Local model ready to take on the Big Apple

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

Being 6 feet tall in middle school can be difficult for anyone, especially when you’re a girl towering over all your friends who are probably about two feet shorter, and the boys, who likely won’t measure up for another couple years.

“It was weird,” said Lauren Boyette, now 19, who hit that mark about six years ago.

But now the height is working for the leggy (we’re talking a 38-inch inseam), blue/green-eyed beauty, who is moving to New York City later this summer to pursue her dream of runway modeling.


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It’s not surprising that Boyette would look in that direction; while growing, up perfect strangers would exclaim at her size and good looks: “Oh, you should be a model.”

Boyette, the daughter of Mickey and Denise Boyette, has always loved playing with makeup and pretending to model, she said. She began actually working at it at age 13, doing small local jobs such as the JCPenney catalogue. But volleyball absorbed her interest in high school, and modeling was put on the backburner.

Then, George Kartis, a professional photographer who also worked as a model, made a visit to Virginia Beach to speak to a fashion class at Kempsville High School, where Boyette was a senior. When he spotted her n with her remarkable height and beauty n he told her she had “the look.”

His encouragement and guidance was enough to reignite the spark. Boyette turned down college scholarships to play volleyball in favor of attending Tidewater Community College while working local modeling gigs.

Kartis helped her land some local TV and print work, as well as posing for a shoot by a master photography class at Old Dominion University, her father said.

Lauren lost 20 pounds to increase her marketability, then went with her father to New York to talk with agents at New York Model Management and Trump Models agencies. They recommended she lose another 10 pounds to really make a splash, she said.

Currently, Boyette is attending TCC to obtain her associates degree and working on losing the last bit of weight. In August, she plans to move to New York City Initially, she’ll attend New York University, where she hopes to be admitted to FIT, the fashion arm of the university. She plans to major in fashion design, communications or advertising design.

Once in the city, though, officials at New York Model Management and Trump Models have told her that the jobs should start rolling in, Boyette said. They also said she has a European look, which could get her work for top designers on runways in fashion hot spots like Milan.

No cosmetics ads for this girl n Boyette wants to be on the catwalk. The work is considered more prestigious in the industry, as well as more profitable, she said.

“I really, really want to make it on the runway,” she said.

Boyette said she is aware of the dark side of modeling, – the fact that many a young girl has or had an eating disorder and/or drug addiction. She’s confident that her character is strong enough to prevent her from succumbing to such pitfalls, she said.

So far, she has given in to some pressure, though. Last summer she had plastic surgery on her nose, but she said it was something she wanted.

Not only are the pressures high to stay in the right shape physically, but modeling work itself is more difficult than most people think, she said.

Last week she did a photo shoot at her parents’ home on Broad Street for VOW The Art of Weddings, a magazine published twice a year by Port Folio Publishing, Inc. The four-page spread focuses more on groomsmen clothing, but she got to dress as the bride, modeling gowns from London.

Hair and makeup, which was painted on with a brush, she said, took three hours. After modeling one dress and hairstyle, it all had to come off and be redone for the next look.

Boyette had to wear a corset and recline on a settee, a painful pose that made it hard to breathe. All the while she had to be sure her face looked pretty, hold her lips correctly (they don’t close all the way properly, she said) and keep her hands positioned in a way that made them look long and thin.

A model has to be aware of what her facial expressions look like without being able to check them in a mirror, she said.

In the end, the shoot took nearly eight hours, she said, but making $150 an hour certainly made it more bearable.

Her father said he is “scared to death” sending his 19-year-old to New York City alone.

“But, I guess she’s going to have to spread her wings.”

He and Denise have helped their daughter find an apartment in what they hope is a safe area of the city. After going with her to the New York agencies, he said he feels confident that she will be able to get work.

His bigger worry, though, it that pressure for her to stay thin is going “to be a constant battle.”

He has been drilling it into her head that she has to eat to lose weight, as well as the fact that not staying healthy will affect her looks.

Lauren, though nervous about being on her own, is excited about the move. She said she loves the city and plans to sell her car, adopting the subway as her new mode of transport. And being in one of the world’s fashion capitals will be thrilling … and maybe problematic.

“I have a problem spending money on clothes,” she said.

Her favorite designers are Versace, Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino. The models she uses as inspiration are Brazilian Gisele Bundchen, Kate Moss and Tyra Banks, because she is full-figured.

Once the modeling thing is over n and it will end, likely in her mid-to-late 20s, as is the case with most women, Boyette said she hopes to create her own clothing line, which would be vintage and eccentric, or start her own magazine that addresses health, beauty and “fashion, of course.”