New York, NY, USA
The majority of the general public knows who Lu Sierra is, from her role as a part of the Miss Universe Organization, for well over a decade.
She has become famous as a pageant and walking coach not only for her expertise and undeniable mastery of the runway, but also for her unflinchingly real, tell-it-like-it-is style of mentoring and encouragement.
Listen to more about Lu's journey in pageantry on the Pageant Planet podcast:
In recent years, her fans have been delighted to see Lu in front of the camera as an on-air competition insider providing excellent analysis and insightful commentary throughout the live telecast of both the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants.
What many people do not know is just how diversely talented Lu actually is. She moved to New York to pursue a career as an actress, and although she was extremely accomplished and of course, the camera loved her, a famous director pulled her aside and told her that because of her height (6' 1”), she would never get the parts that she deserved.
He begged her to give up acting because he was afraid that she would become very bitter as a result of the rejection. That advice got Lu’s attention and, true to form, she used what was a setback in one arena and made that same thing her greatest asset in another.
Ironically, her vivacious personality, depth of emotion and ability to transform into a character as a model, was what catapulted her to the heights of stardom in the modeling world.
She then parlayed her unique skill set into a brilliant career training pageant contestants and titleholders from around the globe, helping them to achieve their own dreams, while at the same time transforming the pageant industry.
But, she didn’t stop there. You get the feeling that Lu Sierra is always true to herself and is a woman who doesn’t believe in limits because she has managed to break into just about every niche in the entertainment world; first as a coach and mentor, and then as a choreographer, a television host, an actress, and a correspondent.
Early Modeling Career
Lu Celania Sierra, who was born in Hollywood, Florida, is a stunningly gorgeous African American runway, print and editorial model, who has worked for the most prestigious fashion designers in the world.
A highly successful and sought after model, Lu has worked the fashion capitals of the world and walked for some of the biggest designers including Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Escada, Givenchy, Patrick Kelly, Betsy Johnson, Giorgio Armani, Randolph Duke, B Michael, and Bob Mackie, Krizia, Fendi, and Versace – just to name a few.
After moving to New York and getting lots of “no’s, she finally got signed with the Zoli modeling agency, but they didn’t believe in her high-fashion potential and kept her booked as a showroom model. This was incredibly frustrating for Lu because she knew that she could be a high fashion model, given the chance.
Lu has always been a woman who believed in her spiritual destiny and possessed a dynamic vision for her life, and that vision gave her a sense of determination that was not going to be denied.
An American Model in Paris:
On the show, “Model Behavior with Sharon Quinn”, Lu was featured in an episode called, “Industry Icons”. She tells the hilarious, yet inspiring story of how she decided to take fate into her own hands and made a very daring and aggressive move.
Because of her solid work as a showroom model, Lu was able to save $10,000, so she pre-paid the rent on her apartment for 6 months, and hopped on a plane to France.
She got off the plane, dropped her bags off at her hotel and went directly to see the biggest modeling agent in Paris, Marilyn Gauthier, the founder of the Marilyn Models Agency.
Marilyn asked if Lu had an agent in the U.S. and asked to see her portfolio. Lu told her the name of her agency but admitted that she did not have a portfolio yet because she was just a showroom model, and that she had decided to come to Paris on her own, because her agent would not book her for runway or print work.
Marilyn accused Lu of lying and told her that she was going to call her agency immediately, and if she discovered that Lu was not telling the truth, she was going to black list her.
Of course, once the Paris agent found out that all that Lu had said was true, she became very intrigued by the brash, young American model.
Marilyn Gauthier knew that Lu had to be very professional and extremely successful at selling designer clothing, in order to be a working showroom model in New York City. She was impressed that Lu had enough moxie and belief in herself to pay her own way to Paris, and take this kind of professional risk. And, she was further impressed by Lu’s sultry, statuesque beauty and poise.
She then told Lu’s American agent, that she decided then and there that she was going to take this “diamond in the rough” and polish her to perfection. And, once she did that, she was going to keep her!
Lu’s gutsy determination, courage and willingness to risk it all paid off in a major way!
A Diamond Becomes a Star:
Her first runway show in Paris was with Pierre Balmain, and through her association with him, she began working closely with Givenchy and that experience taught her about formulating a relationship with a fashion ICON and how to be an inspiring muse to an incredible talent.
Once Lu became successful in Paris, the next year, she conquered the great fashion houses of Italy. In the modeling world, if you can make it in Italy, then the rest of the world takes notice and for Lu, that meant that New York City came calling. When Lu returned to the Big Apple, she was so sought after, that she immediately began working with industry giants like Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, and Halston.
It was after working with Bob Mackie in New York City that she got the name “Runway Lu.” Mackie called her, “One of his stars,” saying, “That girl should be on Broadway!”
He allowed models to have personality in his shows and she was able to use her theater training in her work. She became cherished by both Bob Mackie and Yves Saint Laurent for her look and skill on the runway.
Lu tells a story of how she did a show for him and she was supposed to portray a maid. At one point, while walking down the runway, Lu, who wears a size 10 shoe, unfortunately stepped right out of the size 8 heels that she was given.
She did the only thing she knew to do. She made it a hilariously entertaining part of the show, delighted the audience and ended up getting a cover on “Fashion Preview.”
Bob Mackie was the costume designer for the hugely popular, long running series, “The Carol Burnett Show”, and won numerous awards for his highly innovative and ground breaking costume design.
In the 1980s and 90s, Mackie became the man who designed all of the jaw dropping costumes and gowns that Cher wore for her stage performances and public appearances.
When Cher won her Oscar for “Moonstruck”, she wore an especially beguiling and attention getting creation designed by Mackie that ensured that she would be remembered as much for her famous figure and risk taking sense of style, as she was for her talent as an actress and entertainer.
Surrounded by Supermodels:
You know you’re a supermodel when everyone knows you by just one name, and everybody definitely knew who “Lu” was. A supermodel in her own right, Lu also worked alongside other famous supermodels such as Naomi Campbell, Christi Turlington, Linda Evangelista, and former first lady of France Carla Bruni.
Although, her career has taken her to new arenas, Lu is still very much an active model often walking in major industry shows like, Mercedes Fashion week.
She is currently represented by Elite Model Management, New York and Mega Models, Germany.
Pageantry and Television Career
Becoming a walking and runway coach, and eventually a pageant coach was a surprise for Lu.
One of Lu’s friends, a beautiful fellow model with Ford Models, was going on jobs and getting callbacks, but never landing the job. She asked Lu if she could give her some tips to help. Lu did and suddenly her friend was booking jobs.
The booker of the agency asked her what she was doing differently, and the model told them, “Lu has been helping me.”
The booker then asked Lu to start working with other girls at the agency.
Sierra has been the runway and walking coach for the Miss Universe Pageant, as well as the Miss USA Pageant from 2006 to the present.
The Miss Universe Organization contacted Lu about bringing runway styling to the pageant arena: “We want the viewing audience to turn on the TV and think they are watching a fashion show,” is how they described their objective.
Lu knew the first day on the job that she would need to add much more than just showing girls how to walk like a model.
MUO Competition Insider
In the past several years, Lu’s role expanded into one of a competition insider providing analysis and commentary throughout the live telecast. Her transition into an on-air commentator during the pageant, has added a very intriguing and entertaining dimension to the production.
As accomplished as Lu is behind the scenes, she is even better in front of the camera. Lu’s commentary is always insightful and fascinating, as she is able to include so much relevant, “behind the scenes” content, as well as points about each contestant’s wardrobe, walking style and on-stage performance.
The details that Lu includes are things that the average person would not necessarily notice, but her insight is invaluable for any pageant contestant who is watching, and who wants to improve their own pageant performance.
Lu provides the television audience with the judging panels’ point of view, and everything she discusses is information that the judges certainly notice, and consider as they assess each contestant’s performance and assign their score.
Winning Pageant Coach
As a pageant coach, Lu has become incredibly successful in the past few years, coaching numerous titleholders onto victory.
In 2012, she not only coached Miss Teen USA Logan West, but she also coached Olivia Culpo when she won the Miss USA title, and then again when she went on to the international stage and won Miss Universe.
She is the first runway coach to train 3 winners in one year; Miss Universe, Miss USA & Miss Teen USA. Interestingly, Lu also had coached 3 girls that same year who made the Top 5 at Miss America.
In 2016, Lu coached five of the top 10 ladies at Miss USA, including the second runner-up, Miss Hawaii, Chelsea Hardin and the winner of Miss USA 2016, Deshauna Barber.
And, finally, in 2017, Lu coached Kara McCullough when she won Miss USA that year, as well as coaching her when she went on to compete at Miss Universe.
BET’s “Rip the Runway”:
In addition to her coaching and hosting roles for The Miss Universe Organization, Lu has leveraged her unique brand of training models and creating spectacular runway shows to other television genres.
In both 2012 and 2013, Lu was invited to bring her runway expertise and choreography to the stage of BET’s popular program, “Rip the Runway’”.
· Bravo’s “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”:
She has also been highlighted on various news programs and featured in the MTV reality series, “Made” and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”
The episode where she was featured on “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” is especially amusing.
She was hired to teach then, novice fashion model, Kendall Jenner, how to walk properly on the runway. Jenner was an incredibly immature teenager at the time, and seemed to have no idea how unprofessional she was being.
Lu kept her cool, as best she could, while still being assertive and patient with Kendall. But, at one point, Lu confronted Kendall and said that she was wasting her time, and asked her whether or not she wanted to take modeling seriously.
Who knew that eventually, that immature teen would one day become one of the most sought after models in the industry?
We have to wonder if Kendall has since added Lu to her Christmas card list considering how it was Lu’s pep talk and belief in her that seemed to get her attention.
Lu’s Legacy Today – “Where in the world is Lu Sierra?”
· Mentoring And Coaching
Lu realized that she was meeting a need after the second year of working with the Miss Universe organization.
She would be invited to speak to groups of girls about the general pageant rules, etc. but, then she started getting calls from mothers of bullied or low self-esteem young ladies.
These were non-pageant girls but their mothers realized that they needed to be inspired and mentored to reach their full potential.
This is when Lu realized there was an additional audience that wanted her confidence and empowerment message. And now her business takes her around the world mentoring and coaching.
· ALUP International, Inc.: (http://alupinternational.com/)
Lu founded, “ALUP International, Inc.”, a unique, creative company specializing in all aspects of fashion-related services. ALUP provides a wide variety of services including, but not limited to, choreography, training, and live seminars on various aspects of fashion and modeling topics.
ALUP's overall purpose is to forge a highly trained and experienced team of specialists who provide the best possible results for its clients.
The Seminars offered by ALUP include: Runway & Model Coaching, Pageant Coaching, Modeling 101, Youth Motivation and Self Motivation Styling.
The team works with many of the world's top agencies such as Ford Models, Wilhelmina, New York, ELITE Model Management and others.
· Walking and Pageant Coaching Seminars:
Lu has traveled the world walking the runways and now spends her time training girls in the pageant world. Lu not only coaches and trains the women who compete in the Miss Universe Organization, she also coaches girls in all pageant systems including, Miss World, Miss America, IJM, and others.
She travels around the country and offers her walking and pageant coaching services through private seminars, as well as aligning herself with numerous Pageant Expos run by pageant wardrobe giant, “Lasting Impressions”, along with other retailers.
Lu is an incredibly generous person who understands that her gifts and abilities are to be shared with the world. She knows that she was given her talents for a reason, and she’s not going to “hide them under a bushel”. She is not the kind of woman who considers herself a “pampered diva”.
Anyone may book time with Lu during these seminars and expos and you can easily see where she will be next by checking out her online calendar, which can be found on ALU International. (http://alupinternational.com/calendar/)
· Lu created a Mobile App called “Modelversity”
In 2015, Lu became the first African American model of her status to create a unique App just for her clients and fans called “Modelversity”. It has just been updated in May of 2019.
This app is a tool of reminders and instructional details on Pageantry and Modeling techniques that will help one be at the top of their game.
But, in addition to all of those great features, Lu also includes her one-of-a- kind style of positive, encouraging affirmations and pep talks, ensuring that you’ll be able to maintain the mindset of a winner.
Gain notes about Walking, Wardrobe, Interview, Turns, and more as Lu Sierra brings her experience and mastery of both industries to this app offering simple details of elements needed to succeed.
Download it on the “App Store”:
Get it on “Google Play”:
· “Best Pageant Coach” Award
Because of her significant work with pageant contestants and titleholders, and the positive affect that she has had on the pageant industry in general, Lu just recently received the honor of being awarded “The Best Pageant Coach of 2018”, at The Global Beauty Awards held in Seattle Washington.
The Global Beauty Awards is a prestigious community of pageant industry professionals from around the world, who take delight in honoring individuals and organizations who have made a significant impact in the world of pageantry.
· What Lu brings to those girls that she works with:
“What people take for granted is the main ingredient of being a top model,” say’s Lu, “it’s the ability to stand out in a room full of beautiful women.”
“Modeling is not just about being beautiful. It’s about exuding confidence, and personality, along with a sense of poise that seems natural. This is what models have to do day-to-day, when they are trying to get jobs, on ‘go-sees.’”
“And, this is what I try to bring to the pageant world–inspiring effortless confidence.”
· Famous Lu Sierra Quotes:
The 3 Do’s
“Three pieces of great advice for being at the top of your game:
Having a great team
Doing what is YOU
These 3 “Do’s” will keep you rising to the top whether you are on a runway or in a boardroom.”
The Winning Affirmation
Possessing the strong mindset of a champion, and learning to control your thinking during your pageant performance is a skill that Lu teaches to all of her clients. This phrase is an example of the kind of mental attitude and positive self talk that a winner needs to have:
“I am so you’re Miss Universe…do we agree? These other girls don’t know. They’re only here to give me time to change. I’ll be right back!”
“The 4 Faces” Technique
Lu developed a technique called, “The 4 Faces”, that she teaches to her modeling and pageant contestants to use when they are walking on the runway or doing their stage work during a pageant.
“The 4 Faces” are a series of expressions that a girl should use deliberately and strategically throughout their time in front of the judges.
The 4 Faces consist of: “The Big Smile With Teeth”, “The Small Smile With Teeth”, “The Small Smile Without Teeth”, and what she calls, “The Flirt”.
The first 3 faces come pretty easily to most models or pageant contestants, but the majority of her clients had trouble with “The Flirt”, and inevitably would end up doing an over exaggerated puckered up, “kissy face” because they were trying to be sexy.
That kind of an expression just makes you look like an amateur, so Lu had to come up with something for her clients to think when they do “The Flirt” face, so that their look would be more subtle. She knew that she needed something that would make them think of themselves as powerful women, not sexy.
This quote is what she tells her clients to think, when they are on the stage doing, “The Flirt” face: "There are only two kinds of people in the world, those who want to be me and those who want to marry me.”
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