In honor of our Caribbean Edition, we had the privilege of interviewing someone who definitely is “More Than A Pretty Face.” One of such perseverance, Juanita Louis, proudly shared of her Caribbean heritage and passions. Being a Fashion Model, Physician Assistant, and an all around dope individual, you may find that her story and versatility will encourage you.
EIFM: Knowing Dominica differs from Dominican Republic, what would you say Dominica is most known for?
Juanita: The biggest difference is Dominican Republic speaks Spanish, while Dominica’s primary language is English. We also speak Dominican Creole: A mixture of French and African languages. Dominica is an island situated between two French Caribbean Islands - Martinique and Guadeloupe. That is why we have a french influence with the Creole we speak. Also, Dominica is known as “The Nature Island of the Caribbean.” We have 365 rivers, one for each day of the year.
EIFM: When did you leave the Caribbean Region?
Juanita: It was always designed that I would move to the U.S. to finish my studies. So, after graduating high school in Dominica, I moved to New York to live with my dad and pursue my college degree. I began at a local community college, BMCC [Borough of Manhattan Community College]. After graduating from BMCC, I went to St. John’s [University] and did my undergrad, graduating with a Physician Assistant Degree in Bachelors of Science. I then began working as a Physician Assistant. After, I went to Pace [University] to pursue my Masters and graduated in 2017 with my graduate degree in Physician Assistant Studies.
EIFM: Which came first, the desire to model or the dream of becoming a medical professional?
Juanita: Before entering high school in Dominica, I actually chose the Arts as my continuing study. I was interested in the arts, and modeling was my first love. I loved it [modeling] in terms of designing, having nice things, and wearing nice clothes. Dressing up and going to the photo studio was embedded in me from a young age. My mom would celebrate every birthday by having a photo shoot. No matter what, she would dress me up on my birthday and we would go to the photo studio to take pictures. That was our thing! But, when I came to New York, I fell in love with Science. The human body was very intriguing to me, so it poked my interest in finding out more about the human body and how it worked.
EIFM: Being a Physician Assistant, do you have a specialty? If so, what is it that helped you to choose it?
Juanita: I specialize in Internal Medicine. I did outpatient Primary Care prior, but wanted more of a challenge in my career. So, I chose Inpatient Internal Medicine. It looks at the patient as a whole, and it’s intriguing figuring out what is going on with them. I also get to see their progress from the day they are admitted to when they are medically improved to leave the hospital. They tend to be sicker, so seeing their improvement is very fulfilling and I feel so accomplished when I’m able to contribute to that.
EIFM: Has your beauty ever been a distraction in the attempt to do your job as a medical professional?
Juanita: My beauty has not been a distraction. I wear scrubs and a lab coat whenever I work, so I am very low maintenance when I’m at work. Plus, my game face is always on. I may get complimented on how young I look or on my hair, but I quickly address it. I say, “Thank you,” and go straight to the goal at hand, which is the patient.
EIFM: How do you marry the two passions?
Juanita: (passionately) I am always thinking of both [modeling and practicing medicine]. My brain works with both, and I definitely need both. They mesh well and make me who I am. I can’t imagine not being in Science, and not taking care of my patients. And, I can’t imagine not being a model - modeling, and not walking in fashion shows. Both of these things excite me in different ways.
EIFM: What Dominica-flavor or Juanita-flavor would you say you bring to modeling and the practice of medicine?
Juanita: The flavor that I bring is my uniqueness. No one can be me and that’s my power! There are thousands and millions of models, and there are thousands and millions of PA’s [Physician Assistants] - people doing medicine, but no one is me. Me just being myself is my uniqueness. Honestly, that’s it.
EIFM: What are some cultural practices that have benefited for where you are today?
Juanita: The thing I think has benefited me the most and was different… culturally, was having that respect factor. Growing up in Dominica, you pretty much know everyone. All of my neighbors were “Uncle” and “Aunt,” even if not related. I carried that respect factor when I moved to New York. Because it’s a part of me, I still carry that out. I see everyone for who they are and treat them with the same respect no matter if it is a janitor, my manager, or my supervisor. That was one thing I brought with me and it hasn’t changed, despite not always receiving the expected respective response. Still, no matter where I go I greet people with respect and treat them with respect. It’s what I grew up around and that is something that makes me a Dominican.
EIFM: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you or your Caribbean heritage?
Juanita: I would like people to know that there are many sides to me: I do medicine, I model, and I’m getting into fitness right now. (giggles)So, I am definitely not a one-sided person. There are different facets to me which make me unique. (emphatically) I want to encourage people to go for whatever dream they have. They should not feel limited, whether it’s age or their financial situation at the time. Whatever your dream is - GO FOR IT! And, don’t feel like you have to choose one. If you have a passion and you have a dream, just keep at it! It may not happen right away, but when it’s supposed to happen, it will.