Not all of us get to hide in our pajama pants and Yale sweatshirts, satisfied with that fact that we can build atomic models. There are some among us who are, well, models ourselves.
Apart from making us stop to question that second helping of Fried Mozzarella Triangles, what can these models do for us? Just for scene, they offer their advice and pretty-person perspective for those of us wishing to turn a beautiful mind into just plain beautiful.
But, according to these seasoned fashion veterans, modeling is not an easy business. The pressure of the adoring public can be too much, and the next time you see a chain of crazed, salivating freshman screaming down Elm Street, look for one of the following at the head of the pack:
n Whitney Seibel ’06, a bright-eyed, 5′ 11″ brunette, who can be seen in ads for Big Dog Motorcycles and German Mademoiselle.
n Lisa Kant ’06, known in Calhoun as “the cute redhead,” who sports a mop of curly, bright red hair and has appeared in YM.
n Jason Ray ’06, who is a petite blonde with a strong southern accent — he’s a bona-fide freshman legend for his appearance on “American Idol.”
n Alexandra Reeve ’05, the tall, thin flaxen-haired lass, who speaks in a charming British accent and has appeared in Tatler Magazine and various ad campaigns.
n And then there’s Henry Tibensky ’03, a Silliman freshman counselor and water polo player who has graced the pages of Seventeen Magazine and Glamour.
So is being a model all about beautiful people and hot sex, James Bond-style? Actually, it’s more like Austin Powers.
“The very first shot I ever did, for Seventeen [Magazine] — I had no idea what to expect,” Tibensky said. “They told me to go to the corner of 55th and 5th to catch a bus. I get down there, and on that corner there were 15 to 20 teenage girls 16 to 18 years old — the whole point of the picture was for me to run down the street with all the girls chasing me, screaming my name. The shoot took 8 hours. It was crazy.”
The life of a model is not all about flashing cameras and red carpets. Watch out for the barbed wire.
“For Tatler, we had to sneak into a field to take a picture on a hay stack while the sun was setting, but we had to climb through this fence with barbed wire! I had to keep this cashmere coat from getting in the mud,” said Reeve. “Then, we heard the farmer yelling whose field it was, and we didn’t take the moral high road. They picked up the camera, and we basically ran away.”
But with the adoration come the assumptions made about models. For example: the assumption that all models are size zero.
“I did a shoot for wedding dresses. I gave them my sizes that aren’t a zero, and they bring out these gorgeous dresses, the largest of which is possibly a two. They were trying to fit me in, one pushing on my front and another on my back trying to close the bustier around me,” Reeve said.
Navigating the difficulties of certain modeling ware is not limited to clothing. Some problems require innovation and uncomfortable solutions. Reeve, who has unpierced ears, showed up for a jewelry fashion shoot — only to find out that she was modeling mostly earrings.
“They tried to solve the situation by gluing diamonds to my ears,” Reeve said. “Essentially, they put globs of glue on my ears, stuck the pearl on, took the picture, then chipped it off! They waited for the redness to go away, then did it over again. The photos were ok, but that was the last time I modeled.”
And although every girl fantasizes about being a model for the clothes, not every job is so glamorous.
“I went to this photo shoot and before me, there was this girl who was wearing a thong and a wet t-shirt. They were taking her picture, and she weighed like negative five pounds. It was unpleasant,” Kant said.
And even when blessed with good clothing (unlike much of Yale) the job is still not a cakewalk. Not like Giselle would be caught dead with cake anyway.
“I was wearing this nice black dress with really high black boots, and their directions were hard to follow and uncomfortable. I was using all of my effort to balance myself and they just kept telling me to smile and look happy. It was ridiculous,” Kant said.
So where were these fresh faces found? Slaving over their books in Sterling? In J. Crew? Not for these mannequins — but your model opportunity might be closer than you think.
“Someone came up to me in the mall and just asked me, ‘Hey, do you want to model?’ I started doing lots of local things, and later, in New York,” said Seibel.
While High street frats probably don’t provide the caliber of parties that will yield a modeling contract, some have found their big breaks while living it up. Reeve landed one campaign by meeting a designer at a London party. Others have gotten by with a little help from their friends; Tibensky got his break by attending a model agency meeting on campus with some acquaintances.
But not everyone depends on luck or connections. The standard open audition route has worked for others. Kant was awarded her position by going to a casting call during her senior year of high school.
Tactics for the discovery game aside, some of the most important work towards becoming a beautiful person begins at home. Self-presentation is the name of the game.
“I’ve found that [some] people have that camera-ready face,” Ray said. “How far down to bite to clench their jaw. How far to raise their eyebrows. How many teeth to show, and how far to open their mouth when they smile. [How] to not make their eyes squint. People don’t like to admit, but they know.”
Even having a facebook picture that looks more like a head shot than a mug shot helps. In order to choose models for her fashion show, student designer Ilia Medina ’05 felt like she was looking for a screw date.
“I facebooked for five hours — if someone looks good there, they can look good anywhere,” said Medina.
The career of modeling begs the obvious next step — crossing over. Some begin in modeling and slowly branch out to other things, like being a “model/actor.”
“I was on ‘Days of Our Lives,’ but I don’t really know how to act. It’s a lot harder than it looks, so if I do it, I’ll have to take some classes,” Tibensky said. “It makes me think of Zoolander– right now it’s model/actor — there’s not much acting going on.”
And as public figures (kind of) how do Yalie models keep their two lives separate? Do they let their friends in on the secret? The answer is a unanimous, resounding NO.
“I don’t tell people about the YM thing,” Kant said. “Not many people know I do this. I always feel like I’m not the modeling type — it’s not so representative of me.”
Others just want to avoid the ribbing.
“I still don’t tell people,” Tibensky said. “I try to keep it on the DL, but it’s harder when it goes in magazines and online. My friends at home and at school give me crap. I’d probably give me crap too if I were in their position.”
Still others don’t choose to be associated with the products they model.
“I did an ad campaign for Big Dog Motorcycles, and I heard a lot about that from my friends. I think they thought it was entertaining,” Seibel said. “It’s not like I took it seriously. I didn’t tell anyone for a year, until I had to.”
And others simply don’t model anymore.
“I didn’t even really like it,” Reeve said. “It was something I enjoyed when I was younger.”