While some students enjoy playing sports, joining art clubs or participating in music groups, USC second-year fashion merchandising and retailing student Augusta Roach has a passion for the runway.
Since the age of 15, Roach’s dedication to modeling and pageantry has led her to gain notable titles such as Miss South Carolina Teen USA and work as a model for Sherri Hill at New York Fashion Week. However, Roach said she prioritizes being a student in the South Carolina Honors College and works to balance college life with her passion for modeling.
“I’ve always wanted to be a really strong titleholder, but I also wanted to be super invested and make really good grades here (at USC), and I managed to do both,” Roach said.
During her freshmen year, Roach modeled for large brands such as Kittenish, a Nashville-based clothing store, the Anne Barge bridal company and the Wrangler clothing line. While she cherished those opportunities, she admits that the frequent modeling endeavors led to a rather tiresome and unconventional first-year experience at USC.
“If my one class on Tuesdays went virtual for an assignment, I would reach out to my contact at Kittenish, and they would fly me to Nashville … I’d work for them all day, and they’d fly me back for class at 8 a.m. on Wednesday,” Roach said. “I feel like freshman year I missed out on a little bit of it because I was just half-student, half-titleholder, and it was hard because I felt I was stretching myself too thin.”
In the year since, Roach has taken a small break from modeling to focus on her studies and involvement at USC. As a member of Fashion Board at USC and the student advisory board for the Department of Retailing, Roach said she is pleased to be living the traditional Gamecock experience while staying active in the local fashion scene.
“Modeling is still a love of mine, and I’m still doing it, but it is nice to have a little bit of a full college experience,” Roach said.
Roach described her younger self as having performance anxiety, but said she was determined to guide herself through uncomfortable situations in order to grow from them, which led to her mother pushing her towards modeling. After a bit of practice, she won the title of Top Model in the 2020 Greenville Fashion Week, which, according to Roach, ultimately kickstarted her formal modeling career.
“My mom decided, without discussing with me, that the best thing to do for performance anxiety was to put me in front of more people. So, she submitted me for Greenville Fashion Week, I got accepted for a call-back, and I auditioned, and that’s kind of when I fell in love with it,” Roach said.
Maegan Heinz, the owner and producer of Greenville Fashion Week and a mentor to Roach, attested to Roach’s personal development. Heinz said she has watched Roach blossom from a shy teen into a confident young woman and is pleased to have witnessed her journey of self-discovery.
“I feel like she’s kind of found who she was and what she wants to do. So, it’s been really cool to kind of help mentor her in that capacity and then also just kind of get a front-row seat to watching her fulfill her dreams,” Heinz said.
Roach’s success at Greenville Fashion Week opened the door for other pageantry opportunities, such as competing in and winning the 2021 Miss South Carolina Teen USA competition. Roach also participated in the Miss Teen USA state costume show, where she dawned a Gamecock-inspired outfit. She said that representing USC on a national scale cemented her university pride.
“It was a big honor to not only walk across the stage with 'South Carolina' across my chest, but I was representing USC in a sense, and it was really cool,” Roach said.
Marley Stokes, a model and server in Columbia, was named Miss South Carolina USA winner the same year Roach won Miss South Carolina Teen USA. After they were crowned, the pair often fulfilled their titleholder duties together, such as making appearances at various events across the state, and, even after giving up their titles, Stokes said the two have retained a meaningful relationship.
“I love her so much, and I’m so proud of everything she has done and become now. She's definitely come out of her shell from the pageant world and is doing so many great things now,” Stokes said.
Roach's experiences in the industry led her to what she described as one of her favorite opportunities to date, which was modeling in New York Fashion Week this past September. At the event, she walked the runway wearing a collection of Sherri Hill formal gowns, which she said fulfilled a childhood dream and marked the moment when she felt she had finally made it in the industry.
“When I was little, I would see the Sherri Hill models on Instagram and be like ‘Oh my gosh, I want to be her. That’s going to be me one day.’ I think me modeling for her was really kind of the first time in my life that I was like ‘Okay, this is childhood dreams coming true," Roach said.
While she has loved being up on stage, Roach said she hopes to enter the creative side of the fashion industry after graduation. Though she may be able to model full-time, Roach said that the hands-on aspects of fashion would be more fulfilling for her with whatever may come her way.
“Nothing in my life has really gone exactly the way I’ve planned it, which has all worked out for the best,” Roach said.