Marcia Alvarado can be described as a lot of different things: driven, tireless, force-of-nature-y, but the one thing she cannot be called is typical.
The local fashion model has taken her unique style and impeccable fashion sense all the way to the Brooklyn Museum to walk in the Verge Fashion show, which was billed as the largest exhibition of queer fashion designers during New York Fashion Week 2015. Not bad for someone who only began modeling two years ago — with zero experience.
After attending Brandon High School, earning a college basketball scholarship and getting her Civil Engineering degree from the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Fla., Alvarado took off to New York. She was working at an architectural firm in the city when she started feeling like she had too much time on her hands. She took a job at a Banana Republic men’s store to satisfy her restlessness and her love of menswear.
“I learned a lot about men’s fashion from there. It [was] the Chelsea store so the gentlemen that worked there were gay, and I was kind of their token lesbian. They loved it,” she said. “I’ll never forget the first time I walked in there with pleated pants. My manager was like ‘don’t ever wear those in here again.’ I started picking up a few things.”
Alvarado's style matched well with what she called the “New York vibe” and she dressed the part whether at her day or night job. She moved back to Tampa to be closer to her family and was working at Atkins Global as a structural engineer when she caught a glimpse of Casey Legler. Legler is considered the first female to become a successful menswear model and is contracted with mega-agency Ford Models.
“I saw some of her images and it was just kinda like…I look better in a suit than she does,” said Alvarado. “I was looking at this YouTube video of a Time magazine article on her and I’m like, I can rock this. I look more like a guy than she does.”
Being a self-described perfectionist, Alvarado was very hands-on during her shoots and managed to collect stunning candid shots. One of the photo styles she was most hands-on about was modeling men’s underwear. She wanted to be able to shut down anyone who thought she couldn’t pull it off. It worked.
Alvarado walked her first runway for Lacey Smith’s Haute Accessories show in 2014. Having never walked a runway show before, she described feeling full of anxiety, at least until she took her first steps onstage. After adrenaline kicked in and the show was a hit, Alvarado began booking more work.
“The space is so cool. The columns and the open space… If you look at some of the images that came out of the photography for the show, there are some shots looking down. It gives you a really big ambiance, almost like a theater show,” she said, spreading her arms out while she described the Brooklyn Museum architecture.
As she continued to speak about the show, she described the open-spaced museum being standing room only and the LBGT community coming out in full force to support designers and models. There were so many people waiting to get in, the show had to be delayed 20 minutes until everyone made their way inside.
“Anita said it best: It’s becoming a social movement, in terms of our community and how it’s being brought into the fashion world,” said Alvarado. “I’m definitely on the bandwagon in terms of being one of the vocal people because what’s happened since I’ve been doing this is in the LGBT world; I’ve become a voice. People have reached out to me personally about my journey, my story, what I’m doing, and they are really responding to it in a way that I didn’t imagine.”
Alvarado punctuates this by explaining how she often gets asked a lot about her pronoun usage. She acknowledged that while she brushes it off, she understands how people can be have preferences to certain terms. In an effort to avoid confrontation, she makes a point not to correct people and just lets it go since the alternative would be “exhausting.”
“I think that’s why a lot of males and females in my position get angry and get frustrated, because it is frustrating to have to fight this fight every single time you walk into a store,” she said.
All of this was going on, but don’t think Alvarado was slacking at the office. While she was crushing runways for Verge at night, she was working from her company's New York office during the day. She also managed to be recognized for her stellar performance at work and was selected as one of the Top 40 Under 40 by the Building Design + Construction publication. Oh, and she sits on the board and is vice president of the ACE Mentor Program of Tampa Bay through her company, a program that mentors young kids in the building design and construction industry. Her energy is boundless.
“I’m Marcia, you know? That’s all I know how to be.”