Hanging around backstage at 20+ shows over the course of NYFW is an excellent way to meet models, if you're so inclined. Which I am. They generally have a lot of time on their hands while waiting for the shows to start and are often willing to chat. Plus, many of them have some interesting tales to tell. For every five models you meet who were scouted at the mall, there's that one who once lived in a youth hostel in Costa Rica whose first job was as a Dior couture exclusive.
Sure, we all know about first-namers Joan, Karlie, and, uh, Kendall. But what about some of those more obscure pretty faces you see on the runways? Read on for the stories of five new models on the scene and how they got their starts in the business, in their own words.
Age: 16 Agency: IMG Instagram: @mona__offi
"My mom started me modeling in Tokyo when I was 10. When I turned 13 I wanted to do international because I was getting taller. When I was 15, I did one show in Milan. The first time I went to Milan by myself I was so nervous I didn’t know what to do! And when I turned 16, which was in February of this year, that’s when I started doing seasons. In Paris I did Chanel, Miu Miu, Kenzo and some Japanese brands. For couture I did Chanel and Dior. Dior was a really hard runway! They didn’t say anything, just, ‘Walk randomly.’ It was so hard trying not to bump into anyone. [The runway was circular.]
[Casting agents] usually look at me and say, 'What’s your background, where are you from?' I'm half Japanese and half American and I lived in Arizona until I was nine. After that I moved to Japan. My mom was Japanese. They say I look kind of European, and I don’t look American. Maybe it’s because I have Irish inside me. Moving to Tokyo was a big change because the culture is so different. I live in Tokyo still. I think I’ll move to the US when I’m 18 — it depends on how my career goes. But I love Tokyo. I'm already homesick!"
Age: 23 Agency: Wilhelmina Instagram: @margauxbrooke
[Ed note: I was drawn to Margaux because she was giving me good Lizzy Caplan vibes.]
"I actually started when I was 9 years old. My mom heard a call on the radio for children models. I lived in Georgia. I took three years off modeling during middle school because I lived out of the country, but then I started again when I was 15. I moved to Costa Rica because my parents opened up a youth hostel on the beach and I went to an international school out there. I moved to LA when I was 15 years old and signed with Elite Models. For years I did a lot of commercial work, like JCPenney, Target, Hanes — that kind of thing. I recently signed with Wilhelmina in New York two years ago and I’ve been doing fashion week for the past two seasons. I’m going to do the full circuit [of cities] this season. My hair’s kind of my signature. [laughs] Actually I feel like I get most of my jobs because of it. I’ve had a bob for a couple years, but I got the sideburns last December. Sometimes [casting directors] want girls to look a little similar, with long natural hair and no bangs. Sometimes they say, 'I like your hair — it’s very specific.' It usually means, 'It’s not right for us.’ But that’s OK!"
Update: Margaux was formerly a contestant on "The Face."
Age: 25 Agency: DNA Instagram: @katharinemackel
"My first show was as an exclusive at Dior couture last season. A lot of stuff happened behind the scenes that I didn’t know about. I got an email from my agency saying they were working on an option for me for Dior and later that day they said, 'Oh you’ll be flying out to Paris for that.' It was at the Musee Rodin and it was in a circle so it wasn’t a typical runway. The idea was to have a bunch of girls all at the same time meandering around like we were at a salon. The thing I was most nervous about was making sure I got out at the right exit, since it was circular and there were four exits and there was one we were NOT supposed to go out of. In rehearsal I kept going out of it because I kept losing my orientation — they all looked the same. But luckily when the show came, I got the right exit!
I’ve only been modeling for three months. A friend of mine who’s a photographer suggested that when I finish with school I should try modeling. I’d always wanted to. I was always interested in theater and artistic stuff and I had always kind of seen that in modeling and the fashion industry, but I wanted to wait until I’d gotten all my education done in case stuff doesn’t work out, so I have a fall-back. I have a bachelor’s degree in political science and I just got my MSW [master's in social work] from NYU so that’s how I ended up in New York. I'm going to ride modeling out as long as I can, though!"
Age: 20 Twitter: @MadeInChynna
"Actually I’m a rapper and I got booked for the DKNY after-party. I went to the fitting for the after-party and they were like, 'Oh, we didn’t know you were so tall!' And they sent me to the casting, and I ended up getting it. I’m very excited! I used to be signed to Ford when I was 14, for two years, but after that I didn’t do much modeling. But now this is sort of jumping back into it. I have music management but I’m not signed to a label or anything. I was freaking out when I found out they wanted me for the show. I’ve never walked before. This will be the first time. I mean, I walked for them [in the casting] and they said I did fine, so I guess I kept that from when I was modeling before, but it was more commercial stuff. I was in catalogs. It was all print. I didn’t do any high fashion things. I still had braces at the time. So it was all closed mouth smiling."
Age: 18 Agency: Wilhelmina
"I have a twin sister back home in Canada and she wanted to model. People say we kind of look alike, but she’s a lot shorter than me. People always told her she could model, but she’s just too short for it. My mom said to me, ‘Hey, you’re tall, you might as well just go for it.’ So I just applied online to my agency where I'm from and they signed me. That was just over a year ago. My sister isn’t sad — she’s pretty supportive. I guess she’s just happy that I’m doing it.
My most memorable show was the Philipp Plein show. We walked around a pool in Milan, just this past season in June. That was my first season in Europe. I didn’t know him before I started modeling. It was a cool show. When I first told my guy friends back home [I was becoming a model], they bugged me. They would just tease me that modeling is for girls and stuff like that. A lot of people think that! As soon as I started traveling and making some money, though, they were like, ‘Yeah, that’s actually pretty sick.’"