International Model Emily Williams


Everybody knows that international models are divas. Right? Stuck up and selfish and hard to get along with. And full-time party animals. We’ve seen those stereotypes and more. Right?

Uh. Wrong.

The young woman modeling clothes, signing autographs, and chatting with everybody at the recent reopening of the Goodwill store in Mabank is, indeed, an international model. Beyond being tall and pretty, she doesn’t fit any of those stereotypes.

In fact, she usually rides her bicycle to this Goodwill store, which is close to her home; the bike’s basket holds two rescued puppies that will soon be too big to fit.

Nope, Emily Williams isn’t into stereotypes.

“Modeling can be hectic, and people have ideas about who you are,” Emily said just before her volunteer gig at the Mabank Goodwill.

“I appreciate small-town values. Here, I’m just Emily.”

One of her favorite quotations on Emily’s Facebook page comes from Virginia Satir, a psychotherapist and author who was regarded as the mother of family therapy: “We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.”

Another, from comic-philosopher Lily Tomlin: “The trouble with being in the rat race is, even if you win you’re still a rat.”

The next working day after her Goodwill gig, Emily was in San Antonio doing a shoot for a JCPenney campaign. The self-proclaimed tomboy began modeling at the age of 14 after friends told her that’s what she should be doing and industry folks agreed. She was working in New York City at 15 and in Europe at 17, spending a year and a half with her mom and sister in Milan -— traditionally the fashion capitol of the world — before moving back to Mabank.

“This is home,” she said. “I fly out for jobs.”

Emily, who is now 25, grew up in a house built in the 1920s and loves the open spaces, the land, camping, and gardening. She loves that her family — her sister, parents, grandparents, cousins — is nearby and is actively involved in the community, and that she can help her husband — her boyfriend since she was 14 — work on cars.

“I love going on walks and bike rides,” she said. “I love all kinds of flowers. I love to go to Lowe’s and Groom’s and go to the half-off rack for flowers that they are going to throw away, and I like to revive them so they thrive in my yard.”

Emily calls it “thrifting.”

“I’m a money saver. I like to buy stuff that’s half price or less.”

She also has a love affair with Goodwill that goes beyond price.

“I love the values of Goodwill, helping people who’ve come through hard times. I love the people. I love coming in and talking to people. It’s fellowship time for me. I like people who’ve been through struggles and are helping themselves. It makes me feel better to give. I admire Goodwill as a company, and for its eco-friendly qualities. I love going to different cities and going to the Goodwills and getting different pieces that are unique to those cities. If I’m in South Beach, I’m going to find flowy beach skirts and fun swimsuits and beach hats and all that sort of stuff.”

Emily mixes and matches the Goodwill clothes to create her own style, sometimes as simple as pulling a long skirt up onto her 5-foot-9-inch body and using a belt to turn the skirt into a dress, which she did at the reopening.

The outfits she modeled that day all came in at less than $15, including shoes and accessories.

Emily’s childhood wasn’t typical, except for the loving family.

She quit school in third grade, dropping out to drop into the “un-schooling” movement.

Un-schooling is, with a bit of parental help, learning what you want to learn.

“I had no formal schooling, no curriculum, no tests. I withdrew in the third grade and chose what I wanted to learn. I taught myself. My parents acted as facilitators instead of teachers. For instance, when I was 14, I wanted to work at a health-care store, so mom and I worked there and, incidentally, I learned math, I learned people skills, I learned healing methods.”

Later in that teen year, Emily bowed to friends’ insistence.

“I grew up tall and skinny and everyone would always tell me, ‘Oh you should be a model!’ I was a tomboy and never really saw myself as a model, but I decided to go to an open call and they loved me. After I was selected, I went to a modeling camp which was really fun. It was where I learned all my modeling skills and learned how to show life in your eyes and imagining the role you want to portray. That’s what really stuck with me: to visualize whatever I’m going for, whether it’s happy, mysterious, or sexy. You have to get into character and not just move your body.”

Emily takes care of herself and her image – one art director told her, “You really aren’t the girl that shows up for two hours that you forget about 10 minutes after you walk out the door. You have a great spirit” – by eating right, doing yoga and meditating, and nurturing her spiritual life.

“I love dancing. I’ll dance for an hour straight just to move and have fun. Sometimes I’ll have my own personal dance parties. If you have a positive attitude, you’ll have positive results,” she said.

“I try to work a lot on my inner structure which I feel, in turn, reflects on my outer structure,” she said. “I see a lot of men and women in the industry who don’t so much love themselves. You can see it in their photographs; their images don’t say ‘I love myself,’ they say ‘Love me!’ Loving yourself and surrounding yourself with people who love and support you is something that’s very important to me, very dear to my heart.

“We see our lives as a beautiful journey filled with beauty and wonder and we are never alone,” Emily once wrote of her family. “I love reaching out to people who are inner connected and deeply happy, filled with self love and love for their brother and sister. Metaphysics, quantum theories, and new ideas excite me. This life is so full of opportunity to learn and grow.”

That doesn’t sound like a diva at all.

Which reminds again of the Virginia Satir quotation: “We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.”

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