Taj Cutting

AGE: 24

LOCATION: Brooklyn, NY

We would like to introduce you to model and interior designer, Taj Cutting. I first met Taj on Instagram during my search for a model for our first Sanctuaire photo shoot. I was looking for someone that I felt captured the essence of the brand ethos and Taj did just that. From the time we met, I knew that we made the right choice. On the day of shooting, Taj was a joy to work with and as you can see from the pictures around the site she beautifully captured the essence of Sanctuaire. We had a chance to connect with Taj after the shoot to discuss all things modeling, interior design and self-care.

S:

How did you begin your career in modeling?

TC:

I started modeling in HS, but never took it seriously until college. Growing up, I always wanted to model, but never thought I could do it- it wasn’t until I was older that I just took a chance. I started freelance, building my portfolio and connecting with smaller brands before signing with my agency two years ago.

S:

Were there any WOC in the industry that served as inspiration when you began your career?

TC:

So many! I always admired Jourdan Dunn and Chanel Iman, as well as Pat Cleveland and Beverly Johnson.

S:

Have you ever felt pressure to fit into a white / mainstream standard of beauty?

TC:

At times, yes. When I was younger, this was certainly present - I attended private, mostly all-white schools in New York City, one in Greenwich Village and one on the Upper West Side. I remember desperately wanting to have long, straight hair, to live in doorman buildings and have second homes in the Hamptons. I feel that it was less pressure from others, and more from myself: I just wanted to fit in. Luckily, as soon as I went to college, I began to find myself, realizing the beauty of my skin, my unique culture and so much more. I didn’t need to fit in just to feel comfortable anymore.

S:

Was there any advice or teaching (by a parent or elder) that prepared you for dealing with the pressures of the industry.

TC:

Yes!! My dad is in the fashion industry - he’s worked for companies like Perry Ellis and House of Dereon, Tina Knowles-Lawson and Beyonce’s former line! He has always been my number one inspiration for working hard and never taking no for an answer, including encouraging me to stay true to myself, and to be clear, concise and confident (his favorite mantra). My mom is also a huge inspiration - she moved to the US from India in her 30’s, after only knowing my dad for a few months. She has always remained strong and true to herself, and I am continually amazed at how much both my parents have sacrificed for my brothers and I.

S:

In addition to being a model you are also an interior designer. Did you always know you would pursue both careers?

TC:

Not entirely. When I started modeling, it was important for me to continue school, including continuing on to grad school as well. Having just finished (and in the middle of a pandemic) it was challenging to juggle both initially, as I was unsure of how to proceed and do both. I’ve found that truly doing something well takes time and devotion, rather than mindlessly multitasking multiple things at once. I’m unsure of what I will end up pursuing full time, but for now, am happy with making things work.

S:

Do you feel there is any crossover between these two careers?

TC:

Definitely. As a designer, I draw inspiration from my surroundings. Being in fashion as a model, I’ve had the chance to work with designers whose clothing designs have some of the most fascinating patterns and textiles. I love to use plenty of color and pattern in the interiors I design and am drawn to, so there is plenty of crossover.

S:

Tell us a little about your blog @theeyemusttravell.

TC:

Initially, I started my blog as an outlet for my love of travel - a way for me to share guides and tips from places I’ve visited around the world. I wanted to bring a designer's eye to it, curating cities and spaces from my travels, allowing others to find their own design sense along the way. Since then, it’s transformed to include interviews with fellow designers of color, as well as writing more about design trends and inspirations that I come across.

S:

What is your favorite part of your home?

TC:

As a native New Yorker, the city is my home. I grew up taking the train to school every day, meeting with friends at parks, visiting museums, markets and so much more. Growing up in such a cultural and diverse city is my favorite part, and I wouldn’t trade this for anything!

S:

What is your ideal smell to fill your home?

TC:

I love lavender and the smell of clean laundry the most. I use incense a lot as well.

S:

During these unprecedented times, many people are spending much more time at home than usual. What are some tips that you would give them for making their home a sanctuaire (sanctuary) with a sense of tranquility and relaxation?

TC:

Surround yourself with pieces you love - this could mean artwork, candles, blankets, anything really that makes you feel cozy. I’m a firm believer in buying pieces that you love and that help you create memories. While we all spend much more time at home now, these are the pieces we will remember most.
‘‘
I pray daily - in times like these, even more sometimes. Having a conversation with God has helped me to let go and leave things in His hands.
’’

S:

Either in your home or elsewhere, where is your Sanctuaire (sanctuary) for peace and well-being?

TC:

My bedroom has always been my sanctuary. I’ve always enjoyed coming home after a long day, showering and lying in bed, taking in the day and all that’s happened. It’s where I think the most, and where I start to understand more about myself.

S:

What brings you joy?

TC:

I love making others happy, whether that is by making things for them, like cooking, or simply being there to listen. Making others happy is special to me, and in turn makes me happy as well.

S:

How do you practice gratitude?

TC:

I pray daily - in times like these, even more sometimes. Having a conversation with God has helped me to let go and leave things in His hands.

S:

Do you have a self-care routine? If so, what is included?

TC:

Somewhat! I try to exercise 4-5 times a week. I cleanse, tone and do a face mask at least once a week, and that’s about it. Moisture and oils are important to me as well - I love having my skin feel super hydrated.

S:

The (clean) beauty product I can’t live without_____ (and why)?

TC:

They are a black owned all natural vegan skincare line, and the first beauty brand I worked with when I started modeling. I absolutely love their under eye cream: in recent months, work has been pretty overwhelming, so using this product twice daily helps with puffiness.

S:

When I want to de-stress

TC:

I exercise or walk my dog. ­­­

S:

Right now, I am reading

TC:

The House of Deep Water, Jeni McFarland.

S:

I show love for myself

TC:

by taking care of myself, both physically and mentally.

S:

For movement / exercise, I enjoy

TC:

kickboxing and dance classes!

S:

Favorite drink after a long day is

TC:

anything with tequila!

S:

Favorite romantic movie

TC:

Love & Basketball (cliche yes!)

S:

When I want to relax, I listen to

TC:

Maxwell or old records.

S:

Have you recognized any silver linings during this unprecedented time?

TC:

That some things are completely out of my control. Learning that not everything is in my power, and to just go with the flow, taking each day one at a time.

Our Self-Care Selects