CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Crystal Good's 35-year-old life fits into three neatly defined categories. Modeling. Marketing. Poetry.
She was 12 when she won a best-model contest and started modeling professionally in New York and Atlanta.
She never meant to settle here. After her grandfather scolded her for ignoring her heritage, the sense of community instilled by her past, she set out to learn about her place in the diversity of the state.
Now, inspired by the proud connection to African-Americanism in West Virginia, she's building a civic identity that embraces and celebrates her roots.
In her role at Mythology Marketing, she matches corporations with causes and conceives events that honor the contributions of Appalachian blacks. As an Affrilachian poet, she uses verse to speak out against mountaintop removal and other issues that tug at her heart.
"I grew up across from St. Albans High School. I would listen to the band practice, and I couldn't wait to grow up and be in the band myself. My grandmother, Jackie Titcher, was Kanawha County Majorette, something else I aspired to be. I started twirling at St. Albans Junior High. By high school, I was busy modeling.
"My mother is white, my father black. They had me when they were both in Charleston High School. I grew up with my mom. She worked for DuPont. My father, Wesley Armstead, is news editor for Channel 8. He worked his way up from janitor to editing film to carrying the camera. Good is my stepfather's name.
"I was always tall and skinny and always had people telling me that I should model. Mom told me about Belinda Dale Cunningham. She had a small modeling agency and she was teaching a modeling class. She took me to a convention in Washington, D.C. There were hundreds of potential models, and scouts, and I won best model. I was 12.
"When I got home, every agency was calling and asking when I could come to New York. So my mother took off work for two weeks and we went to New York and talked to the different agents. I went with IMG, and they got the ball rolling. They told me to come back for the summer.
"I did a lot of showroom work for Ralph Lauren and Anne Klein and other little jobs. Those summers in New York, I didn't make a lot of money. You just fill your portfolio so you can get the good catalog jobs.
"I did lots of local work, too. I was on the Stone & Thomas Teen Board with Louise Palumbo. She helped shape and groom me about the professionalism that would be expected when you didn't have your mom at photo shoots tying your shoes and cleaning up your clothes.
"I graduated early, and my agent in New York sent me to Atlanta so I could make some money and then come back to New York. That was probably the best thing for a 17-year-old girl from West Virginia to do, go to the Atlanta market.
"I left IMG for Elite because my booker changed agents and I felt real comfortable with her. I worked for Rich's, a big department store down there, and the little Cato stores. It was a juniors market. I made about $1,500 a day.
"I didn't understand the money I was making. At 17, I was making more than my parents, and they didn't understand that. I lived in Buckhead, a nice little spread there in Atlanta. I didn't invest a single penny. Later, you grow up real fast.
"I wanted to come back and work on my education. I had a son when I was 22. I tried to go to Dallas, but it's hard to be away from your family, especially with modeling, because it's hit or miss.
"Education was important to me. It took me 10 years to get my degree, just taking a class here and a class there. I got my degree in communications from West Virginia State. I met some amazing mentors at State.
"I was in and out of modeling for a few years. I worked at Schwabe's and started buying for Chequers. When they went out business, that's when I buckled down and decided to finish school.
"I started my own booking company. I've been booking local talent for long time, mostly ethnic talent.
"When I moved back to West Virginia, I told my grandfather, Diz Titcher, that I couldn't live here. I had been modeling and had Saks Fifth Avenue bags and designer clothes in my closet, and here I was in little Charleston, West Virginia. I said it wasn't going to work.