September 10, 2005

Fashion Week brings model hopefuls to New York

By Dawn Kissi

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lanky, long-legged and so pretty she
turns heads, Alana Bunte was oblivious to the stares of
strangers as she traipsed from audition to audition, hoping to
land a modeling job at New York's Fashion Week.

The teenager is one of hundreds of wannabe modeling stars,
dreaming of being the next Giselle Bundchen, Cindy Crawford or
Naomi Campbell.

Modeling agency Elite hopes to use Bunte as a major weapon
to battle back from difficult financial times and a stint in
bankruptcy protection. Once an industry leader, Elite lost a
costly lawsuit to an employee over smoking in its offices.

Businessman Eddie Trump, who bought the agency at auction
last year and hopes to restore its luster, staged a nationwide
scouting effort to find the next generation of super model in
his "New Faces of Elite" campaign.

"I intend to build this brand again," said Trump, no
relation to real estate mogul Donald Trump. "Elite is

At the front line is Bunte, who spent the last week getting
made up and looked over. She hit as many as 14 auditions in one

Just 14 years old, the teen from Laguna Beach, California,
stands 5 foot, 8 inches tall and possesses what insiders would
call a "couture body."

The industry describes a "couture body" as between 5 feet 9
inches and 6 feet tall, long, lean and willowy.

Bunte's days typically start at 6 a.m. with hair and makeup
sessions. Afternoons are spent in media training and runway
classes where Elite staffers help perfect her walk -- the
shoulders-back, hips-forward strut that can make or break a
modeling career.


En route to her 10th casting call one day, Bunte stopped to
do the unthinkable -- eat.

"I am having just one cookie," she said, ducking into a
pastry shop. "I love to eat."

But, dressed in a denim miniskirt, tight top and cowboy
boots, she is all business.

"This is a job for me," she said. "I could be back home on
the beach, but this is what I've wanted for a long time."

And even at a young age, she has learned to take the
industry's absurdities in stride.

"We've been told we are fat. We all get criticized," she
said. "But it's work, you know?"

Amid the bustle, her youth shows. She giggles, and she
loves to chat about her three brothers and her dogs back home.
She keeps her distance from other models who smoke incessantly
and gossip about what late-night parties to attend.

Never far from her side is Bunte's mother, Angela, a former
beauty pageant contestant who keeps a sharp and protective eye
on her daughter.

Bunte totes her "book," a portfolio of professional photos
and editorial layouts where she has appeared.

As the semi-annual gala known as Fashion Week hit full
swing, she had landed just two jobs with Gen Art, which
showcases new designers.

The big names -- Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Baby Phat --
didn't call back.

Bunte needs to work with a prominent photographer and get
her face out there, advises Claudine Ingeneri, bookings editor
at Elle magazine.

"When they're young, they tend to get a bit restless, but
things take time in this industry," Ingeneri said.

For Bunte's mother, though, it's just as well as she made
plans to head home. School started last week, and that's where
she wanted her daughter to be, she said.