Skip to main content

Tomiko Fraser talks life, hair and modeling

Avatar • Aug 19, 2010

Tomiko Fraser is one of the most recognizable black models in the fashion world. A former Maybelline spokesmodel, she has done both runway and commercial fashion, walking in the Chloe, Chanel, Vera Wang, Vivienne Westwood and Emmanuel Ungaro runway shows and modeling for Gap, Old Navy and Target. Throughout her career, Tomiko has rocked a natural look, often sporting curls in various photoshoots. I got a chance to talk with her about life, modeling and hair. Enjoy!

On her beginnings
I am a New Yorker. A very, very proud New Yorker. I’m born and raised in the Bronx but I’ve lived in Los Angeles for almost 10 years, which I find very hard to believe because I said I’d never live any place but New York (laughs). But the weather sucked me in and I found my husband and I just found a space here to be creative.

On how she got into modeling

I’ve been modeling for about 15 years. I’m a pro (laughs). I’ve been 5’ 9” since I was 12 years old, so I’ve had friends and family suggest that I get into modeling. But I’m pretty practical and I didn’t think, at the time, that modeling was a practical enough career.

The cliché of being discovered in a restaurant actually is true for me. I was working as a hostess at a restaurant in the Flat Iron District in New York when a patron, who was also an agent, told me, “Hey, you should really think about modeling.” She pursued me so I decided to give it a shot. I stayed with her for 6 months or so. She was a very small agency, but she believed in me and my career took off from there.

When I walked the Chanel runway for the first time you couldn’t tell me anything. This was in Paris, and I’d done shows before but I’d never had family or close friends in the audience. This time my sister, who had never been to Paris, was there in the audience. I probably started crying on the runway.

On being an older model
I am 42 years old. I had a whole other life before I started modeling. And when I got into modeling I was told immediately to lie, because I started when I was 25 years old, which is geriatric for models, at least at that time. And for years I was always, like, 6 to 10 years younger than my real age (It’s a joke that model years are like dog years). I found myself not speaking up at jobs even though I had an opinion because, oops, I can’t have an opinion if I’m supposed to be 19.

It wasn’t until a year and a half ago I was talking to a group of young black women aged 9 to 13 about being empowered when one little girl innocently asked me, ‘Miss Tomiko how old are you?’ And I looked at her and I was going to go into my very learned, very ingrained lie. Then I said, ‘Sweetie, you know what, I’m not going to lie to you. I’m 40.’ I decided then that I was going to stop lying about my age. We as women need to embrace our years because we’ve earned them and they’ve made us who we are.

On being the first black woman to sign an exclusive contract with Maybelline

Being signed to a contract is like winning the Super Bowl. It’s what all models aspire to — getting a cosmetic campaign. So I was very honored and flattered to be chosen for this and it’s just been life changing. I personally feel after Maybelline opened the door we began to see more darker-complexioned women being represented in cosmetics, like Kiara (for CoverGirl) and Liya, who is doing Estee Lauder. A lot of girls that we wouldn’t normally see are being represented with these high-end and highly visible cosmetic companies.

Kiara Kabukuru
Liya Kebede

On how natural hair is received in the modeling industry
It’s still not an easy time for some hairstylists to have to work with natural hair. And that’s on the stylist, that is not on the model. I always go to jobs with my hair pretty much done so that they don’t really have to do much to it. Or I’ll work with wigs and/or weaves because the majority of the time, they don’t know what to do with my hair. They love that I come prepared but I really shouldn’t have to do that.

Natural hair is becoming more acceptable. I do Target ads all the time and they use my hair in its natural state. But not every company is ready for that — nor is their customer.

On America’s Next Top Model
I give kudos to Tyra for having this platform for women to explore modeling in a way they probably wouldn’t have had a chance to, so I definitely applaud her for that. And I do know that there’s been some successes from some of the past winners. I’m actually good friends with the runner up from Season 2, Mercedes Yvette. She has lupus and we work together with The Lupus Foundation.

It’s a reality show, you know, reality shows are fantastical so they’re meant to have drama and strife and things of that nature to bring viewership. Is it my cup of tea? No. I don’t believe women getting together and having to be catty with each other is necessarily a good thing. But, I’m also in television so I understand how it works.

Does it set up unrealistic expectations for some women? Possibly. I don’t know of many winners, honestly, that have gone on to supermodeldom or superstardom. So I’m kind of on the fence with it. I applaud Tyra for doing her thing as always. But I don’t know if the premise of the show and its after effects are most ideal for the modeling world that I know.

On her skin
I wish that I could take full credit for it, like I made it this way, but no, it’s definitely genetics. But it’s my responsibility to take care of those genetics so I do the old adage of washing your face twice a day using some kind of astringent, and also moisturizing.

Never go to bed with makeup on. Even if you’re that tired, that drunk, that whatever. Have some of those facial wipes by your bed, wipe your face off. Drink a lot of water. If you are in a position to get facials, do that. And there’s so much information on the web about doing at-home facials with products from your kitchen. Treat your skin like you treat your hair. Take care of your entire self.

On her natural hair journey

A young Tomiko
I wasn’t a willing naturalista. About 12 years ago my hair decided that it had had enough of the perm. It began to break quite a bit and my hairstylist at the time, Anthony Dickey, who is still a good friend of mine, said, ‘You need to cut this hair off. I don’t know why you’re playing.’ I remember sitting in his chair and asking him to be gentle, knowing he wasn’t going to be. He chopped my hair off. As I know now they call it the big chop. I cried and cried, let it grow back a little bit and tried to perm again.

Then I went to a trichologist who told me that my scalp couldn’t handle the chemicals anymore (I had been getting perms since I was 11.) I was concerned because at the time I had my Maybelline contract and I thought, ‘There is no way that Maybelline is going to have a natural haired model with darker skin as their spokesperson. That’s just not happening.’ But when I explained the situation to them they thought it was fine. We used wigs and weaves, and eventually we used my hair in a couple of ads because it had grown by then and was full and healthy.

So I went natural because I had to, but it was the best forced decision I’ve ever had to make.

On her hair regimen
Felicia Leatherwood is my friend and my hairstylist and she takes such good care of me. I am a chameleon when it comes to my hair. I use it as an accessory. I’ll put twists in, then I’ll use weave for a little while, then I’ll use my own hair. I like playing with it. Thankfully I have a very skilled and patient hairstylist who just rolls with me. My regimen is pretty much washing it, keeping my scalp moisturized, keeping my ends clipped and just playing. I don’t think hair should be a chore. I think it should be fun.

On what she wants women to learn from The Goddess Gathering, an LA-based women’s support organization she started six years ago

Tomiko at a Goddess Gathering meeting
You create your life, you define your life. Whatever happened to you in the past, whatever is happening to you now that doesn’t fit, that is horrible, that is sad, it doesn’t define you unless you let it.

On her husband, Chris

Tomiko and Chris

I got married at 38. It was the perfect time for me to get married. He works in television. He’s also a spoken word artist and he’s yummy delicious. I have married perfectly for me.

Thank you Tomiko for sharing your life with us! Click HERE for more information about Tomiko’s Goddess Gathering and her new e‑book, Tomiko Fraser’s A‑Z Guide to being a Goddess.

Also look out for Tomiko’s new Old Spice commercial coming soon and her first photo book, Unbound.

63
Leave a Reply

avatar
63 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
59 Comment authors
Gilbert A FraserBlackOnyx03Of fabric softener and kinky hair | Carib SliceBoho BarbieAyo Kedar Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Freecurl
Guest
Freecurl

Tamiko has always been one of my favorite models. She is absolutely GORGEOUS. She truly represents a fuller spectrum of black american women. Thanks for doing this interview.

Sasha-Shae
Guest

Tomiko! That was an awesome post!! Loved your insights!!

LittleOne
Guest
LittleOne

So beautiful and inspiring!

aiych
Guest
aiych

She’s 42?!?!?! wow, talk about DIMEPIECE, i thought she was in her 20’s. puts Halle Berry to shame lol Ok.…enough of that. It’s nice to hear that she’s been natural for most of her modeling career. And that guy was a good friend to tell her–‘You need to cut this hair off. I don’t know why you’re playing.’ I’d like to tell that to some of these women with overprocessed or extremely heat damaged hair, but I’m not trying to get slapped anytime soon… It’s also great to hear that Maybelline worked with her on the hair issue after that… Read more »

Davina916
Guest
Davina916

GREAT interview!

Krystal
Guest
Krystal

I cannot believe this woman is 42! And she got married at 38? There’s still hope for me after all. Beautiful woman. She’s right: I need to start owning my age. There’s nothing to hide. I’m 32 and people, young and old, routinely mistake me for 25. This was a good interview. Thanks!

Shanika
Guest

I love Tomiko! Always have! She’s flipping 42?!?!?! I had to read that about 3 times!! I love how she is upfront about America’s Next Top Model and realizes that majority of the show is for pure entertainment. I love how this interview was so real. She didn’t sugarcoat anything and say things that she thought we wanted to hear. KUDOS!!!

Yemzi
Guest

Wow, Tomiko and her husband are a beautiful couple! She married when she was 38 but she looks much more youthful, beautiful!

Jan
Guest
Jan

@ Krystal, I understand how you feel lol!! I’m also 32.
Tomiko is absolutely gorgeous. Talk about flawless skin!!! And her husband isn’t bad to look at either!

luvmylocs
Guest
luvmylocs

very good interview! she’s such a professional. i like how she talked about the “age thing”. she is a beautiful woman with wonderful skin. that’s the first thing i noticed about her years ago! i love her hair too! i thank her for mentioning she married at 38. sometimes you feel like if you haven’t met “the one” and married by your early 30’s you are doomed to live a life of singleness. i wish her much success and greatness!!

titilayo
Guest

42???!!!! Get outta here!

Great interview, and I think that last photo (with her yummy delicious husband, ha!) is hands down the most beautiful photo I’ve ever seen of Ms. Tomiko. It’s too gorgeous.

Daree Allen
Guest

Awesome interview– I can’t believe she’s 42. I’m glad she has had a long career in modeling–her face is very recognizable and her story is inspiring.

Hmm
Guest
Hmm

And just like THAT she became my hero! Her skin is so incredibly FLAWLESS! I would’ve guessed her to be in her 20’s for sure! 42?!? I’m 22 and I would KILL for her skin. Seems like she’s got a beautiful spirit to match her physical beauty. Great feature!

Amma Mama
Guest
Amma Mama

Wow that was actually interesting to read! I read everything & enjoyed every minute of it.
She is beautiful and intelligent! She’s just comfortable in her own skin. I can see that by looking at her pictures and reading her interview.Very inspiring 🙂

Caramelqueen
Guest
Caramelqueen

Umm … she is my new SHE-RO!!!! 42!!!! I too had to make sure that wasn’t a typo. She’s gorgeous!!!! Her story is very inspiring and yes, her husband is quite handsome. Thanks for the interview! =)

Crys Mack
Guest
Crys Mack

Amazing! Both Tomiko AND the article. Going now to post on my FB and Twitter!

Great job BGLH!

Dawn Michelle @ Minimalist Beauty
Guest

This interview was so inspiring!!! Being in the industry can be very challenging, and it is so wonderful to get inspiration from other women of color really doing their thing as beautifully as Tomiko. She has such a sweet spirit and this article really allows it to shine through. Thanks so much for sharing and I wish her even more success as she deserves it!

Heartless
Guest
Heartless

Glad to know I’m not the only one shocked she’s 42. Definitely flawless.

thelady
Guest
thelady

She is gorgeous. I’m 30 and single. She gives me hope for the future.

Felicia
Guest

I love, love, love this article…good job and I love, love, love BGLH’s extensive coverage on everything! BGLH you really do give 100% to the readings! THanks

julia
Guest

talk about more than just a pretty face. and 42 just stop it! Beautiful. And I love that her hairdresser was honest with her — more people need that because unhealthy is just not cute.

Nedra
Guest

Her baby photo is absolutely adorable! What an interesting hair color.

The Black Bot
Guest

Natural hair is becoming more acceptable.”

That’s great to hear, but it’s so frustrating that our genetic, racial features are considered to be unacceptable in the first place. I’m glad that sisters are working to change this by teaching America to celebrate diversity. There is no better way to do that than to simply be ourselves and to not hide our hair texture.

trackback

[…] Nike Oshinowo-Soleye and Angelique Kidjo.  And though not African, I just have to shout out Tomiko Frazer – she looks incroyable!  In my naive mind I like to genetics are the key to African women […]

Nikki T
Guest
Nikki T

I love Tomiko. 42? Are you kidding…she she so beautiful. Great interview.

FunkyHairChic
Guest
FunkyHairChic

This is an awesome article! I’ve seen in her in several print ads and I always thought she was gorgeous! She’s stunningly beautiful and it’s encouraging to see the beauty industry recognizing darker skinned African-American women. She represents very well and I hope to see more young black women of her caliber become more mainstream.

Jai
Guest
Jai

What a beautiful and positive sista, great interview!!!!

Leo the Yardie Chick
Guest
Leo the Yardie Chick

Many thanks for the interview! I too became a relaxer-head at 11, so maybe it’s a good thing I decided to transition at age 26 (I just turned 27, and BCed weeks before)!

I had no idea she was in her 40s. She certainly doesn’t look like it! Some of the haggard looking early 20-somethings I’ve seen could take a page out of her book.

Gem
Guest

Excellent interview. I died right along with everyone else when I read she was 42. She is awesome.

Joey
Guest

Fantastic article! You’ve outdone yourself this time!

Tomiko (Yes, It's Me!)
Guest

Hello everyone! Tomiko here! Thank you all for your lovely comments and feedback about the interview. And thanks Leila for being so easy to talk to and asking such great questions! : ) Yes, ladies (and gents if you’re out there), I am proud to say that I am 42!! Sorry for shocking so many of you. Lying about my age was never my choice. I just wasn’t secure enough, at the time, to refuse. So now that I am a grown Goddess, I no longer hide truths I wish to share. Wanna know how I became so secure in… Read more »

LBell
Guest
LBell

Wow…she’s closer to my age than I knew. I think that her figure as well as her skin contributes to her youthful look. Thanks so much for this interview!

Yep
Guest
Yep

She is gorgeous, but I don’t get the shock at her age. Sisters, if we take care of ourselves, age wonderfully. She doesn’t look like she’s in her 20s, but she’s a damn great 42 (appearing 30-something). I think we’ve forgotten what people can and should look like if they maintain a healthy lifestyle. So many of us have let ourselves go.

justicefighter1913
Guest
justicefighter1913

OOOH this interview was right on time for so many reasons! Thanks Leila for the wonderful interview. Thank you Ms. Fraser for sharing with us!!! LOVE it!

Adrii
Guest
Adrii

Beauuuuuuuuuuuuuutiful!!!

E. Lewis
Guest
E. Lewis

Fab!!!! Just fab!!!

Miss Entrepeneur
Guest

Wow she looks amazing! I had to re-read her age because I thought it was a typo. She looks better than me and I’m half her age. I love the fact that she embraces her age, her skin, hair and beauty- which in turn leads to her being more beautiful. Tomiko is inspiring.

lina40
Guest

OOWEEE that was a great article! I am frankly surprised at the age, even with self-care, that is still great genetics! She is a great role model for women of any age — and I am definitely inspired. And YAY for Black Love!

On a side note, I am so happy with BGLH and the huge pull that it is receiving from prominent black women in the entertainment, fashion, education, and business industries. What a wonderful place and atmosphere to share both successes and struggles in a constructive forum as this.

BrownSugahChild
Guest

Tomiko you are absolutely stunning!!!!! Thank You BGLH for this posting!!!!!!
It’s a blessing to be a natural chick, otherwise i would have never found a site as awesome as this one!!!!!!!

luvshea
Guest
luvshea

@yep lol I feel the same way, I was not shocked but rather proud and congratulating her on the decisions she made.I feel lookin young is a requirement and not an exception, I am in my late 20s people always say I look much younger and say I have clear skin, I don’t drink sodas, eat greasy foods, control my stress level etc. The way you look reflects how you take care of your body in your younger years. I see people that look so old and are young and when you speak to the them you see why the… Read more »

Kinky haired Kid
Guest

Great to hear her very diplomatic take on America’s Next Top Model — people believe that show is the reality of the fashion industry but as it goes on and Tyra gets more outrageous, I think people are realising it’s unrealistic. It does not surprise me about Tomiko lying about her age, she’s not the only one. At least at the time of Maybelline, she didn’t look like a thirty something. I’ve seen white models claiming 24 and looking anything but. Also why are people so hung up on age and not being seen as 30 something as though it’s… Read more »

Betty Chambers
Guest

She’s awesomely beautiful. She looks dynamite. For the longest time I thought she was in her late twenties. Her advice about skin care is great.
Wonderful interview.

naturaldancer
Guest
naturaldancer

I have always adored Miss Tomiko from the time I first saw her in the Maybelline ads. I thought she was goregeous & she still is!!!! I don’t know why I am shocked by her age, because she’s been around for a long time…but it does amaze me that she’s older than me, lol! (I am 36, but often mistaken for 16). Thank you so much for sharing this article; she is awesome inside & out!

Nickie Dee
Guest

She is so freakin’ beautiful. And I will be using her phrase,“yummy delicious” lol. She is too fab!

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Her skin is flawless! Absolutely beautiful!

Taharqa
Guest
Taharqa

Dear God or Goddess! Tomiko is utterly amazing. She started modelling at 25?! That’s unheard of in the fashion industry! Wow! And she’s 42?! She looks like she can pass for being in her late 20s. Let’s not kid ourselves here folks. The secret is good genes + melanin + healthy eating and exercise = great skin at any age! I found out recently that Iman is in her 50s! She married at 38!? Tomiko, God bless you! I am 30 and still single and I started to have a melt down when I saw all my friends and former… Read more »

copelli
Guest
copelli

This was a great post! I love Tomiko. She is soo beautiful and look at her sans make-up…just more gorgeousness.

I think she caught my attention because she was this brown-skinned model who seemed to be getting a lot of work. I would see her everywhere, which was great.

This interview just confirms that she is as beautiful on the inside, as she is on the outside.

AND LOVE that she’s married a poet.…and a mad cute brotha at that!

Love the Black Love!

Wish u much continued success!

Kenyada
Guest

FABULOUS Interview!!!! Yes! Yes! Yes! Appreciating the great questions and truthful answers. Thanks! Beautiful!

Nikki
Guest
Nikki

Yay!! I’m so glad to read this, I’ve always thought she was beautiful growing up when I’d see her in those Maybelline ads and she seems like she’s beautiful on the inside too!

The main thing I was shocked by was the 42 bomb! Wow!!! She looks great and she has just motivated me to take better care of my skin and to eat better because I would love to look this healthy and young at that age.

I definitely want to try that cornrowed hairstyle that she rocked I thought it was cool and classy.

Yep
Guest
Yep

LuvShea and KinkyHaired Kid,

I agree with you both, clearly (based on my previous post). Hopefully, this will get more black women to think consciously about what they put into their mouths and how they move their bodies. Obesity has too many sisters looking aged and weary way before their time.

Shell
Guest

I’ve always liked Tomiko. This interview let me get to know the mind behind the beauty. I’m glad to see she is repping 40’s beautifully. Extra happy, she is from The Bronx, like me.

This is one of my favorite interviews here. Thank you to Tomiko and BGLH.

Wanett
Guest

This is such a great interview!! I am so intrigued by her woman’s group. I have been thinking about doing something similar with my little group of female friends.

I Am Your People
Guest

She is so gorgeous! I have got to know her skin care regimen (I know, Maybelline, lol) But I think it’s unbelievable she started at 25 and was able to work with natural hair. I’m a longtime fan, love her!

MommieDearest
Guest
MommieDearest

OK, I know I’m tardy to the party, but I absolutely LOVED this interview! I smiled the whole time while reading it. Tomiko is GORGEOUS, and proof positive that “black don’t crack.” LOL!!! Like her, I am over 40 (actually, I’m closer to 50 than 40 now…) I married later in life (at age 39) to the perfect man for me, and went natural after over 25 years of perms because my hair staged a “mutiny” and just couldn’t take it anymore. She is so relatable, and a wonderful role model for women and young girls. I also agree with… Read more »

Ms. Haiti 1982!
Guest
Ms. Haiti 1982!

I love you guys for this! i have wondered what happend to her over the years. I still have a few old vogue magazines with those ads in it. I also have a old elle print ad she did years back. 42! my GOD! she puts most women to shame with that type of skin and beauty. I can’t believe she’s in her 40’s! She seems to be settled within her life. a place of peace and confidance. I love what she is doing, and I love her hair!

deezee
Guest
deezee

I can NOT believe that she is over 40!!! I love Halle, but she can’t touch Tomiko. I can NOT believe this. I don’t know what to say. Oh Em Geeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!

Tomiko (Yes, It's Me!)
Guest

Hello again beauties! I just wanted to jump in again and thank all of you for your lovely comments. I’m flattered by the “shock” so many of you shared about my age. I’ve gotten to a point where it’s no big deal for me, but I guess it’ll take others a while to catch up. ; ) I come from a “young looking” family. My great-grandmother didn’t look a day over 50 when she died several years ago at 94. It’s in the genes ladies. For those of you on the East Coast (specifically New York), I will be hosting… Read more »

keisha
Guest
keisha

LOVE LOVE LOVE HER!!! Such an inspiration and beauty in so many ways! Thanks for the interview

Ayo Kedar
Guest

Love this article! I am so loving that women are really embracing the natural hair! I got my first perm at 15 and it was really a direct result of peer pressure and feeling that was how I would truly be “beautiful” — back then natural hair was definitely not “in style” — I got my last perm at 19 and haven’t turned back since! Love seeing phenomenal women doing their thing! Love it! Blessings~

Boho Barbie
Guest
Boho Barbie

42 years old! i really cant believe that…you’re soo beautiful tomiko!

trackback

[…] who made it look so very good.  Fraser, has been sporting her natural hair for a while now and speaks candidly and publicly of her journey, I am really happy to see natural hair embraced in this way and I look forward to more black […]

BlackOnyx03
Guest
BlackOnyx03

Loved this interview. Tomiko is just GAW-GUS, and she and her hubby look fantastic together. Wishing her much continued success!

Gilbert A Fraser
Guest
Gilbert A Fraser

MRS T. FRASER
HAVE TO ASK WAS YOUR FATHER NAME Herny Fraser.
Was your my a FLIGHT Attend.

Shopping Cart