There are many elements of Charlotte D'Alessio's life that read like a teenager's fairy tale. Instagram didn't exist when I was in high school, but I imagine I'd be pretty fascinated by the beautiful, leggy 17-year-old with more than 174,000 followers and a Wilhelmina Models contract, too. For the legions of aspiring Cool Teens™, D'Alessio, who has been modeling full-time for the last year, is living the dream — though her Cinderella story has been anything but conventional.
At Coachella in 2015, pictures of D'Alessio (above, right) and her friend, 18-year-old model Josie Canseco (left), flooded the Internet, winding up on places like the festival's official Twitter and The Cobra Snake's Instagram, among others. BuzzFeed spoke to D'Alessio soon after, resulting in a viral article that has since garnered 1,479,600 views. Wilhelmina reached out to D'Alessio from there, and the rest is history. In the 12 months since D'Alessio was discovered, the Canada native has landed a slew of commercial campaigns, left Beverly Hills High School to pursue homeschooling and launched a YouTube channel with her friend and fellow model, Abby Champion. And with a secret project in the works for this summer, I imagine that D'Alessio's stake in the California modeling pantheon will only deepen.
On the eve of Coachella 2016's first weekend, I hopped on the phone with D'Alessio to get caught up on the last year of her life, from her social media strategy to her dream campaign.
You obviously gained a lot of attention at Coachella last year. What can you tell me about your experience there?
I went with my friend Josie — it was my first year going — and we barely took photos. I think we took 10 photos, but people really responded to them. They ended up everywhere. I saw them on Facebook, and not just [from] friends, but random people posting them. And then The Weeknd and the Coachella Twitter reposted [one of their photos]. It was so surreal because I was just a normal girl from Canada who was going to Coachella. I had, like, 16,000 [Instagram] followers, and now it's [174,000].
Coachella really got me started in modeling. Wilhelmina reached out to me from the [BuzzFeed] article — that's how they saw me.
Yeah, it was from the article. I didn't think I was ever going to model — I was going to L.A. to go to UCLA — and then that happened.
And the outfit that everyone liked — I was wearing this pink bodysuit — was, like, my least favorite outfit. It wasn't that indie-boho, which is the "Coachella vibe," but everyone really liked it. I still get DMs to this day from girls asking me to buy it off me.
And when Wilhelmina reached out to you, how did you feel about going forward with the process?
Basically every single one of my friends in L.A. is a model, with Next or Wilhelmina or whatever it is. I was the non-model in the friend group because I wanted to go to UCLA. I didn't have that much of an interest — well, I had an interest, but I didn't think I would be successful so I didn't really pursue it.
When they asked me to come in, I went with my dad because I was 16. I almost didn't sign because I was so scared. But I'm happy I ended up signing with them, because they've been a really great agency. I had the contract in my room for two days — like, I was scared they were going to tell me to cut my hair or lose weight or something like that, but they've been so supportive. They never told me to change anything.
Are you in high school now?
Yeah. I'm in 12th grade.
And are you homeschooled or do you go to a physical high school?
I was enrolled in Beverly Hills High School last year, and then I switched to an online high school because of work. I do a school called West River Academy. It's a lot easier.
When do you make time to take class?
I have my tutor come in because I can't do something by myself — I need someone to tell me when to do school. So, my tutor comes in pretty much whenever I need her, but it'll probably be three times a week.
Also, my friend and I are starting a business together! I don't want to say too much about it yet, but that's been consuming a lot of my time recently. It's with my friend Abby [Champion], and we have a YouTube channel we started together.
Is that something you thought about doing as an extension of your modeling career, or is it just for fun?
As we started gaining more followers, we got higher demands to make a YouTube channel. I guess that's what people want to see from who they follow; they want more of them. We have a bunch of friends on social media who do the exact same thing — who make YouTube videos, who do Vine — and so I asked Abby. We decided to do one video and see how people responded to it, and [it went over] really well. All the engagement was crazy. We decided to keep going with it, but we don't want to be YouTubers.
We wanted it to be an extension of our social media and to incorporate it into modeling, as opposed to being labeled as a YouTuber. It's just supposed to be a fun thing for us to do for the engagement of our followers.
Your Instagram following is huge. Do you have a strategy for growing it?
I try to post as much as possible. That's my strategy. I feel like [my followers really like] my "friendship goals" posts where I post photos with my friends. I think that's a big reason why people follow me because it has cool photos for them to mimic with their friends. And the California lifestyle. [Laughs] I'm honestly not intentional, but it comes off that way. I definitely think about what I post before I post it. I don't want anything inappropriate.
Have you ever been asked to take something down?
Yeah! Actually, I posted a photo on my birthday — it was on Cinco de Mayo — and I was wearing a sombrero, but there was a beer can that I didn't even notice in the distance. The people I was supposed to be working with over the summer asked me to take it down. It was my favorite photo at the time.
When you're booking jobs now, is Coachella ever brought up?
Most of the jobs I book aren't from casting. They're direct — I guess they go through my Instagrams. It always gets brought up when [a job] asks how I got started on social media. For the most part, though, it's more in the past.
Do you have any plans for Coachella this year?
I'm definitely going. I'm not going with Josie because I think she's working, but I'm going with Abby and a couple other friends. My outfits this year are so much better than last year. That's actually what I'm most excited for — I've been planning my outfits for literal months.
Is that outfit planning something your friends discuss as a group?
It's something Abby and I have discussed together, knowing that, most likely, all our photos are going to be of us together. We definitely color-coordinated some things. Josie and my outfits last year ended up coordinating by accident. But we dress completely differently and have different styles, so I don't really know how it's going to translate. I'm really excited to see what my friends are going to end up wearing.
Did any brands reach out to dress you for Coachella?
A couple of brands [did], but I just want to stay with what I was going to wear. A lot of my friends are getting dressed by brands they don't normally shop at, but I'm trying to wear what I want to wear.
And what does that entail?
I feel like my style is more vintage-y, '90-ish. I wear a lot of oversized sweaters, and a lot of it is oversized Tommy Hilfiger. Actually, I'm going all vintage Tommy Hilfiger for one of my outfits this year. My friends say I dress like I'm in "Clueless" all the time.
Is Tommy Hilfiger a dream job for you?
It's definitely a dream campaign to shoot. That's my favorite brand, for sure.
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