Her story unfolds as she shares her first foray into modeling during New York Fashion Week in 2018, driven not by experience but by an unwavering passion to succeed. Walking in 13 seasons of Fashion Week, including groundbreaking moments at Paris Fashion Week, Marissa challenges the conventional ideals of what a model should be.
In a candid interview with Chamiah, the founder of DEWEY, Marissa reflects on the discrimination faced within the fashion industry, particularly as a petite individual. She emphasizes the need for inclusivity and challenges the industry to question why petite models are still vastly excluded.
Chamiah: Hi Marissa! I think I came across your profile via your page @heightrevolution about a year ago when I decided to pivot CDF to the entire short stature community (rather than just those with Dwarfism); but for those who don't know you, please introduce yourself…
Hi, my name is Marissa Rose and I’m the First 4’11 Petite Runway model! My modeling career began in 2018. I submitted myself to walk in New York Fashion Week having absolutely no modeling experience, but was driven by passion and the will to succeed. This was my very first job as a model, and since then I have walked in 13 seasons of Fashion Week. Appearing in 7 seasons of New York Fashion Week, 2 seasons of Paris Fashion Week where I was the first petite model to open a PFW show, 2 seasons of Miami Swim Week, and both Los Angeles and London Fashion Week. I am currently a freelance model and have been able to figure out everything myself, so I love it this way! We all know modeling agencies are not very inclusive, especially when it comes to runway modeling. With that being said, I never want to feel limited by an agency and these crazy ideals of “what a model should be.” So I am my own agent as well and know with hard work I can achieve anything I put my mind to. Aside from modeling, something I am extremely proud of is being 2/2 of the founders of Height Revolution. Height Revolution aims to advocate for petite models, and transform the modeling industry as we know it in the most positive ways.
Marissa Rose is a 22 year old, olive skinned woman with wavy brunette hair and hazel eyes. She stands at 4’11” tall. She is looking away from the camera, wearing a white Co-ord with black sandals.
Wow, I had no idea of how many fashion weeks you’ve been part of, but I did know that you were the first 4’11” model to walk at NYFW - first of all, huge congratulations - how did that feel?! Has the way you look at yourself and modelling changed since then?
Yes, back in 2018 I was the First 4’11 Petite Runway model to have walked the runways. Thank you, honestly it is such an incredible feeling, but at the time I had no idea I was the first. As I mentioned before, my first ever modeling job was New York Fashion Week, and at that time I knew I liked the fashion industry, but I wasn’t fully aware at that point just how cruel the fashion industry was towards petite models. So, it was only until a bit later into my career that I actually found out I was the First 4’11 Petite Runway model. Though it was very quick into my career I realized just how unfair the fashion industry is towards petite models. The way I look at myself and modeling has not changed after reaching that milestone. I know that I can achieve anything I put my mind to with; hard work, practice, passion, and dedication. I always tell others, if you have a dream, go for it and begin working and taking actions that will bring you closer to living your dreams. You will always overcome challenges with a positive mindset.
I love that, I live by the motto ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, if you don’t go out and try, you’ll never know! How have you found the response to your advocacy for short stature models? Is it generally understood and well-received?
The response to my advocacy on my own personal page has not always been received well, in fact a majority of the time it was flooded with comments of individuals having very stagnant views unfortunately. After my runway videos began gaining traction I did a little test. I posted a video of my runway walk with my height written on the screen, then another with just a video of my runway walk, not including my height anywhere within the video or caption. To absolutely no surprise, my runway walk with my height had so much hate, “leave just one thing for the tall people,” “short people don’t look as powerful as tall people,” just to name a few comments that I receive the most. On the video where I just posted my runway walk, making no mention of my height, I got not one hateful comment, all of the comments were positive. This experiment I conducted told me that it had absolutely nothing to do with my skill and walk, but everything to do with the fact that people want to keep the fashion industry exclusive and stagnant. Luckily when it comes to Height Revolution the advocacy has been well received, Taylor and I are really pleased with what is transpiring from Height Revolution. We have so much planned, and so much passion with what we are doing and the community we are building. Our voices are definitely being heard within the fashion industry.
Marissa Rose is a 22 year old, olive skinned woman with wavy brunette hair and hazel eyes. She stands at 4’11” tall. She is walking towards the camera, wearing a beige, transparent dress
I wish I could say I’m surprised. After a new viral Tiktok’s, I’ve also received some comments along the lines of ‘the fashion industry is getting ‘too’ inclusive now’, or ‘leave the modelling for the tall models!’ Aside from modelling, have you faced discrimination as someone of shorter stature, and how has finding modelling empowered you?
In person I have faced some discrimination as someone of a short stature when it came to sports, as I was an athlete when I was younger and in college. I remember my coach when I was a Division I soccer player said that he “didn’t want me to get hurt because I was like a chihuahua playing against rottweilers.” I remember feeling very hurt as I was perfectly capable of holding my own, as I have for years while playing competitive sports, never once being thrown around or overpowered by anyone because of my height. That moment making a Division I team, which is the highest level you can play at in college, was a massive goal and achievement. But to be then undermined by my height and being compared to a dog was absolutely ridiculous, and unacceptable by a coach. Aside from sports I always get the “wow you’re really short,” comment. With all of that being said, I do feel the most hate within the fashion industry. Specifically by people on the internet, casting directors, designers, and unfortunately by other models. Modeling itself has not empowered me, but the positive change I am creating within the fashion industry has absolutely empowered me. Nothing makes me happier than feeling like one day in the future someone that is 4’11” will have absolutely no issue in following all they dream of because the fashion industry no longer has any requirements. I am so happy to be paving the way for others to not have a hard time one day. I love creating a space where petite individuals feel they are seen and heard, and feel empowered to follow all they dream of. At the end of the day, height is an uncontrollable factor, no one can determine how tall they are. What is controllable is how hard one works, passion, skill, and determination. These controllable factors should be considered by the fashion industry, not the ones completely out of one's control.
I’ve heard the ‘wow you’re so much shorter than I thought’ a fair few times too🤦♀️ So, how are you using your @heightrevolution campaign to create practical change for other petite models?
Height Revolution was created to be a place for advocacy, especially pertaining to inclusivity. Height Revolution is also a safe place for petite models and aspiring petite models. Not only is this a safe place, but a place where as a collective we encourage others to speak out about the injustices within the fashion industry. At Height Revolution we are creating practical change by showing others they could speak up and stand up too. We show others that they can model no matter how tall they are!
I love that so much! So, how would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is a bit tricky to even pinpoint myself, I really love a ton of different styles that are all widely different from each other. For example, some days I love an active wear set with a trench coat thrown on top, and the next day I could be wearing a skirt and a blouse paired with loafers! I feel like it really is whatever I am feeling on the day!
Marissa Rose is a 22 year old, olive skinned woman with wavy brunette hair and hazel eyes. She stands at 4’11” tall. She is walking on a runway wearing a red bikini.
I can definitely relate; one day it’s loungewear, the next it’s a business suit. So, do you have any style icons and inspirations?
Are there any specific fashion tips or styling tricks that you can share for shorter women to enhance their overall appearance?
I agree! While petite ranges exist everywhere now, we know that they tend to be for those 5ft-5’4”, have you found any brands or garments you can’t live without?
Garments I can’t live without are just well made basics. With basics you can build so many different outfits by just using a few pieces. Aside from having some core basics at the moment I have been loving a good blazer! In terms of brands, I think a ton more petite ranges are emerging now more than ever which is such a positive! I would have to recommend some truly amazing individuals I have first hand worked with. Not only do they have amazing brands, but as individuals they are just fabulous. Obviously Chamiah Dewey Fashion, House of Arti started by Arti Juglal, Mona Juliet started by Mona, and Pro Hac Vice started by Jenna Loyal. Each and everyone mentioned are truly incredible individuals who have brands that are fully catered toward petite individuals.
Marissa Rose is a 22 year old, olive skinned woman with wavy brunette hair and hazel eyes. She stands at 4’11” tall. She is looking away from the camera, wearing a white dress.
I couldn’t agree more, while I know we’re probably all bored of hearing the advise that we need to build out a capsule wardrobe, it’s so true! That’s exactly what I value at DEWEY, top quality timeless pieces, that can be worn season-after-season.
What future trends do you see in the world of short stature clothing ?
In the future I hope to see the same trends we see all the time replicated for short stature clothing as well. Short stature clothing should be available everywhere as we should have the same options as all of the other ranges. Especially since a majority of the world falls under the category of petite. The average height worldwide is 5’4” so there is no excuse as to why petite individuals are left out or the last thought for many brands, since the majority of individuals are petite.
I agree, lots of brands do have petite ranges now, yet they’re often very basic and limited. What advice would you give to other petite individuals who struggle to find clothing that fits their proportions well?
What challenges do you commonly encounter when shopping for clothing, and how does DEWEY address those challenges / what could we do better?
Marissa Rose is a 22 year old, olive skinned woman with wavy brunette hair and hazel eyes. She stands at 4’11” tall. She pouts for a close up.
There are so little amount of high-profile role models in this space, what message do you hope to send to other shorter stature people through your platform?
Through my platform I wish to spread the idea of never giving up on your dreams. I share all of the knowledge I have- tips and tricks in hopes of making others have a smooth journey in navigating the intricacies of the fashion world. Being petite in the fashion industry is already difficult enough, given the stagnant beliefs many still carry today of what “a model should be.” I use my platform to share knowledge and to instill the idea that you should not back down to the negativity that others in the fashion industry portray simply because of your height.
I am big on never giving up, and very big on proving people wrong and achieving everything ten fold. I want others to hear my story and see that I never gave up given all of these circumstances and odds that were not in my favor, but nevertheless I pushed through and achieved my dreams. I want others to see my story and be encouraged that they could do the same exact thing I have done- follow and achieve your dreams!
I also use my platform to specifically spread the message that petite models do exist. I feel like many people have no idea that petite models exist within the fashion world because the industry does such an amazing job at hiding us. Whether that be excluding us from press releases during fashion week (that has happened many times to me), not properly showcasing major milestones in fashion history, and/or just choosing to pretend petite models do not exist. I am here to use my voice and stand up against the fashion industry, calling out the negative I see/experience within the industry, and encourage and create a safe space for all other aspiring petite models. That is petite power, we are here to stay and the fashion industry will either accept us fully, if not, we will still fight to make a fully inclusive industry whether the industry likes it or not.
I love that! What should fashion brands be considering more in today's social climate?
One would think that by 2023 having petite models finally be fully included and embraced into the fashion industry would have happened by now. It is wild to me that brands, modeling agencies, casting directors, and other models are not actively questioning why this group is still vastly left out of the industry. The amount of messages I receive by individuals being so happy about seeing “someone who is the same height as them” walking the runways and being showcased in magazines gives those individuals confidence. Many individuals have told me that they hate their height, also mentioning this is simply because in the fashion industry no remotely short individuals are showcased in this space. The fashion industry has such a big impact on people, I sometimes don’t think individuals working within it at the highest magnitude understand how damaging it is to be so exclusive. It breaks my heart that individuals have said to me they hate their height, but something that makes me so happy is when I am able to make someone embrace their height and find confidence in it. Being 4’11” is amazing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am so glad I can represent petite individuals in the fashion industry to make them feel seen, heard, and accepted. A massive wake up call is needed within the fashion industry regarding this, as society is meant to be inclusive of every person.
Marissa Rose is a 22 year old, olive skinned woman with wavy brunette hair and hazel eyes. She stands at 4’11” tall. Sge walks a catwalk wearing a multicoloured top and black jeans.
And lastly, what would you like to see next in the fashion industry?
Next in fashion I would love to see a completely transformed and fully inclusive industry. Not a performative industry that includes certain individuals when it wants to, just to later forget about that group again. We demand a truly and fully inclusive fashion industry, and I will make sure that happens. A few years ago in an interview I said I wanted to start a fashion revolution, and I am on track to doing that. That is what is next in the fashion industry!
The conclusion echoes Marissa's vision for the future of the fashion industry—a fully transformed and inclusive space. She calls for a genuine shift, not a performative inclusion, and pledges to lead a fashion revolution that embraces diversity and empowers individuals of all heights.
In a world where petite power is on the rise, Marissa Rose stands tall, defying norms and paving the way for a fashion industry that celebrates every individual, regardless of height. Petite power is here to stay, demanding recognition, acceptance, and a fully inclusive future. #PetiteRevolution #InclusiveFashion
Follow @marissa_rose_a for more information, and check out our collections for more petite style.