Model Jarvis Powers is in demand in Pittsburgh and beyond

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

Jarvis Powers' fancy footwork has taken him from the football field to the boxing ring to the runway.

The Robinson resident is an up-and-coming model. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, he has “the look,” say those in the fashion industry.

The minute you see him showcase clothes and accessories, you can see his ability to walk the runway, says Darnell McLaurin, founder of Utopia Model Agency, co-founder of FashionAFRICANA, and model coach and stylist for both.

“Jarvis is an extraordinary talent,” says McLaurin, an adviser to Powers, who lives in New York. “He has a unique look and beyond his look, he has a spirit that just soars when you look at him. He has inward and outward beauty. ... And he has drive.”

Powers, 24, credits many people in his life with fueling that drive. It took him to New York Fashion Week this past September, where he walked the runway for designers, such as CATOU, Michael Anthony, Esposito and Alain Michel Fagnidi.

“The minute I saw him walk … I knew… he has great potential,” says Miyoshi Anderson, executive director of Pittsburgh Fashion Week. “He has amazing facial features; and he is what I call quite symmetrical, and that works well in the fashion industry.”

McLaurin says calls have been coming in asking about Powers. He currently is fitting and shooting for a men's line named Fames Allure: Sherman Preston line, which specializes in high-end men's tailored suits and trench coats. He has an upcoming shoot scheduled for Vogue Africa. He will be modeling in FashionAFRICANA on Dec. 8 at August Wilson Center, Downtown, and has been invited to walk in New York Fashion Week in February.

“Jarvis takes direction well,” McLaurin says. “He also handles criticism well. He is always learning and growing. He is so humble and is wonderful to work with.”

Originally from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, Powers says he loves Pittsburgh. When he is not modeling, he works as a business and technical analyst for Highmark, Downtown. Powers' journey started with support from his mother, Elena Pritchard-Mansell, who is of Samoan descent. She has always been an inspiration to him, he says.

So has Robert Morris University football coach Joe Walton. He recruited Powers as a wide receiver/tight end. He was first team All-American, All–Conference, All-Northeastern Region and Offensive MVP.

“Footwork for a tight end is probably one of the most important aspects of the position,” Walton says. “From a blocking standpoint and for running a route, footwork is crucial. I am sure Jarvis' experience having played tight end at Robert Morris will help him in his new career.”

After Robert Morris, Powers was invited to work out with several National Football League teams. His sports agent sent him to play arena football in Corpus Christi, Texas. But a leg injury and the death of his best friend from college made him take a good look at his life and change its course.

“I just didn't have the love to play football anymore,” he says.

Fitness was still important to Powers, who turned to boxing, training under Tom Yankello of World Class Boxing Gym. Powers won the 2010 WPAL Golden Glove Championship.

“Boxing was the void I was missing from football,” he says. “It was a great way to stay in shape and stay disciplined. I didn't expect for boxing to take off like it did, because all I wanted to do was keep from being lazy and out of shape.”

Powers still works out four or five times a week at Crossfit Focus — only now to stay in shape for wearing fashion.

Modeling is like a performance, Powers says.

“You are acting through a picture,” Powers says. “Fashion is art, and you can't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Sports have helped me learn to look at the bigger picture.”

A big part of that big picture includes girlfriend Kayla Whisnant and their baby, Jeremiah, who will be 2 in December.

Powers hopes his modeling career will be successful enough to help take care of them. He also hopes to be a motivational speaker one day and walking the runway can take him there. He has appeared in movies such as “Abduction,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Mafia,” “Riddle,” “One for the Money” and “The Lifeguard.”

“When you walk that runway, you have to look past everybody and get into a zone,” Powers says. “With all the flashes going off, you have to have another mind set and not get distracted, because even the music can be really loud. You have to think, ‘I can make this work,' and put your own style to it. As a model, you are just a hanger. You are there to wear the clothes.”

It requires a lot of patience and you have to be able to take criticism.

“Your destiny is what you want it to be,” he says. “You have to live life to the fullest. I have this dream and I want to make it come true.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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