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Model students: Tufts experience relaxed, tight−knit Boston network

Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 01:12


Justin McCallum / The Tufts Daily

Senior Kieran Lewis walked The TENT at Boston Fashion Week on Sept. 30.

Many Jumbos thrive in the spotlight, whether as a Tufts Community Union (TCU) senator, as an attorney competing with Tufts Mock Trial or as a dancer in the sold−out Spirit of Color show. Others find their 15 minutes of fame off campus in the Boston modeling industry.

Sophomore Margaret Wiryaman began modeling in her hometown of Lexington, Mass. and continues to model now for Nara Paz, a designer who bases her business in Boston.

“When I was 16, I was in church at a Christmas Eve service, and I ran into this woman that I never met before,” she said. “She was looking to have a diverse group of models, and she asked if I’d be interested.”

Wiryaman works strictly with Paz, giving her a more intimate experience with the world of modeling by working one−on−one with a designer.

“We’re really good friends, too,” she said. “She designed my prom dress.”

Unlike Wiryaman, junior Maeve Stier works with a Boston agency, which has given her a completely different modeling experience.

“I started modeling right before my 18th birthday and was signed with a very small agency in Maine,” she said. “I started looking at Boston−based agencies and signed with Model Club. I’ve been with them for a little over two years now.”

Stier, a transfer student from Mount Holyoke College who works with Model Club at least once a week, is interested in modeling for reasons beyond the experience with which it provides her.

“That’s the only way I’m getting my income,” Stier said. “It’s definitely a job for me. It’s a really nice way to make money while I’m in school.”

Wiryaman, though, emphasized the breadth of opportunities she gains by modeling.

“It’s something that I do because I really like [Paz’s] work,” she said. “I’m really interested in fashion. It’s fun and it’s not something I would get to do otherwise.”

Senior May Igawa started modeling at home and now works for Dynasty Models in Boston.

“I contacted Dynasty Models in Boston my sophomore year,” Igawa said. “Most of the stuff I’ve done is runway.”

Boston’s fashion market is unique, according to the students who model — it differs greatly from the New York and international market and offers a fresh take on the cutthroat world of high fashion.

“It’s a very organic, small network,” Wiryaman said.

Due to the tight−knit community, according to Wiryaman, recognizing photographers and designers is commonplace.

“Boston is much more commercial, and New York is so high−fashion and crazy,” Stier said. “I know a lot of Boston girls who go to New York and just don’t get anything.”

Boston’s modeling standards compared New York’s are more relaxed, according to Stier and Wiryaman.

“In New York, you have to be 5’10”. In Boston, it’s a more commercial kind of modeling, print modeling or modeling for magazines,” Wiryaman said. “The restrictions are just not as prevalent. New York is more reflective of the international market.”

According to Stier, Boston’s small, intimate market has afforded her a generally positive experience in the world of modeling.

“Because Boston is smaller, everyone is friendlier and it’s a lot less cutthroat,” Stier said. “I’ve never had a point where there was anything that really upset me or threw me off.”

Within this small, commercial network, though, it is more difficult to make a living by modeling solely in the Boston market. According to Stier, most models will start in Boston and immediately take off to New York, often encountering challenges as they enter the new environment.

“You go to agencies, and they’re looking for something,” Stier said. “In New York, it takes a lot more for you to stand out.”

Due to Boston’s different atmosphere, few girls described feeling any pressure from their agencies in regard to their weight or looks.

“They’ve never said anything to me about measurements or anything,” Stier said. “My weight never fluctuates, so they haven’t needed to say anything.”

It’s easy, however, to become more aware of one’s size and body image through modeling, according to Wiryaman.

“I’ve never had a problem, but it’s hard not to be conscious of your size when you’re being measured, seeing how things fit and if things are too small,” she said. “It’s not something you think about when you’re not modeling, but when your purpose is to fit into clothes, if you can’t do that, it’s hard.”

Even within Boston’s friendly market, though, there is a small degree of pressure, and Tufts’ models have learned that modeling requires confidence and energy.

“You are in the spotlight and you have to perform,” Igawa said

Wiryaman, Stier and Igawa all recognize that their profession carries a degree of uncertainty and therefore question their futures in the industry.

“For now, I’m not really sure how far it will take me,” Wiryaman said. “If you want to pursue it seriously, you have to dedicate yourself. I definitely have no ambitions for doing this for a living.”

Stier has used her modeling to gain further experience in the industry of fashion and magazine publishing, although she does not necessarily want to pursue it outside of college.

“[Modeling] is not my career path right now. I actually want to go into magazine publishing,” she said, “I think it’s important to have modeling experience because it is another side of the industry.”

Igawa likes to focus on the importance of the experience she has gained.

“I’m willing to give [modeling outside of college] a shot. It’s never been my prime thing,” she said. “It’s fun to get off campus and do something else ... I think it’s worth it just as an experience.”

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