Once Teased Girl Now Confident Model

Overcoming bullies calling her “amazon” and “giant” in middle school, the now 22-year-old Queens native, Maria Barandica grew up becoming a freelance model for New York City photographers showcasing a fierce Latina feminist. (Like Shakira) 

“I was bullied a lot because of my height. I would be called a troll.  I always saw it as a bad thing,” said Barandica.

Maria Animal Hospital
Barandica Always Had Pets Growing Up (Photo Courtesy Of Barandica)

She never fathomed the model life.  Yet once she entered high school perceptions changed.  What got her into the industry was her friends praising her height (5’10) which gave her the confidence to blossom into Mia, the alias she uses for modeling.

As a freshman in high school she was “obsessed” reading Seventeen Magazine thinking that maybe she could be like those models since she was thin and tall too but she thought being of Hispanic decent would make it harder.

She contemplated pursuing it for a long time before finally deciding to create her Model Mayhem profile (LinkedIn for the model world), which landed her exclusive photo shoots.  Yet she cautions users be careful of potential “creepers” that comes with any social media site.

Barandica Says Mia Is Her Alter Ego (Photo Credit: Alfredo Rodriguez)


“I saw modeling as a way to portray the average adolescence.  You don’t have to be a size zero to be a model you could be a size 8,” said Barandica.

Consequently although Maria has had photographers reach out to her for shoots, she knows signing with a modeling agency like Ford would garner more opportunities.  She thinks about applying to sign with an agency on a daily basis but after speaking with fellow models, she equates signing to “selling your soul.”

“Models have told me agencies tell their clients you can’t have your hair a certain length, you have to lose two extra pounds this week.  They control who you are and you lose your uniqueness,” Barandica said.

Currently Maria works part-time as an animal hospital nurse while finishing her biology degree from Molloy College.  She even applies what she learned on the job to her 11-year-old miniature schnauzer, Niko or her “child.”

“I learned that neck collars can cause breathing issues for small breed dogs,” said Barandica. “After two weeks of switching to a harness he stopped coughing.”

For the future Barandica would like to continue modeling as a strong hobby but her ultimate goal is to become a veterinarian.  She sat down and pondered both paths but decided that she desires to help animals in need.

“Veterinary medicine is my calling.  For models especially females once you turn 25 you’re considered old.” said Barandica.