At first, sophomore Thomas Cornelis was embarrassed when people recognized him by his photo in The Hatchet. And there were more than a few people who noticed.
That’s because Cornelis was a regular in the newspaper last semester. He appeared frequently as the spring line model in advertisements for a trendy Georgetown clothing store, Up Against the Wall.
A representative from the store approached Cornelis last year and asked him if he would be interested in modeling.
“There’s more to (modeling) than just being a beautiful person. It’s a very artistic experience, and it’s not something just anyone can do,” Cornelis said. “It calls upon acting and artistic talents to be a professional model. I don’t think people understand how talented true models are.”
In Cornelis’ case, the store found him. Other students who have modeled didn’t have quite the same experience.
Freshman Ivie Guobadia found an agent in high school and started auditioning for jobs. The auditions, she said, are all about “the look.”
“Initially, no one cares about your personality, all you need is ‘the look,'” Guobadia said.
Understanding what that look is can be tricky.
“Basically, if you want to go to the modeling industry, there is a narrow profile that you have to fit, which to some people can be offensive,” Cornelis said. “For the most part though, if you’re committed, you’ll have a good understanding of these requirements.”
Freshman Sean Wehrly was a model in high school and also said that agents look for that indescribable “it” quality.
“You have to have something special about you that makes them say, ‘I want him,'” Wehrly said.
Since coming to college, Wehrly has decided to take a break and concentrate on his studies, raising the question: is it possible to be a student model and a model student?
“You have to be willing to give up some time to go for it. As a full time student, it limits my abilities in that regard,” Cornelis said. “But I still can do some small ads.”
There are three different kinds of modeling: runway, print and commercial. Cornelis said photo shoots for Up Against the Wall are very natural and he does not receive much instruction from photographers. In contrast, Guobadia felt that photographers she worked with were very controlling.
“The poses are very awkward,” Guobadia said. “It’s not glamorous during the photo shoot.”
Several students who may not have any modeling experience have been able to be a model for a day. The Verse, GW’s own fashion and entertainment magazine, uses students as models in their magazine.
The Verse staff members approach students who they think have a good look for the magazine on the street.
The Verse Editor in Chief Addia Cooper-Henry said they use students as models because one of their goals is for the magazine to be completely student-run. Another goal for Cooper-Henry is to raise students’ appreciation for fashion.
“(This business) is great, beauty is my thing. All artists like beautiful things,” Cooper-Henry said.
It is not uncommon for people to point the finger at the modeling industry for reflecting negatively on perceived beauty and body image. Professor Jacque Johnson addresses the media and modeling in her course, Body Image in the Concept.
“There are five factors that influence body image. They are: family, peers, society, culture and media,” Johnson said. “And I don’t point the finger strictly at the media.”
While she doesn’t blame only the media, Johnson expresses contempt for reality television. These shows, based on the idea that the stars are just average people, don’t typically showcase average-looking people.
Cornelis certainly doesn’t have any qualms abut his body image now, thanks in part to modeling.
“In high school I was really uncomfortable and didn’t open up too much in front of the camera,” Cornelis said. “Now that I’ve grown up, I wasn’t uncomfortable whatsoever. It’s supposed to be a pretty natural feeling. I just go with the flow.”
Although he models less frequently now, Cornelis isn’t turning his back on it just yet.
“I’m a student first,” Cornelis said. “But if a situation invites itself for me to do a serious modeling contract, I think I’d find it hard to say no.”