Ciao Bella

Story Dionne Robinson

ATLANTA — “You can’t just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream; you’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself,” said the great Diana Ross, my longtime beauty icon. I have always admired everything about her, including all of the glitz and glam. So of course this inspired my desire for the spotlight and public influence. I can even remember walking up and down the hallways of my parents’ Columbus home in heels and makeup every chance I got. Those days were the genesis of my dreams to become a runway and fashion model, and an inspiration to young people.

However, my dreams did not turn out as planned. Do they ever? In fact, I had another passion within my heart as well — children. Special-needs children to be exact. Being from a traditional Southern family, I was encouraged to attend college right away after graduating from high school, and I did just that. I received my bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from the University of Southern Mississippi, and soon after began my first teaching job at New Hope Elementary School.

After working at NHES, I decided that I wanted to explore and see the world; however, I didn’t venture too far at first. I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where I live now. I’m a special-education teacher at an elementary school in the metro-Atlanta area. I will complete my second full year as a school teacher in May. Although these past two years as an educator have been rewarding, I still yearned to be in front of somebody’s camera. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy my students and will always have a passion for teaching in my heart. But those bright, white camera flashes continued to call my name.

I answered — I partnered up with my manager Alexis Jones (also a native of Columbus and CEO of The Establishment X branding company). Together, we decided to “get out there and make it happen” for ourselves.

So now, I also bring you greetings from New York City and Milan, Italy, where I have worked with numerous photographers, production companies and designers. Some of which include Angela Simmons, Shoe Carnival, BET Network, New York Fashion Week, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week, FTL Moda, Walter Mendez and Michael Costello. 

This journey has not been easy. People often ask me how I juggle being a school teacher and fashion model. My answer is rooted in my humble beginnings in Columbus and the work ethic instilled by my parents. I want to inspire young people in Columbus and all over who are just like me, just a young person dreaming. I want them to know that it is always OK to follow all of your dreams, no matter how different they may be, or your current circumstances. I also want them to remember that “home is where the heart is.”  I love you, Columbus, and will always cherish the morals and values I learned from you.