When little girls fantasize about being models, they tend to have the same dreams: appearing in international magazines, walking the runways of New York Fashion Week, and modeling in exotic locations overseas. The vast majority of those girls, as they grow up, will drift into other kinds of modeling, or forget the dream entirely. Reaching those goals is hard; many, as they say, are called, but few are chosen.
Girls who still hold that dream may be interested in Olivia Lakis, a Las Vegas model who has done all that, and is still doing it. Her experience points out what it takes, and what models can expect in the world of high fashion modeling.
Olivia’s mother has long been a convention/trade show model, so when at age 15 Olivia heard a TV ad for a Proscout model search, she convinced her parents to take her to their screening event. Proscout is more scrupulous than some of the model search companies, and about half the people at that scrfeening were not invited to the Model Search event. But Olivia, thin, beautiful in a distinctive way, and 5’10” tall, was not only passed through to the main event, but got callbacks (requests for interviews) from 13 of the agencies at the search.
We need to point out how unusual that is. Although Proscout does pre-screen out the least qualified applicants, they still pass through a very large percentage of people who have no reasonable chance to be international (or even national) fashion models. The vast majority of people at their searches receive no callbacks, or callbacks only from local agencies, or “talent” agencies, not the major fashion model agencies who are in attendance. The fashion agencies are very selective, and although they are informally required to make a nominal number of callbacks, they look only for people like Olivia: very tall, slim and beautiful.
Olivia chose to sign with Elite, one of the top model agencies in the world, and worked out of their Los Angeles office. But it’s hard to commute to go-sees and jobs, especially at at 15 when a parent has to drive with you every time someone in Los Angeles wants to see you. She did some “testing” with Los Angeles photographers recommended by Elite, and some small jobs, but the logistics simply didn’t work.
After her contract with Elite had expired, Olivia signed with a Las Vegas agency who sent her to Singapore, where she modeled for three months, doing fashion shows, magazine editorials, print ads and television commercials. What she found there was that the market for international models in Asia was largely taken up by girls from Eastern Europe, who ranged in age from 15 to 17. Olivia, at 17 herself by then, was one of the oldest of the international models.
Last year Olivia signed with ENVY as her mother agency, and last year they sent her to New York City, where she appeared in three fashion week shows. She stayed in the models’ apartment of her booking agency there, in an apartment with five other models. That seems to be the norm for models’ apartments for fashion agencies.
Although Olivia is clearly intelligent and mature for her age, and is grounded by her religious faith, none of that is a requirement for being a model in New York, Europe or Asia. She does confirm what is widely known: beautiful young girls, largely from other countries, away from home and their parents, are subject to all sorts of temptations. Many get fake IDs and spend their time at night clubs partying; there is no lack of promoters and others who are interested in making them attractive offers that have little to do with modeling. Keeping a clear head, focused on the goal of being a model, is hard for many in those kinds of circumstances.
Olivia is now 19: still young enough to be competitive on the international stage, experienced enough to understand how the industry works, and to make effective use of the opportunities she has. Her plan this year is to return to New York or, with luck, to be placed in Europe where she can build a reputation as an editorial model. But for now she is doing hair shows for Joico, who have hired her repeatedly, as well as trunk shows for clients like Dolce and Gabbana, Georgio Armani and others, and has appeared in Los Angeles Fashion Week.
Asked about modeling schools and training needed to get into the industry, Olivia says that paying a lot of money for modeling classes is not necessary. She learned by looking at magazines and famous models, and by what she learned in photo test shoots. When she arrived in Singapore her agency there helped fine-tune her runway walk.
Olivia is one of those few who has the qualifications to be successful in the fashion industry, and it remains to be seen how far it will take her.