Imagine: One day, you’re a gangly 14-year-old girl scarfing a Big Mac at McDonald’s. The next, you are the highest-paid model in the world, stalking the runways of New York, Paris and Milan, Italy; yours is the face of everything from Dolce and Gabbana to Victoria’s Secret to Apple computers; you’re dating mega-hunks like actor Leonardo DiCaprio and quarterback Tom Brady. It happened to supermodel Gisele Bundchen.
Yes and no. There were many, many steps in between burger and hunks. And even for the most beautiful, the most outgoing, perfect young woman, the odds are far better at the lottery counter. But still, every year, some women do make it. It isn’t impossible. So how does a pretty teen girl go from nobody to supermodel?
A handful, like Kate Moss, take the express route. She was a 14-year-old in JFK Airport when she was first spied by an agent for London’s Storm Model Management. Others, like Victoria’s Secret angel Adriana Lima and Australian sensation Gemma Ward, accompanied a friend to a modeling contest, only to end up being the discovery.
“It’s the girl who never thought she could who gets discovered. The prettiest girl in school doesn’t always make the best model,” says Ivan Bart, a top agent with IMG Models, which reps Bundchen, Heidi Klum and Kate Moss.
But for most others, the slog up the ladder follows a routine path. Girls send photos into a local or national modeling agency (only a Polaroid is needed) or show up for an open casting call. Agencies generally hold them once a week. Victoria’s Secret’s Alessandra Ambrosio took a modeling class in her hometown of Erechim, Brazil, then urged her mother to move with her to São Paolo, where she was scouted by a local agency. Soon she won a modeling contest sponsored by Elite, one of New York’s biggest agencies.