Kayla-Rae Maurer is a Commercial Model for Numa, a modelling agency that began in Calgary. She later became the Agency’s National Development Director. Pride In Business would like to thank Numa, The Lovely Listings, Kayla-Rae, Ash Bans from Fashion by MCM and all of the models of, without their help, the Pride In Business Kickoff Party would not be possible. We sat down with Kayla-Rae to talk about the Calgary modelling industry and how Numa supports the LGBTQ+ community in its values and casting.
Pride In Business: Can you tell me a bit about NUMA?
Kayla-Rae Mauer: Numa started in 2006 in Calgary, Alberta — since 2014 it has expanded into 19 cities across North America. Numa focuses on growing confidence and self-empowerment through photoshoots. We want every shape, size, colour and ethnicity to feel beautiful in their skin and we hope to revolutionize the industry slowly into accepting all types of beauty.
PIB: What has been your involvement with the agency?
KM: I started modelling with Numa back in 2015 — it really was a confidence boost! In December 2017 I helped Numa throw and market the Winter Wonderland Gala in support of the charity Lifehouse. I was offered a chance to go to New York City to teach fitness, health, and wellness to models — we truly believe that a model should always start with these core fundamentals. After signing on with Numa full-time, I became their National Director across 19 cities where I taught workshops, developed models, clients merchandise, and helped plan and execute local fashion shows.
PIB: How would you describe the modelling industry in Calgary?
KM: Calgary is definitely a little bit more accepting of a modelling industry. The stakes and jobs are not as high-level or high-scale as what you see in New York, Paris or Asia. We are able to see every type of model book jobs due to the marketing and industry standard of wanting "real people" who are attainable to everyone. It is definitely hard to make a career as a model within the Calgary community, so we always suggest doing it as an amazing hobby!
PIB: What is it like operating an agency in the city?
KM: Busy! [laughing]
PIB: What are some of the biggest misconceptions you hear about the industry?
KM: I think it is important to establish that there is a Local Industry and then an International Industry. Most people think that modelling is all about being very tall, extremely slender and that they take a lot of abuse. Within the local market and within Canada we [Numa] try to make it a more positive experience — however, the stories can absolutely be true in the International Modelling Industry. This is why Numa really grows their models through mental health, wellness and positivity, so that if a model can go International they have a strong platform of self-worth and self-love.
PIB: How is the agency involved with the LGBTQ+ community?
KR: We were very honoured to be a part of the Fashion Show last year and now this year as well. We also have our own LGBTQ community within our own roster who we love, support and will never pass judgment.
PIB: What opportunities does NUMA provide to the community?
KM: We will provide models, photographers and videographers for free, instead of at charge for events or photoshoots that we really stand behind and where resources allow.
PIB: How can NUMA act as a hub to connect folks in the community?
KM: Numa can act as a hub to connect folks by accepting all different shapes, colours, ethnicities and relationships. We make sure to throw in-house events such as movie nights, workshops, and boot camps where we bring everyone together. We have honest and real conversations about all aspects of life and we let people know that Numa is a safe place and a second home.
PIB: What advice would you have for someone in our community who may want to pursue a modelling career?
KM: Just do it! Always do your research because it’s monumental to trust your agency and their purpose to care for you. Remember that you are doing it for yourself and no one else. With anyone starting out in modelling, it is imperative that you do not take your rate of job bookings on to yourself. Enjoy building a great portfolio and connecting with others and honestly, just breathe!
PIB: What sort of barriers might the LGTBQ+ encounter in the wider modelling world?
Some clients might not be as accepting on the broader scale; however this happens with tattooed models, short models, and curvy models. So, remembering that you are amazing, you are worthy, you are beautiful and talented. If they want you: great. If not, that’s okay as well! I never want to bring up negative words, but judgments, discrimination and non-acceptance might occur, in which case I recommend keeping amazing friends and family close. Valentina Sampaio just became the first transgender model for Victoria's Secret — so finding role models to look up to and relate with is huge as well!
PIB: What can we expect from the fashion show you are putting together for the Pride Kickoff event?
KM: Fun! We want to have all the fun and show all our attendees that we just love hard on each other - we support each other, and we really care for each other. We are honestly one big accepting family.
Pride In Business and Numa collaborated to select models that were passionate about walking in the Pride Kickoff Fashion Show. We opened the floor to any of the models who wanted to share their reason for participating.
Pedro Alexandre (@pedro_alexandre87):
“My dad and the rest of my family found out I was gay when I was 17. My dad forced me into the closet by being a bully. He cut me off from my friends by not letting me have access to phones, internet or money. The rest of my family started to treat me in a very cold way, and my mom, although kept being loving, did not know what to do and therefore could not be there to support me. I had to pretend to be straight for about five years. During this time my dad kept bullying me and even threatened to physically harm me. It took me some time, but I finally got able to stand up for myself, put any shame and fear behind and allow me to be me.
It hasn’t been easy, and I don’t believe I am 100% free yet, but I am definitely better now. Today I am proud of who I am and not afraid to show the world. Being part of this show is a milestone to me. It’s basically me telling whoever is watching: yes, I am gay. So what?!”
Tara-Marie Winspur (@fuckyourhashtag):
“The show is important to me because team Numa has been so supportive of me coming out last year. I was in an unhealthy relationship, and basically just drinking my stress away, (my rib cage was very visible under my skin). Now I’m in love with a girl, I’m far healthier than I was, and now I’m happy, and proud to be with her and proud to be my authentic self.”
Alison Ashdown (@alisoncalgary):
“I began my transition as a trans woman in December 2016 and it took me a while to become comfortable with myself and how I fit in with society and my peers. Part of my transition included breaking myself down to the very foundations and rebuilding the way I was always supposed to be. Whether that be expression, interests, or my personality. But I always kept to myself and rarely felt comfortable reaching out to others within my community due to my own confidence.
After I separated from my wife last summer, I began a journey to find my confidence. I went to Calgary pride 2018 and met so many amazing people, including those at the CASA softball pride slam tournament. After meeting some fellow trans people through Skipping Stone Foundation, I decided to finally try modelling because I started to really like how my body and expression was developing. I mean, why can’t a trans woman be good at modelling?
Discovering a huge passion in modelling has made me feel like a revitalized woman. Since then, I have been improving my craft in photography and runway. The strength I have gained because of this industry and community is indescribable. I have so much drive and confidence as a trans model to represent my community one day on the world stage. To be a role model for other trans women that you can accomplish your dreams if you just believe in yourself all started with Pride and being open with myself in an inclusive space. I owe my community so much for believing in me, and I aim to give back however I can.”
Destiny Lenhardt (@hope.destiny):
“I was very young when my dad came out of the closet and growing up with two dads was my norm. Although 15 years ago my peers did not like that my family was different from theirs and I didn’t always fit in. The pride community has always been accepting and made me feel proud of my family. I always enjoy attending events such as the pride parade because of the individuals I meet and the unconditional love they share. I embrace the community and support my friends and family on their journey. I am so happy with the progress in society’s acceptance but there is so much room for more growth. I am proudly walking in the runway show to submerse myself in the local pride community as it is such a big part of who I am and what I stand for.”
Maher Latif (maherlathief):
“Growing up in a more conservative family, you don’t always feel like it’s a good time or place to be yourself and show your colors. I started joining LGBTQ+ teams and events to get a better understanding of the community, the people in the community, and myself. This community is so special because of the eclectic crowd that its composed of. People from all walks of life come together to share their experiences. By being a part of this community and being in this show, so many doors have opened, and my dynamic in my work environment and with family have shifted in ways I had never expected.
It’s important to do events like these because it continues to give opportunities and experience to people who are new to this community, people who might be struggling to find themselves or find people in a professional setting who share their values. Pride in Business and Pride in general is so important because it gives us the opportunity to be our best selves in an environment that is relevant and important to our identity.