TOMIKO In La La Land

Ambassador Digital Magazine Editor Musa Jackson has an in-depth Q & A with Supermodel Tomiko Fraser Hines from the Boogie Down Bronx to international modeling fame.

Q. Where are you from?

A. 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.

Q. You’re a real Bronx Girl!

A. I claim it proudly.

Q. What was it like growing up in the Bronx as a teen in the ‘80s?

A. 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 an 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) Wherever 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. I started working the day I turned 16. I haven’t stopped working since. I was and I am very reliable. My mother and stepfather raised me from the age of five. When I was just about to turn eighteen, my younger brother was born. He was and still is 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 remain strongly rooted in family.

Q. How did you get into modeling?

A. I’ve been five foot nine since I was in the sixth grade and I didn’t know what I had. As far as I can remember, I was that tall and fifty pounds lighter. I was always told or was 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. It didn’t even resonate because all I knew was college wasn’t something that was 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.

At one point, I went to secretarial school after high school. I had a job as an administrative assistant. I was moonlighting, working 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. 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.

Q. What kind of modeling opportunities were there at that time for a beautiful brown skin sister?

A. 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. Black models were few and far between. We know there were beautiful women who 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, my agents got me in the room and if they didn’t even think to get me in the room, there was a meeting. “Why haven’t I gone to Macy’s and all the different catalogues?” I was an advocate for myself. I spoke up, I took it like a business. I saved my money. I believe that’s part of the reason I had the success I had and continue to have and I’m also great at what I do as far as modeling is concerned.

It’s a job for me. I love dress up and play and I love meeting new people. I’m 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 made sure I didn’t party too late. I’m no angel, but I’m also a professional and I know it’s a privilege to do this work. I feel gifted to be able to do this. I don’t take it for granted.

Q. 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?

A. The first job that stood out and I felt like I had arrived and thought this was cool was a job I did 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 and thinking how cool this was to be doing what I loved doing. Tommy Hilfiger, that’s when I met Tyrese. We went to the Hamptons out on Long Island and there was a bunch of us and I’m thirty with all these eighteen year olds, just cheesing and grinning right along with them, looking like I’m eighteen.

Q, So what was it like to be the first African American model to be the face of Maybelline for so long?

A. It was a game changer. It was the highlight of my career. I was able to go to a place in our Industry that so many aspire to and don’t get to, especially Black models. 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, but 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. 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.” At the time, I took it as a win. I was in the door; here it is almost 20 plus years later and the love I still get from that 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 type way, but in a representation sort of way. People talk to you differently. You 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.

Q. So did you always want to be an actress or was it something that fell into your lap?

A. 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 to life. I didn’t have a burning desire for it, but I did prepare for it. The opportunities that came my way became a part of my artistic expression. I’ve gotten to a place of comfort in any room I’m going into. 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, but I’m not trying to go on The Voice. (laughs)

Q. You’ve had some nice gigs. Working with Freddie Prinze Jr. in 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?

A. I would say it was the overall experience. I did have a connection with Jennifer Lopez because 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 L.A. 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 are 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, someone who just likes to play in all these different creativity fields, that’s available to you too.

Q. Tell us about your Goddess Gatherings?

A. That’s one of my babies. It has morphed into the overarching brand, The Goddess Life with Tomiko Fraser Hines. It started out as the Goddess Gatherings. It was great as what it was, basically a monthly coming together of women with the intention of having them straighten up their backs and express themselves, knowing they could get through whatever it was they were getting through, whatever their past was or present is. In this group of women, they would be seen, heard, supported and guided. The idea just came to me right before moving to L.A. 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 girlfriends and I loved it. I moved to L.A. and I didn’t have a lot of friends. My best friend was out here, but she had a boyfriend at the time, so I hardly got to see her.

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, an agenda and a flow; it took on a life of its own because it was and still is something that women crave. They crave knowing that they’re not alone in whatever it is 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.

Q. How did you meet your husband Chris Hines, the lead stage manger for The Voice, The Kelly Clarkson Show and The Peoples Choice Awards?

A. We met at a game night with a mutual friend from New York and Chris was there. He had a girlfriend at the time; 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 from that same friend that Chris was single. We had exchanged numbers at some point and being out of character for me, I called him up during auditions to see if he wanted to have lunch and he said “yes.” That turned into a three hour lunch. It wasn’t smooth sailing for us at first. We dated for six months, broke up for six months. We got back together after the six months and we’ve been together ever since. We’ve been together almost 20 years and we’ve been through some stuff, but we made a commitment early on that we are on this journey together and when we got married, divorce was not an option. We gonna work through this shit because we love each other.

Q. You went through infertility issues. You are the Ambassador of Resolve for The National Infertility Association. Tell us what that was like for you guys?

A. 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 the association is 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 they had written in one of their brochures and that’s when I started really working with them. I worked with them for several years after the twins were born and then there 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 couldn’t be 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. We hold so many things close to our chest, our fear of being judged, shame, 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 up to 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 that we chose to go a similar route like 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.

Q. So what is your life like now?

A. I’m tired, but I’m a joy filled mama. As much as the requirements are 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.

(Chris kisses her as he leaves for work.)

Who I have become in my professional and personal life, I am like prime for the picking. The next person who 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 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-19 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 intend it to be. I’m an empowerment coach. I have Goddess Life for women. I’m the mother of seven year old twin boys and the next thing is, I’m going to be on the cover of Ambassador Digital Magazine with a great editorial spread of me re-imagining Disney fairytale characters in La La Land and an interview with Musa! That’s next!

– Musa Jackson



Founder & Editor In Chief: Musa Jackson

Creative Director: Paul Morejon


Talent: @goddesstomiko represented by @iconicfocus

Creative Direction: @MarcALittlejohn

Cover & Editorial Photography: @ReeseShermanphotography

Copy Editor: Marcia Fingal @marciafingal

Lighting: Jamarr Ferguson @thegentlemens_happyhour

Wardrobe styling: @MarcALittlejohn represented by @kbainc and Tatia Calhoun @hottativille @butter_haus

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 


Ring – Lada Legina @ladalegina

Yellow blouse and pants by Sophia Nubes @sophia_nubes

Necklace by Patricio Parada 


Ring by Lada Legina / / @ladalegina

Off white outfit;

Skirt by by Sophia Nubes @sophia_nubes

Ring and Bracelet by Patricio Parada


Graphic design: Andrew Irving

Musa Jackson
Musa Jackson