Meet the Team: Elianah Sukoenig
Stunning, stylish, and sweet, Elianah is one of our original Break Babes. She started out as a retail employee and is currently the Director of Communications and Social Editor of The Break. Elianah is not only a vital part of the Operations team, but an inspiring model who is refreshingly honest and not afraid to speak up about misrepresented size gap in the modeling industry. I visited her apartment in Greenpoint to sit down and chat. Read more about Elianah's path to modeling, style influence, and her best piece of advice.
Name: Elianah Sukoenig
Birthplace: Syracuse, NY (I also lived in Bayern, Germany for a year)
Currently: Greenpoint, NY
Astrological Sign: Aries sun, Libra rising, Taurus moon
Follow her: @elianah_s
What is your role at The Break?
Director of Communications and Social Editor
What’s a typical day for you at The Break?
I always check my email and go through my to-do list when I wake up. Once I’m at work, I’ve already come up with a plan to tackle the day. I prioritize what is most important. If I have an article to publish, I’ll work on that first. If there is an event or Behind The Break feature to promote on the story, I'll handle that. If there is a press release to send out, I tackle that. Some days I’ll be off-sight shooting friends and/or employees for interviews. This past year, I've also been producing our shoppable Instagram stories— styling, shooting, responding to DMs and shipping orders. I'm excited to be handing off shop the story to our team member, Charlie, and focusing more on writing.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
The community. The Break opened up a part of my life I didn’t have before; I’ve met so many friends through the store, whether they work here or are customers. It’s been a gateway to making new friends, new professional connections, and empowering women.
It’s been really cool to see the brand grow over the past two years. I was welcomed in with warm arms when I modeled for the company in 2016. After that, helping with the pop-up came naturally; it’s a place where you meet like minded, supportive people. I was automatically drawn to the sense of community. I think a lot of people recognize the store as more than a store, it is a safe place. (Ohana) The Break means family.
How do you take your coffee? Favorite place to get coffee?
Iced matcha latte with oat milk. If I didn’t sleep enough, then I’ll get an actual latte. Coffee makes me a jittery mess, but helps with my lovely friend ADHD. Cafe Grumpy is my fav.
What are your favorite spots in NYC + Brooklyn? (shopping/food/drinks/parks)
I especially love McGolrick Park. It feels like you’re going back in time.
For bars, I love George and Jack’s for their free popcorn and dog friendly, divey environment. Also love going to Goldie’s in Greenpoint and bopping around the east village.
For food, I love Acai Berry in Greenpoint— order their black sea harvesting roll. There’s also a sandwich shop called Brooklyn Standard that makes amazing vegan sandwiches. Nickel and Diner on Howard St makes an incredible shaved vegetable salad. Il Corallo Trattoria for amazing (cheap) pasta. WestBourne.
For shopping, I stick to The Break and Beacon’s closet. If my mom comes into town with her car, I plead for us to go thrifting in Queens and New Jersey.
PS— TAKE THE FERRY! It’ll wow anyone visiting or anyone who hasn’t taken it before. That’s one of my favorite things to do here. I also like to go to karaoke (Sing Sing) or a comedy show.
Tell me about your path to becoming a model:
It took me a while to own that term, “model." I started by putting myself out there even when it was intimidating. A lot of rejection has been involved.
Even when I had agents, it was clear to me that as a model, you are your own business person. When you get rejected by one person, move on to the next. If you know someone in the business, don’t be afraid to ask to work with them or if they can help you— the worst that can happen is they say no.
I’ve been submitting myself and visiting agencies since 2015. When I finally landed an agency, I had been trying to lose weight and had gotten my hips down to the industry standard. So when my agency placed me on the curve board, I was shocked.
I’ve battled eating disorders in the past, and I knew I had to have tough skin but this messed with my head in a way I didn’t expect. My agents picked me apart whether I lost or gained weight. I tried to move to the “straight” or “development” board, but it didn’t work. It was a hard experience mentally, and I faced more issues, including sexual harassment. I didn’t book any of the “curve” jobs I was sent to, I didn’t “say I was a size 10” as I was instructed to, and I didn’t want to “dress heavy."
Since then, I’ve become my own agent. I’ve shifted my focus from changing my hip size to fighting for the representation of what is real. Size 4-6 girls are real, but so rarely seen in fashion. Fashion broadcasts primarily two ends of the size spectrum, with idealized proportions. Beyond size, we deserve the inclusion of all humanity.
I was really lucky to have been given the chance to speak out about my experience with Byrdie, which has led to interest from brands who want to show women my size and promote in between sizes (here is the article).
Sometimes on set, I’m referenced to as a "big" girl, which boggles my mind. That comment is unnecessary and untrue. I am a size 4. I hope people start treating models the same way no matter their size. Diversity doesn’t mean discrimination.
I’d still love to land an agent, one that believes not in boxing people into labels, but representing me because I am a working model and want to promote change.
Where/when do you feel most inspired?
When I’m on any mode of transportation— car rides, train rides, plane rides. That’s when I do the most dreaming and planning. Listening to music and being caught in that moment where you’re nowhere but en route gets me really excited and my mind wanders to all possibilities. Most big decisions I make are in transit. It puts me in some kind of ambitious dreamy trance.
Also, when I go into youtube search black holes of late night interviews, seeing people living and talking about their dreams. When artists drop really good albums, when actors do really good work, when models book killer campaigns, when I read a really good book. These are good motivators to chase my own dreams.
Another time I feel really inspired is when women message me on Instagram, thanking me for speaking out about the issues of representation that women (humans) in fashion and the media face. Hearing that I’ve helped people purge pain and in turn celebrate themselves was totally unexpected. It is amazing. These women are giving me more confidence, and giving me more to fight for.
Is self-care important to you? Any self-care rituals you do to help decompress after a long day?
I actually start my day with self-care. I like to wake up early to walk my dog, eat a healthy breakfast, maybe practice the guitar and then head into the city to take a pilates class before work. Taking time before/after work for myself really helps my mental health.
I’ve been taking acting classes at night, too. The acting class is another way for me to explore my interests and entertain the child in me. That along with learning the guitar— I like to play before going to sleep, too.
I also like to socialize after work— Taking a walk with a friend, grabbing a drink, seeing a movie— getting the most out of my day :)
Is there a certain person/era that influenced your style?
I’ve always been into dressing myself, ever since I was a toddler (thanks mom). What really made it take off was when I discovered Scandinavian fashion blogs in high school and got really into tumblr. That lit a fire. Polyvore, anyone?
I look back and found I’ve always been drawn to dressing with classic pieces— I love the look of a plain tee with denim, a belt, a killer jacket and boots. On men and women. This may sound cliche, but I like to look back in time at women like Jane Birkin, Jerry Hall, Sharon Tate, Princess Diana, Brigitte Bardot (minus her political views, cringe), off duty supermodels from the 90s, and so on. I love fashion from the 60s. I like to listen to my mom talk about what she wore in the 70s. I dig an 80s shoulder moment.
I've also been influenced heavily by Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30 and Brittany Murphy in Uptown Girls- I try to embody a piece of their spirits when I dress.
What is your most special item you own you feel like you can never get rid of?
Probably my vintage Saint Laurent jacket— I scored this awesome brown suede Saint Laurent jacket at Beacon’s closet last year and it is the epitome of how I want to dress.
Or, anything sentimental. Anything from my mom. My friend Alison made a batch of rings when she was studying abroad in Florence, and gave me one. It’s a little silver man that lives wrapped around my finger and I’ll never take it off.
My mind also jumps to things that aren’t clothes for this question— I have a lot of pieces in my apartment from my grandparents and parents (a rug from my dad’s childhood bedroom, artwork, my grandmother’s guitar from the 50’s)— those are treasures to me.
Favorite piece of clothing you ever thrifted/found vintage shopping?
My Saint Laurent jacket, vintage Burberry trench from Paris, my favorite white beaded bag from etsy, blue jeans from Paris and our store :)
Biggest turn off? Biggest turn on?
Turn offs— lack of sense of humor, self deprecation, millennial hookup culture, crocs
Turn ons— sense of humor, weirdos, being a friend above all, good boy smells, banter, adventure, romance. I’m also a sucker for foreign accents and musicians. This list is why my main companion is my dog.
Favorite artists to listen to?
The Kinks, Jeff Buckley, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, ABBA, Nancy Sinatra, Talking Heads, Dolly Parton, Rufus Wainright, George McCrae, Al Green, Bill Withers, Billie Holiday. Anything disco.
Favorite TV shows?
I’ve recently binge watched the show Legion. I love Aubrey Plaza, and she’s in it. Love Doctor Who (love sci-fi shows). Mad Men, Handmaid’s Tale, Arrested Development, anything Chelsea Handler. Watching Jimmy Fallon on youtube and a channel called HiHo kids.
Best piece of advice you've ever been given?
My friend Richard always reminds me: we are all going to die some day. Just go for what you want, and don’t get wrapped up in the little things— because we are all going to die, and those things won’t matter then. It’s kind of like hitting refresh on the page that is your flustered brain. It puts everything in perspective.
Another goodie is advice I learned myself. When I was 16, I was feeling alone and trapped by social anxiety, so I decided to conquer my fears head on by living abroad on my own for a year on foreign exchange. Since then, my motto has been to do what scares you most. Big or small.
Also— one thing that’s really inscribed into my head is “if it takes less than 5 minutes, do it now," as told by our boss lady Hannah Richtman.
London, India, Brazil, South Africa, relaxing in the European countryside somewhere.
Childhood celebrity crush?
I distinctly remember trying to hide my infatuation with the Backstreet Boys (or maybe it was NSYNC; I also definitely loved Aaron Carter) when I was 5 years old and plopped in front of my grandmother’s television.
Current celebrity crush?
Max Minghella, swoon <3 <3
Timothee Chalamet, swoon
Johnny Flynn, swooOOooOOon
Joe Keery <3
If you were stranded on an island, what and who would you bring?
My dog, Elvis and my mom. Xanax. Lots of books. Acrylic paints and canvases. A guitar and piano. A pilates reformer. A speaker to listen to music.
Do you have any relationship advice?
Um…. that’s funny. I need the advice. Can someone set me up? Asking for a friend.
Jokes aside, explore, but don’t settle. I look at my friends who have met really special people, and from my point of view, I think you should fight for someone if you have something good going. From an observational perspective, relationships are hard work. I don’t expect it to be easy.
I haven’t settled and virtually have been single for 22 years… “jokes aside” ha ha ha ha.
Do you have any advice for newcomers to fashion/in modeling?
I’ve worked in fashion since I got to New York City and started school at FIT— my advice is to just dive in, and dream big— fashion is smaller than you think. I felt like it was a shiny exclusive world that I could only look at and not touch, but that’s not true. Just start applying to things.
I started interning my first year of school, exploring different careers inside of fashion and out. I’ve gone from assisting a stylist to working at a technology trend consulting firm— my advice is to follow whatever sparks your interest.
For modeling, same thing. Reach out to photographers you want to shoot with (also, be careful and safe), submit yourself to agencies, find castings (Instagram is useful for that), don’t let your fear hold you back from asking. Be kind. I’m always being told by agents to be sassier, but I think kindness is more important.
Do you have any goals for the next coming year?
I hope to find people to make music with (and get better at the guitar). I’m going back to school; I can’t wait to do some more editorial writing and get back into painting and digital art. I hope to find an agent in line with my view on the modeling industry and speak out more about it. I hope to take more acting classes. I really want to do more editorial modeling— stretch the traditional industry standards as much as possible, and keep fighting for inclusion. Landing a runway show would be insane.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be a singer or actress. I was afraid to tell anyone, so I just focused really hard on doing well in school. I also wanted to be a vet. I tried to start an organization to help animals when I was in elementary school. It consisted of a tin “donation” can with glued on printouts of animals to bring to the ASPCA.
My parents claim I wanted to be a “mommy princess ballerina doctor." I think that explains my explorative/scattered nature. I wouldn’t take advice from toddler me. But that also sounds kind of amazing.
Who are you at the party?
The one wishing I had my dog with me, the one who wants to converse instead of dance, the one trying to overcome their anxiety.
The beauty products you can’t live without?
Oil for my face. I like Grown Alchemist Antioxidant oil. Vitamin C Serum from Peter Thomas Roth, and the vitamin C spot cream. Tata Harper or RMS lip and cheek tint. Concealer—I’m using one from Kevyn Aucoin. Chanel le Volume Mascara. Most importantly: sunscreen. I’ve been using one from Andalou Naturals for years.
Photos and Interview by Iris Palma