Rocio Sanchez: Welcome to Transition of Style, the podcast about fashion, identity, and how queer leaders are disrupting the fashion industry today. I’m your host, Rocio Sanchez. Feel free to use any pronouns for me. I’m a digital marketer with a specialization in queer business and fashion.
Rocio Sanchez: And I would love to introduce today Teresa Morcho, who is the founder of Stud Model Project, who has an amazing story, and can just definitely speak for herself about why it’s such a great initiative she’s doing with Stud Model Project and the great things that she’s doing. Thank you so much, Teresa, for being here.
Teresa Morcho: Thank you for having me Rocio. It’s – I’m excited to be here and I’m excited to be on your platform. You are definitely doing your thing in the industry as well. You’re doing your thing for the community as well. So this is synergy and I’m honored to be here.
Rocio Sanchez: I would love to just start with hearing more about your personal story, how you identify and identify your style even, and how those things relate.
Teresa Morcho: Yeah. Yeah. So, as you heard, my name is Teresa and I’m the founder Stud Model Project, but of course I haven’t always had that title. I was born in Cameroon, West Africa, and I moved to the United States when I was 11 years old. It was crazy because I knew I was different even before I moved here, I just didn’t have the words for it.
Teresa Morcho: I didn’t know that there was such a thing as homosexuality. But I just knew that I didn’t have the same, like… I don’t know, feelings for guys like my friends would. Even at like nine years old, I knew because I was looking at other girls like she’s cute. More so than, you know, my friends were like, Oh, I like her dress or I like this.
Teresa Morcho: I was like, I like the person. But at such a young age, you don’t know what that is. You know, you just kind of think maybe I admire her or maybe she’s like, you know, someone I look up to. So I didn’t really have the words for it. When I came to the United States, I started to discover that I had an option to be myself like, I wasn’t restricted by religion.
Teresa Morcho: I wasn’t restricted by culture. I wasn’t restricted by, society in a sense. So I started to find the language for that, I think when I was about 9th grade, maybe? And I came out in the 10th grade, very young. And remind you, I was a year ahead. So I think I was like 14. when I came out the closet to my friends. And then I didn’t come out the closet again to my family until I was about 16 or 17 years old.
Teresa Morcho: So I knew pretty early who I was, what I was. And I even remember going to prom in a tuxedo, in a suit, because I just knew that I had an equal balance of what feminine and masculine energy was.
Teresa Morcho: That is kind of my story and how I ended up here. Stud Model Project fell into my lap pretty early. Just because I, I knew that there was a need for something different when it came to specifically masculine presenting people who are assigned female at birth, and also Black.
Teresa Morcho: That specific demographic, I felt, was underrepresented. And if they were represented, they were represented in such a way that kept them in a box and made people feel like if they saw one, they have seen them all and they know what they’re about. And that’s not the case. So that’s kind of where Stud Model Project came about. Just to give people a variety, a diversity, within a small niche group to say, Hey look, we’re here.
Teresa Morcho: We’re different. We’re all different. Just because you know, one stud doesn’t mean you know them all. We come in all facets. And so it’s, it’s been a journey.
Rocio Sanchez: There’s much to unpack there. But it sounds like your exploration through fashion, through wearing a tuxedo to prom, that is just a facet of exploration, right? And it’s such a creative part as well. So it feels like makes sense that Stud Model Project came out from that. I wanted to know more about Stud Model Project and what it is for the people who don’t know what it is. What services does it provide?
Teresa Morcho: Yeah. So Stud Model Project is kind of a, at this point, I feel like it, it is an entity with a life of its own. Because every day, it generates a new service for people in need of that service. Because we’re such a small agency, we’re constantly changing and adapting to serve the people that we serve, serve the community that we serve.
Teresa Morcho: So, essentially, Stud Model Project is a development agency. We’re not an agency like a mother agency where we’re going out there looking for work for all of our models and things like that. We are here to develop this group, because this group of models have been outcast from the fashion industry, outcasts from the modeling industry.
Teresa Morcho: So they don’t have those structures put in place for them to learn the soft skills of the industry. To learn proper posing within their, specific body. If they go to certain development programs, they’re teaching them how to walk like men, or they’re teaching them how to walk like women.
Teresa Morcho: And it’s, they’re two different things, but they also can be meshed into one unique way of androgyny. And when androgyny sits on someone who has a Black body, it’s completely different. It’s completely different, it’s looked at different. Blackness in itself is masculine to society.
Teresa Morcho: So when you put that on a person that’s assigned female at birth, that’s also presenting masculine, there’s this idea that all studs want to be men. And that’s not the case. That’s not the case at all. And I feel like in our community, when someone who is non Black presents masculine, they’re given grace for softness.
Teresa Morcho: They’re given space for softness. They’re given space to maneuver through that masculine spectrum, how they see fit, you know what I mean? And society doesn’t really question, they question it in their own way, but it doesn’t get questioned as far as like, you’re trying to be a man.
Teresa Morcho: It’s like Blackness already is so masculine. So even me, when I’m in a dress and I’m feminine, I’m still considered masculine no matter how soft I try to present myself. If I am too loud, if my hair is too short, if my nails are too short, if I don’t present ultra feminine, I’m still considered masculine. So there’s this moment where we have to create that space for our models within Stud Model Project to be soft, to be androgynous, and to explore those different facets of modeling. In a safe space.
Teresa Morcho: Our services are we do photo shoots on a monthly basis so they can help grow their portfolio. We give them coaching on the back, coaching for runway, how to walk, how to pose, how to do their makeup as a masculine presenting person. Different style techniques on how to put together color blockings and how to look at patterns and texture and things like that within fashion. How to not be scared to push the boundary, you know what I mean? And we already know that when you think stud, a lot of people think hip hop street fashion. So we’re also trying to bring that energy into the fact that we can do more than street fashion. We can do more than hip hop. We can do more than this aesthetic of thug life that you guys think studs are. There’s so much to it. So, essentially we just give them a safe space to build whether you’re a model, an actor, whatever. This is kind of like that first introduction to the industry that teaches you all those soft skills, help you build your portfolio.
Teresa Morcho: And then you get to network with people who look like you. You get to actually learn from people who look like you. Industry professionals who will respect you, respect your pronouns, respect where you are in life. And when you remove all those different obstacles and roadblocks, you’d be surprised what people can do.
Teresa Morcho: You’d be surprised where people can go and take their career. So essentially that’s what we are. We’re removing some of those roadblocks, giving them a safe space to build their portfolio, network with other brands and industry professionals that are LGBTQ friendly, while building a tribe, a community, in a safe space.
Rocio Sanchez: That sounds amazing. And just everything you said about the way Blackness is perceived by society like, that is just amazing the way you articulated that and it’s so clear to me how Stud Model Project fits into that and how it fights against that. I feel like there are a lot of players who are fighting against that and you are one of the very powerful voices and Stud Model Project is one of the very powerful movements against that.
Rocio Sanchez: So I, I really appreciate that. And I think that a lot of people appreciate that. I feel like that is another reason why people connect with Stud Model Project. So one thing that I find interesting is that it’s a modeling agency, but much more than just a modeling agency. Of course, this development agency as well.
Rocio Sanchez: But it’s so popular online and, I think it’s because of what it stands for. And of course, there’s a visual aspect of it. Fashion models, good looking people. But I would love to hear more about what you as, the runner of the show, or like just the, you know, the person that’s making the big moves, big decisions. How do you perceive the audience’s connection with it?
Teresa Morcho: Yeah, no, that’s a great question, because believe it or not, I didn’t have a direction. Because there’s no blueprint for what I’m doing. Like, I don’t think anyone has ever really done it this way. So I am learning every step of the way. I listen a lot to my models. I listen a lot to, our supporters.
Teresa Morcho: There’s a quote that I go by and I feel like it is very true in a sense, “Art is supposed to disturb the comfortable. And it’s supposed to comfort the disturbed.” And that’s exactly what I feel Stud Model Project is. It makes those who are comfortable, uncomfortable, it disturbs them. It’s like, they don’t know what to do, what to say in our comments. They’re disturbed because they are uncomfortable seeing it, right? But the people who this project is made for, it gives them comfort.
Teresa Morcho: It kind of is like this therapy for them because that is what they’ve been looking for. And that’s exactly how I feel like my company draws audience in.
Teresa Morcho: If like you’re comfortable and you don’t know what Stud Model Project is, and this group of society is, and you see it come across your timeline, it’s gonna disturb you a little bit.
Teresa Morcho: It’s gonna make you uncomfortable. That’s what I’m looking for. But if you’re already someone who is like, I don’t have a community. I don’t know, I wanted to be a model ever since I was, you know, 12 years old, but I don’t see people who look like me or da da da da da. And they’re like just so, they don’t feel seen. They don’t feel love. They don’t feel all these different things. And then they see our content come across and it’s like, ah, there’s this relief. Like people see me, they get it. And that is it for me with this project is just, I want to disturb the status quo.
Teresa Morcho: I want to make people uncomfortable. Those who have been living this comfortable space that society is binary. And society is white or whatever your belief is. I want to disturb you.
Rocio Sanchez: That’s a beautiful answer. I feel like a lot of people can definitely nod their heads listening to that, like if they’re a fan or even if they’re not, and they hear what you do. I would love to kind of shift gears and talk about you as the entrepreneur, as the business owner.
Rocio Sanchez: What has been your, if you think it’s unique, or maybe it’s not, you know. The biggest struggle you find as a queer leader in this space. You hinted at it earlier, that, There’s no blueprint for what you do.
Rocio Sanchez: So I would love to know what you find is your biggest struggle as a queer, Black, fashion leader.
Teresa Morcho: You know what? I think my biggest struggle is, letting people know that I’m qualified for this. Right? Because I don’t have a college degree.
Teresa Morcho: During that age of like 17 to about 21, I was for the streets. I was for the streets. You know what I mean? Like, I was a dancer. I was homeless. All of these things, because I came out and my family just didn’t know what to do with that. And it was like, you had to live a certain way if you’re going to live here. And I knew that that way wasn’t my truth.
Teresa Morcho: So a lot of the things that I did were self taught. I took the time to sit here and watch YouTube videos and, you know, sign up for courses. So I have all these courses, but I have no degree. So when I go into spaces and I’m talking about what I’m talking about, it’s like they take me seriously, but until they see the paperwork then it’s like, oh, we need somebody else that’s more qualified to partner with you to do this. Or we need someone that da da da da da, that’s a partner with you. And I’m like, there’s really no one in my industry that knows what I know. And so I think that I would be this the person thats the matter expert in this, but I’m not taken seriously because of that.
Teresa Morcho: So I feel like I have to work 10 times harder. Already I’m queer, already I’m Black, already I am like non-conventional with the piercings and tattoos and short blonde hair and I’m eccentric. I like long nails. I present myself very eccentric. And then when I show up, I’m not talking about people who already know what I do.
Teresa Morcho: I’m talking about when I walk into spaces like banks to get a loan, to get sponsorship, to move forward, to do all these things. It doesn’t matter how much work I’ve done. They’re looking to see how qualified I am. And because I’m doing something that no one knows about or can even figure out what it is, they have no history or no archives to look back to, to see what success in this looks like.
Teresa Morcho: And so I’m fighting that. I’m constantly trying to fight that to get people to take me seriously. And so instead of them taking me seriously, I said, I’m going to put that in the project. So you have no other options, but to take the project seriously. Screw me. You’re going to take the project seriously. So my efforts right now is that. So I just feel like as long as I’m consistent, as long as I’m constantly improving, I’m constantly listening to my community, constantly listen to the people we serve.
Teresa Morcho: And I know that I can always learn and I can always get better in real time, it’s going to be a struggle for me until I can know that, you know, I’m good with or without it. I have to believe that in myself that I’m good with or without it, and it’s coming. It’s still a weakness.
Teresa Morcho: It’s still a place for me, but it’s coming. But that is the biggest struggle for me is just getting people to understand that, what I am doing, I am actually a SME in it, I’m a Service Matter Expert in what I’m doing because no one really is doing it. But if they don’t have a history archive, a blueprint for what success in this specific realm looks like, I’m kind of hitting a wall a lot of times.
Rocio Sanchez: Yeah, but you’re making that blueprint. That is a shame that people, other institutions, other systems don’t take that seriously. But, I mean, you’ve gotten so far already.
Rocio Sanchez: I’m sure you could have gotten to where you are faster if these roadblocks weren’t there, but I’m happy to see and hear- I mean, like, look, BET spotlighted you. So, you know, hello, hello! So, I think people could definitely take a learning lesson from what you just said, if they’re not going to take you seriously, take your project seriously.
Rocio Sanchez: So, I appreciated that. One more question. I would love to know what you think as the person who uniquely knows what’s going on in this industry. What are the trends that you see going on for the modeling world, the fashion world, or the stud modeling world, like what are the overall trends that you’re excited to see?
Teresa Morcho: I will tell you that there was one that I noticed, especially since we did pride this year and I’m starting to kind of look at what the fashion world is. We are embracing loose fitting now. We’re no longer into the tight skinny jeans and the tight all of that. Like, even if the jeans are tight, they’re like kind of flared at the bottom.
Teresa Morcho: People are liking the drop shoulders, the loose shirts, you know, sitting right at the hip versus coming down all the way past like your crotch area. People are liking like those shirts that kind of sit damn near crop tops. A lot of the masculine presenting, you know, studs and mascs are ditching bras, which I love.
Teresa Morcho: I’m here for it. So a lot of them are wearing shirts that are, you know, super low cut. Back in the day, everyone wanted flat chest and were wearing tight bras, two bras to kind of hide their boobs and hide these feminine qualities. But what I’m noticing in our fashion trends is that a lot of our studs and masc presenting lesbians are really, really loving their feminine body.
Teresa Morcho: They’re ditching all these different things that were considered for men. and a lot of them are creating. A lane that fits their body versus trying to go out there and buy clothes that are made for a certain type for men, which usually have longer torsos, shorter legs, and they don’t have the curves and the hips, or they don’t have boobs to worry about, all these things.
Teresa Morcho: And they’re like, screw it. If I can’t button it, I’m letting it go. You’re going to see the titties today. And I think that is so revolutionary in itself. I think that. We are starting to go into this space where now when I look at fashion, I’m like, is he trying to dress like studs or studs trying to dress like men now?
Teresa Morcho: Like what’s going on? We’re not afraid to incorporate, floral patterns.
Teresa Morcho: We’re not afraid to incorporate those, girly, so to speak, colors of pinks and purples and vibrant colors. We’re testing out textures, we’re taking risks and it is such an exciting time right now to see our community embrace fashion. For a long time, they used to come in our community and look at gay men for fashion.
Teresa Morcho: But now we’re starting to like bring that in and people are looking at our community and saying, wow, like these people actually have so much creativity from hair down to their toes. We’re setting trends and that is remarkable to see. And I’m excited to be here at this time doing what I do.
Rocio Sanchez: Yeah, yeah. And it comes full circle, right? Cause we could talk about as well, like several decades ago, what was really underlying everything was like the ballroom culture, right? So we’ve got Black and Brown trans women really making those trends and they were just doing their thing underground. And then no credit was given and now I’ve noticed, you know, just being a queer person in fashion for over a decade now. I’ve noticed how now the credit is starting to be given. At first it was a little bit performative, like look at this one person, this one person over here. But we could, you and I can both agree, that now it’s like very much the case that it’s not just like one person, this one figure that’s like, wow. It’s really like a community thing. So I appreciate your insights on it, for sure.
Rocio Sanchez: All right, to wrap it up, I would love to spread the love a little bit and hear who you would love to shout out. Any other queer fashion icon that you love what they’re doing. I’m sure you have like dozens, but if you could shout out one person.
Teresa Morcho: I do. You know what? We recently just worked with this brand on the BET series, and I am a huge fan of Kay. She is Styledd by Kay on all social media platforms and her brand is Fazzu Brand. Oh my god, whatever she does she’s just so ahead of the game as far as what is popular now and how she puts her things together and her looks are so entrenched into street fashion and hip hop. But it’s like this really cool, jazzy way where it’s like, she knows how to put pieces together to get you from like, if you’re trying to go to ballroom settings, all the way to like a basketball game.
Teresa Morcho: So big ups to Kay. We love you. And thank you again for the phenomenal work you did with BET. We couldn’t have did it without her.
Rocio Sanchez: Yeah, I love it. And I’m sure literally anybody that you work with, probably deserves a shout out too.
Teresa Morcho: Absolutely.
Rocio Sanchez: I’m super excited to see what else is going on, I mean, this year has been a wild ride, but it’s been amazing to see, just like how wild it’s been. So thank you so much for taking the time amidst all the wildness to talk with me today.
Teresa Morcho: Absolutely. Anytime.
Teresa Morcho: If we could just wrap it up with where people can find you, where people could find Stud Model Project.
Teresa Morcho: You can find me on every platform as Teresa Morcho. If you just look up Teresa Morcho, I think I’m probably the only one in the world. We might need to change that. I am getting married soon, so, that might change, but.Stud Model Project on every other platform. Look for us. Follow us. We’re very, interactive and engaging. So comment, like. On posts, we usually respond back or we’ll acknowledge that your comment has been left. So we are family. We’re a tribe. We want to bring you in.
Rocio Sanchez: Great. Well, thank you so much and I’ll see you next time.
Teresa Morcho: Absolutely. Bye.
Rocio Sanchez: Stay with us, because right after the break, we’ll get into three marketing nuggets of knowledge that you can take from the Stud Model project.
Rocio Sanchez: Transition of Style is brought to you by FC Podcasts, a division of Fashion Consort. Learn more about how FC Podcasts can help you with podcasting, from strategy and creation, to production and marketing at fcpodcasts. com. That’s fcpodcasts. com. Thank you, FC Podcasts, for making Transition of Style possible. Now, back to the show.
Rocio Sanchez: Welcome to the case study portion of Transition of Style. A segment where I will take a look at our guests digital branding and give you, our listener, three takeaways so you can see how other queer businesses are doing their thing.
Rocio Sanchez: When I interact with brands, it’s hard not to look at them through the lens of a marketer. And as a consumer, it’s hard not to look at it outside of my biased lens of a queer person. It’s natural. We seek what’s safe. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. As discussed in my interview with founder Teresa Morcho, Stud Model Project is more than just a modeling agency. It provides professional development for the people it represents, and it provides a community so these studs can feel seen, appreciated, and prioritized in the professional development process.
Rocio Sanchez: There are three standout aspects in the Stud Model Project digital experience that translate these values. Keep in mind that I’m taking these notes from the summer of 2023, and their digital approach may have changed since then.
Rocio Sanchez: Typically on a modeling agency site, the models have their headshots and their measurements outlined. But on studmodelproject. com, the models introduce themselves in small blurbs. They use their own language, saying things like, “You want to learn more about me? Ask, I don’t bite.” They even mention their hobbies. Stud Model Project leans into the personalities of these models, which in turn makes it all feel like we’re connecting with the humans, not just mannequins. As a queer business, it makes total sense to emphasize individuality in a professional space that is also meant to build community.
Rocio Sanchez: Secondly, de-emphasizing size. This might be controversial. Modeling is all about how you fit the client’s clothes. Typically on a modeling agency’s sites, the first thing you’ll see on a model’s profile page is a picture of them and their measurements. I personally find this dehumanizing and it harkens back to my last point about the models showing their personality. Because you dwindle them down to their size If you don’t.
Rocio Sanchez: To learn more about the models on studmodelproject. com You have to make an account and speak to a representative. Then you could probably ask about these details. But hey, if representation of queer models of color is what you seek, studmodelproject. com is the place to start anyway.
Rocio Sanchez: Lastly, in fashion, the old adage goes, you are selling dreams. At Stud Model Project, these dreams are actually attainable. Black studs should be beloved in the LGBTQ plus community, and they are by many. But what Stud Model Project does, is make it so they have resources to achieve the dreams. Studs are encouraged to join as a member of the Stud Model Project, so they can be trained and thrive in the industry.
Rocio Sanchez: And you could find calls to this action anywhere on their Instagram and website at studmodelproject. com. If you’ve always wished to model, but feel like you couldn’t because you didn’t have the resources, Stud Model Project has it for you.
Rocio Sanchez: These are all interesting aspects of the marketing and messaging at the studmodelproject, which will continue to evolve and give us a lot more to be excited about. That’s all for today. Thank you so much for listening and be sure to follow us on @transitionofstyle, no spaces, on Instagram to learn more about upcoming episodes.
Rocio Sanchez: See you next time.
Teresa Morcho (she/her) is the founder and CEO of the Stud Model Project, a modeling and development agency that trains masc-presenting lesbian and queer women and non-binary folks to excel in the fashion industry. She leads teams of entrepreneurs, photographers, models, and provides a strong network for these professionals to excel. Teresa, through Stud Model Project, gives control back to models, in an industry that makes that difficult.
Rocio Sanchez, host and producer
Caitlin Whyte, audio engineer
Sophie Jacqueline, video editor