Fierce faces: teen models take on industry at full force

Alexandra Lee

When sophomore Lyle Belger signed with Stars Model Management Agency last March, she expected only to be doing print ads and campaigns. Fast forward to this August, when she was called to audition for a runway show at San Francisco Fashion Community Week—she not only landed the job, but ended up winning Best Model for 2017.

Modeling is widely known as an extremely competitive and cutthroat industry, but for three students who pose behind the camera, it’s about having fun and meeting new and creative people while working at the same time.

Strutting down the runway, sophomore Lyle Belger participates in her first ever fashion show season during San Francisco Fashion Community Week.
Strutting down the runway, sophomore Lyle Belger participates in her first ever fashion show season during San Francisco Fashion Community Week.

Sophomore Rebecca Gann, who’s currently signed with FORD Models in Los Angeles (LA) and Stars Models in San Francisco (SF), has been modeling since eighth grade and has continued to refine and advance her skills since then.

“There had just been a lot of people telling me that I should try modeling just because I’m so tall and it’s obvious that I’m taller than everyone in my age group. So, I submitted pictures online,” Gann said.

Since signing with FORD, Gann has been in the developmental stage, meaning that she’s focusing on improving her skills by doing test shoots that teach her how to model. She’s been traveling back and forth to LA a few times a year to partake in photoshoots and gain experience. However, according to Gann, modeling takes a backseat to her academics.

“School is my number one priority and modeling is something in my life, but it’s not at all something I think about every single day. It’s just every now and then and it’s really fun,” Gann said.

Senior Jack Wentworth has been modeling since age seven. His mother is a former owner of a modeling agency and introduced him to the industry, according to Wentworth. Since then, Wentworth has modeled for several big-name brands, including Levi’s, Pottery Barn, Gap and Wells Fargo.

Currently signed with Scout Models, an agency based out of San Francisco, Wentworth said his favorite part of modeling, similar to Belger and Gann’s, is the opportunity to create friendships and become inspired by the people whom he works with.

“Through all the different jobs, I’ve met a lot of really cool photographers and other kids who’ve done shoots with me,” Wentworth said. “I’ve met a lot of kids my age that are really cool and they’re into it the way I am, like really relaxed and they do it kind of as a hobby.”

Belger said she draws on her love of performing and acting when she models, because she often has to transform her personality into something completely different. Especially for runway modeling, facial expressions are supposed to be much more serious and composed than they would be in a commercial modeling campaign, Belger said.

“I’m a generally happy person, but in modeling you’re supposed to keep a straight face and not smile at all; they don’t like teeth, and they don’t like happiness, I guess you could say,” Belger said. “You try to be very straight-faced and you can see on some of my pictures from runway it’s very collected and intense, and so I just have to pull back into my acting training and be like ‘Ok you are a serious person right now. Go.’”

Belger said she has big dreams for a potential modeling career, but for now she’s focusing on moving up the ranks slowly, from one job to the next. From her first runway season at SF Fashion Community Week, Belger is already being noticed by people in LA, where she could possibly walk for their fashion week.

“Especially because it started out slow, my hopes for that went down a little bit, so I think it’s good that I’m not reaching too far like Victoria’s Secret and Marc Jacobs and all of those people who are so well-known,” Belger said. “But it’s like San Francisco Community Fashion Week, that’s a big deal for me, especially because I’d never done it. And LA Fashion Week, that’s even bigger.”

As for Gann, she said she isn’t sure where modeling will take her, or if she wants it to be a career when she’s older.

Posing for the camera at a photoshoot, Jack Wentworth demonstrates the modeling skills he's been working on since age seven.
Posing for the camera at a photoshoot, Jack Wentworth demonstrates the modeling skills he’s been working on since age seven.

“In the future, my plan would just be being able to do small jobs that are really interesting and to always have fun with it. If it’s not fun, I won’t do it,” Gann said. “I don’t want to say I have one job where it’s like ‘By the end of my life I need to do this job’ because I don’t really and I don’t want to put that pressure on myself.”

Similarly, Wentworth is unsure if he will pursue modeling as a career after high school or if he will stick to smaller jobs.

“I was thinking about doing two routes, whether it’s going to a four-year [college], which is my plan now, or taking a gap year and moving to LA and re-signing with my old agency. I think I could do something on the side probably later on, but not full-time,” Wentworth said.

Photoshoots, like those that Wentworth does, are key learning experiences for Gann, as well as a lot of fun. When Gann visits her agency in LA, she says she’ll normally have test shoots and meetings with her agent where she can practice runway walks.

“They’ll set up test shoots and basically they’ll tell you to ask the photographer as many questions as possible, and the photographer will just give you instructions,” Gann said. “When you review the photos of yourself you can see like ‘Oh I look really bad from this angle, I probably won’t do that’ or ‘this is really cool, I’ll try to do this more’ and you play around with your posing.”

All three students explained different misconceptions associated with modeling that they have to deal with on a regular basis. According to Wentworth, people mainly judge his work as being easy and don’t always appreciate the effort behind it.

“The last shoot I did was a pharmaceutical company and I had to drive a few hours away and go up on a mountain and wear really summertime clothing and it was freezing out, and I was there the whole day like that,” Wentworth said. “It was like a 14-hour day. [There are] those main misconceptions that it’s super easy, but it’s harder than it seems.”

According to Gann, people often think that her life revolves around modeling instead of her other priorities.

“A lot of people think I don’t really care about school because modeling is my whole life, when it’s not at all,” Gann said.

Another misunderstanding of models is that they barely eat. According to Belger, when she tells people that she is a model, their first reaction is often along the lines of, ‘Oh, so do you have to diet all the time?’

“Honestly, for me especially, I don’t completely diet if I’m getting ready for a photoshoot or a runway show or something, I just eat healthy and kind of watch what I eat, but not starve myself. I think a common misconception is that models have to be on diets 24/7 and they have to eat next to nothing and that’s just not true, especially from my experiences,” Belger said.

According to Belger, the modeling industry is so diverse that the companies and agencies aren’t just looking for the prettiest faces. It’s all about how your look fits in with one brand’s image, not necessarily about who is the most beautiful.

“For example, people say I’m pretty, but I could not be right for an ad or a runway show and some other girl who they may think is not pretty could be perfect for that show, so it’s all in the eye of the beholder. It’s based on looks, but every look is different and every look can be appreciated in the modeling world,” Belger said.