Monday, September 20, 1999
Just a model kid
When she's not showing steers or playing volleyball, Independence teen poses for high-fashion shoots
BY REON CARTER
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Autumn Armstrong has the fresh, freckle-faced appeal of the girl next door. But one look through her modeling portfolio proves she can vamp with Michelle Pfeiffer's pout or intrigue with Greta Garbo's aloof gaze.
| ZOOM |
The 15-year-old from Independence is happy to vogue for the camera, when she's not playing volleyball, raising steers for the county fair or hanging with her church youth group.
In the past year, the green-eyed blonde has racked up an impressive list of modeling assignments, including Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs and store posters;splashy Target ads in Seventeen and Teen People magazines and an avant-garde five-page editorial spread in the September issue of Elle magazine.
Not bad for a girl who had to be coaxed to tag along on a visit to a Cincinnati modeling agency two years ago.
Name: Autumn Renee Armstrong |
Family: Parents, Johnny and Cindy Armstrong; sister, Christin.
Education: Sophomore at Simon Kenton High School.
First job: Modeling junior wear for an Elder-Beerman department store mailer.
Favorite photographers: Bruce Weber. He's nice and very laid back. And David Rinella.
Favorite shoots: Working with Alloy (a teen catalog) in New Hampshire and Elder-Beerman.
Worst part about modeling: Holding poses for a half hour at time under hots lights (while) wearing a big coat.
Favorite pastimes: Being with family or hanging out with my friends.
I wasn't all that interested (in modeling) at first, Autumn says. I'd done (and won) one pageant, but I didn't enjoy the experience that much. I thought modeling was going to be like pageants, where you have to get all beautied up, then line up to see who's the prettiest.
In modeling, it's about business and selling a specific look. The people who work aren't always the prettiest.
Wants a normal life
Autumn is one of a few Greater Cincinnati models who has landed jobs in the Tristate as well as major markets. She works through her primary agency, New View, based in Evendale; DNA in New York; Aria in Chicago, and Michelle Pommier in Miami.
That doesn't happen often, says Joe Guerrera, president of New View. Usually a model who has a look that gets lots of work here, wouldn't be able to work in New York, and vice versa.
In 1998 Mr. Guerrera sent the teen's calling card, a composite of photos, to 11 agencies in New York. All were interested in signing her. The task of narrowing them down proved easy after she went to New York for agent interviews.
Some of the agencies would ask up front, "What's your commitment?' Autumn says. That meant, "Are you ready to drop everything to move to New York and put modeling first?' I wasn't. Modeling can be a fickle business. I want to grow up and have a normal life, not just think about work, work, work. I've got the rest of my life for that. I don't get to be a teen-ager in high school that long.
Autumn's parents, Cindy and Johnny Armstrong, agree.
We chose to work with DNA because they were more family-oriented, Mrs. Armstrong says. They cared about (Autumn's) classes and were willing to work with us to make sure she wasn't booked to miss a lot of school.
DNA also was open to one of her parents accompanying Autumn on all modeling assignments. Mrs. Armstrong, a hairstylist at the Head Shop in Florence, has a schedule that allows her to travel with her daughter. Mr. Armstrong, who is a medical sales and sleep representative, also joins Autumn on some trips.
With New York modeling rates of $5,000-$10,000 a day. (Tristate day rates are considerably lower, about $1,250 a day). Autumn has made as much as $32,000 a week.
It's really weird, Autumn says. I was shocked at first to find out how much they're willing to pay just to take somebody's picture.
Does homework on the set
She has not been swayed, however, by her earning potential. Family and school are priorities, so modeling assignments are booked in a series that might take her out of town only three to five days a month. She notes that the principal at Simon Kenton High School, where she's a sophomore, and the school board have been cooperative. She completed ninth grade with seven A's and one B.
Before I leave for a job, I get all my school work and assignments and take them with me, Autumn says. The days can be long and there's always time while waiting around at photo shoots to read and do homework. When I get back, I'm all caught up, so it's like I never left.
While Autumn has been squired from a photo shoot to the airport by limo and frolicked in the waves on a private island in the Florida Keys for top fashion photographer Bruce Weber (famous for his smoldering Calvin Klein ads), she's still the type of girl who gets excited about her high school volleyball games or adding a Slinky to her collection.
This summer, she passed on an opportunity to work in Italy, because it coincided with a church youth camp and the Kenton County Fair, where she looked forward to showing the steer she raised for almost a year.
My attitude about that is if a job is meant for me, God will reschedule it. Autumn says. I've been raising steers for about four years. It's hard work. They can be really wild at first until they get used to you, and cleaning stalls is not the best part of the experience, but it's fun and a good way to learn about responsibility.
She sold her last steer in July, but has decided to take a break from steers this fall.
With the last one, my sister ended up taking care of my steer and her steer when I was out of town, Autumn says. She was nice about it, but I felt bad. That wasn't fair to her.
Sister in pageants
Autumn also admits to feeling some awkwardness initially because her sister, Christin, 17, was more intrigued by modeling than she had been.
Christin, a pretty brown-eyed redhead, says she's comfortable with her sister's success and has shifted her focus to pageant competition. She's competed in about 20 pageants and won nine. She's the reigning Miss Northern Kentucky.
Autumn's modeling goals include landing a cosmetics contract and learning to walk in five-inch heels, so she can do runway shows.
I wouldn't mind if modeling opened up some acting doors for me, she says. My idol is Drew Barrymore. But if it doesn't happen, that's OK. I've always wanted to do hair, too, just like my mom.
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