By Greg Carannante
Fittingly for a magazine that has survived for 15 years, the model who graced its first cover has become quite a survivor herself. And the best kind – the kind who makes you realize that her million-dollar smile on the cover is not something she just turns on for the camera. The kind that smiles when the lights go out. The kind that even smiles in the face of cancer.
It was a smile that launched a thousand magazines – well, thousands of magazines – and virtually saved the day for the City & Shore staff. They had hoped the issue’s fashion story would yield a cover shot, but when none fit the bill, deadline approached and the first cover was still a blank page.
Rod Stafford Hagwood, the Sun Sentinel’s fashion columnist and the magazine’s fashion writer, had worked with a model on a recent shoot for the paper. One of her shots had received raves – smiling, of course, under a feathery hat – and Hagwood recommended Sagine Archer to the magazine.
“I always enjoyed working with Sagine [pronounced Sah-jeen] because she was so versatile,” Hagwood says. “Sagine could project a warm girl-next-door or an untouchable ice queen, and everything in between. She was like a great silent film actor in that way.”
And project she did – during the shoot she exuded the fresh, engaging and sophisticated look the staff was hoping for. They had their cover.
“I remember there was a lot of jewelry,” says Sagine of the C&S shoot. “They wanted a more sophisticated look and a laugh-ish, cheeky smile. And I’ll never forget the hair. I was like, what is this hairdo? I looked like I was on Dallas or something. But it was cool.”
“A lot of clients mentioned the cover. A lot of people saw it,” says Sagine, who was raised in South Florida with Haitian roots. After having been discovered in a mall, she became well-established on the South Beach modeling scene – traveling to runway shows for houses like Chanel and Valentino; doing shoots for magazines like Glamour and Self; and filming commercials for Macy’s, Kohl’s and others. She continued modeling, through the birth of her son, Jordan, a divorce, a 2009 move to L.A., a whirlwind romance that turned into a second marriage – and then, three years ago, a diagnosis of breast cancer. After a double mastectomy and 18 rounds of chemotherapy came the double-whammy: Her husband left her a single parent of a 9-year-old.
“I was supposed to be the trophy and the trophy wasn’t a trophy at that point. I found a lot of women that have similar stories,” she says. “My marriage pretty much dissolved with the diagnosis. It’s been quite a ride. I’m here because the cancer was detected early. I have a really good prognosis.”
If as they say, prognosis is tied to attitude, it’s no surprise that hers would be positive. Tagging herself “a total survivor,” she has become a goodwill “glambassador” for surviving chronic illness through her work as a mentor and motivational speaker and especially through her multifaceted, inspirational blog, Sasaprasa (sasaprasa.com). The name’s only meaning, she says, is in how it perfectly describes her sassy self. Among site highlights are a video interview with designer Cookie Johnson on her fashions benefitting husband Magic’s AIDS charity, as well as Sagine’s speech at the 2013 Mattel Women’s Courage Conference (she’s an avid video-gamer).
“I decided I’m gonna beat this,” she said at the conference, “and I’m gonna beat this with style, cause it’s all about fashion.”
“My business was about what I look like on the outside and now it’s changed,” she says today. “I’ve put on weight; I have different breasts; I have scars. I was attacked on the inside but on the outside too. But I used my looks to my advantage for the whole breast cancer journey.” She still works as a model, a commercial for United Health Care being one recent project.
“It’s a very strange thing that happens when you’re faced with your mortality in your 30s and a parent of a young child. You’re like – what? It’s a very scary place to be but I realize that my mortality is no different than anyone else’s. I just was given a wake-up call. When you’re in survival mode, you see things completely different. If I have a minute, I don’t want to waste a minute. It’s my time.
“But it’s not just about what you get out of it – it’s about service, community, friendship, love, support and, you know, living. I’m just trying to be a support for other women who go through this. I had an amazing support group, amazing friends, and I try to be that for other people because I know not everybody has the same blessings that I do.”
And now she’s trying to take her support beyond the emotional realm, working with a breast surgeon to develop a line of medical recovery products.
“It’s been a really rough three years but I’m still full of hope and faith and excitement at what comes next,” says the still-smiling model who recently celebrated her 40th birthday in Barbados. “I’m ready to bounce up.”