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North Carolina college student recognized for beard

December 16, 2017

In this Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 photo, Aaron Oates, a 21-year-old junior at Winston-Salem State University, poses for a portrait in his apartment in Kernersville, N.C. Oates received national acclaim when he was selected as one of the year's 19 most "Beautiful Bearded Black Men" by New York-based Essence magazine (Allison Lee Isley /The Winston-Salem Journal via AP)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — No-Shave-November paid off for one local college student.

Aaron Oates, a junior at Winston-Salem State University, received national acclaim when he was selected as one of the year’s 19 most “Beautiful Bearded Black Men” by New York-based Essence magazine.

“That’s really the craziest part. I get traffic for the hair on top of my head, but I never really think of my beard as my focal point,” Oates said. “Usually, I just comb it and put oil in it to make sure it shines.”

The “bearded bae” and aspiring model was the youngest man and the only North Carolina resident selected by the magazine.

Oates was contacted by an editor from Essence, who had seen his Instagram profile, which has more than 43,000 followers.

“When I realized how widespread the Essence magazine is, it was exhilarating, it was dope,” Oates said. “I was like ‘OK this is real.’”

Oates is the second WSSU student to make an Essence debut this year.

In February, Justus Pickett, a former Rams running back, was selected as the magazine’s #MCM (Man Crush Monday) model.

Getting recognition from Essence, which has a national readership, is a stepping stone on his way to pursuing a career in modeling, Oates said.

Oates, who is studying business administration, sponsors some local brands through his Instagram page and hopes to start his own clothing line soon, he said.

“In the line of pursuing modeling, I just hope to work for an agency and travel the world doing what I love,” he said. “I think hair and apparel is my strength.”

Oates set up a Go Fund Me page earlier this year to help kick-start his modeling career.

He hopes to move to the west coast after graduation and would like to start a foundation to support kids, he said.

For Oates, a Rocky Mount native, modeling wasn’t always a given, but amid curveballs in his life, he decided to pursue it.

“In my hometown, most people focused on basketball. I was one of those people, but I had a career-ending injury that left me feeling like I had no direction,” he said. “I gained tools from other positive people and found out I was more than just basketball.”

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Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com

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