This 11-year-old professional model is empowering girls everywhere originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com
Meet Celai West, who at just 8 years old walked the runway at New York Fashion Week.
Now 11, she's still breaking barriers in the fashion world, becoming an entrepreneur with her own T-shirt company and aspiring to be a role model for young girls.
But modeling and entrepreneurial careers aside, Celai still attends school full time in Sacramento, California.
Her mom, Linda Ligons-West, told "Good Morning America" that while Celai is "an outside of the box kind of kid," at heart she's "just a regular little girl."
In Celai's Instagram bio, which is managed by her mother, she says she is the youngest self-taught pro runway model.
But despite what you may think, she has had no professional training.
"We’ve never taught her how to walk. She literally taught herself everything," Ligons-West told "GMA."
She started print modeling at the age of 3 after she was approached by a photographer and transitioned into runway a few years later.
Ligons-West calls herself Celai's full time "momager," but has never pressured her to model.
"We got her first modeling contract when she was 4 and I just wasn’t sure if this was what she wants to do, so we never signed it," Ligons-West said.
Ligons-West's advice for other parents? "You have to listen to your kid."
Celai's signature look is her beautiful, natural hair.
"She’s very adamant on not changing it," Ligons-West told "GMA."
The young model has even posted a video of herself throwing a hair straightener in the garbage.
Even though Celai has had a lot of success with her hair, her mom says there are still plenty of roadblocks.
Ligons-West said her daughter has had trouble being booked because of her hair, due to the fact that a lot of stylists don't know how to style it.
"What are these adults teaching the kids, that they have to look a certain way to be accepted?" Ligons-West told "GMA."
Not only is Celai a model and full-time student, she also has a T-shirt company called The Chatty Chick.
The phrases on the shirts all come from Celai and are designed by her mother.
Originally, the T-shirts were for girls just like Celai who were struggling with their natural hair, but Ligon-West has since expanded to include phrases that cater to all types of hair.
Her aim is to make the T-shirts inspiring to little girls just like her.
With more than 143,000 followers on Instagram, Celai hopes to show girls everywhere they are perfect just the way they are.
"She wants to show little girls that have hair like hers that it is beautiful and you can be proud of it," Ligons-West told "GMA."
West also hopes to expand her T-shirt company and one day attend Howard University.