Cheyney Barrieau Says, “Beauty is from within you. It’s not make up, highlights, or the newest trendiest clothing and shoes. Beauty is honesty, beauty is love, and beauty is caring.”

Cheyney Barrieau is a veteran of the modeling world. She has worked with many high profile clients including: Brooks Brothers, Talbots, GUESS, Ross Simons, Playtex, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Brookstone and Casio just to name a few.

It all started for Cheyney while walking down 5th Avenue in her hometown of Manhattan one day. She was picked off the street by an editor for Seventeen Magazine and was offered her first job at age 13 – and the rest is history! Her long hours in front of the camera blossomed a fascination and love for all things photography. As a working model, she knows the impact and message a photograph can have and thrives to create beauty and intrigue in all her work. Visit Cheyney Barrieau Photography to learn more about her passion and talent of photography.

Cheyney now resides in West Hartford, CT with her husband Gib and two kids, Lulu and Max and is represented by Wilhelmina NYC.

How did you start your career as a model?

It sort of fell into my lap, actually. An editor from Seventeen Magazine approached me on the street and gave me my first job. I was 13 and had no experience whatsoever, but I was SUPER excited!

What do you find most enjoyable and most challenging about modeling?

I cannot lie – I love the catering! It totally makes my day to walk into a studio and see a complete layout of food just waiting for me. The hardest part is having people constantly point out your flaws straight to your face. It has taken a while to develop a thick skin towards it, but there are still times it feels as if I’ve been slapped in the face. And, for the record–yes, I have been brought to tears at a casting by comments made to me by a potential client. But ONLY once.

What was your most embarrassing modeling experience?

It was early in my career. I was in rehearsal for a runway show I was booked on when during my ‘walk down the catwalk’ the designer shouted out in front of everyone that he thought my thighs were too fat for his clothes. Every hair on my neck stood up on end and I felt a huge burning sensation come over my entire body. I was humiliated beyond belief. Everyone, including other models, had heard this but, by the grace of God, my face didn’t react and I held my cool. Somehow, I stayed straight-faced even though I was SO close to tears. I didn’t want to let anyone see me crumble–I had to handle it elegantly. I have never forgotten that incident and, unfortunately, never will.

When you started out, where you a “natural” or did it take quite a bit of practice? What advice would you give to aspiring models, as they pursue their own careers in the modeling industry?

When I started out modeling, I went from zero to sixty in one job. It was a crash course in modeling 101, and I was terrified. I knew nothing and tried not to show my rookie status. I remember faking that I knew what to do, how to walk, how to pose, etc. but I’m sure someone must have seen through it at some point. Modeling always takes practice–You can start a natural, but to evolve. You need to practice no matter who you are. Lots of people approach me and ask me how to break into the business. I tell them to start right at the beginning. Get some pictures and start submitting to agencies. I do warn them about the commitment level they need to have and to also know that there is a huge percentage of rejection. It would be wrong of me as a mentor to mislead aspiring models in saying it’s an easy business and everyone is trustworthy.

When you tell others that you are a ‘plus’ model, what is their reaction? How do you define the term ‘plus’ model?

I get bewildered reactions. Most people I tell are not in the industry, and they don’t understand that a size 8 is plus in the fashion world. You should hear what people say when I tell them about that–they are appalled! It’s hard having to explain the plus-size modeling/straight-size modeling issue to people; they don’t always understand.

Do you have an all-time favorite model? Why?

I don’t have an all-time favorite model, but I do have an all-time favorite modeling era–the 90’s. The music video for George Michael’s Freedom was one of the best music videos ever made. Those four gals are icons.

What would we find in your handbag? (Since you are a mama, I’m sure you have just about everything in there! lol)

Besides the sea of diapers, sippy cups, and snacks, I always have my phone, wallet, sunglasses, a Pellegrino Limonata, several chapsticks, and my iPad. Whether I need to pull up Sesame Street episodes on iTunes or just mess around on Facebook while waiting at a casting, it’s the most convenient piece of technology ever!

Favorite movie?

Toss up between Back to the Future and Weekend at Bernies. 

Favorite Books?

Frank McCourt’s books make me laugh out loud.

How do you like to start your day?

C.O.F.F.E.E.

How do you define beauty?

Beauty is from within you. It’s not make-up, highlights, or the newest trendiest clothing and shoes. Beauty is honesty, beauty is love, and beauty is caring. Beauty is putting others before yourself, and realizing that good deeds are returned tenfold. 

Tell us about your beauty routine…

Hair ~ I have a TON of hair. It’s daunting. John Frieda’s Sheer Blonde products and Acai Brazilian Blowout Conditioner are a MUST. Frederik Fekkai’s Glossing Cream is always within arm’s reach at all times. My hair gets grumpy when I let it air dry because its wavy, so I blow dry it straight then use a 2′ barrel iron for those Victoria Secret type waves. SO worth the time and effort. I always get asked for lessons!

Make-Up ~ If I’m lucky enough to have a few minutes to put on make up in the morning, concealer, and eye liner are my must haves. I don’t get a lot of sleep with a three month old, so I need all the help I can get to make my eyes look refreshed and cheery!

Skin ~ I always exfoliate–it makes a HUGE difference in your skins appearance (and also how make up sits on it). After that, toner and moisture are my staples–you can never have too much moisturizer in the winter months!

Fragrance ~ Issey Miyake. Enough said.

What is your go-to outfit?

Jeans and a black V-neck Sweater.

Lipstick or Lip gloss?

When chapstick isn’t dressy enough, I’m a lip gloss gal. MAC lip gloss in Prrr.

You have been married for 4 years…what do you enjoy most about married life? What is one thing you love about your husband?

Married life is great. We were married at 22 years old, right out of college. Most people looked at our situation with wide eyes and dropped jaws–they couldn’t understand why we would get married at such a young age. We are both very old school traditional and we really wanted to start a family. My husband is my best friend. We do everything together. We can finish each others sentences, or look at each other and just know what were thinking without saying a word. I love his sense of humor and he can always make me laugh!

What do you and your husband enjoy doing together?

We both have our hands full right now with work and kids, so just sitting with each other on the couch at night to watch our favorite TV shows is a real treat. 

You are a mother of two BEAUTIFUL children. What has motherhood taught you?

Wow – being a mom is no simple task. It is 24/7 on duty and making sure everything is the best it can be, given the circumstances. Motherhood has taught me about what is REALLY important in life. Sweating the small stuff is SO overrated–there is a bigger picture that you need to see. It’s not about me anymore – it’s about my kids and what they need. 

What is your favorite part of being a mother right now?

My 18-month-old daughter has just learned to hug. It is the most amazing thing to feel her little arms wrap around your thigh and squeeze tight. 


On a day off, what would your perfect day consist of?

No diaper changing, silence, and an antique store.

What are you passionate about?

I love photography and getting that perfect shot that speaks to you. 

What is a fun fact about you?

My grandfather, Nunnally Johnson, was an Academy Award nominated screenwriter and producer. He was under contract with 20th Century Fox and launched the careers of Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, and, Betty Grable among others into super stardom. He has written and produced many films such as, How to Marry a Millionaire, The 3 Faces of Eve, The Dirty Dozen, and The Grapes of Wrath. You can find more at films at imdb.com. He cast my grandmother, Dorris Bowdon Johnson, as Rosa Sharon in The Grapes of Wrath against Henry Fonda. Dorris and Nunnally were Hollywood royalty back in the day. My grandmother would tell me story after story about Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, and Humphrey Bogart–who she lovingly and comfortably referred to as “Bogey”. My grandparents were a super social couple back in the day. She always had the behind the scenes stories and anecdotes that no one else new.

I loved the story of Marilyn and my grandmother crammed in a bathroom stall at the film premiere of How to Marry a Millionaire desperately trying to get Marilyn out of a dress she had been sewn into because she desperately needed to go to the bathroom. Designers would bid to make gowns and clothes for my grandmother for all her film premiers and gala events. None of those gals had model bodies in today’s standards. They were all size 8-10-12 and they were considered the most beautiful women in the world. Marilyn had a chest the size of Texas and that would never hold up in today’s world of modeling. The girls of the past used their womanly curves to their advantage–and boy did it work for them! Nowadays, plus-size models are compared to Marilyn Monroe and that’s an honor to me!!

Not only are you a model, but you are a photographer as well! What inspired you to get into photography?

I LOVE taking pictures! Modeling has really taught me so much about photography and what it means to take a great picture. I love how people can speak through the lens.

Do you find it hard to balance work and family life? What have you found that is helpful in keeping a balanced life?

Working while having a family is difficult. There seems like there is never enough time for both. Making sure you have time for yourself and your interests keeps you sane.

What are you excited about right now?

Right now, I am excited about the simple things in life: Preschool for my daughter, belly laughs from my 3 1/2 month old son, and a date night for my husband and me!

Thank you, Cheyney!

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