This article was first published on The Caribbean Current magazine on April 21, 2017. I met Lynette last year around this time and I am happy to share her story on my blog.
It is the dream of many little girls to grow up and strut the fashion runways of Paris and New York. For one little girl, her dream came true.
As an adult and returning national of Trinidad and Tobago, Lynette Austin can proudly say that she has fulfilled her ambitions after migrating to the US as a teenager with her mother.
In her mind’s eye, she vividly recalls declaring with a unique passion and purpose what she wanted to be when she grew up when asked by her teacher as a Standard 3 pupil:
“My reply was a model and all the children in my class laughed at me. Today, I have accomplished my goal after planting the seeds from that tender age.”
Back on home soil, for a few years Lynette has had a burning desire to return the knowledge and experience she gained in the international arena to those interested in making waves in the industry.
She started by hosting beauty pageants for young women and met with key persons in the local media industry in an effort to begin hosting a television show.
It is her earnest wish to use her experiences and connections to motivate and inspire young talented models and entertainers to excel in the global context.
However, many returning nationals share that penetrating the market is especially difficult for many reasons. Lynette says that she keeps herself current by attending local events and using her other skills 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 and I am blown away…
The beauty contestant for Miss T&T, Miss World and Miss Photogenic, further illuminated Trinidad & Tobago’s place on the map as:
A cover model of Essence Magazine not once, but twice,
- A cover model of Fashion Magazine (Paris, France) and
- Winning a 10-year professional modelling contract with Carson Products, the creators of Dark & Lovely, where she competed against 60 other girls in the US.
How it all began…
“My aunts hosted 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,” her eyes light up as she recalls the memory.
Hard work indeed pays off
“I remember waking up at 4 am, getting on the subway and sliding my photos (over a thousand composite [comp] cards) under the doors of several advertising agencies. It had to be this early, so my picture would be the first one they saw when they opened their door as they arrived at work.”
She then returned home to wait on a call and soon her phone indeed started to ring!
“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.”
She worked with top international designers
Austin worked with New York designers such as: Calvin Klein, Willi Smith and Jeffrey Beene of Parson’s School of Design Fashion Show.
And Paris designers such as: Kenzo, Nathalie Garcon, Patrick Kelly and Frank-Joseph Bastille, when she worked in France for one year doing magazine editorials.
Modelling was in the stars for Austin for a long time…
“I remember getting off the subway and strangers handing me their business cards to contact them, so I can model in their shows.
Then one day a co-worker at the bank where I worked 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. The rest as they say is history,” she shares.
Lynette was a natural and Wells introduced her to agents where she followed up to ensure that her photos got into the right hands.
She also had the qualifications to complement her talent
Upon the advice of her mother (RIP), Lynette was led to pursue a certificate in Fashion from NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and later a degree in Marketing Communications from Berkeley College (NY).
The passionate island girl did not stop there and soon became a NYC licensed real estate agent, a profession she still practices today. In New York, she held positions at the bank and law firms. She continued to model in her spare time, until it blossomed into a full time career.
The model was also a savvy business woman…
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.
Underneath it all, this ‘Trini-to-the-bone’ girl’s wish for TnT is:
“Trinidad and Tobago will always feel like home to me, but adapting to life here was somewhat challenging.”
When asked why, these were her thoughts and suggestions for improvement:
“The pace here 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 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 underutilized land in San Fernando and many rural areas, that can be used for the construction of hotels, airports and even an Olympic sized-stadium.
My advice is that each citizen utilize their time whether it’s plumbing, electrical or some other form of entrepreneurship – to be productive, ambitious and learn as much as they can. In this way, they can explore their dreams, instead of blaming each government and making excuses.
It is only then we can truly, collectively make T&T a better place to live peacefully, harmoniously and happily.”
What’s the formula to Austin’s success you ask?
“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 focused on my goals.”
For more info, you can contact Ms. Lynette Austin via: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you or someone you know has an interesting story and would like it told, kindly email email@example.com for more information.