Could I be “America’s Next Top Model”?

By Grey Stephens
March 2, 2019

My passion for modeling started when I was about 15 years old. This was a surprise to anyone who knew me because I was always known as the very shy and quiet girl. It even came as a surprise to myself when I first was approached by an agent at my high school seeking fresh young faces to represent a local agency.

First photo shoot. Photo by Grey Stephens

She talked very fast and gave me a ton of information that went right over my head but the thing that stuck with me was when she handed me her business card and said she thinks that I have what it takes. That’s all it took. A random woman telling me she thought I had what it took. Thinking back now, she probably said that to everyone she talked to that day, but my 15-year-old self didn’t doubt her for a second.

That same day, I didn’t waste any time after I got home from school. I talked to my parents and they called the office to set up an appointment to meet. When I met them, they were just as excited to work with me as I was to work with them. In no time papers were signed, and I was an official model for Mainline Models and Talents, or model in training. The agency provided me with classes that covered, makeup, runway, posing, acting and even networking. After six months of intense model training, I was ready. They were able to set me up for success when I finally went to my first runway casting for Philadelphia Fashion Week.

I was so nervous because I was in a room surrounded by tall, gorgeous, experienced models. “Grey Stephens?” a young woman called me to the front. I remember getting up and feeling so many curious eyes on me. As I walked to the front, the sound of my heels clicking was the only thing you could hear. I was led to a room with a table far on the other end with three judges who would be selecting the models for the show. As I strutted down the long room, I pictured Tyra Banks and her panel of judges from the show America’s Next top Model on the other end.

Philadelphia Fashion Week 2016. Photo by Grey Stephens

When I got to the table, I did my ending poses and handed them my photo. One of the guys asked my name and he also asked my ethnicity. After small talk with the other judges, he finally said, “Grey, I love your look and I think you have a great walk, but you just don’t have the height requirements we’re looking for.”

At that moment, I heard Tyra’s voice say, “You are not America’s next Top Model.” My dreams were crushed.

In the modeling industry, most models are accepted if they are 5’8 and above. I am only 5’6.

According to Body Image statistics, the average American woman is 5’4 tall and weighs 140 pounds while the average American model is 5’11 tall and weighs 117 pounds. Most fashion models are thinner than 98 percent of American women. Also, more than half of teenage girls are or think they should be on diets. They want to lose some or all the 40 pounds that females naturally gain between the ages 8 and 14. About 3 percent of these teens go too far, becoming anorexic or bulimic.

Being only 5’6 I may be taller than the average woman but still not tall enough.

This standard that the fashion industry associates with models discourages young women. I think modeling is a profession that should encourage an attitude where everyone should feel represented. Aspiring models like myself, that don’t meet requirements but keep pushing to break the barrier, help the industry see that changes need to be made not only with height, but also race, gender and ethnicity.

Philly Fashion Week 2016. Photo by Grey Stephens

That same day, as I was walking out of the room, the judge called me back to the table. He said, “You know what… I have a good feeling about you, welcome to Philly Fashion Week.” From there, I was unstoppable.

Grey Stephens

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