A Google search for Paige Reifler suggests that she’s only a model in title — a moniker given by the press to a pretty young girl embroiled in a scandal with a world-famous pop star (more on that in a bit).
What those Google results won’t show you — not yet, anyway — is the girl who has been obsessed with performing since prancing around her parent’s dinner party in a bejeweled tutu at age seven, and who finally found an outlet for that energy through modeling.
Reifler, who at age 18 attends a special school in NYC so she can also work, has been on New York Model Management’s “New Faces” board since getting signed there last summer. But thanks to a growing buzz and a dedicated social media following, she likely won’t be there for much longer.
First, a quick debrief on that pop star controversy (to fill in those who didn’t open a new tab to Google her): The details are unclear, but Reifler met Harry Styles during the U.S. leg of One Direction’s “Take Me Home” summer tour. He was later spotted wearing her insignia “P” ring, they hung out a few more times when he was in New York and then it all exploded when a friend of Reifler’s posted a photo of the two in a compromising position.
One Direction fans have proved that they come out big in defense of their idols, and this was no exception. The backlash would have been enough to make anyone delete their entire existence on the web — but not Reifler.
“The modeling industry requires a thick skin and I have gotten used to being able to bounce back from negative criticism,” she tells us. “In the end, its all about feeling confident in who you are and surrounding yourself with positive people.”
Reifler’s persistence has paid off: Her social media follower count has rocketed up, and that initial wave of hateful tweets was slowly replaced by fan accounts and Tumblrs carefully itemizing everything she wears. Currently, she has 11,200 Twitter followers and 17,700 Instagram followers — big numbers for a model just starting out.
It’s not totally shocking — after all, just being the longtime girlfriend of One Direction member Louis Tomlinson turned student Eleanor Calder into the 27th most influential tweeter in the UK and a style icon for a certain set of fans. But it’s definitely beneficial in this new social media-focused era of modeling: Models like Karlie Kloss, Kate Upton and Cara Delevingne all got huge career boosts from their respective high follower counts.
“Social media is a fantastic tool that allows for individuality to be expressed,” Reifler says of her own followers. “The new generation of models is about not being just a face in a magazine, but showing the personality behind it.”
Of course, it’s important not to discount Reifler’s own natural beauty in her success. Though shorter than most at 5′ 8.5″ (“The half is key,” she jokes), she’s unquestionably model-gorgeous with her big, brown doe eyes and bee-stung lips.
And it helps that she’s game for anything. On Monday, she posted a picture mid-eyebrow bleaching, specifically requested for a shoot for Elle (the results were posted to her Instagram, obviously). Reifler says she was “stoked” for the change.
“When my agent emailed me that a client wanted to bleach my brows, I did not hesitate,” she says, adding that she was secretly envious of Miley Cyrus’ own recent brow-bleaching. “I mean, the client was amazing and I had an excuse to live out my fantasy of transforming into an editorial alien.”
Her agent would only tell Fashionista that she’s “doing great things,” but if Reifler’s own Twitter and Instagram accounts are anything to go by, the jobs are practically rolling in. On top of the aforementioned Elle job, the blonde has hinted at bookings with clients like Tatler, Teen Vogue and Victoria’s Secret.
It feels like Reifler is on the verge of a major breakthrough. So what are her goals? Her sister (whom, she notes, works at Vogue) has filled her in on “slashers” — the models who also DJ, design, blog, etc. “I think that this idea that someone is confined to one career path is ‘so last season,’” she says. “The world is making room for gals like me who are just overly passionate about too many things to choose just one.”