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It’s a walk-off!

Have you ever wondered if there was more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking? Find out Saturday

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Iman.  Kirsten Dunst.  Gisele Bundchen. Tyra Banks. Cindy Crawford. Cameron Diaz.  Naomi Campbell. Heidi Klum.  Claudia Schiffer. Uma Thurman.

What do all these women have in common?

Each has been represented — or is represented — by Elite Model Management, who will be sending scouts to the South Hill Mall on Saturday, July 7, for the Elite Model Look 2007 Regional Model Search.

In a conversation with Karen Lee-Grybowski, director of scouting for Elite in New York, I learned a little about what judges, particularly Elite scout Marcos Olazabal — originally from Kent, so potentially he could have a warm spot for Northwest beauties — will be scouting out for Elite.

“We will be looking for girls 14 to 21, 5 feet nine to 6 feet,” says Lee-Grybowski. To the latter, she amends “most of the time — there are exceptions.”

Lee-Grybowski adds, “We will be looking for pretty and/or interesting looking girls that photograph well, natural beauties.” She emphasizes the last requirement, “We want to see them in no makeup, little or no mascara … really natural.”

The process starts with potential models bringing in a non-returnable headshot and full-body shot with their registration — these should be simple photos against a basic, perferably white, background. While candidates can register early, each will walk the runway as the event begins wearing a number.

The first swarm of hopefuls will be whittled down to 15 or 20 call-backs, and then those 15 to 20 will be selected to do a photo test for Elite either in Los Angeles or New York.

At that point, says Lee-Grybowski, “If we see that she has the potential to be an Elite model, then we will offer her a contract.”

But potential models shouldn’t think that will launch them into the supermodel stratosphere.

“It takes a while to become a model, explains Lee-Grybowski. “It doesn’t happen overnight.  Gisele (Bundhcen) started working at 14 — you didn’t know her till she was 17 or 18 — in that time, she was working on her portfolio.”

Lee-Grybowski adds a word of warning to prospective models and their parents.

“People need to know that the young girl is owning her own business. In the beginning you can’t earn a lot; you’re putting forth and putting out money.”

She explains that in some cases the agency will help with advances like housing in the chaperoned models’ quarters, but since the agency represents the models rather than employing them, the model is left to her own devices to make her way and earn, in Lee Grybowski’s words “from zero to millions.  The millions go to the girls that are the top faces.”

But even the non-top faces can find themselves in one of several areas. Basic catalog models can make from $50,000 to $500,000, though the higher-end models will probably find themselves supplementing print jobs with runway jobs, which can come out of showroom work doing fittings. Other models may find their niche specifically in print work, ad work, or editorial work.

“It all works together,” Lee-Grybowski instructs. “The select girls that can do it all are the most in-demand.”

And then there are the rock stars of the runway, traveling from New York, to London, Milan and Paris working for top designers. These rock stars haven’t necessarily made it.

“These are the up-and-coming girls,” says Lee-Grybowski. “Magazine editors and the press are at these events.” These elements, added with a strong work ethic and interesting personality, can help to launch the models into star status.

For those girls who want it badly enough and have the basic model package — height, natural attractiveness, and a drive to get there — the Elite search on Saturday at the South Hill Mall can be just the right step to take, especially for the winner.

Ultimately, according to Lee-Grybowski “Modeling is a great career in a number of ways. Models work with top people in the fashion industry and gain a sophistication that not all women can gain. A model is paid well, and can travel all over the world. That can lead into owning a business, acting, and film work.”

And all this can start from a walk down a runway.

[South Hill Mall, Saturday, July 7, noon registration, 1 p.m. event, 3500 S. Meridian, Puyallup, 253.840.2828]

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