Model Turned Champion: Aly's Story
By Aida Toro
Aly Rae Tanner-Santos is a young woman with a knack for creativity. She is a CEO of a unique cosmetics company called ART Cosmetics, a published author, and a model...not to mention that she is 23 years old and a champion previvor.
“Before launching my cosmetic company, I was a cosmetologist, but when my husband deployed I decided I wanted to take my passion for makeup and make it a company that promoted self-acceptance and a positive message about using makeup as an ART form,” said Tanner-Santos. “We have been around for about two years and we’ve been able to change the lives of many people and we have been able to give a lot back into our community.”
As a model and cosmetologist, she’s learned a whole lot about the different kinds of substances that populate certain industries. Chemistry taught Tanner-Santos how these substances affect civilians and how they didn’t even notice what they were putting on their faces for so long. Chemistry also inspired Tanner-Santos to know what these substances were in order for people to truly capture what benefits them and what doesn’t. Her knowledge of science was so useful when trying to create a product that the consumer’s skin won’t regret putting on products from ART Cosmetics. The company wants to do more than utilize ingredients that have a neutral effect as the company wants to incorporate ingredients that will honestly nourish the consumers skin.
“We want makeup to be about love and beauty and that is why we are warriors in the fight against animal cruelty,” said Tanner- Santos. “Our products are also vegan which adapt to more lifestyles of people who love makeup. If it can't be tested on a human, it shouldn't be tested at all. We want to be the change we want to see in the makeup world and we are so excited to share our artistry with the world."
While she launched ART Cosmetics, Tanner-Santos was modeling still continues to do so, since she’s been doing it for almost ten years. When she was 14 years old, Tanner-Santos talked her mother into taking her to her first photoshoot.
“She was hesitant, but once she saw me in front of the camera, she supported me 100%,” she stated. “She would take me to castings, photoshoots and fashion shows.”
Once Tanner-Santos turned 16 or 17, she finally got signed in Los Angeles. As a model for an L.A. agency, she would travel back and forth for castings. When she was 18 years old, Tanner-Santos signed contracts for America’s Next Top Model.
“Unfortunately, I was not chosen and heartbroken that I decided to quit modeling,” said Tanner-Santos. “After that, I would shoot once in a while, but nothing crazy.”
Although she wasn’t chosen for America’s Next Top Model, Tanner-Santos became more enthusiastic about modeling when she turned 20. She signed with some agencies and wanted to take it more seriously, however, she still felt like she couldn’t find her brand and just didn’t feel right.
“It wasn’t until July of 2017, after I lost my left breast that I felt like I knew what my purpose was in the modeling industry,” said Tanner-Santos. “The one boob badass was born, and all I wanted to do was be in front of the camera and talking about my story and how to accept our bodies, but not every agency felt the way I did, and a lot of them dropped me because I was not ‘sexy to men’, and I would ‘never shoot bathing suits’.”
Tanner-Santos is a BRCA Previvor, which meant that she had a genetic mutation that gave her a significant chance of getting breast and ovarian cancer. By significance, she meant over an 80% chance. Therefore, Tanner-Santos opted to have a double mastectomy. Cancer runs in Tanner-Santos’ family as her father passed away from brain cancer when she was 13 and her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 18.
“It was like being 13 all over again and I was unable to cope with the idea that I might lose my mom too,” she expressed. “I remember crying in the bathroom of my school and I didn’t want to get up off of the floor.”
A couple of months later, her mother’s doctors had her tested and discovered that Tanner-Santos carried the BRCA gene just like her mother did. When she received the news about her having the BRCA gene, Tanner-Santos did not have fear, however she felt fortunate that she had the opportunity to save her own life, which is what she did. Overall, her mother survived breast cancer as well.
Fast forward to July and August of 2017, Tanner-Santos only shot in bathing suits to prove to everyone that she was sexy regardless of her breasts. She gained some traction on social media and in August of 2017, her idol Coco Rocha reached out to her about attending a modeling course.
“I went and a couple of days later, I met a woman named Dana Dinerman and she also had one breast and was a bathing suit designer,” said Tanner-Santos. “Dana and I set out to prove to the industry that women can be sexy without their breasts, and together I was published in Vanity Fair UK four times and Glamour UK twice in a bathing suit.”
Nowadays, Tanner-Santos is signed in LA to some great agencies and is still working on adapting to the industry’s standards. Aside from being an inspiring model, she has also written some books.
“After four surgeries and going septic, I had lost my left expander and had one breast for over a year, and while I loved my body, I still struggled with the way I looked, and I wanted to create a way for women to privately cope with these feelings all the while knowing they are never alone, and they have a community that they can always fall back on,” said Tanner-Santos in regards to her inspiration for writing books.
Tanner-Santos is currently writing her third book which will be available for purchase along with her other books on her up and coming website: www.memoriesofmymammaries.com.
“Honestly, I have a great family and amazing friends who are there for me every step of the way,” she said. “I also have an amazing husband who loves all my crazy ideas and does whatever he can to help me and I am so lucky to have a spouse who is also my best friend.”