Every season, I (Natalie Joos, the Casting Agent) get asked about the latest trend in modeling. And every couple of years or so things effectively change. You see, fashion people get bored easily. They want to see new faces as much as they itch to change hem lines. I suspect a lot of them suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. It’s in their creative and imaginative nature. I call it the process of “action versus reaction”, a constant swing between extremes. Thin, then voluptuous, Russian, then Dutch, girls, then tomboys. For the past few seasons though, it seems that everything and anything goes! There is a range of beauty as wide as the universe itself. There’s no consistency, just a melting pot, celebrating every flaw, generation, race and hair color known to mankind. And it’s about time!
Ashley Smith is not only part of but also greatly responsible for the new modeling landscape. For one, she is barely 5’8″, has a serious gap between her front teeth and was never flat chested like most other girls her age – we celebrated her 22nd birthday just last week! She believes she was “100% in the right place, at the right time” and experienced the fashion industry as a exceptionally welcoming and open-minded bunch of enthusiasts. “People aren’t looking for your typically beautiful girl anymore,” she feels. “They want to find unique beauty, even if it’s internal. The package is becoming more and more transparent to let the inner beauty shine. Which I found quite surprising for what most people expect to be an extremely shallow world.” She was discovered at SXSW music festival in her home town Austin, Texas and got a shot at the big league thanks to photographers like Ryan McGinley and Chadwich Tyler. And even though she always dreamed of becoming a rock star or a Broadway actress, she is confident that her choice to move to New York in 2009 “was fantastic, so one day I could use my success in the fashion industry to make connections in those areas of interest!” Ah, and brains too!
But wait, there’s more. Ashley is also one hell of a dresser! I’m always amazed at the little outfits she wears during castings. (I’m not going to lie girls, show me some personality and style, and you got my attention! I can almost with certainty say that leggings get you out the door faster than you came in…) But not Ashley, she’s a shoe-in. She dresses according to her daily adventures or like one of her many characters. “For example, I will wear my Mickey Mouse sweater and skirt with big electric blue creepers when I’m shopping for candy or going to the carnival. Or I’ll wear my varsity jacket and matching plaid skirt with penny loafers when I’m hitting up the strand book store.” She finds most of her vintage at Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. “It’s all about location with those sort of stores,” she explains. “I used to shop at the Goodwill near where the rich vegan hippie families live. It will take you twice as long to find “THE GEMS” but it will cost you twice less.” And she advises to enlist a friend with a keen and stubborn eye. “I bring my girlfriend Miyako Bellizzi. She’s a stylist and kind of acts as my personal shopper. She’ll help me decide whether 60$ is worth the beat up Led Zeppelin t-shirt.”
Ashley’s upbringing is unusual too. She was raised by her grandparents and moved in with her big sister Amanda when she was 15. “I’m sure I have lots of other siblings but I don’t know who my father is so good luck finding blood relatives with that last name!” she laughs. And thus, family traditions are fairly relaxed, though she’s a self-proclaimed “holiday-junkie”. Every chance she gets she’ll send postcards, or decorate the house. “This year is the first time I live in my own apartment! So I’m very excited to buy myself my first real Christmas tree!” And maybe she’ll take up tap dancing too. “I can’t explain why, but I just know I’d be really good at it,” she ponders. “Does that sound conceited? Nah! It can’t be. I know I have a natural talent for making beats and I also have very flexible ankles and feet. Everyone has talents, isn’t that what life is all about? Figuring out what we are good at, or what we were put on this earth for? Who knows, I could be the next big thing!”