When Pueblo, Colo., Local 12 member Tyshawn Nicholas posted some birthday photos to his Instagram account earlier this year, he had no idea it would lead him to a modeling gig at Denver's Fashion Week, but his post caught the right eyes and earned him an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

Pueblo, Colo., Local 12 apprentice Tyshawn Nicholas recently participated in Denver’s Fashion Week, held in April.
Photo credit: @davidtookitco.

"I wasn't hoping to get anything out of it," said the first-year apprentice wireman. "Those were the first professional pictures I ever took. It was just a birthday gift to myself."

Those photos got over 1,000 views in just two days, thanks to friends, family and the photographer sharing them online. From there, Nicholas was invited to audition for Denver Fashion Week, held in April, where he walked for several different designers, including one who usually designs for women but worked on a custom piece for him.

"It was astounding," Nicholas said of the show. "It was eye-opening to get a chance to see the process that it takes to put such a big show together. The biggest highlight for me was the networking. I got a chance to meet so many great people and make some new friends. And I got a chance to share and hear a lot of different ideas."

It's a world that is still very much new to him, having only started earlier this year.

"As us electricians would say, I'm still green," he said.

While he may be new, it's something he's taken to naturally.

"For me the reason I started taking pictures was to keep memories, so aside from that I just love self-expression through style like clothes and hair. I love the art in it and I love being myself," Nicholas said. "And it's nice that people like it. There is no better feeling than that."

His comfort in front of the camera is something that dates back to his high school and college years playing sports.

"It's kind of something that just happens," Nicholas said. "I've been in front of the lights and camera since high school sports, but the presence is just me being myself, having fun and enjoying life and smiling while I do it."

Being a model and an electrician isn't something that likely happens a lot, but Nicholas says it can be done. And more than that, it can be done in a way that promotes the trades.

"They always say it can't be done until someone does it, and I'm going to do it," he said. "Hopefully it can inspire more apprentices to pursue a side hobby while completing school and go out and support their local because we're always trying to add members to our brotherhood."

Nicholas says he also feels fortunate to be able to pursue both an apprenticeship and modeling.

"Being a part of the IBEW, with the benefits and flexibility we have, it gives me the opportunity to pursue my other passions, and I know not everyone has that," he said. "It's like they say, 'choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.'"

As for his day job doing electrical work, Nicholas says there's a lot to like there too.

"I love to imagine a project and watch it come to life," he said. "What I like most about it is learning new skills in the classroom and being able to take it straight to the field and put it to use. The feeling of growth after that is amazing."

While modeling and electrical work may seem like polar opposite pursuits, Nicholas says they actually share some commonalities.

"There is definitely an overlap in the creation aspect of modeling and being an electrician," he said. "You have to finesse each one a little different. Being an electrician is more of a mental art and modeling is more of a physical art, but at the end of the day, whether it's modeling or electrical work, you have to have the vision."

Nicholas credits Local 12's Training Director Dan Kraus for helping him get into the apprenticeship.

"Tyshawn certainly has the desire, the want and the drive to succeed in the apprenticeship," Kraus said. "I know he's really excited about the modeling stuff too and we're excited for him. Hopefully he can make it all work out."

Nicholas has since done two other fashion shows, along with some photo shoots, with more shows scheduled for later in the year.