I’m 17 and have just been signed by the modelling agency Premier, which approached me at a gig near my home town, Northampton. I’d gone to see the ukulele player Misty Miller with friends and her manager happened to be a scout for the agency. Manager: ‘Are you a model?’ Me: ‘Pfff, no.’ I’d had my hair cut short that day and wasn’t sure about it, so it was a bit of a shock. But then Annie and Sissy from Premier scouted me again two weeks later at a music festival, so it was obviously meant to be!
I go to London, where I have test shoots and some lessons on how to walk on a catwalk. I’m spending the last part of my summer holiday in France with my church group, helping out at a hospice. We’ll just have to see how it goes when I get back.
New York Fashion Week
A month ago I was living with my parents in Northampton and sharing a room with my sister; now I’ve been to four countries in as many weeks and there’s a post on vogue.com saying I’m one to watch. It’s totally surreal. I missed my first day of upper sixth-form to go to a casting. I called to say I would definitely be in the next day. That was a month ago. I flew out to New York with my Auntie Wendy that night and within 24 hours was on my way to a casting for Alexander Wang.
In New York I walk for Alexander Wang, Theyskens’ Theory and Vera Wang. I feel sick on the way to the Alexander Wang show, but console myself with the fact that surely the catwalk won’t be that long, and it will be over in five minutes.
How wrong I am. It is huge and shaped like a figure of eight, and we have to remember to turn a certain direction at a certain time to avoid becoming fashion road-kill. I have freakishly big feet and the dressers worry that they won’t be able to get any shoes that fit me. Eventually the situation is resolved and I am second out. Walking is a blur, and I miss one side of the runway – with any luck no one will notice.
London Fashion Week
After New York it’s straight back to London on the red-eye. I have just enough time for a nap on the agency sofa before I am sent to castings for Richard Nicoll and Jonathan Saunders. I also end up doing Daks, Acne and Topshop Unique. Because I’m so busy, Carole, who owns Premier, lets me stay at her house. Normally girls stay in a communal model house owned by the agency, but it can be noisy and full during show season, so I feel lucky to have somewhere quiet to recharge.
Milan Fashion Week
After London I find out I have been optioned for a Prada exclusive. It basically means that Mrs Prada herself has given you her seal of approval. Landing an exclusive can make a model’s career, so it’s a major deal. But I nearly miss the casting because a yogurt explodes in my bag on the way to the airport and obscures my passport photo.
Customs at Birmingham won’t let me through, so we drive like maniacs to Luton to fly with a different airline whose yogurt/face policy isn’t quite as strict! The Prada casting lasts for almost two full days, most of which is spent waiting in the foyer of their building with about 40 other girls.
Half an hour before the show, at 5.30pm, I am finally confirmed and thrust into hair and make-up. I am given a red silk bandeau top and pencil skirt to wear, with massive earrings and a clutch bag that I am worried I might drop. I barely recognise myself by the time they have finished with me. After the show I catch the first flight home and am in school the next day before lunch.
Paris Fashion Week
Paris castings go on late and fittings even later. One morning I get in at 5am after a fitting at Céline, before an 8am start for Givenchy where I wear an incredible dress trimmed with python skin. As we are queuing to go out on the runway a strap on my shoe breaks and one of the other models (later identified to me as Gisele Bündchen!) saves the day by ordering the dressers to bring me a new pair.
I go out in totally different shoes to all the other models.There is an after-party but I am too tired to go. This turns out to be for the best, as the Chloé atelier calls me at 2.30am, and I have to go in for an emergency refit before the show the next day. By this stage in the month it’s quite hard to look nice. I am so jet-lagged and cross-eyed from waiting around that I’m resigned to the fact the bags under my eyes need professional help.
Back home, word has spread around school about what I am doing and my friends watch the live streams of my shows in the common room. October 2011
I’ve landed my first cover! And not just any old magazine – it’s Dazed & Confused . I’m one of four girls chosen for its newcomers special in the March issue. I’m getting into my stride with the photographic side of things and have learnt the best way to beat self-consciousness on a shoot is to make yourself the set clown. I’ve got this stupid dance I do, which always seems to do the trick.
A photographer from the website models.com comes to shoot me at my school. It is mortifying having to pose and act professionally when people you go to school with are peering through the window trying to get a look at what you’re doing.
A shoot for the German label René Lezard. I do my maths coursework on the flight. I haven’t been to school properly in two months and have had to get a tutor to help me keep up. I miss my friends and family.
I’m booked to do the campaign for the French label Maje. The shoot is on the outskirts of Paris and I spend the day leading a horse around inside a château! I come home and do a shoot for Pop magazine as one of its top 10 newcomers of the season. Then comes the call from Topshop saying they want me to do their spring/summer 2012 campaign. Finally I will be shooting something that my friends and family will be familiar with! My parents are really supportive. Mum’s a teacher and Dad’s a school administrator; none of us had any clue about the fashion industry.
To be honest, even now, caring enough about what I look like to brush my hair is still a bit of a struggle. Everyone at home and school still treats me the same and I’m definitely no cooler or more attractive to boys than I was before all this started! I’ve developed an unhealthy obsession with Googling myself and checking my Fashion Spot page. Generally, people write really nice things, but someone called me plain the other day. I suppose it could be worse.
The busiest month so far, starting with a three-day shoot for i-D magazine in New York. Each shot is a scene from a story on a desert island. I have to work with a male model for the first time – he’s a very nice chap called Matt. It’s going to be used for one of the pre-spring covers, which means I’ll be on the front of two magazines at the same time.
Straight off the flight from New York I am packed into a car and sent off to my next job… British Vogue ! They are very precise about your poses, even down to the direction you’re facing, because they know exactly what they need the images to look like on the page.
I have a day to catch up on sleep then fly to south-east Sweden, with my booker, Annie, to shoot for AnOther Magazine . The agency guys have become like family to me. It’s quite strange now when I go back to school and hang around with people my own age. So much has happened I sometimes feel like we don’t have much in common anymore.
Back home for Christmas. It’s the first chance I’ve had to take stock of things since I was whisked away to fashion week in September. There are huge pictures of me all over my local Topshop, but when I pay at the desk they don’t recognise me. I’m not really sure how much money I’ve made. The average rate for a London show is £500 – a bit more money than I was earning at my old job coaching kids at the local football academy!
Preparations start for fashion week again. I’ve had a total overhaul of my diet and exercise routine over the past few months. I’m 17 so my body is changing and I need to keep an eye on my shape so that I’m ready for the shows in February. I go to the gym most days and stick to healthy, low-fat meals. When I’m eating soup with a Ryvita at lunch all my friends are like, ‘You’re going to get so skinny!’ I think there’s a preconceived idea that models starve themselves but, to be honest, I eat more healthily now. Fashion week is like a model’s Olympics, and so you have to train, like an athlete.
There’s a big start to the year – shooting pre-fall collections for Jonathan Saunders, Richard Nicoll and Preen in London in-between doing my exams. I’m much more independent when I come to London for work now, and stay in the model house along with the other girls. I think it’s the closest experience I’m going to get to uni for a while!
I’m writing this on a flight from Paris where I’ve spent a few days shooting a campaign for Adidas by Willy Vanderperre. Next stop New York…
At New York Fashion Week last month Lara walked for Alexander Wang, Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs. During London Fashion Week she opened both the Mulberry and Topshop Unique shows. In Milan she walked for Prada and Versace. – Thetelegraph