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Student battles height restrictions, stigma in modeling industry

By Russell Axon
On January 30, 2013

Lauren LaFerriere apologizes every time she blinks in a photo. If things work out for her, she may be apologizing often.

The aspiring model and Toledo student recently applied to be a contestant on the next season of “America’s Next Top Model,” a reality competition show hosted by Tyra Banks. However, LaFerriere has an uphill battle. At 5-foot-3, she doesn’t meet the show’s minimum height requirement of 5-foot-7.

The junior communications major isn’t quick to quit, though.

“The whole idea of putting myself out there and trying to get into the industry is kind of scary in a way,” LaFerriere said. “But I guess that means I’m driven.”

In an effort to better her odds, she posted her audition video on YouTube. LaFerriere hopes that if it gets enough buzz, it might lead to a spot on the show, along with future success and opportunities for not just her but “models all shapes and sizes.”

 

LaFerriere first became interested in modeling after being discovered at the mall. She enrolled in the John Casablancas Modeling School, a once-a-week program which taught her both the physical and business aspects of the modeling industry.

While she described her time there as “good experience,” she said it almost discouraged her, too.

“I was taking these classes but they kept on saying, ‘You’re too short, you’re too short, you’re too short,’” she said. “After hearing people say, ‘You can’t because of this reason,’ ... you want to go and say, ‘I can because of this reason.’”

An official gig at a local salon during her freshman year of high school helped change her mind.

“It was just like a before and after — [they told me] don’t smile, look frumpy in this picture, then let [us] do everything, and now smile, look happy,” she said. “That got put on a mailer to our whole city, and everybody would come up to me and be like, ‘You’re that girl in the flier!’”

Since then, LaFerriere has worked with a support system of family and friends to turn her hobby into a career. She said her family has “been there the whole time,” taking her to classes and shoots and supporting her online, while many of her friends are aspiring photographers and artists who are always ready to collaborate with her.

“I wouldn’t have any of my portfolio if wasn’t for my friends that I’ve done shoots with,” LaFerriere said.

She’s also managed to stay informed of charity fashion shows and events through her job as a fashion retailer. Last year, LaFerriere participated in a photo shoot for MAC Cosmetics, a popular, worldwide make-up company, which involved high fashion outfits and make-up.

“That type of stuff is cool because you get a chance, even if it’s just for an hour, to live in this little, different fantasy world,” she said.

Even when not at work or shooting, LaFerriere stays in her model mindset by trying new make-up and poses at home and practicing her runway walk down the aisles of Kroger.

Ultimately, she hopes all the classes, photo shoots, ruined dresses and shoes, and scrapes and bruises — she accidentally sliced open her foot during a recent outdoor shoot — will help her land her dream gig: a spot on America’s Next Top Model.

 

LaFerriere’s self-described obsession with ANTM grew along with her hobby.

“I love the show. It would make my whole life, like the happiest person on the world, if I was on the show,” she said.

As a high school freshman, she remembers mimicking the contestants in the mirror and paying attention to the judges’ critiques.

In 2009, LaFerriere missed her chance to be on the show’s 13th season which featured contestants only 5-foot-7 and below.

“They were going to be filming in the summer, and I would’ve turned 18 by then. So [with] my parents, we booked a hotel in Chicago; I told my teachers I [wasn’t] going to be there for a week because I was going to go to the audition, I called off my job, I was all ready to go,” she said.

She was eventually told that filming would begin a few weeks before her birthday, making her ineligible for that season.

Deterred but not defeated, LaFerriere has auditioned for every subsequent season knowing that producers can make case-by-case exceptions to the height requirement.

This year, she decided to take a more viral approach. After seeing how the show’s most recent season featured a heavy social media presence, she decided YouTube would be a good way to gain extra exposure.

“If the social media is already talking about me and I’m getting all these hits and stuff, then somebody might go, ‘Oh, wait, what’s this about?’” she said.

Since posting the video at the beginning of January, it has received over 7,000 views, and LaFerriere hopes she can get more before the judges make their final decisions at the end of this week.12

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