How did you get involved with modeling?

I worked with this designer, Karolina Zmarlak. She’s a Polish designer who is in her first few seasons in New York. She came to my town to do a trunk show and a little mini fashion show to help the people to see what [the clothes] look like on—people are more likely to buy it if they seen it on. I knew the guy whose house it was at—my dad made the shutters on his house. So, I was [modeling] in her little trunk show, which was really casual: mostly local people came to check stuff out. I got to meet her team there, her stylists, the person who helped her start her company. They were awesome. And she was like, “well, if you want to come to New York during market” [peak modeling season, following Fashion Week].

What type of modeling job were you hired for?

I was working—not actually with this designer—but with her fashion development company called Crescala. They help designers who are just starting out, like Karolina, get into high-end department stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks. They represented around 12 different designers. So I modeled in the showroom at this fashion development place. Buyers came in and me and a couple of other models modeled at appointments to show the clothes. The buyers would talk about them, decide if they wanted to put them in their stores and give the designers feedback. It was actually a really cool way to start in the industry, because it wasn’t runway. It was in a small setting, and I could get feedback without it seeming like I was doing a terrible job.

Do you have any other modeling experience?

No. The first thing that I did really, was this summer at the little fashion show, which wasn’t really anything big either. I did audition for “America’s Next Top Model” last year. And I got the level where you were supposed to fly out to L.A. and meet Tyra. But it was during finals week, so I was like, nope. Which was also ironic, because I had auditioned for the College Edition cycle.

How would you describe the fashion industry?

I have a lot of respect for it because fashion is such an important form of self-expression. Art and theater are forms of self-expression, but you don’t wear them every day. Part of your identity is what you wear, whether you choose to admit that or not. There is so much artistry to be said for the fabrics, the constructions. The designers pour their hearts and souls into it. So it’s an art form, but also a business—and that’s where it starts to get messy for the little guys. Trying to balance the art versus the business side of it is really the struggle.

What was the environment of the fashion development company like?

Most of the time, we were hanging around the cold studio in basically just a thong. I mean, we’d put robes on in between appointments with buyers. But it was a lot of time hanging out in heels, having conversations basically naked. It was a weird experience. So, I think [modeling] actually made me feel more comfortable with my body, which is hilarious. I usually was sitting in the back with some textbooks, in my robe, trying to read this cognitive neuro book. They were impressed by that though, considering a lot of models generally aren’t as educated. 

How did it feel to complete this experience?

I wasn’t supposed to be home until Sunday. They fired me, essentially. And the reason that they gave—I was taken totally by surprise by this—the main woman who owns this fashion development company said to me “I don’t think you’re fitting into the clothes the way you should,” which is sort of code for “you’re too fat,” in the modeling world, that is. So she just wrote me a $500 check and sent me on my way. It was a wake-up call to what the industry is like.

Did you feel self-conscious often?

None of the models fit into all of the clothes. Each item fit slightly differently because they weren’t totally ready to go to production yet; they made one of each garment just to show it [to buyers]. These are meant for the spring/summer 2014 season. The clothes weren’t even technically “out” yet.  A woman who worked with me thought that I’d only had an apple for lunch—I’d had pasta and chicken, but she didn’t see me eat it—and said “that’s not enough.” So I was glad that they [the company] weren’t pushing people to starve themselves. Well, at least not overtly. 

What was it like to go from studying at Bowdoin to modeling in the in New York fashion world?

I was really hesitant to tell people—mostly authority figures—at Bowdoin what I was doing. I talked to my professor directly, but I didn’t tell them what I was doing. I just called it a “once in a lifetime career and networking opportunity in New York City.” I didn’t tell them I was modeling because I was worried their perception of me would have changed.

What was the most surprising experience you faced?

They provide shoes for you to wear, but it’s a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. So they have like, three different sizes of shoes, and you have to fit into at least some of them. And you’re trying to pick shoes that look good with the outfit you have on. And then you’d share the shoes with other models. I have pretty small feet for my height, so most of the time, I’d be clomping around in shoes with so much extra space in them. It’s already hard enough walk in them, and then you have to walk in heels two sizes too big. It’s a little bit crazy. But I made it through; the shoes stayed on.

How do you feel about the experience overall?

This whole experience was handed to me on a silver platter. I didn’t have to seek it out.  It just happened in my town, and I happened to be there, etc. I had no idea what protocol was when I got there, but I learned pretty fast. I thought it was a good way to make some money and learn about the industry in a short period of time. And that’s what it was. I’m still really glad I did it.