The double lives of high school models

Rosa Stern Pait, Co-Editor in Chief

Brittany Nagle poses for Joseph Paradiso and photographer Sadie Dayton Photos provided by Brittany Nagle
Brittany Nagle poses for Joseph Paradiso and photographer Sadie Dayton Photos provided by Brittany Nagle

Junior Tate Mitchell once arrived at a photoshoot and was handed a pair of shoes that were three sizes too small. But as a part-time model, she simply had to go along with it.

Mitchell began her career in the spotlight as a four-year-old in a production of A Doll’s House, a play by Henrik Ibsen. The production ran for eight years and toured around the world.

“When that finished, I needed an outlet for that creative energy,” Mitchell said.

Her mother signed her up for an agent, and she has been modeling professionally ever since. She has modeled for Puma, TJ Maxx, Whole Foods and Pottery Barn Teen, she said.

Theater is not the only way to break into modeling. When she was 14 years old, senior Brittany Nagle happened to be spending a day at Six Flags during a modeling contest. She decided to try out and was liked by many of the New York-based scouts, she said.

[su_column]Click here to see Nagle’s portfolio.[/su_column]

“She went up on stage, and when she came down, she said, ‘They thought I was really pretty,’” her mother Laurie Nagle said.

Nagle won the contest, getting a photoshoot and a trip to New York. She was offered multiple contracts and chose Next, a modeling and talent agency. She has done shoots in Milan and Los Angeles, as well as modeled during New York Fashion Week.

Mitchell and Nagle represent two very different aspects of the same art: commercial modeling and high fashion. Both said that a model’s “look,” or their style, is very important to the kind of work they will do.

“Just find the right look and things happen pretty easily,” Mitchell said.

Brittany Nagle said she tends not to be right for jobs that are more “smiley,” which is what most everyday stores are looking for. She said the majority of her work requires travel, sometimes out of the country, for long periods of time.

Despite the demands of modeling, both girls said they prioritize school and rarely miss class for photoshoots; Nagle does local work in the afternoons and travels to New York during vacations, and Mitchell only misses a few days during the year to model.

“She could have actually ended up starting full time when she was 16,” Laurie Nagle said, “but I didn’t really feel that was an option.”

Nagle said her experiences have proven that the stereotypes of the modeling industry are overwhelmingly wrong.

“I’ve met a lot of really down-to-earth, cool people,” she said, “and I was also a little judgmental at first too, like, ‘I’m going to be with a bunch of girls who don’t eat and are into themselves,’ and it’s actually almost the complete opposite.”

Mitchell said being a model has positively affected the way she handles other people’s judgments.

“It has taught me that no matter how people view you, there’s always a way to change that,” she said. “It only matters about how you think of yourself, and not how others think of you.”

Rosa Stern Pait can be contacted at [email protected].com