November 21, 2020


Ambassador Digital Magazine Editor Musa Jackson has an in-depth Q. & A. with Supermodel Tomiko Fraser Hines. From the Bronx, New York to international modeling fame

  • Client

    Musa Jackson

I didn’t own my beauty. I didn’t even resonate because all I knew was college wasn’t something that was even reinforced in my family for whatever reason.


MUSA Where are you from?
TOMIKO I was born and raised in the Bronx. My family is from the Bronx. My formative years were in the Bronx, in the Gunhill Road area. I lived in Washington Heights from the age of five to eleven. But before that and after that I lived in the Bronx.
MUSA What was it like growing up in the Bronx as a Teen in the ‘80s?
TOMIKO As a teen I thought I was shy. My people tell me that I wasn’t and my memories of it tell me that I was introvert, extrovert. I had a core group of friends, girls and guys and we all hung out together. I guess I was into the arts, because my girlfriends and I were in the talent show every year. To this day we are known for our dance rendition of Sheila E’s “The Glamorous Life”. ( laughs) Whereever we are in the world when we hear it, we call each other and dance to it. I was smart enough academically. I got good grades. I was a good girl for the most part. But like any teen I did my share of sneaky things. I’m a Taurus so I’m practical minded so I started working the day I turned 16. I haven’t stopped working since. I was and am very reliable. My mother and step father, who raised me from the age of five. So when I just about to turn eighteen my younger brother was born. So he is and was my heart so I’d be walking around the Bronx with this little baby. And I’d get all kinds of looks. Like look at this poor little teen mom. I’d be like, “Nope, he’s my brother.” But I relished taking care of him. I remained strongly rooted in family. I’ve been five foot nine since I was in the sixth grade and I didn’t know what I had.
MUSA How did you get into modeling?
TOMIKO As far as I can remember I was that tall and fifty pounds lighter. But I was always told or advised that I should get into modeling. But at the time what teen Black girl from the Bronx even considered that? I didn’t. I didn’t own my beauty. I didn’t even resonate because all I knew was college wasn’t something that was even reinforced in my family for whatever reason. After High school you’re going to get a job, you’re going to take care of yourself. That’s the route I went. And at one point I went to secretarial school after High School. I had a job as a administrative assistant. I was moonlighting working at nights at Lola restaurant as a hostess and this woman who owned a small agency came in and said you should model. I’d love to represent you. I was like okay let’s give it a shot. And that’s when it all started. The opportunity presented itself. It sounded practical. I like the way she presented herself to me. I’m very big on forming connections with people. And I allowed myself to jump into the unknown and here we are almost 30 years later. And this is still my livelihood and my career.
MUSA What kind of modeling opportunities were there at that time for a beautiful brown skin sister?
TOMIKO Oh man, well you were there, you already know the answer. I know that I have become stronger as a woman because of the things I have overcome. The opportunities were not really there for me in the beginning. There were few and far between Black models. We know there were beautiful women that were out there but even those women who are icons were not being used to the depths of their capacities. I got clear really quickly that I am my business. I am my spokesperson, my manager, my cheerleader. So I started having meetings with my agents. Every couple months. If I saw one of my white counterparts get a gig. I was like, “Why didn’t I go on that gig? “ Maybe I was naive but I wasn’t going to be limited by the industry because of the color of my skin. To the best of their abilities they got me in the room. And if they didn’t even think to get me in the room their was a meeting. Why haven’t I gone to Macy’s and all the different catalogues? I believe because I was an advocate for myself. I spoke up, I took it like a business. I saved my money. Is a part of the reason I had the success and I continue too. And I’m also great at what I do as far as model is concerned. It’s a job for me. I love dress up, and play and to meet new people. It’s like a kid in a candy store. But I show up on time, with all the things I’m supposed to show up with, hair and nails are ready to go. If I partied the night before I make sure I didn’t party too late. I’m no angel but I’m also a professional and I know that it’s a privilege. I feel gifted to be able to do this. I don’t take it for granted.
MUSA And you certainly got in the room. You did German Vogue, Elle, Essence, Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s, Marie Claire, etc. What was the first job that really stood out?
TOMIKO The first job that stood out and I felt like I arrived and I thought this was cool was for Seventeen magazine. I was like damn near thirty. I didn’t start modeling full time until I was twenty five. So I was over twenty five in Seventeen magazine and just as giddy as can be. That was one of my first big jobs. German Vogue, I remember that shoot thinking how cool this was to be doing what I loved to do. Tommy Hilfiger, that’s when I met Tyrese. We went to the Hampton’s and their was a bunch of us. And I’m thirty with all these eighteen year olds. Just cheesin and grinning right along with them looking like I’m eighteen.

The opportunities were not really there for me in the beginning.
There were few and far between Black models.

MUSA So what was it like to be the first African American model to be the face of Maybelline for so long?
TOMIKO It was a game changer. It was the highlight of my career. As far going to a place in our Industry that so many aspire too and especially Black models don’t get to. A guy I was dating at the time likened it to winning the Super Bowl. I remember the process because Cover Girl and Maybelline were both interested in me. I was with Ford at the time and they were very savvy at the whole negotiation game. And Maybelline came back talking the right numbers. And even still I’m going to say it since we’re being real. They were great with their numbers but they were nowhere near what the White girls were getting. My lawyer at the time, who was white had just done another cosmetics campaign for a very well known white model.

It is almost 20 plus years later and the love I still get from the campaign.

And he said, “Tomiko I have to tell you it was really challenging for me to accept these numbers for you. Knowing I just did a negotiation for a white model.” But at the time I took it as a win, I was in the door. But here it is almost 20 plus years later and the love I still get from the campaign. From young girls who are now grown women to women who are now older. It’s something I am so proud of. I know I represented us well. As a Brown skin woman seen as an ideal of beauty. Not in an ego was but in a representation sort of way. People talk to you differently. You can command a higher rate. You walk in the room and they already know your pedigree. I also did shows in Paris. I didn’t do a lot but I was happy with what I got. Doing the Chanel show was right up there with the Maybelline. And Karl Lagerfeld, may he Rest In Peace took a liking to me. So I was able to do his show for several seasons. And I got to fly my sister to Paris to see me in the shows. She’s since passed from Lupus but that was something special for the both of us.

MUSA So did you always want to be an actress or was it something that fell into your lap?
TOMIKO It was one of those things. I’ve always been interested in the arts. My Mom had my sister and I attending for a short period of time the Dance Theater of Harlem. Acting just called me. I love creativity, love dance, I love music. It’s always been there but now as an adult I know how much I love it and how it inspires me. I took acting classes in New York. I took some commercial classes but somebody suggested I try film and tv acting too. I loved the process, the technique of how we would get to bring the work alive. I didn’t have a burning desire for it but I did prepare for it. The opportunities that came my way. It was a part of my artistic expression. I’ve gotten to a place of comfort of any room that I’m going in. I was even a part of a singing group, I took singing lessons. I wanted to be able to hold my own to some degree. I’m not trying to go on The Voice. ( laughs)
MUSA You’ve had some nice gigs. Working with Freddie Prinze Jr. Head Over Heels, and working with Jennifer Lopez in Monster In Law. Did you pick up anything from them or was it the overall experience?
TOMIKO I would say it was the overall experience. I did have a connection with Jennifer Lopez, cause we’re both from the Bronx. That one scene I’m in with her. People will say to me did I just see you in Monster In Law? Did you do a movie called Head Over Heels? Just being in the joy of creative expression is what I got. I fought moving to LA for a very long time. I was like it’s all plastic out there. Everyone’s pretending to be this and thriving to be that. There is so few that actually make it. What I learned since I moved to La La Land is that this is fertile ground for you to develop or discover what your creative expression is. You can be a writer, director, actor, model, music producer and that’s just fine. If you land in one lane that really calls to you, then you have the opportunity to do that. If you’re like me who just likes to play in all these different creativity fields. That’s available to you too.

What I learned since I moved to La La Land is that this is fertile ground for you to develop or discover what your creative expression is.

MUSA Tell us about your Goddess Gathering
TOMIKO That’s one of my babies. It has morphed into the overarching into brand name of the Goddess Life with Tomiko Fraser Hines. It started out as the Goddess Gatherings. It was great at what it was but basically a monthly of coming together as women with the intention of having them straighten up their backs and express themselves. And know that they could get through whatever it was they were getting through, whatever their past was or present is. That in this group of women they would be seen, heard, supported and guided. It just came to me right before moving to LA from New York. I played this game called Go Goddess. It was basically candles, wine and questions. And I played it with a couple of my girls friends and I loved it. I moved to LA and I didn’t have a lot of friends and my best friend was out here but she had a boyfriend at the time so I hardly got to see her. And I was in an acting class pretty early on and I invited some of the girls to come over to play this game. That became every month and we invited more girls and we came up with topics, agenda and a flow it took on a life of its own. Cause it was and still something that women crave. They crave to know that they’re not alone in whatever it is that they’re dealing with. And then to be given a way through is mind blowing. You mean you’ve been through it and this is how you’ve come through Thank you for sharing that with me. It’s literally one of my life’s joys to do this work. A woman fully expressed is the most beautiful thing to witness in my opinion. No matter what she looks like, how old she is, what her body shape is, her marital status is, financial status is. If she knows who she is and she’s walking in the world like that there is nothing sexier, more powerful or more beautiful to see. And I get to be a part of that. Man, come on. I call them my Goddess Sisters after 20 years deep. And more are coming with the Goddess Life.
MUSA How did you meet your husband Chris Hines, who is the Lead Stage manger for The Voice, Kelly Clarkson Show and The Peoples Choice Awards?
TOMIKO We met at a game night. He was the mutual friend of mine from New York and Chris was there. He had a girlfriend at the time but he wasn’t flirting with me but there was definitely something there. We were playing games and the guys were winning and Chris was talking smack. I was like how dare he but he was also cute. He had these locs down his back. I found out a few months later he was single from that same friend. And being out of character for me, we had exchanged numbers at some point. And I called him up during auditions to see if he wanted to have lunch with me and he said yes. And that turned into a three hour lunch and we have been together ever since. It wasn’t smooth sailing for us at first. We dated for six months broke up for six months. And we got back together after the six months we’ve been together ever since. We’ve been together almost twenty years and we’ve been through some stuff but we made a commitment early on that we are on this together and when we got married that divorce is not an option. We gonna work through this shit. But we love each other.

MUSA You went through infertility issues. You are the Ambassador of Resolve: The National Infertility Association.Tell us what that was like for you guys?
TOMIKO I am no longer the Ambassador of Resolve. I was for a number of years. Honestly after I had the boys I didn’t have time. I still support what they are doing. They are the reason why I got comfortable with the idea of alternate methods of building my family. I was at an infertility appointment and there was something that they had written in one of their brochures and that’s when I started really working with them. So I worked them for several years even after the twins were born and their was a time when I knew I didn’t have the space in my life to take on that commitment. I’m still an advocate for them and support them. And share things they post on social media. People assume that because of the way I look that I can’t relate but that’s further from the truth. I am who I am and I’m very transparent on my social media posts. I’m very honest about what I’ve gone through in my life with what I’ve gone through. We hold so many things close to our chest, our fear of being judged, shame or guilt. And I don’t do any of those things. I don’t do shame, I don’t do guilt. And when I do have fear come up I work my way through it by being courageous in the face of my fear. One of the first things when people meet me, they say you’re so easy to talk to or you’re not what I thought. There you go making assumptions based on appearance or what you believe to be the truth. I remember speaking at an infertility event and this white couple from London came upto me after the event. They said you don’t know us but we’ve been following your story for several years and it’s because of you and what you shared we chose to go a similar route that you and your husband did. And here is our nine month old baby. So you never know who you can touch by just sharing your truth and owning it.
Founder & Editor In Chief:
Creative Director:
Paul Morejon
Talent: @goddesstomiko represented by @iconicfocus
Creative direction: @MarcALittlejohn
Cover & Editorial Photography: @ReeseShermanphotography
Lighting: Jamarr Ferguson @thegentlemens_happyhour
Wardrobe styling: @MarcALittlejohn represented by @kbainc and Tatia Calhoun @hottativille @butter_haus
MUSA So what is your life like now?
TOMIKO ’m tired but joy filled mama. As much as it is the requirements to be a mother, to be a wife, to be an entrepreneur, to still be modeling and creating the quality of life that sustains me is definitely a full time job. Even the days when it gets really hard gratitude is always my foundation. I love my husband, I love my sons.<br /> ( Chris kisses her as he leaves to go to work)<br /> Who I have become on my professional and personal life. I am like prime for the picking. And the next person that comes to me with a lucrative campaign is about to have their stuff blow up. I’m bringing beauty, poise, experience, relatability, a woman who speaks very powerfully about being over fifty. My hair is shaved, I have young sons. I’m a late in life mom. I’m bringing so much to the table that I’m ready for the next thing to come. And I’m attracting that to myself. During this time of Covid and this industry being weird and I’m not traveling. I’ve been taking lots of pictures and putting lots of content out there. But at the same time I’ve been building my purpose career which is to be a women’s empowerment activist. What’s next is I know it’s going to be something amazing because that’s what I intended it to be. I’m an empowerment coach. I have Goddess Life for women to just be. I’m the mother of seven year old twin boys! But The next thing is I’m going to be on the cover of Ambassador Digital Magazine with a great editorial spread of me in a re-imagining of Disney fairytale characters In La La Land and an interview with Musa! That’s next.
Hair styling: Al Ingram @alsexyhair
Make up: Chad Bell @chaddbell_beauty
Silver Ring by Lada Legina @ladalegina
Blue gown by @mariocostantinotriolo
Red Dress by Mario Constantino Triolo @marioconstantinotriolo
Cape by Marc Littlejohn @littlejohnstyle
Necklace – Patricio Parada @baroccopop_patricioparada
Ring – Lada Legina @ladalegina
Yellow blouse and pants by Sophia Nubes / @sophia_nubes
Necklace by Patricio Parada / @baroccopop_patricioparada
Ring by Lada Legina / / @ladalegina
Off white outfit;
Skirt by by Sophia Nubes / @sophia_nubes
Ring and Bracelet by Patricio Parada @baroccopop_patricioparada
Graphic design: Andrew Irving