She beat out 14,000 other applicants for the role as the face of the brand

By Sarah Kinonen
Updated January 15, 2016 02:00 PM

Powerhouse plus-size brand Torrid has an unconventional way of picking their models: They crowdsource. This year, more than 14,000 women applied for the Face of Torrid 2016 nationwide model search, and they documented the whole thing on YouTube. The winner becomes a brand ambassador: She’ll score a Torrid modeling contract, a Torrid wardrobe, and gets to appear in campaigns and catalogs. Now, after six months of searching, the brand that brought you Rebel Wilson’s first amazing collection has found its new face: 26-year-old Lyanna Lynette from Harlingen, Texas.

Hunter & Gatti/Torrid

“This has been my dream ever since I was little,” Lynette tells PeopleStyle of her desire to be a model. “I would see a video camera or see my mom taking pictures of somebody else and I was drawn to the spotlight. I want to use that to help empower other women.”

Though the size 16 model had a job in the beauty business as a licensed cosmetologist before getting her gig with Torrid, her life in the small town of Harlingen isn’t all glamour: She spends her free time fishing and hiking. (Seriously, Torrid followed her for a day and she’s a legit fisherwoman).

Lynette credits her mother, who raised her by herself and worked as a massage therapist, and her older sister, Celina, with giving her the support she needed to pursue her modeling career. “I was always comfortable and confident with my body,” Lynette says. “Growing up, I had a wonderful mother, who was a great role model, and she always instilled in me that the beauty comes from within and you really have to love yourself.”

But that doesn’t mean that her confidence never faltered. “I went through a short period where I was self-conscious, and I held back a little bit,” she says. “But I really broke through that and I found myself thinking higher of myself and wanting to shine brighter for people [who] I knew were going through the same thing that I was. I came out of my shell and I started loving myself more and my body and everything that God had blessed me with.”

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Hunter & Gatti/Torrid

Now, she has a laid-back personal style. “I use clothing to express how I’m feeling, so if I’m feeling more casual that day I’ll throw on a top and some jeans and maybe some flats,” she says. “If I’m feeling really bubbly and bouncy, I’ll throw on a leather jacket with a really pretty print top and some jeans and some heels.”

Hunter & Gatti/Torrid

Despite being “ecstatic” about her spot on the Torrid team, she has advice for the other 14,000 ladies in the competition: Don’t give up. “When I would apply for small model searches around my area or had little auditions here and there, I wasn’t always chosen,” she reveals. “I got told ‘no’ a lot of the time — actually the majority of the time — and for all the women [who] didn’t make it, for whatever reason, I want them to know that this is not the end for you.”

Says Lynette: “Every woman is beautiful in their own way. I really want women to just love themselves, to be confident and bold and to speak out. I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to hold back because of their size.”

–Sarah Kinonen and Catherine Kast