Like many 16-year-olds from Los Angeles, Karim Turk accompanied a friend to Coachella this past April. Unlike many 16-year-olds, that directly led to him being booked for Saint Laurent's epic men's show in Malibu last week — his first-ever modeling job.
Turk, who is of Kashmiri and Palestinian descent, was scouted on the festival grounds — a breeding ground for new modeling talent, as proven in years past — on weekend two by JD Moran, associate director of scouting at IMG Models. Moran was at the festival both weekends specifically to scout; and while he identified a few promising faces, he says Turk was one of them he was most excited about.
"He was just gorgeous. He had a really cool aesthetic, he had this long hair. Fortunately, a band wasn't performing at the time, so we went up to speak with him and he had a great personality," explains Moran. "We look for people we find unique and he was definitely unique and had this cool vibe."
With the Saint Laurent men's show coming up in L.A., the timing couldn't have been better. "I actually said he'd be a great fit for Saint Laurent; our whole team thought he'd be great," says Moran. Still, he prepared Turk for the possibility of the casting not going well. But, clearly, that wasn't necessary.
We caught up with Turk, who's finishing up his sophomore year of high school, after the show to learn more about being scouted at Coachella, how his first job went and his modeling goals for the future.
Tell me about Coachella. Was it your first time going?
It was my second time going. Both years I went with the same friend — this year I wasn't planning on going but he kind of convinced me. He told me, 'Come to Coachella with me' out of nowhere like a month before. We went together. I like a lot of the artists that played this year, it was really, really fun.
My favorite was Juice Wrld. I love Anderson .Paak as well, and Jaden Smith was really cool, too.
What happened when you were scouted?
It was around six o' clock, we weren't really at a specific show, we were just wandering around. We just happened to end up at the place where Virgil Abloh was deejaying. We were in a group with me and a couple friends and one of the scouts, JD, came up to me and asked me if I'd ever considered doing modeling before and I told him I had. Some people had come up to me before earlier in the year and gave me opportunities to do that kind of thing. I got their Instagrams twice but for some reason it never really happened; either they didn't follow up or it just seemed kind of obscure. JD gave me a business card and it seemed really real and legitimate so I was really interested. After we said goodbye, he DM'd me and told me that if I agreed to do it he was going change his flight to Friday back to New York. I immediately called my parents and confirmed with my dad and he was supportive, like, 'If that's what you want to do you can do it.' It worked out perfectly.
So you'd thought about modeling before?
I hadn't thought about it too much but I was interested in it. Because of the people who had come up to me earlier in the year it was something I had been thinking about. I was like, it would be really really awesome 'cause there's a lot of brands that I really, really like and it'd be awesome to work with them, so when the opportunity came I was pretty stoked. I was really happy.
What happened next?
I didn't meet with anyone until after Coachella. I was in contact with JD who's the one who scouted me, through Instagram; he was confirming dates with me for when we were going to meet for the first time at the IMG office and then once I came back from Coachella and confirmed it with my parents. He got in contact with my parents, then we set up a date to meet with them at the office.
What was the casting process like for Saint Laurent?
It was all here in L.A. The very first casting for Saint Laurent, one of the casting directors had it in his friend's apartment early in the morning before I went to school. He just had me take a few photos, asked me some questions and had me walk for him. Closer to the show, last Sunday, IMG told me apparently he liked me and there was going to be another casting on Sunday morning that I should go to. So I went over, it was close to my house in Culver City, in this big building and there was a lot of kids there. They put me in a couple outfits and then we left. A couple days after that they asked me to come to another one at the same place, so I did and that was when they confirmed one of my outfits for the show. A couple days later they told me I was confirmed.
What was your reaction to getting it?
The first time I had the inkling I was going to get it was when I was at the casting and they were like, 'His outfit's confirmed,' and I was kind of thinking... I didn't say anything but I was like, no way they're actually confirming me, this is awesome, 'cause there were a lot of kids there. When we actually got the email from IMG that I was gonna go and do the show with them, like yeah, that was really awesome, I had a great reaction. My dad was like, 'you got confirmed,' I was like, 'Yes!!!' That was an awesome moment.
Do you follow fashion generally, and brands like Saint Laurent?
I love Saint Laurent. I love all those other fashion brands and I've always kind of known about them. Ever since I started dressing myself I always cared about what I wore. I went through a bunch of different phases of what I like to put on and how I like to look and whatever. Because I always kind of paid attention to what people were wearing, I was always trying new things to see if I could make myself look good.
How would you describe your style?
It's very casual. I wear kind of a skater style; I wear vans, most of my clothes are a little bit baggy.
Did you like your Saint Laurent look?
I absolutely loved my outfit and I'm so glad 'cause there was a lot of outfits and I really liked all of them but the one that I wore specifically I was really excited about.
Did you get to keep any clothes?
I didn't. I was trying to see after the show if I could get a T-shirt or anything but I was only there for a few minutes because I had to get a ride home because I had school the next day and it was late and I was kind of tired, but I would love to have stayed [for the party].
It was such a cool show. What was it like being a part of it?
When we went back into the dressing room, everyone was just watching [the show] like, 'Oh my god, oh my god.' I had watched videos of runway shows before but the fact that it was on the beach in Malibu, I thought that was one of the most awesome parts about it. We were walking literally right next to the water and I thought that was the best idea they had. It was awesome. The scenery and everything makes it so much more of an experience.
It was really fun to be there and the atmosphere while we were getting ready was perfect, it was a great view the whole time.
Did you have to practice walking beforehand?
Ever since I first started doing it a couple months ago my agent told me, 'You should just constantly be practicing walking.' I was kind of slow at it in the beginning and I actually started doing it and got better, I started feeling more confident.
Were you more excited or nervous?
I was more excited than I was nervous. I would have been more nervous had I not spent more time there before the actual show because we had a solid amount of time there and I got to know people and I got to know I wasn't the only person whose first show it was. I got to be nervous with other people so that was kind of fun, and there were a couple people I'd already known, so that made me more comfortable. And the fact that all the people were really nice, I was more comfortable and I was really, really excited.
What surprised you the most about your first modeling job?
The fact that all those kids there... everyone there was just good looking and it made me nervous 'cause everyone who was there just seemed really, really important. But the most surprising thing was everyone had a really, really nice personality. It made me want to be there even more and it made it an even better experience.
So what's next? Are you hoping to book more jobs for the summer? Do you have any lined up?
I'm not 100% sure I have any jobs lined up so far. They'll let me know if I do have any but I'm excited I'm going to have literally every day open to [model] so I'll be able to do it as much as possible.
Do you have any major goals for your modeling career? Traveling? Working with certain brands?
I'm signed to the Paris office of IMG, too. I have some friends in Europe already so if I ever get to travel to Paris maybe I'd be able to meet them and just doing modeling there, that would be so much fun. I haven't really traveled outside of the country except to Kashmir to visit my family and so it's kind of a dream to travel out of the country in general.
In terms of fashion brands that I really want to do shows with or do modeling for, I play soccer so ever since I started soccer me and my friends used to love these sports brands, especially Adidas because they have the best cleats. So to do modeling for them, that would be awesome.
Since I just did a show with Saint Laurent and I really, really loved the experience, I’d love to continue doing shows with them or maybe do a campaign with them, that kind of thing.
Social media seems to be an important tool for models these days; are you very active on Instagram, etc.?
I'm not too crazy, I don't have an insane amount of followers. I never really post that much but now that I'm modeling I'm looking forward to actually having content that I can post.