Recent Windermere Prep graduate Makaila Nichols completed high school while maintaining a budding career as a fashion model. Now, the 18-year-old is ready for college and the release of her first book.
Like many 18-year-olds throughout West Orange, Makaila Nichols celebrated one of her life’s milestones earlier this month when she graduated from Windermere Preparatory School.
But Nichols’ high-school experience was far from ordinary.
In addition to earning her diploma, Nichols spent much of her teen years jetting off to New York for her job as a professional model. And when she discovered she was one English credit short of fulfilling her graduation requirements, the staff at Windermere Prep tweaked the curriculum to allow her first book, “Blatantly Honest: Normal Teen, Abnormal Life,” to count for school credit.
“It’s kind of like advice for teenagers,” Nichols said. “I talk about things (such as) bullying, addiction, sex, drugs, body image, peer pressure and a little about myself and being in the fashion and entertainment industry. So it’s kind of like a book geared toward helping teens relate to someone, understand that they’re not alone, and kind of have someone to be like, ‘Oh wow, this has happened to her. I guess I’m not the only one.’”
Nichols was 14 when a model scout discovered her while she was shopping at the Mall at Millenia. She first signed with Wilhemina Models and now works for New York-based One Management. The agency requires her to spend about one to two weeks there each month. Although her schedule did not leave much room for a social life, Nichols managed to complete high school before the rest of her class by taking some online courses from Florida Virtual School.
In “Blatantly Honest: Normal Teen, Abnormal Life,” which will be released Oct. 3 by Brown Books Publishing Group, Nichols shares her experience not only with the pressures of working for the fashion model industry but also with bullying she endured.
“It has made me grow up really fast since I started when I was 14,” she said. “I was always in and out of school, and when I did show up everyone was like, ‘Oh Makaila is back, blah blah blah.’ And I had to develop thick skin because I was always told, ‘Oh, you’re too fat,’ or ‘Oh, you need to lose an inch,’ or ‘Oh, you need to lose five pounds,’ or ‘Oh my God, you look so skinny it’s disgusting.’ It was always something.”
The bullying led to an eating disorder, which Nichols has since overcome. She is now 5-foot-11 and 130 pounds, and although she knows that is a low number for someone of her height, she said she is managing her weight in a healthy manner and is no longer insecure about her body.
“I was in a stage where I felt like I was imperfect, but now I love my body and I love who I am, and I love food,” Nichols said, laughing.
Nichols’ father, Steve Nichols, said that when he heard of the rough time she was having at school, it broke his heart, especially because he personally knew some of the kids. He already has read her book and said it reveals much about his daughter’s psyche and experience in the modeling industry.
“It’s very intriguing from a teen’s point of view,” Steve Nichols said. “It’s very eye-opening from a parent’s point of view, and as her dad, certain parts of it were very hard to read, only because she spoke from the heart. She spoke from experience, and I’m very proud of her for stepping up and trying to make a difference.”
Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected]