Photo: From an Orphanage to the Runway: Dominican Model Takes Fashion by Storm
At just 13 years old, Fior Mendez was left at the Orfanato Niños de Cristo in La Romana in the Dominican Republic. Nine years later, she was stomping the runway at New York Fashion Week.
On Friday, the stunning model walked at the Lincoln Center for designer Nzinga Knight. Yes, her very first show was at New York Fashion Week.
Just two months ago, the aspiring model moved to New York City, but while she is currently making television appearances on programs like the Today show, things were not always so glamorous.
When her mother realized she could no longer care for all of her children, Mendez was dropped off at the orphanage. Luckily, thanks to The Orphaned Starfish Foundation, the orphanage had a computer center, which provided her with computer training. So while many orphaned girls in the Dominican turned to prostitution to escape poverty, Mendez was learning a skill.
During her time at the orphanage, Mendez says she would watch various modeling shows on television and practiced poses in the mirror.
Mendez also met Andy Stein who worked with foundation that gave the orphanage its computer center. Stein and his girlfriend offered to bring her to New York to help her learn English, as she had turned 21 and was no longer allowed to stay at the orphanage.
When Mendez arrived in New York, Stein’s girlfriend introduced her to Prince Riley, the founder of the Signature Talent Agency modeling firm.
With a 5’10 frame, a beautiful face, and years of practicing in the mirror, Mendez clearly had what it takes to be a model, and Riley knew it. With a bit of finishing touched, Mendez was sent on a number of casting calls, of which Riley says she’s booked all.
One of those castings was for an American Muslim designer with a Caribbean background, Nzinga Knight.
Mendez is still learning English, but through a translator told Today she still wants to be able to help the girls back at the orphanage one day.
I want to be a light for those kids. I want to show them that if you are dedicated, you can do something, and that even if you’re sad, you always have hope.