Model, businesswoman and Charleston native Venita Aspen spreads message of inclusion | an interview with the post and courier

Venita Aspen has a message: Your voice, and what you chose to do with it, will carry you forward.

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Change is the only certainty and it’s vital to remain confident in who you are and what you want to stand for. It’s your “capital-V” Voice.

“If you depend on something, you have to know it might not always be there for you,” Aspen says. “I had to ask, ‘What’s actually going to make people see me more than anything else?’ And it’s my voice.”

Thus far, her voice has taken her plenty of places. She’s a third generation Charlestonian and a culinary school graduate who now operates the Aspen Agency. Though she “got picked on a lot for coming into the kitchen all fashionable,” she never wavered in her personality. As a model, Aspen has appeared in national ad campaigns for Sutter Home Wines, Anthropologie and Old Navy, to name a few. 

Ultimately, though, she decided that the kitchen wasn’t where she wanted to be. So she worked a few Charleston-based fashion jobs before moving to New York for a new opportunity.

Later, returning to Charleston, she realized that the only person she wanted to work for was herself. So, she took her combined work as a stylist and a model and the Aspen Agency was born.

The Aspen Agency, however, is not a modeling agency; it has a broader, more inclusive goal and remains separate from her freelance modeling career.

“The Aspen Agency believes there is a place at the table for all brands and businesses when it comes to creating content ... no matter how big or small the name and budget,” Aspen explains.

She represents brands that champion inclusion, diversity and empowerment. One of the best examples is a recent campaign for the International Longshoremen Association (ILA).

Though the port is male-dominated, the president of the ILA (who has three daughters) wanted to change that by making a promotional video showing that women not only could be successful working at the port, they could rise to the top. The video they created with Motion Film Works features Aspen.

“Just having two minutes and thirty seconds to show that, if you’re a woman, you can be at the top of the chain — it’s inspiring,” she says.

Aspen uses her platform as a model to make a difference.

“My goal is to bring awareness to girls that look like me that anything is possible, obviously, and to also show that when you do something for yourself and by yourself, how stressful that actually can be,” she says.

Aspen spreads her message by pulling back the curtain on struggles young women — especially women of color — face in everyday situations. She is honest about her work and her struggles, reminding us that social media isn’t an accurate representation of life.

“We are still stuck in looking the best and having the best and keeping up with the Joneses, but the Joneses aren’t even keeping up!” she says emphatically. “They’re putting up this facade to make it look like they have it going on. But they don’t.”

In other words, you’re not alone; the struggle to work, to do what we love, is difficult and it affects everyone. And that’s why Aspen is passionate about using her platform in a way that benefits others.

“A big focus of mine is to let people know the real insight of working for yourself and having a vision and trying to use it positively.”

When asked if she has any advice to offer others, she says, “ ‘No’ does not mean never, it just means not right now.”

And that message is just one more way Aspen uses her voice.