumstances.

A: Describe your personal style in three words.

M: My style is honestly a day-to-day thing. It is fluid and always changing, it’s weird, it stands out, and it’s fun!

A: What type of modeling is your favorite? Do you prefer to own the catwalk or light up the studio?

M: Editorial and artistic! I loooove the runway because you can create such a mood and feel depending on your walk, the music, the tempo and strength of your steps, the design, etc.

A: What advice do you have for other young aspiring models looking to work in the fashion industry?

M: It is harder than it looks, and it is not all glam. It takes guts and thick skin, it’s expensive, and you have to be willing to give up everything and make this your life. It is a full time, 24/7 lifestyle you’re stepping into. Everything you do/don’t do will directly affect you and your career.

model monday
Rudy Bonifaz (@rudybonifazphotography), MUA: Meeks (@meekkyle)

Now, this is where I went a little deeper and changed the tone of our interview. Since the beginning, Meredith has been an advocate for self –love, health, and wellness – really loving your body where it is but also striving to be the healthiest version of yourself. She recently underwent an incredible physical transformation, and posts daily about her health and nutrition goals. I wanted to go deeper into her mission as a health advocate, and asked her a few questions about her journey:

A: Anyone who follows you on social media knows you’ve had quite a health and fitness journey in the last year – tell us more about this.

M: It is quite a long story, so I’ll sum it up a bit. I was a nationally signed plus size model and moved to LA to work. I became quite sick and eliminated anything from my eating habits that I thought could be harming my body, and I started a new workout routine. Well, I ended up being so sick from the LA water, but I was feeling a bit better with my new eating habits and lifestyle, so I kept up with it.

I was dropped from all my agencies nationwide, as I was not a marketable size anymore. I worked my damned hardest to stay consistent with my lifestyle and I was turning into the strongest and healthiest version of myself, mentally and physically. I normalized at a standard model size and am now signed nationally and working internationally as a standard size print, commercial, and runway model. I am a HUGE advocate for being the strongest and healthiest version of yourself, wherever your body naturally normalizes, and flourishing, growing, and treating your body with the respect it deserves every single day.

A: What would you say is the most important aspect of a successful health and wellness plan?

M: Taking responsibility and accountability for your day-to-day actions. It is all about mindset and taking advantage of your circumstances. I have the same resources everyone else has- an alarm clock, a car, a fridge, a pair of tennis shoes, and at least one hour of free time a day. I wake up at 4-4:30 almost every morning to take advantage of that free time to work out, I use my car to drive to and from the gym, I use my fridge to stock up on fresh, whole, and natural foods, I have tennis shoes I put on to work my body, I am a full time working print and runway model and actress and I also have 4-5 side jobs/companies I constantly work with. I am booked AM to PM all day every day, but I make the time to work my body and treat it with respect, because my body is important to me.

A: You’re a big advocate on loving your body and treating it well – what are your top tips for doing this on a daily basis?

M: You are only given one body so you have to treat it with respect! Research and find eating habits and workout routines that you love. If you do not love your lifestyle you won’t be able to sustain it. Move your body in some way every day. There are SO many ways to do this, and trust me, your body is begging to get moving and will thank you for doing it. Put good stuff into your body, nourish it, and help it flourish. You treat and love yourself by showing yourself the respect you deserve.

Tokich Photography (@tokichphotography), MUA: Alaina (@a_dmakeup)

A: Where do you find your inspiration to get up and go every morning, and what’s your favorite way to get moving?

M:  Inspiration comes simply from knowing that I love my lifestyle and I have created one that I am excited to flourish in – everyone deserves this! I recently heard that, “your resolve, discipline, and motivation will all snowball based on your day-to-day decisions.” This is the exact message I try to preach. Be so consistent that your motivation for your decisions snowballs to the point where “just showing up”, in any aspect of your life, becomes effortless. Hard work becomes effortless, discipline, feeling motivated or inspired, taking care of tedious necessities, finding joy in everyday life becomes effortless. Your mind is a HUGE snowball effect. Negativity will roll into greater negativity; distractions will roll into greater distractions. Keep yourself centered and focused, and keep your snowball positive.

A: What are some healthy habits you practice daily outside of diet and exercise?

M: Knowing everything happens for a reason and not stressing over what I cannot control. Also always putting the most effort into everything I do, but understanding and keeping in mind the circumstances.

Stopping here to pause and take in the wisdom Meri was laying down, I decided to end our interview with some fun-filled favorites:

A: What is your favorite guilty pleasure? 

M: Disney! Guilty? I don’t know about that but I love Disney.

A: What is your favorite animal?

M: I love gorillas and every single cat and kitten on the planet.

A: What is your favorite color?

M:  My two favorite colors are light pink and hunter green

A: What is your favorite place to get away?

M: Art museums and bookstores!

A: What is your favorite way to end the day?

M: I try to end my day on a positive note. I do that by wrapping up any work I have left for the day, getting in a killer working out session, or something more relaxing like journaling, reading, listening to music, prepping for the next day, etc.

I try to make sure that I end my day in a way that will benefit my tomorrow.

Written by: Ashley Dawson
Author IG: @Lapin_Studios

Photo: Natalie Harrison
(IG: @moonfirephoto)

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