Two weeks ago, they had not modelled – now they are aiming for the top

Two Bermudians were last week chosen to represent Bermuda in a prestigious modelling competition to be held in London next spring – after another Bermudian girl won the same competition in March. Jessie Moniz recently sat down with all three girls at The Royal Bermuda Yacht to learn more about their hopes and dreams for the future.

Before Bermudian model Deandra Brangman, 23, stepped out onto the runway during Top Model Worldwide competition last March, she could imagine the winner’s trophy back at home on her mantle, as clear as day.

Today, the trophy sits in exactly the place she imagined. She won the competition, beating out other top models from around the world.

Now, her Top Model Worldwide win has not only helped to launch her own career, but has inadvertently launched two other young Bermudian girls into the international modelling industry.

After the Bermuda Evolution Fashion Extravaganza show held last month in front of City Hall, 14-year-old Julia Lines and 22-year-old Kalena Astwood were signed on by Top Model Management to represent Bermuda in the Top Model Worldwide competition next year, along with Miss Brangman.

“The current winner is from Bermuda, so it was a natural thing to do to come here as our first stop,” said Geoff Cox, Top Model operations director. “We go to other countries as well, such as South Africa, Russia and Malta. Because Deandra Brangman is our current winner it seemed a very natural place to start. It all ties in really nicely.”

The two girls were selected from 13 other models, themselves shortlisted from the 98 women who modelled in the Evolution fashion show .

“I was involved in selecting the 13 short listed,” said Mr Cox. “But the team at Top Model in London chose the final two based on notes that we made when we interviewed all the girls. I was pretty pleased not to be involved in that decision, because it was hard. They were all really good, lovely girls, all with different strengths. In the end, I was really pleased with them. I think Julia and Kalena are going to be really good role models. They both have a lot of potential. This is as much about potential as ability.

“As soon as girls qualify for Top Model Worldwide, they come under the management of Top Model Management Ltd. Then we start pushing them individually and collectively. Because the Top Model Worldwide search has only just begun the Bermudian girls are the first, which is cool.”

Julia, a student at the Bermuda High for Girls, never intended to enter the Evolution fashion show and only joined at the last minute. Her mom first heard about it on the day of the auditions from a cousin who works at Daisy & Mac. The auditions were that day and Julia wasn’t interested, at first.

“I called her, and she said she was all sweaty,” said her mother, Sheree Lines. (Dad is Bruce Lines). But a friend also trying out for the fashion show, texted Julia and convinced her that she needed to try out. When her mother returned home, Julia was dressed and ready to go.

“It was last minute,” said Julia. “Nothing was planned and I got a call saying there were auditions for the Evolution fashion show. I thought I would go try out, after some persuasion. My friend just told me it was a good experience and I could go somewhere from it. It was the biggest fashion show that Bermuda has ever seen, so I am glad I did it, in the end.”

She admitted that sometimes it was difficult competing against her friends, but her frequent participation in equestrian sports had prepared her for that. Julia dreams of being an equine chiropractor. She also enjoys sailing, and has spent this summer teaching sailing to younger children at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (RBYC) in Hamilton.

“I feel like I haven’t really had the time to think about modelling and the future, yet,” she said. “It hasn’t really hit me. When we get closer to the actual day of the competition in London, I will probably be more nervous, but I am really excited.”

Julia was scheduled to take her GCSE exams a year early, but her parents are now considering letting her push that back a year so that she can pursue the modelling dream to its fullest.

“I’ll do the competition overseas and when I come back from it, I will have to take my GCSEs,” she said.

But Mr Cox said the competition shouldn’t interfere in the girls’ education.

Julia said she enjoyed getting to meet a lot of people, and the process had improved her self-confidence, a great deal.

“It’s been a bit tough keeping the balance of social life and rehearsals,” she said. “I have had to drop everything. Every day I would have to go to work and then after work I would have to run to City Hall for rehearsals.”

Miss Astwood, 22, also had no previous modelling experience before the Evolution Fashion Show. She has just started a full time job at Deloitte & Touche Ltd. She has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and is currently finishing up her master’s degree.

“I was always really good with numbers and with the economy the way it is, it was kind of a sturdy job,” said Miss Astwood. “I decided to go to school for that. I have always had an interest in modelling, but this was my first attempt to actually try anything with modelling. This was my first runway show and I wasn’t really expecting anything to come from that. It has been a really exciting experience.”

She said she was surprised by the rigorous rehearsal schedule needed for the Evolution fashion show, and the level of intensity involved.

“A lot of the models in the show had been modelling for years in Bermuda,” said Miss Astwood. “It was really nice to get to learn from them and see how they walk and pick up different pointers. I want to make the most out of the opportunity, so I plan to work my hardest and see where it takes me. I hope to get out of this experience, the chance to experience what the modelling world can bring. Wherever it takes me I am there.”

Although she was new to the runway, she said during the Evolution fashion show, she was really only nervous during her first scene. Once she got out in front of the crowd, the adrenalin started rushing and she couldn’t wait for her next scene to walk out.

Her parents are Glen and Noelette Astwood. “My whole family is excited for me,” said Miss Astwood.

“Because I am so fresh at this, it will definitely be a learning experience,” she said. “I know there are a lot of things I need to work on before I go to the competition in March, but I know there are a lot of people here who are willing to help me.”

Unlike Miss Astwood and Julia, Miss Brangman, the daughter of Raymond and Sandra Ming, dreamed of being a model since she was a child.

“My whole life I have been interested in modelling,” said Miss Brangman. “It has been a great journey. I would have to say when I was 11-years old I started thinking about modelling. When I was in school I was always the tallest. When I was 11 I joined a modelling group for girls run by Terry-Lynn Weeks called the School of Style & Fashion. Then I went on to a local modelling agency and did fashion shows.”

Ironically, when she was a child, she was often teased and taunted because of her height. She is 5ft 10in, and when she was 11-years-old she was around 5ft 8in tall.

“At that time, I often felt self-conscious about my height,” she said.

Its looks like Miss Brangman had the last laugh on her classmates.