Mesmerizing new face Aqua Parios, of African-American and Japanese heritage, grew up in Las Vegas before relocating to Phoenix, where she was discovered while shopping after cheerleading practice. Now 19 and based in New York, the high-school graduate just wrapped her first major runway season, walking for Marc Jacobs, Anthony Vaccarello, Narciso Rodriguez and Prabal Gurung. Parios’ love of music stems from her grandfather, Phil Phillips, who wrote the hit “Sea of Love” in 1959. She gets her first name from one of his songs.

 

This story first appeared in the May 18, 2016 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Growing up, did you ever want to be a model?

I got the “You should be a model” thing a lot, but I was really into music and I wanted to be a singer. I was into acting, too; I did a lot of theater. Modeling didn’t really pop into my head until I was scouted.

You’ve only lived in New York for two months. How are you adjusting?

Right now, I’m living in a model apartment, and it’s really nice to get to know the girls and get different perspectives on the world. It’s helping me grow up. It’s so diverse and refreshing to be in a city where everyone is so accepting of each other. In a smaller town, there’s not as much to see. Here, you experience so much — you’re just thrown into it. I love the art. I love that you walk outside and there are people playing music in the street.

Talk to me about walking your first Marc Jacobs show.

I got to the casting and they say, “Put on a dress and put on these shoes.” They were like, 10 inches tall. [Stylist] Katie Grand was like, “You’re gonna need to practice.” I put them on, practiced a few times, then I left. Around midnight, my booker calls and he’s like, “Go to the Marc Jacobs fitting right now.” I get there, wait two hours, and they tell me to leave. Then I get another call. My booker calls again and says, “Welcome to Marc Jacobs — you gotta go right back.” I was like, “There’s no better way to spend my three-in-the-morning than at a Marc Jacobs fitting.” I finished my fitting, got home around 4 a.m. and the call time for the show was 9 a.m. I was tired, but so hooked on adrenaline. My whole family was waiting by the computer for the show to start. All the girls work so hard for that moment.…It was the most exciting show of my life.

What are some of your career goals?

I’m really into fashion, and particularly shoes. I’m working on some shoe designs, so I’ll see what happens with that. I’d like to use modeling as a platform to create fashion and also to set an example for young girls. So many people look at the modeling industry and have such a different view on it.…It seems superficial and all about body image. But I’d like to teach girls that you don’t need to have a full face of makeup and you’re OK the size that you are. Embrace who you are, your talents and the things that you love to do.

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