Every year, models from the Midwest try to make it in the international fashion scene, walking in shows in Milan and Paris and then they go back to … swimming practice and SAT prep courses. That’s right, most runway models, especially the neophytes, are barely old enough to drive. With the fashion show cycle over for this season, I decided to check in with two new girls, both Chicago residents who signed with Ford Models and are doing well. Keep your eye out for their faces next time you’re flipping through your favorite fashion glossy.

Hair color: light brown
Eye color: hazel
Date of birth: July 14, 1990
Place of birth: Chicago, IL
Height: 5′ 10.5"
Has walked in: Collette Dinnigan, Alberta Ferretti, Marchesa, J Mendel
See Nika on the runway >>

On the importance of ambiance:
My favorite show that I walked in was Hervé Léger by Max Azria in New York. Backstage was filled with confident energy, the music was fast and upbeat, and the clothes were amazing and made you feel sexy on the runway.

On the importance of maintaining the momentum:
I turned 18 in July and I’m deferring my first year of college at the State University of New York at Purchase so I can model full time for a year to see how things go.

On the most likely place to find her in Chicago:
When I have free time I love to spend it with friends and family, but activity-wise I was born and raised a swimmer, so I’m usually around the pool.

On the highs and lows of her first international fashion season:
The scariest part of my first fashion season was not knowing what to expect. You’re in four different countries for the duration of one month and you’re put into new environments with different languages and expected to do well at all the castings because that determines the rest of your week.

The most fun thing about fashion week is being in shows where you know a bunch of the girls and you have people backstage to kill time with before the show. It totally changes your mood and boosts your confidence backstage and on the runway.


Hair color: chestnut
Eye color: brown
Date of birth: February 19, 1992
Place of birth: Skokie, IL
Height: 5′ 9"
Has walked in: Kris Van Assche, Akris, Giambattista Valli, Tracy Reese
See Shelby on the runway >>

On the show that was to be her big break:
Giambattista Valli was my favorite show to walk in. He’s a top favorite designer of mine, and I loved the clothes.

On solving physics problems at home:
I used to attend Niles North High School in Skokie but now I am home-schooled. I work with a college prep correspondence school and a great tutor. My mom helps me, too.

On the joys of being a 16-year-old girl:
I love shopping and going out with my friends.

On going through the fashion month mill for the first time:
The whole experience was extremely fun even though there were those 15-castings-a-day days. I kept a good attitude, which I think is important. The hardest thing was being brand new and not knowing what I was in for.

The way in which we know she’s already a pro:
Her e-mail signoff? "Sent from my iPhone"

Photography: (Lauraitis) Peter Gehrke; (Coleman) Cedrick Mirande