by JESLYN LEMKE & r & & r & Both commercial and fashion modeling opportunities exist, even in a mid-size city like Spokane & lt;BR & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & odels are huddled everywhere. People are tapping their feet, nervously. The scattershot lighting casts fleshy yellow shadows on bodies being readied for display. The models huddle in clusters of silky, garish fabric, then teeter away on high heels to cluster excitedly with other groups. This is the action backstage seconds before the first "Life Is a Runway" fashion show at Sacred Heart's 2007 Women's Show.
Then the lights shift, the music goes up and out bursts one of the stars of Spokane's YR Models agency, Teegan Glines. She's like a cannonball on heels, strutting tall and proud and strong all down the runway.
Says YR model Brenda Bassett, right before she too hits her first catwalk of the night, "You just gotta get a little bitch in your step and do it."
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & odeling isn't only done in the big cities. This mid-March fashion show presented by the YR Models agency was one of several annual modeling events in Spokane. In fact, there are four modeling agencies here, fastidiously grooming a rather beautiful crew of women (and a very few men) to advertise products.
More than 140 part-time models live in Spokane. Their high-coutured faces can surface anywhere from a commercial for River Park Square to a Pounder's Jewelry ad.
An agency works by advertising photos of its models to prospective organizations, then splitting the money with the model when she or he lands a job. Most models get work from local businesses while still working a day job or going to school. So you could just as easily see their faces on the sides of buildings as, well, being the secretary at a hair salon.
Like Glines. In person, the 22-year-old looks like a typical 22-year-old. (She's beautiful, sure, but she's not that tall.) And then the light hits her face and it all snaps together. Her tiger-eyes flare above rather pouty lips. Her high cheeks slope gently into her nose. Cameras, you can tell, love this face.
Glines grew up in Spokane and often dreamed of being a model. "I always pushed it to the back of my head because I'm in Spokane and I didn't think there was a lot of opportunity here," she says. That all changed when she was picked up by the new YR agency last fall. They taught her the basics of eating healthy and staying in shape.
So far, that's been pretty easy. She admits she's been a little more worried about zits, hair and makeup though, since the success of this side job depends on her looks. At least "Spokane isn't as cutthroat as New York, Milan or L.A.," she says.
Yet local models can hit the big time. Super-model Megan Shoemaker was recruited by Spokane's Drezden International Modeling Agency and School in the 1990s. She now lands jobs worldwide as a full-time model living in L.A. She just did a commercial for Crest White Strips.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & here are two types of modeling: fashion and commercial. In fashion modeling, a person features any clothing or accessories. Think America's Next Top Model or fashion shows (like the "Life Is a Runway" show). To be a fashion model, there is short, commanding list of requirements: Girls must usually be taller than 5-foot-8 with a pant size of 6 or smaller. And unusual features will get you places too. Models need "a small face, wide-set eyes, nice straight nose, full lips, high cheek bones, good teeth," says Patty Cromeenes, owner of Drezden International Modeling Agency and School.
Commercial modeling is for modeling everything else, like coffee or apartment buildings. Here, the rules are less strict and the model can have a more "girl-next-door" look.
It's hard to say which type of modeling is more prominent in Spokane, because there's a demand for both. Commercial modeling is arguably the most in demand by businesses, though.
What does it take just to produce a fashion show? Every model in the Sacred Heart fashion show (mostly YR Models recruited from around Spokane) spent more than five hours getting her hair done that day, then another two or three on makeup. Outfits were hand-picked with the help of stylists Sara Hornor and Sarah Oswald of Cues boutique downtown and Nordstrom.
"You get a shipment in for the spring and summer and you select what looks good," says Vaunn Yevo, co-owner of YR Models, the agency that coordinated the four weekend shows. The cost of producing 20 women's high-fashion clothes, hairstyles, and makeup for two straight days has to be whopping, but Yevo isn't talking. Fashion shows can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $4 million, he says with a laugh.
Even getting a modeling job in the first place is no small feat. Two of the four agencies in Spokane run modeling schools as their main business. At Drezden and at PJ & amp; Company Models Agency, potential models must enroll to qualify. Their classes focus on teaching a person to feel better about themselves and also help an aspiring model perfect his or her professional etiquette. But because modeling is so competitive, there's always the chance that an agency will drain your pocket and leave you without work.
It costs $650 for an eight-week seminar at Drezden; PJ & amp; Company prefers not to reveal its rates until meeting potential models in person. The two agencies say that they're honest with students about their potential as models. But making the cut can be tough: Only 2 percent of Drezden students go on to work as Drezden models in Spokane and beyond. Which means that 98 percent don't.
In addition, potential models need to be wary of scams. "I've had girls come in here [Drezden] who didn't have a chance in the world to model. And their parents have taken out a second mortgage on their home to pay $5,000 to these unscrupulous people," says Cromeenes. "And then they leave town. And the kids have no chance, the parents are out of the money, and the girl's heart is broken."
Scams can happen in Spokane when a "traveling" talent search comes through, holds auditions, asks for money for photos, classes, or "consultation fees" and then leaves town just as quickly. That's why it's important to research an agency before investing. Legitimate agencies work on commission -- they don't make money until you're paid from the job they found for you.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & erri Morgan is the owner of one of Seattle's major modeling agencies, TCM Models and Talent. She used to run a school alongside her agency and says that prep work can pay off if the student actually becomes a model.
"I think our models were better prepared to work when we had a school, and I think it takes them longer now [to learn]," Morgan says. "In a market like Spokane, there is not much opportunity for girls to learn the business without going to school."
The YR Models in the "Life Is a Runway" show weren't required to take classes -- Yevo just showed them how to walk, he says.
Spokane, like any other city, falls on a spectrum of fashion driven by the economy, says Vivian Chesterley, the dean of fashion marketing at the Art Institute of Seattle. Modeling agencies thrive in places where people are buying high-fashion clothing, like New York or L.A. To spur even more sales, they need models to flaunt those high-fashion styles. If the economy isn't thriving, conversely, people tend to buy more practical clothing.
"There's so many things I want to wear in Spokane, but if I were to walk down the street, people here would be so more, 'What is that? What is she wearing?" says Glines. She showed up for an interview at River Park Square looking sleek in black leggings, an elastic black skirt, and a black fur hoodie. The outfit seemed vaguely upscale for an evening at the mall, if only because the rest of the mall crowd is sporting jeans and sweaters.
"This city doesn't have a fashion sense. People wear jeans to the Opera House here," says Mark Brado, owner of Jaazz Salon, one of Spokane's high-end salons. "There's no big designers here. People in Spokane don't buy that stuff."
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & Y & lt;/span & et conversations after a recent fashion show revealed a vein of people who, to some extent, are fashion-conscious.
"I actually saw some outfits that I'd like to buy," says audience member Samantha McAfee. The clothes she saw included national brands like Schwartz.
Another viewer, Shelley Andrews, sported a brilliantly colored silk blouse from Nordstrom. "Spokane is becoming more metropolitan than it used to be," she says, adding that the city does have occasions to wear top-notch clothing as featured in the show.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & nd it's not as if Spokane has some kind of embarrassing lack of beautiful people, either. With four agencies for a county of about 440,000 people, says Morgan, Spokane has a fairly normal ratio of agencies. Much like a mini-Seattle. "It's the same thing comparing Seattle to New York. It's probably the same ratio," she says. She's observed modeling markets in both small and big cities, having started as a model in Spokane in the '70s, followed by her own agency in the Tri-Cities, which eventually moved to Seattle.
With more than 3 million people, the Seattle area has models coming in the windows, according to various Websites listing all the agencies. One site listed 17 for the Puget Sound area alone. Morgan says there are three major players in the field; Seattle Models Guild, TCM, and Heffner Model Management. But she couldn't speculate how many agencies the city has overall.
"There is a lot of money here. There are a lot of benefits that people go to and they need to dress up. Seattle and Bellevue both have fashion-conscious clientele," she says.
Spokane, too, is growing. Glines, Brado, and others have noted that as the city grows, fashion will become trendier, opening the door for more modeling. Indeed, YR Models started last fall because its parent ad agency, YevoRome Communications, needed local models for its advertising business, which has grown rapidly. Talk of poor economy and poor fashion doesn't seem to faze Yevo's enthusiasm for the future of modeling here. "What's so cool about Spokane is that it's growing," he says. "The people are hungry for change."
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & ack at the fashion show, a pattern emerges as more models charge down the runway. You start to notice the grace in the human body. Everything starts to kick in all the right places. Hips swing, shawls flick at the ground. Thin ankles whip across the carpet, pumped by muscular thighs and jutting buttocks. There's a cadence in the models' prancing. Heads turn at all the right moments to let the light kiss them in all the right ways. Lips purse. All the elegance, swank, and beauty of the human body is given full glory in the limelight of the catwalk.
Oh, and Bassett was right about her runway walk. There was a little bitch in her step.