Local teen and her mother talk modeling, stereotypes, and maintaining balance

By Brandy Centolanza

Many teen girls would relish the opportunity to dress up in fancy outfits and accessories and parade around in front of an audience. For 17-year-old high school senior Katherine Calvert, that dream came true for the first time in September 2019 when she walked the runway as a model during DC Fashion Week in Washington, D.C.

Calvert, a student at Stafford High School, walked the runway for three shows during DC Fashion Week last fall, modeling clothes and hats for three different international fashion designers.

“It was one big, crazy week, but a lot of fun,” Calvert says. “It was a great experience.”

Calvert’s mother, Mary Becelia, was in awe watching her daughter on the runway.

“Seeing her walking in front of hundreds of people—in four-inch heels, no less—with so much confidence, up there with other models who had far more experience yet betraying no nerves was a very proud moment for me,” Becelia says.

Calvert enjoyed the experience so much she went on to walk the runway during a fashion show in Richmond in October 2019 and returned for DC Fashion Week to model the Spring 2020 collection at the end of February.

Calvert first started modeling in 2018 at the encouragement of her mother, who saw potential in her daughter based on her appearance and personality.

“She is 5 feet 11 inches and has nice features, so I had the idea of modeling in the back of my head for awhile before she actually started,” Becelia says. “Katherine also has a very low-key, no-drama personality so I was pretty sure she could handle any pressures that might come with modeling.”

Calvert went to an open call with a modeling agency in Richmond and was inspired by the feedback.

“They were encouraging and said modeling was something that they thought I could do,” she says. “I also thought modeling would be a pretty cool thing to do, so I decided to give it a try.”

Calvert first began by modeling for photographers, makeup artists and stylists, working collaboratively to help build portfolios. She’s done shoots in Fredericksburg, Richmond, D.C. and in Maryland and West Virginia and has appeared in two magazines, Dreamy and Gracious.

“It’s been a lot of fun meeting new people and making connections in the modeling world, getting paid to take nice pictures and working together as a team with my mom,” Calvert says.

Calvert balances her modeling as best she can with schoolwork, running track and cross country and hanging out with family and friends. So far, her introduction into the modeling and fashion world has been mostly a positive one.

“There are a lot of stereotypes about modeling, that people are mean and rude, and they put you down or body shame you, but that is not the case,” Calvert says. “I thought all that too at first, but everyone I’ve met has been friendly and we all work together so that everyone can succeed.”

Calvert’s mother agrees.

“I’ve met so many interesting people that I never would have otherwise met and have learned a lot about an entire industry that was foreign to me previously,” Becelia says. “I was afraid that other moms or models might be overly competitive or cutthroat and catty, but we have not found that to be the case. In fact, almost everyone we have come in contact with has been helpful and encouraging.”

Calvert has worked with agencies as well as on her own to gain exposure and obtain modeling gigs. Her mother has turned to other modeling moms for guidance.

“Fredericksburg is not exactly the hub of the fashion world, so it took me a while to find some mom mentors, but the two I have leaned on the most have been great sources of information and advice and networking,” Becelia says.

Becelia typically accompanies her daughter to interviews, auditions and shoots. She’s also created social media pages to help advance Calvert’s budding modeling career.

“I’ve devoted much of my Instagram to promoting her and helped her start a professional Facebook page called Katherine Calvert, Model,” Becelia says. “I discuss opportunities with her, vet photographers and I went with her on interviews with agents.”

Deciding which modeling agency to sign with, if any, can be challenging.

“You don’t want to rush to sign with an agency unless they are absolutely, clearly in love with your child,” Becelia says. “You should research agencies and realize that if you want to stay in the D.C. area, it is a much more limited market than New York or Los Angeles, but there are opportunities.”

Modeling can be a beneficial job for teens. Teen models learn important life skills such as how to handle competition and win or lose with grace, how to overcome shyness and speak in public, and how to follow instructions and deal with stressful situations. Modeling also helps boost confidence and teaches time and money management skills as well as how to work hard to achieve a goal. That’s the biggest thing that Calvert has taken away from her experience as a model.

“I’ve learned that if you really want something, you really have to be willing to work hard to get it,” she says. “You also have to be willing to put yourself out there and not give up on yourself. You are your own best advocate.”

Perseverance is another life skill both mother and daughter have learned through their experience.

“There’s always that occasional ‘overnight success’ story you hear about in any industry; however, in most cases, the successful people kept putting themselves out there, taking risks, taking chances and growing toward success bit by bit,” Becelia says.

Becelia suggests those starting out fresh in the modeling world should find photographers who want to do TFP shoots, or free shoots, so your child can build their portfolio and hone their posing skills. Networking is key.

“Instagram and Facebook are very helpful sources for finding photographers and networking with other models and moms,” Becelia says. “And do be prepared for rejection. Your child won’t appeal to every agency, client or photographer. There will be rejection and if you think your child won’t be able to handle it, maybe wait a year or two to jump in.”