A long road trip to New York City, the overwhelming backstage hustle and bustle, and even an 8-inch overnight snowstorm couldn’t keep three Chattanooga women from fulfilling their runway dreams.
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students Gloria Deweese and Amanda Adams and Chattanooga State Community College student Danielle Mische modeled in the recent PLITZS New York City Fashion Week Designer Showcase Presentation.
Still new to the glitzy gig, the young models, who are all represented by Chi Talent Agency in Chattanooga, celebrated some early career moments in the Big Apple: The show was the first runway experience for Deweese and Mische and only the second for Adams.
“If you want to really do this, you have to shoot for New York City,” Deweese said.
Walk the walk
Modeling has always been a passion, if not a career, to pursue for all three of the students.
Deweese is in her senior year as a communication major and entrepreneurship minor. Adams is pre-med. Mische is majoring in business administration. The three women met through Sheena Rae, the president of Chi Talent Agency and the founder of Sheena Rae Photography.
They applied online to the PLITZS show, in which their limited resumes actually worked as a bonus. The two-day event is geared toward spotlighting 36 up-and-coming designers and couples that focus with hiring up-and-coming models.
The Chattanooga trio met the requirements—at least 5 feet 8 inches tall and between size 0 and 6—and were asked to audition in New York City. Adams and Mische made the trip north in December, and Deweese got her audition in just under the wire in late January.
The show was held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 8 and 9 in the original W Hotel on Lexington Avenue. Both days featured several separate showcases that each included approximately six designers.
Models were assigned to designers by the show’s organizers or chosen by the designers themselves.
The Chattanooga walked for local and international designers, including Stiener Woodruffe KristenJ by Taurice Jackson, CherelleYvette by Cherelle Bryant, Wing Wang by Hao Wang, Eliette by Eliette Lesuperbe and Vladymir Ezquilin by Felix Colon, among others.
The looks on the runway ranged from couture and avant-garde to the more ready-to-wear pieces. Designers set their collections to lighting and soundtracks that reflected their brands and their own individual attitudes. One designer had models walk to a playlist of Beyonce and LMFAO.
The backstage area was a bit more of a hectic scene, with 100 to 150 models, 10 to 20 hairstylists and 10 to 20 makeup artists. Deweese, Adams and Mische agreed that it should have worked like an assembly line, with models moving efficiently from hair to makeup to the final OK from the designer before stepping on the runway.
The reality was slightly less organized. The snowstorm, which caused a delay to the program on Saturday and a long list of models calling in, made for a busy day for the models who were able to get to the W Hotel.
“Everyone was really stressed out,” Mische said.
However, the simple gift of networking came in handy. Deweese explained that the three models befriended the hair and makeup staff and made quick work of the long lines for a seat in the artists’ chairs.
“You'd sneak up and tap them on the shoulder and ask them for a touch-up really quick,” she said. “Even if they had a whole line, they'd [do it]. Making friends and networking definitely pays off.”
Talk the talk
Forming lasting relationships is a large part of the young women’s responsibilities in this early stage of their modeling careers. Connections lead to more jobs and more exposure, which turns into more professional and paying work.
Deweese, who grew up in South Pittsburg, Tenn., modeled for Janie G. Couture, a brand designed by Caroline Smith, who is originally from Dothan, Ala. The two bonded over their Southern roots and plan to link up again when Smith mounts a run of fashion shows in the region.
Mische and Adams recently walked in a show for Rafael Cox Designs in Atlanta and were offered jobs in another fashion show, a hair show and a magazine spread based on their work.
“It was really cool,” Mische said. “It’s all unpaid, but we want to get to that point.”
“It’s a spiral—one job leads to another,” Deweese added. “You have to be smart in this industry."
The Chattanooga trio has goals outside of modeling as well. Adams can see herself entering the Air Force after medical school, and Mische plans to one day own her own salon.
Deweese is interested in public relations and advertising and is pursuing an acting career. She’ll appear as an extra in season six of BET’s “The Game.”
Modeling, however, will always be a thrill.
“Going down the runway is an adrenaline rush,” Deweese said. “The lights, the cameras—it’s awesome.”