History in the Making: The Jaquana Washington Story


When you think of Black History Month, what idols do you relate it to? Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Hank Aaron, Harriett Tubman, Ruby Bridges? So many influential figures come to mind. Now think locally, who do you know from your own neighborhood that paved the way for others to run? It’s easy to idolize the image of a worldwide peacemaker, pivotal activist, lyrical heroine, home run hero, groundbreaking pioneer, or courageous trailblazer but rarely do we recognize the incredible people right here at home. The ones that you’ve grown up with who are making history as you read. Your connection to well-known leaders is shared through the words of hundred-year-old memoirs and the eyes of your elders but immerses through distance and fame. Roots are planted with culture but unfortunately time doesn’t permit you to dwell deeper than what you already know. However, you have today, and gracious change has given you the chance to take advantage of it by providing yourself with positive opportunities to make a difference for you and your heritage, for years and years to come. Which is precisely what our friend and neighbor, Jaquana Washington, is doing. As a Swainsboro native, she’s a familiar face that’s shared some of the same humble upbringings as we have. Unlike her though, we aren’t putting our little town on the map while embracing life as a model and actress. A dream that she gets to live out in real time, all thanks to Dorothea Towles and Dorothy Jean Dandridge. Strangers to us, but two iconic trendsetters that walked so little girls with diversity and big Hollywood dreams could run. “Being that I’m from a small town where there’s not as many opportunities, I always knew that I wanted to pursue something more and become a model or actress. Because I didn’t come from a lot, I always wanted the best for myself, and I wasn’t going to settle until I got there.” Despite her adverse circumstances she obtained positive stability after graduating, confidently stating that she simply laid out her plan and executed it. “My first shoot was with Jarrette Demetre. A photographer from Atlanta that has now taken his talent to New York City. I met and became friends with him while in college and he asked me to model for his clothing brand, “Legendary”. During the shoot I was nervous, but he made sure that I was comfortable the whole time which made it a great experience. I learned a lot about how to properly pose and use different facial expressions for the aesthetic that each shoot is trying to achieve.” She continued. “After that point I built my own content by networking with different photographers whose work displayed what type of modeling that I wanted to pursue. I then began promoting myself on Instagram and people started reaching out to me from there.” Since that moment, Jaquana has been hired for many glamorous jobs. Known for always sharing a dose of serotonin through her contagious smile with the Swainsboro High School class of 2013, people around the world are now becoming familiar with that same addictive smile too. Making the cover of Vogue and Calvin Klein billboards her office space while also appearing in many other outstanding beauty and fashion magazines, most recently Liquid Magazine. “I actually just shot for liquid magazine and have many more that’s currently in the works as we speak.” Her most substantial modeling projects to date are major cosmetic lines. “I did the hair campaign for L’Oréal’s TruMatch two years ago and have also been featured by Fenty Beauty twice with their cosmetic line, which was super epic for me!” Other brands that she’s worked with include, Caliche, Hairfinity, MissyHairBoutique, Ustawi and many more. But her incredible journey doesn’t end there. Jaquana has also appeared in many shows, movies and music videos. “I started out my acting career as being an extra on a pilot tv show. I’ve been networking since then which has led to many other opportunities that I’m grateful for.” A professional achievement that has completely paid off. Providing her with the ultimate VIP access to work alongside some of the world's most renowned stars. “I’ve appeared in Bad Boys 3, A Madea Homecoming, Ruthless, Sista’s, Greenleaf, Ambitious, Bigger, and many more. My entire acting experience has been great to me. I’ve met plenty of phenomenal people on set, but my favorite memory throughout this journey is when I got to meet Tyler Perry and Will Smith. They are both two very incredible and humble individuals who represent black excellence very well.” A significant moment in her life is when she was approached by one of her childhood idols who commended her for her dazzling demeanor and talent. “Something that I’ll never forget is when Tyler Perry walked up to me while on set and complimented me on my beauty and work, which led me to obtaining many different roles for his shows.” Not limiting her starstruck abilities, she was also featured in two music videos, most notably 21 Savages, “A Lot”. Literally realizing her place at the table as the song is centered around a family’s last dinner together, with her being a main character at this gathering. “It was the first music video that I had ever been in. I had a major role in this video which was super dope!” The narrative is a bittersweet message about the baggage that loved ones secretly carry while still making it clear that living in the moment is what’s most important. A message that Jaquana didn’t have to read a script for, in order to learn. As she truly soaks up every beaming opportunity to live in the sunshine and dance in the rain. “From staying at the Atlanta Bubble, to catching every food truck, to riding bicycles, being a guest at the super bowl party, meeting Tyler Perry, and catching myself on Sista’s season 3. Every experience, big and small, has been unbelievable.” What started as a dream, led to the successes of many African American entrepreneurs and innovators, including our own, Jaquana Washington. She’s leaving her mark on society while representing the place we call home and never ceasing until her name is written in the stars. “When I started out, I wasn’t signed to anyone. I did all the work on my own which led me to getting signed with Miles Models in Atlanta. I’m currently working on some campaigns with different brands, and I’ll also be filming for All the Kings Men this week. My next goal is to sign with an agency in Los Angeles or New York City. I plan to relocate there to start my new journey. I’m also looking into becoming a real estate agent for leverage. “Although living the life of fame seems magnificent, Jaquana says that she’s still had to learn how to make the most out of the inevitable storms of life and determine how to respond to those disruptions. “The profession of a model isn’t what the masses assume. It’s very stressful at times, because you deal with sexual harassment, stolen wages, and imbalanced power struggles with agencies and brands. People have taken advantage of me because of my small-town background and race. It truly has to be a passion for anyone that’s pursuing it. There will be times where you will have unstable incomes, face adversity, barely eat, experience depression or the feeling of self-doubt due to being undervalued. But if you want to be in this industry, you must be tough because even while you’re facing unexpected difficulties, you still must be a professional social butterfly. Something that can be very difficult if you’re an introvert.” She also states that she’s dealt with a large amount of criticism for several reasons but the key to happiness is always being yourself unapologetically. “I’ve learned to just do what I love to do and not worry about what other people think, because if I did, I’d never be happy.” Through it all she’s maintained her rosy outlook and hopes to inspire other children who have big dreams to reach for the moon and encourage women of all backgrounds to realize that their value is limitless. “My advice to the little girls who choose to be the models or actresses while playing pretend, is to carry that same attitude into adulthood. Believe in yourself. Tune out any negativity and make sure that this is something that you’re willing to put the effort in to do and know that you are capable of whatever you set your mind too! Imagination is only the beginning of your destiny. To those who lack confidence, do some inner reflecting and heal yourself from any past traumas. Recognize who your true friends are and separate yourself from any negativity or dating scenes that may be harboring you from reaching your full potential. Discover what makes you happy overall and run towards that. Learn how to use positive affirmations, eliminate self-criticism, set boundaries, and introduce self-compassion into your daily routine. You are always worth more than you realize.” She hopes to inspire others to make a name for themselves but never forget where they come from. “My life has changed for me in so many good ways because I’m doing what I love to do. Sometimes it seems so surreal seeing your face everywhere, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” Painting a mental image of a superstar isn’t difficult to do, what’s uncommon is visualizing that person as being someone you personally know and have a shared history with. For the world, Jaquana is becoming someone, for Emanuel County; she already is someone.