Glimpse Crystal Mendoza on the glossy pages of a magazine and right away you’ll notice an air of certainty in how she presents herself. Poised in a sleek satin halter top and matching pants, both in a shade of smokey lavender, the Latina model observes the viewer coolly over a martini glass filled to the brim with pearls—as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.
That assuredness wasn’t always the case. It’s the result of two modeling schools and over seven years of photo shoots. Before the launch of her career, Mendoza was a timid teenager. But at some point, she determined to stop tiptoeing through life like a ballerina on pointe. “I told my parents that, since I was really shy, I wanted to go to modeling school,”
Fueled from her experiences at Moda 15 Academy and Barbizon Modeling, Mendoza went on to win two pageants; pose for Hermosaz, Quinceañera Magazine, LYNA Couture, and the Goddess Boutique; and even land the occasional acting gig.
"If you’re doing something you really like and it’s your passion, you make the time for it… Is this what you like? Then you’ll accommodate your schedule and make things work!"
When she isn’t striding the catwalk during San Francisco Fashion Week or cruising past palm-lined streets filming a Hector Andres music video, Mendoza is hitting the books or working in health care. Receiving her medical assisting license while she was still in high school, Mendoza performs injections and drug testing, while studying hard to become a certified nurse.
As one can imagine, attempting to juggle modeling, studying, and medical assisting simultaneously is about as easy as a tomboy trying to stay upright in heels. But Mendoza is determined to pull off this remarkable balancing act. “If you’re doing something you really like and it’s your passion, you make the time for it. You don’t make excuses,” she notes. “Is this what you like? Then you’ll accommodate your schedule and make things work!”
Mendoza matured at a young age. She’s the eldest of four, meaning she naturally fell into the role of translator for her immigrant parents. “And my sister…growing up she had epilepsy, and now she has schizophrenia, so that’s something that’s always motivated me to be better. I’ve always basically been like a mom.” She recognizes this situation with grace. “It’s been tough. But God doesn’t give us things we can’t handle. We’ve made it work.”
Mendoza’s maternal side also reveals itself through a previous side hustle. She used to coach modeling for girls between the ages of 12 and 18, improving their confidence as her teachers did for her. “That’s something that’s made me feel very proud—more so than the shoots or the music videos or everything else that I’ve done!” Mendoza made sure to convince her girls that models come in all shapes and sizes. “Honestly, if you know how to dress yourself and know what type of modeling you want to go into, there are so many opportunities. You don’t have to be the tall, slender type…I’m 5 feet 5 inches, so I’m not the runway type, but that still hasn’t stopped me!” She adds, “It made me really happy seeing how excited they were to be on their journey. Helping people in general makes me
The mindset that beauty comes in many forms is the reason why Mendoza attended two modeling schools. While Moda 15 Academy was taught in Spanish and emphasized Hispanic values, Barbizon Modeling was taught in English and concentrated on an Americanized approach. Both taught her about posture, photo movement, and makeup, but from different perspectives. “The Latino community, their type of modeling is very different as far as beauty standards and everything,” she says. For instance, she identifies a noticeable shift in technique. “I feel like the Hispanic side is more pose-y and exaggerated. The English side is more natural, not as much makeup.”
Though different values and ideals will define beauty differently culture to culture, photographer to photographer, confidence will continue to be universally stylish. So whether Mendoza finds herself in the halls of a hospital or on the platform of a runway, she’ll stride its length with purpose.