TARYN MCCLEARY

PORTRAITS BY CHUN-LI 'KEN' HUANG

 
 
 
Taryn McCleary by Chun-Li Ken Huang.jpg
 

Taryn McCleary grew up in the seemingly perfect town of Newtown, Connecticut with truly supportive family members by her side. Being raised in the same place that her parents once did, she felt a sense of comfort and stability, however, she had a craving to break away from the mold and a curiosity for how to achieve it.

When Taryn was in her sophomore year of high school located in Newtown, Connecticut, the Sandy Hook Shooting occurred just miles away, an event that left her home, herself and the rest of the country convulsed with fear. “Every time Christmas day approaches, I think of the town of Sandy Hook decorated with teddy bears and twenty-six trees to honor the twenty six individuals who passed,” Taryn said. “When the shooting occurred, we had the entire month off from school. Everyone opened themselves to support each other and in that time, we all became more empathetic. Being so involved in a mourning community inspired me to be more resilient.”

The misfortune of the Sandy Hook Shooting revealed to Taryn that life is truly an unpredictable journey, thus, the readiness to become more involved with her own goals and within her community quickly emerged. Taryn knew she always had a unique eye for the fashion world, but she was unsure of how to transform these interests into something valuable and meaningful to others. With the positive examples of her mother working as a certified medical assistant and her father working as a firefighter for the city of Danbury, Taryn always understood what it meant to be an assiduous and zealous individual.

She grinned and said, “My mother is the one who introduced me to it all. Fabrics, brands, silhouettes, and she did some modeling of her own when she was a teenager. She always had the most current fashion magazine around the house and it has always been a subject intrinsically interesting for the both of us.” Taryn also credits her father’s originality and willingness to be authentic as a main driving force for her own aspirations. “My dad was always into cars. I was raised next to an old-fashioned Camaro that he re-built by hand. One day he asked for my advice on what color to choose for the interior of the car. White, I told him. He has always been so hardworking. It was so cool to see the finished product.”

Taryn began establishing her vision at the age of 14 by selling her and her mother’s gently worn items on EBay to make extra money and learn about the inner workings of entrepreneurship. “The way that I could express my wanderlust and improve my cultural pallet was through the one thing that truly captivated me most, fashion,” she states. “The more I realized it was possible to turn this fascination into a lifestyle, the hungrier I became.”

In addition, with the help of a close friend, Taryn created her own Youtube channel as a platform to display her individual style and to strengthen her application to become one of Nordstrom’s Fashion Ambassadors. Although Taryn was proud to be recording and sharing content for her channel, it was a difficult start, facing ridicule and negative judgment from some of her high school classmates and peers. “When they saw my first video, I was bullied immediately. I had to put my foot down and be my own biggest advocate. I would say this experience made me more determined to go after my wildest dreams, no matter what others had to say.”

When it was time to consider college, Taryn applied early decision to Marist because she was certain it was the only place she wanted to attend. Taryn has declared a major in Fashion Merchandising with a double concentration in Business and Product Development. After making strong connections and maintaining above average grades within her department at Marist, Taryn was rewarded with the opportunity to work at New York Fashion Week. During this time, she was able to examine first-hand the detailed and glamorous products made by designers and the enchanting models who presented their work.

To expand her ever-growing enthusiasm for fashion, Taryn decided to try modeling. At the end of her second year at Marist, she contacted the New York based photographer, Adam Chin, and asked if he would work with her, and from then on, it was the start of her newfound passion. Adam commented, “It’s rare to see someone so laser focused, and yet still so open to learning more at the same time. This young women is someone to look out for in the years to come and I look forward to being able to say, ‘I knew her before all the bright lights and super stardom.’”

Soon after her first shoot, Taryn was asked to be featured in photographs for the well-known American clothing brand and retail company, Aéropostale, that offers a variety of both modern and edgy styles for young people to choose from. Although unpaid, she knew this was an incredible opportunity that was too good to pass. This would offer Taryn the chance for tremendous career growth, including images of her displayed across all the brand’s social media pages, and ultimately being viewed by thousands across the entire country. “The photographer was the same age as me and I saw how dedicated and how ready she was to take risks. I knew I needed to take these steps too.”

Taryn’s steadfastness and growing connections led her to her first paid modeling job with the outdoor women’s clothing brand, Village and Wild. The brand is a complete fit for Taryn because the apparel and accessories are designed in New York City and are created with strong, adventure-seeking females in mind. “We went to the Catskills for the weekend,” she explained. “We were all working toward a common creative goal and I loved working in a team setting where everyone was so kind, fun and considerate of different ideas. I felt so grateful to be a part of it.”

“This process has proved to me that big things don’t come to those who wait, they come to those who go out and get it for themselves,” said Taryn. “And I want to empower other girls to be themselves, regardless of what other people say. I believe if you are confident, you can own anything.” She expressed her admiration for the intimate apparel company, Aerie, because of their commitment to never retouch or alter the physical appearance of models.

Taryn continuously shines by utilizing social media to defy odds and inspire others with her trailblazing, millennial-driven personality. She makes the most of these digital resources and builds her career by displaying up-to-date modeling appearances and advice for those who hope to follow in her footsteps. With an impressive near 4,000 followers on both the photo and video sharing app Instagram and the fashion marketplace app Poshmark, Taryn, otherwise known as @tarmcc, is constantly revolutionizing her own brand. By selling her clothes online, Taryn successfully advocates her artistic style and allows her followers to reproduce and recreate some of her most noteworthy fashion moments. She also plans to create her own blogging website as a one stop place to portray her work and personal messages pertaining to beauty and individuality.  

With her continuous exploration of the fashion and modeling realm, Taryn is spending her spring semester interning in Manhattan, a city she has always fantasized being a part of. She added, “Ever since I was young, I have imagined myself in my twenties, living in the city.” Taryn  is currently working as a Retail and Buying Intern for the luxury gown and jewelry company, Oscar de la Renta, a position where she will flourish in areas that she has already proven to illustrate both exceptional knowledge and skill. She also plans to continue independently modeling, although, she admits that now, school is her main objective.

Sitting in the lounge of the James A. Cannavino library, wearing her Rothco camo pants, old school Vans and designer reading glasses, she stared at me with frosty blue eyes and said, “The privilege of attending Marist has been an experience I will be thankful for throughout the rest of my life. Marist in Manhattan will expound that experience and foster my perspective and insight to flourish in my future role in the field I so relish being a part of.”