Catwalk castings Young Bermudians hope to sign on with top model agency

Seven young Bermudians have potentially been given the opportunity of a lifetime to sign with one of the largest and most successful model agencies in the world- Wilhelmina Models.

Teenagers Ava Braddock, Kayla Williams, Melissa Fiddick, Rayneisha Bean, Sophie Fraser-Smith, Terrae Christopher and Samuel Bean recently took part in the City of Hamilton’s Evolution Fashion Show.

Model scouts observed the young people during workshops and both on and off the runway and shortlisted them because of their attitudes, personality and looks.

If chosen, they could be signed to one of the agency’s three main offices located in Miami, Los Angeles and New York and be exposed to a world of opportunity.

The Royal Gazette found out more about the budding models and quizzed some of them on their aspirations and career goals. Read on to find out what they said.

Terrae Christopher: Age 19

Growing up with two brothers, Miss Christopher loved playing sports and taking part in track and field activities. It wasn’t until her little sister was born that she put away her sneakers and started dabbling with her mother’s make up and heels.

“It was then that I knew I was going to be a model,” she said. “Everyone would ask me ‘Why are you so tall?’ and I would just smile. I loved to take pictures of myself in the mirror and wear heels wherever I went, even if it was just into town.”

She first got in front of a professional camera when she was 15-year-old for a photo shoot with online fashion site Style Bermuda.

Over the next few years she continued shooting with the website, but also branched out to work with Gibbons Company and take part in local fashion shows.

Then she decided to put her modelling ability to the test in ‘the big apple’. She applied for several castings in New York City and was able to take part in the Couture Fashion Week. “It was a great experience,” she said of the gig.

When she heard that Wilhelmina Model scouts were going to be looking for fresh faces at the Evolution Fashion Show she “instantly signed up”.

“For anyone who doesn’t know, they are one of the top modelling agencies in the world. To my knowledge, they have very few walk ins, so for them to come here to Bermuda was pretty much a once in a lifetime opportunity [and] not taking part in [that] was not an option.”

She said she was extremely excited to learn she was in the running along with six others to be represented by the agency.

“It was like a dream come true when I heard that Wilhelmina Models had shortlisted me. Now I am just hoping and praying that I will be one of the short listed models who official sign a Wilhelmina Modeling contract.

“I can’t wait [for] the day I can honestly say, ‘I made it!’,” she said.

So far the best part of being a model has been meeting new people, dressing in expensive clothes, getting made-up and then strutting down the runway, she said.

She ultimately wants to take modelling as far as she possibly can. “It is my dream, my goal, my future,” she said. “I can only imagine walking down the runway in Milan, Paris, and New York just to name a few. I cannot wait to make my dreams a reality.”

Ava Braddock: Age 15

Since she was a little girl, Ms Braddock knew she was destined for something big. She said: “Ever since I was a child people used to tell me that I was going to be on stage one day.

“Little did I know that I would be modelling and I honestly couldn’t be more happy, because I genuinely enjoy doing it.”

The Bermuda High School student took part in a couple of smaller fashion shows last year, but jumped at the chance to strut her stuff on a big stage at the Evolution Fashion Show.

“I would have loved to take part in Evolution Fashion Show last year, but unfortunately I was not on the Island, so I was delighted to be involved in it this year and I had a great time.”

She said it was wonderful getting to meet new people, having so many fun experiences and being introduced to people from different modelling agencies around the world. The most challenging part was doing things that forced her out of her comfort zone, she said.

The major highlight of the show for Miss Braddock was being selected by renown modelling agency Wilhelmina Models. She said: “At first I was surprised and very excited to think that I could get an opportunity like this, but after all the excitement I felt honoured to know that I managed to catch the eye of such a well known and respected agency.”

She said her parents were very proud of her and excited to see what’s ahead, but other friends and family members were also very encouraging and supportive.

The teenager recently completed her GCSE’s and will be finishing her last two years of high school in the UK. She admittedly wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do in the future, but said: “I want to take modelling as far as I can and gain as much out of it as possible.

“It is one of my dreams to work with the Chanel line because I love that it is a classic and how elegant it is, but my retro choice would be Alexander McQueen.”

Sophie Fraser-Smith: Age 16

Miss Fraser-Smith knows how to get noticed. Not only was she shortlisted by model scouts from Top Model UK last year, she was also recognised by Wilhlemina Models at this year’s Evolution Fashion Show.

She said being picked this year by “such a distinguished agency” was an honour. “I was ecstatic that [Wilhelmina Models] even had an interest in me,” she added.

The young beauty said her mum didn’t seem to believe her after she first broke the news, but after a few moments she was beaming with excitement.

Miss Fraser-Smith began modelling with the Jakoma Next School at age 11. Co-founder Lamont Robinson not only taught her how to model, he also helped her create a portfolio, showed her how to walk and encouraged her to take part in last year’s Evolution show.

“I took part in the show last year and loved it. It seemed ridiculous to not do it again,” she said.

“I was also shortlisted last year by Top Model UK and because of that I was entered into the Top Model UK Commercial competition and won the Natural Skin Beauty Award and first-place runner up.

“It was a wonderful opportunity and I hope that this year’s show would also open opportunities for me,” she said.

While she is pleased with her new life direction, she originally wanted to be an actress. She changed focus after her dad read about a modelling programme in the newspaper and she realised how fun it could be.

Miss Fraser-Smith has had the opportunity to travel to London and compete in a fashion show competition. She said: “The experience of modelling overseas in London was extraordinary and I’ll never forget the memories and friendships I made.

“More recently, being recognised by Wilhelmina Models is an extraordinary honour and I’m excited to see where it could take me.

“I want to take modelling as far as I can, however, I do plan to find another profession. I just haven’t found something I’m passionate enough to commit to.”

Samuel Bean: Age 19

Mr Bean never grew up thinking he could be a model. In fact when he took the stage in the recent Evolution Fashion Show event it was his first time on the catwalk.

“I was supposed to be in last year’s Evolution Fashion Show, but had to travel and was unable to make it back in time. So I thought I would give it a try this year, which turned out to be a good idea.”

The Cardiff University student said he grew up around people in the fashion industry, including an aunt who is a model and another aunt who is a designer. It never really registered in his mind that he could make it in the industry, until recently.

Mr Bean said he felt a “cluster of emotions” when he found out he had been shortlisted by Wilhelmina Models. “But being in a public place at the time I received the email, I didn’t really know what to do,” he said. “I was very, very excited to say the least.

“My parent’s reaction was expected, they were excited and proud, but at the same time they told me to keep my eye on the goals that I had set prior to the news and if I was going to do this that I would have to continue to work hard.”

He wasn’t sure of what challenges he would encounter in the modelling world, but said there would likely be some hurdles down the road. For now, the best part of the experience has been meeting new people.

“Of course Bermuda is a small place and naturally you’re going to run into people you know, but I met quite a number of new people that I have a good relationship with now,” he said.

He is currently studying law and said his ultimate career goal is to become a barrister and one day become a politician; still he would also like to take his modelling “as far as possible”.

Mr Bean he looks up to some casual men’s wear designers and said: “Admittedly I’m pretty new this fashion thing, but I would have to say Calvin Klein [is my favourite designer]. I really like the design of his clothes.”

Melissa Fiddick: Age 16

Ms Fiddick may be young, but she is no stranger to being in front of the camera. In the past two years she has appeared in numerous fashion shoots, including pictorials for Style Bermuda, local designer Perri Furbert’s ‘The Gold Label’, clothing store ‘Garage’ and make-up artist Christopher Vee.

Taking part in the Evolution Fashion Show, however, was her first time on the runway and she had to conquer fears about walking in heels.

She signed up anyway knowing it would be a great way to expose herself to Bermuda’s fashion industry and be judged on a world class scale — and the risk paid off.

“Since I’m still young and so tall, I had never even wanted to wear heels before the show, and was worried sick that I wouldn’t be able to walk on the runway.

“But with hours of intense practice for the show I am continuously getting better at my walk and making it my own,” she said.

The Warwick Academy student said she was “beyond ecstatic” to get noticed by scouts from Wilhelmina Models.

“Words couldn’t even explain how I felt; it was truly an unrealistic moment that I have been dreaming to accomplish one day. The fact that I have been chosen still hasn’t sunken in and I am so thankful for the opportunity,” she said.

Her parents were equally thrilled that she was shortlisted and are “very supportive and proud of me”, she said.

Miss Fiddick admitted she has wanted to model for as long as she can remember. As a young girl, she would get dressed up and beg her mother to snap pictures of her.

She would get inspired by looking through magazines and watching television shows and through the years has developed a love for art and photography.

“I also love doing make-up and sewing and aspire to one day work in the fashion industry,” she said.

Her favourite part of her modelling experience has been all the people and friends she’s met “who share the same passion and interests as me”.

She said: “I want to take my modelling as far as it could possibly go. As long I still see opportunity I will never give up on my dream. Although I still intend to further my education and pursue volleyball at a high level.”

She said it would be a dream come true to work with designers like Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana and Fendi. However, her biggest inspiration comes from watching Victoria’s Secret fashion shows.

Rayneisha Bean: Age 19

Ms Bean has dreamed of being a model since she was seven or eight-years-old. As a youngster she only had a “vague knowledge” of the business from watching shows on TV, but thought it looked fun and glamorous.

“Now I have a deeper understanding of the business, including the ups and downs,” she said. “At the end of the day I realised that every job has its ugly and good sides, but when you have a passion for something, nothing can drive you away from your dreams.

“Every day I watch something that has to do with modelling whether it’s the Fashion Week shows or the Model Talk segments on Fashion TV. I enjoy being able to play different characters and transform my every day self into someone else’s vision.”

Ms Bean got her start in the business through Style Bermuda in the summer of 2009. Since then she has appeared in local and international shows, including the A-La-Mode Fashion Show during London Fashion Week last September.

She decided to take part in the Evolution Fashion Show because of her love for strutting on the catwalk. “Even though you’re on the runway for sometimes less than a minute, in that minute people get to see a glimpse of your personality and the adrenalin rush of being on the runway is exciting.

“I always get butterflies before I go on and my legs get weak and I’m like ‘OMG can I just go on already?’. But when I finish I’m like ‘That was so much fun’ and I can’t wait for my next turn.

“Also when I found out that a prestigious agency such as Wilhelmina was coming I was like ‘I have to do the show this year because you never know what might come out of it’.

“I’m currently overseas [studying at the West London College] and had to change my ticket to fly home two weeks early so that I was there in enough time to learn the choreography for the show. I must say it has been worth the extra money to change the flight.”

Being shortlisted by the agency has been a dream come true, she said. Ms Bean also admitted she was thankful to have great support system behind her that encouraged her to pursue her dreams.

The teenager said she ultimately wants to make modelling a profession and appear in runway, high fashion and print ads. Her ultimate goals are to become a Victoria’s Secret angel and perhaps one day appear on a Vogue cover.