Three years ago, Clanese Monae turned tragedy to triumph. After her boyfriend was shot and killed at a barbeque, the 24-year-old turned to modeling, which granted a wish her late lover had always had for her and gave Clanese a way to channel her emotions. Now the San Diego native is giving all of herself to modeling, with dreams of building a Tyra Banks-like empire. XXL got with the voluptuous beauty to discuss her emotional connection to modeling, her ultimate goal and how she deals with crazy customers at her day job. — Calvin Stovall (@CalvinStovall)

XXLmag.com: How did you get into modeling?

Clanese Monae: The whole reason I got into it was because my ex-boyfriend was killed. My boyfriend at that time, he was killed in September of 09. And when we were together he used to always tell me that I should try and do modeling. He always really wanted me to model. I never wanted to do it, and then when he passed away since he talked so much during our relationship I was like, “Maybe I should try it out.” So I tried it out and I really liked it. He’s been gone almost three years in September, so I have been a model since ever since he passed away.

So modeling has a real emotional importance for you?

Like I always say, a lot of girls model because they think they’re really cute or someone told them to, but to me, it’s like, yeah he told me to but since he’s no longer here it makes me feel like I’m making him proud kind of thing. So, I love it because I’ve tried it, but I also do it (because) it makes me feel better. It kind of makes me feel like he would be proud of me if he were still here.

How did he die?

He was at a barbeque. It happened Labor Day, I think it was Sunday or Monday. He was at a picnic and someone had just shot into a crowd full of people. He was at a picnic. There was kids, family, everybody there and someone, from a hill I guess, shot down and the bullet just hit him. It’s one of those things where it’s like, wrong place, wrong time.

What else do you do besides modeling?

I work at a bank. I’m an actual teller. So, I do wanna do modeling full time, I hope that I’m given the opportunity to do that, but until then I’m gonna have to work my 9-5. But if I had the opportunity to do modeling full time, I’d love to. But right now, that’s not realistic so I just gotta keep working hard until that opportunity comes.

Do customers try to flirt with you?

There was this one guy, he still comes in… He was a non-customer, meaning he didn’t bank with us, and he would come in the bank all the time to cash checks from his employer. And he’s always saying to me, “I’m gonna come back at least two times a week just to see you. Because you’re so pretty.” I would laugh it of, I didn’t really think he would come. This guy came two times every week. He still comes. He would come literally every Monday and every Thursday every week. The line could be dang near out the door, but he would only let me help him. And he’d come up and he’d never ask for anything. He’d never have anything to do, he’d just be like, “I wanted to stop by to see your pretty face. That’s it. He’d wait in a long line just to do that. So I told him, you can’t be doin that no more. It’s kinda weird, it’s kinda scary.

Are you single?

I feel like right now is the perfect time for me to just live my life, enjoy it. Enjoy being single, enjoy having freedom with no kids because I know one day I am gonna want a relationship and kids. And when that happens I want to be able to give 100% and be all about my husband or boyfriend, all about my kids.

How does your mom feel about your photos?

I’m really, really close with my mom. She’s like my number one supporter. I couldn’t ask for a better parent or better person to support me. I know a lot of girls that do urban modeling, a lot of their family aren’t for it. Some of my family members don’t agree with it, but for me, as long as my mom supports me and understands why I go so hard with modeling, that’s all that matters to me. And she definitely does.

What's your ultimate goal?

I definitely wanna do fashion. I wanna be more than just urban. I think a lot of urban women get a bad rep because of the kind of modeling that we do, but I feel like it opens doors for a lot of things. I even wanna try out acting. I just kind of want modeling to be a stepping stone to other things. I really admire Tyra Banks because she didn’t just stop at modeling, she became a business woman… I wanna be like that. That’s what I see. I see the urban opening doors to other things. I wanna be more than just a girl that has a nice body and then, “Oh, she has a pretty face.” I want people to look at my face first, then, “Oh she’s smart, she’s this, she’s this, and she has a nice body on top of all that.