7 Torrid Model Search Contestants Discuss Their Casting Call Experiences

On Saturday, Jul. 16, the Torrid Model Search for a fierce brand ambassador kicked off in New York City. When the plus size fashion store sweetheart announced the news of the open casting calls in May, thousands of women around the United States added "apply to Torrid Model Search" to their summer to-do lists.

For many plus size babes, the chance to become Torrid's next model was the opportunity of a lifetime. Even with the expanding options for cute and trendy plus size clothing available these days, Torrid still holds a special place in many of our hearts, mine included. It was one of the first brick-and-mortar retailers to sell clothing above a size 14 that offered the styles so many of our straight-size friends were rocking.

Since this is only the second year of the Face Of Torrid Model Search, there's usually a lot of mystery surrounding the casting calls. This can be alluring or intimidating, depending on your perspective. Since I participated in the search last year, I can safely say that I was in the latter camp, and the whole idea of not knowing what to expect terrified me. Would things feel catty? Intense? Awkward?

Even if you don't walk away from a casting as a finalist, there's a good chance that you'll feel proud, energized, and maybe even make a new friend or two. Don't take it from me, though. Take it from these seven women, including the Face of Torrid 2016, Lyanna Lynette, as they share tips and snippets of their experiences from Torrid's casting call.

1. Sarah Scarpulla

Before auditioning for the Torrid Model Search, plus size Instagram darling Sarah Scarpulla learned that all too often, things don't go according to plan. A week before the casting call, she visited her local Torrid and picked out the perfect dress. Packed and prepared, she was set for a smooth drive. Instead, she forgot the dress at home... six hours away.

Scarpulla goes on to tell me via Instagram, "They didn't have my size in the dress I got at the Torrid shop where the casting was happening, so I improvised and bought an awesome black skirt." If this were me, I may have melted into a ball of emotion and nerves, but Scarpulla was able to offhandedly pull together a personality-packed ensemble, accented by her bronze-tone Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows necklace and ring.

Handling what could have been a stressful situation with an effortlessly cool attitude, she adds, "It wasn't what I was planning to wear, but I thought my outfit definitely expressed all the unique, quirky things that I love to wear on a daily basis." The lesson we can take from Scarpulla's adventurous ensemble? Don't be afraid to improvise, and keep calm if something doesn't go the way you expected.

2. Valerie

Because Torrid's Model Search can be so inclusive and supportive, it can be a great opportunity to rock an outfit you'd never dreamed of wearing in public. Such was the case with plus size babe Valerie, who tells me via Instagram, "I based my outfit on how bold and confident I hoped I was going to be. That day was the first time I ever wore something with a crop top so openly and proud."

I can personally relate to this feeling, as I remember how liberated I felt the first time I rocked a crop top in public. Knocking down the ideals of what society has long dictated I can and can't wear was amazing.

Valerie further explains the empowerment she felt that day when she recalls the fashion runway at the event, saying, "That feeling of never being seen as a model because of my size, and then finally having almost 200 people just like you cheering as you strut down the runway... that moment got me so emotional I was close to tears."

3. Rebecca

Face Of Torrid hopefuls have all sorts of reasons for trying out. Some have always wanted to model, while others love the idea of attending Torrid-exclusive events. For plus size Instagrammer Rebecca, it was all about the excitement of the opportunity, and her connection with the brand.

She tells me via email, "I love the Torrid brand and I'm a regular shopper. I love how they celebrate women with curves." And it's true: Whether you're taking a look at Torrid's Photoshop-free ad campaign with Tess Holliday or the many beautiful women of its Instagram, it's clear that this company genuinely wants to spread the message that plus size women are beautiful.

Adding onto this, Rebecca tells me, "I also love that their clothing is stylish; usually, plus size women are left with ill-fitting clothing, but Torrid always manages to keep their clothing beautiful, chic, and modern." Her opinion of the brand is one that rings true for many plus size fashionistas out there who have looked to Torrid as a style outlet for many years.

4. Kim

One of the best aspects of Torrid's Model Search, in my opinion, is that the brand encourages all plus size women to try out. Take it from Kim, an aspiring model who admits, "I have actually always wanted to pursue plus modeling, but my height has held me back — I am 5'2"."

In stark contrast to other model searches, Torrid's casting call places no limit on age, size, or height, which presented Kim with the perfect opportunity to go after her dreams.

She opens up about her relationship with Torrid, saying, "I've recently lost 113 pounds, and I've worn almost every Torrid size. I just felt this year I could best represent the brand because of this experience."

Bringing a unique backstory to the table, Kim hopes that her journey will help her stand out among the other hopefuls. Regardless of the outcome, however, she encourages everyone to try out just for the fun of it. She adds, "There is no 'loss' in the experience! There is only fun to be had and connections to be made!" Sometimes, the experience alone proves to be just as rewarding as the end result.

5. Gennesis Melinda

For plus size Instagrammer Gennesis Melinda, the feeling of pride and unity among the hopefuls was really encouraging. The event didn't have that cutthroat, ferocious undertone that makes some competitions hostile. Although she was slightly overcome by nerves at the start, she felt more and more empowered as the day went on. She even discovered a newfound love not only for herself, but for the plus size community as a whole.

She opens up to me via Facebook, saying, "My favorite part of the day was feeling the energy and happy, proud spirit of all the women, from the models and women working the event to the contestants. The energy and aura was upbeat, positive, and uplifting."

She later adds, "This is so much more than a search for one woman: It's a body positive, empowering movement!" Based on the stories I've heard from Melinda and others, there's no doubt in my mind that she's right.

6. Taryn Elisabeth Snyder

Speaking via email with plus size Instagrammer Taryn Elisabeth Snyder, a singer, actor, and model, it's easy to see that she's comfortable in the spotlight. Needless to say, I was a bit shocked to read that even she was anxious about the mysterious casting call interview. Reflecting on her experience, she says, "At first, I was so nervous. My pulse was racing. I had no idea what to expect." It's a familiar feeling among the hopefuls, I'm sure.

Fortunately, the nerves subsided once Snyder realized that she was among a great group of women. She shares, "All of the attendees, volunteers, and people working the event were so welcoming and friendly [...] The interview was very chill, more of a conversation than anything. They just try to get a little more insight into who you are and your personality."

Of course, any experience that makes you feel awesome about yourself is one worth partaking in. Snyder confirms this, telling me, "Walking out of it all, I felt really good. I just thought to myself, 'This has been terrific. If nothing else comes of this, I just had such an amazing day with so many beautiful, confident, and empowering women.' Days later, I'm still on a high from the event! My self-esteem is through the roof! I feel so grateful and empowered."

If you ask me, earning confidence and self-love are two pretty fantastic prizes.

7. Lyanna Lynette

There is arguably no one who better understands how much Torrid's model search can change your life than Lyanna Lynette, the winner of the 2015 contest. Lynette tells me via email, "When I found out that I was the winner of Torrid's Model Search, I felt like I won Miss USA. I was overwhelmed with joy and felt extremely blessed to be given this amazing opportunity." Chosen from over 14,000 entrants, Lynette knew that her life would never be the same.

One peek at Lynette's upbeat Snapchat is all you need to see that she is filled with passion and absolutely loves being a brand ambassador. She cites the excitement of working alongside Torrid's veteran brand ambassadors, Georgina Burke and Philomena Kwao, and building lifelong friendships with last year's finalists as some of her favorite parts of the journey.

As you get ready to fill out your application or head to the final casting call in Los Angeles, California on Aug. 7, prepare in a way that's true to who you are. Ease into the day with soothing yoga, or spring into action with energetic rock music. Take a few moments to focus on yourself, and do whatever helps you shine your brightest.

As I wrap up my email conversation with Lynette, she has some wonderful advice to share with this year's hopefuls: "For all the ladies trying out [...] I would have to say just be yourself, be bold, and be confident. Don't go into this competition with expectations to win. Do it for the experience and don't be hard on yourself if you're told no. I got a lot of 'no's' before I was finally given my yes."

Images: scarpullasarah_michelle/Instagram (1); Courtesy Torrid HQ (2); Courtesy Instagrammers