Name: Eugena Washington
Agency: InnovativeArtists NY l LA
Claim to Fame: Eugena stole our hearts with her supple skin and sharp cheekbones in cycle seven of America’s Next Top Model. Since then she has stayed in the spotlight appearing on Time Squares billboards, soap operas, and even won Playmate of the Year.
Type ‘Eugena Washington 2016’ into Google and you’ll find them: Crisp images of a Brown skinned beauty beaming beside one of the most controversial figures in American history, flanked by others of her striking a sexy pose beside a cream convertible quickly fill up the white space. With shining skin and radiant, raven hued hair, she is confident, she is beautiful, she is Playmate of the Year. She is also deeply unhappy.
“The thing about modeling is that it’s completely superficial,” she told Hello Beautiful in an exclusive Interview.
“It’s the only job the only career that’s completely superficial based on what you look like. Based on what you look like, they can tell you yes or no. With that being said you can be the most perfect, the most amazing, you can be at your very best and then you’ll get ‘Nos’ all around just because.”
She admitted that the constant rejection and the “toxic” culture upheld by less than ethical people impacted her greatly.
“When I first started modeling I told myself that I would only do this until it made me feel bad about myself, like I didn’t want to do it if it was going to be something that was going to lower my self-esteem, lower my self-worth, and make me feel bad about myself you know, and ultimately start making you hate yourself. As I went on modeling it slowly started to do that.” The only solution to feeling like the industry was in control of her self-worth was proving to herself that she was strong enough to walk away from it.
“I took about a year off in 2017 to really just reconnect with myself and silence all the noise. I really had to stop and take some time off and recover myself and decide to decide that I’m great regardless. Like that’s the choice that you have to make. So for me now, it’s about knowing who I am, getting in touch with who I am, and deciding that I am amazing regardless of what anybody thinks.”
Modeling afforded Washington many opportunities including the chance to travel to Barcelona and Cape Town, which she described as “the most majestic place I have ever been to in my life,” but she wasn’t prepared to make her entire life about the profession. Washington opted to return to the modeling industry but on terms that satisfied her ambitions beyond the runway.
“I definitely want to get married and have a family. For a long time I felt that I couldn’t do that because you’ll gain weight and it will be hard to match your measurements.” Nevertheless, the industry is changing. Model Chanel Iman has had a child and a successful career while Slick Woods literally went into labor while backstage at the Fenty x Savage show in 2019. Models as moms are becoming more of a norm and less of a phenomenon or sign of a career ending.
“When I realized that I have control of my life and I can decide what I want and everything will fall into place anyway, I gave myself permission to have those dreams and goals outside of my profession,” Washington shared. The joy in her voice is evident as she speaks about the possibilities of living without restriction. “I just want to have fun! I want to have a fun life outside of business all the time and working and obligations.”
She chose to work with people that fit her career and personal goals instead of contorting herself into the industry mold. “I chose them because they work with me, they believe in me and that they push me and that’s what it takes to be successful somebody who believes in you and pushes you and wants to work with you. Like all the names and hype and stuff, you could be sitting IMG’s board and not doing shit because they don’t believe in you.” She was selective when she opted to step back in front of the camera.
“I’ve been modeling ever since the show, I’ve been through so many agencies girl it’s just about who works for you and who works with you. Each agency looks for something different and if we’re honest we’re just dealing with people,” she added. “I had to work that out too and it took me a while to learn that because I thought it was about the name, if I get with this name and that name then I’ll…but no! People can shelve you. I’ve been shelved but I’ve also been pushed.”
She is careful about the kind of people that she allows in her space duly protective of the peace that accompanies her evolved perspective at work and at play.
“I learned I had a lot of toxic people around me and I didn’t know how. I was just like trying to heal and save everybody and trying to be nice.” Being socialized to be the “nice girl” had consequences when she found it difficult to speak up for herself or even be honest with herself. She said she had to learn to say “I don’t like this” or “This doesn’t make me feel good”. It was tough for her “saying how I feel and being okay with saying how I feel and being okay with my anger and being okay with someone not liking me and using my power and my strength.”
“My mom was always like ‘Just be a nice person,’ I was just trying to be a nice person, I thought that’s all you had to do. So I didn’t really have my guard up.”
That guard stands tall now, “I had to stop being nice. That’s the journey I’m on right now, developing my inner bitch because people will be like ‘Oh you’re so pretty, I can just disrespect you and treat you like you ain’t shit and treat you like you’re dumb and you’re just a pretty model.’ And I would just internalize like ‘You know what? This person is hurting so let me just internalize that.’ No. I don’t have to take anything! How dare you talk to me crazy ’cause you’re a nobody. No one’s above me and I had to realize that. I had to take control of my life I had to boss up and find my inner bitch.”
Evidence that her belief in herself stands strong can be found in her willingness to come out of her comfort zone. She has started developing a haircare line and a podcast. “That was a way for me to establish myself in a different way where I wasn’t just basically relying on how I look because that also gets old. You know? There other parts of me! I have other talents and there other ambitions.”
Today, she is proud to say, “I get my self worth from other places.”
Washington wants her upcoming podcast to be a space where she can not only share what she’s learned with others but also remind herself how far she has come through a commitment to total transparency. She said she plans to, “Empty my best self out to the world.”
“It helps me heal by helping other people heal because when I’m talking to you about what I’ve learned I’m also getting more downloads and answers.” She wants to offer support, “Because I didn’t have it,” and says she relates to the conversations on social media about the perils of being “the strong friend.”
“It was hard because I’ve been through a lot of shit. You know when you just go through one thing after another? I had to take my way through and not be taken over. I was in an abusive relationship. I had an abortion when I was in my early twenties. So in those situations I didn’t have the guidance to help me navigate through those situations I had to just use my common sense and consider how to move forward in the best way possible. I was kind of overwhelmed so I had to take some time off and kind of heal some things in myself. And in that time of healing it was like I’ve figured out these things I’ve rectified them for myself and I’m not ashamed of them so I might as well talk about them.”
She isn’t afraid of some of the backlash that public figures have gotten for being raw about their feelings and emotions. “I’ve always felt like if people are watching me you might as well give them a show and if you give them a show then that means you’re in charge of the narrative, and I’m not a shy person either. I feel like if you tell somebody your business they can’t come back and throw it in your face because you already told them what it was so that’s kind of what it is for me.”
After years of using her looks she is excited about what will happen when she opens her mouth.
“Instead of hiding away from the things that I’ve been through and learned from and overcame I stood out in front of them because its my story regardless.”