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San Diego's Super Models : Agencies Have Discovered Area and Best Talent Under the Sun

March 13, 1988|THOMAS K. ARNOLD

SAN DIEGO — It's a Tuesday evening, and Stephanie Seymour is 20 minutes late for her first dance class at the American Ballet School in Pacific Beach.

She's just had a facial, a manicure and a pedicure. There isn't a trace of makeup on her face. She's wearing a pastel floral-patterned leotard that clings to her shapely body like a coat of paint.

After bolting up the stairs to the second-floor dance studio, Seymour tells the matronly desk clerk she's too frazzled to take the class.

"Besides," she adds, "I'm too embarrassed to walk in now, with the class already under way."

So, with the promise to return another night, Seymour bounds back down the flight of stairs and jumps into her convertible Jeep, parked in the alley, for the short drive home to La Jolla.

Heading north on Mission Boulevard, Seymour almost runs a red light. Slamming on the brakes, she brushes back her auburn hair with both hands and says, with a grimace, "Boy, am I stressed out. I'm flying out of San Diego early tomorrow morning, and as usual, I have no idea where I'm going--Paris, Rome, New York, who knows?"

Such is the fast-paced, stressed-out life of a professional high-fashion model--not just any model, but the latest, and hottest, in a string of "super models" to come out of San Diego in recent years.

At 19, just four years after she became a regional winner of the Elite Agency of New York's annual "Look of the Year" contest, the Poway High School graduate is at the height of her profession, earning modeling fees of up to $10,000 a day and routinely landing on the covers of such publications as Mademoiselle, Redline, New York and Cosmopolitan.

Her china-doll features and pouting red lips command the cover of the March issue of Vogue, America's leading fashion magazine. The 5-foot, 10-inch Seymour, who grew up in Poway, was also prominently featured in the recent swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated, having suited up for the photo sessions on the beaches of Thailand with such swimsuit issue veterans as Kim Alexis and Kathy Ireland.

In press material provided by John Casablancas Model Center, the San Diego agency that first represented her, Seymour's annual income is said to exceed $500,000. Seymour puts the figure at about $250,000, but said she could have made a lot more if she hadn't taken so much time off to cool out.

"The rewards are great," she said, tiredly, "but the stress is even greater."

Two weeks ago, Seymour was munching on a hamburger in a sidewalk cafe in downtown San Diego when a sharply dressed young man approached her table and told her she should be a model.

"I told him I went to San Diego State University and was too busy with my studies," Seymour recalled. "But he persisted, saying he was an agent and that I could make a lot of money.

"Only after I told him my parents would never let me go into modeling did he finally give up. As he walked away, my friend and I both started to crack up. I mean, I looked like a pig, with a face full of chopped beef and onions coming out of my mouth. It was just so very funny."

Being approached by agents and photographers is something Seymour has grown accustomed to since moving back to San Diego last December--after three years of living in New York, the fashion capital of the world. The reason is not just because Seymour is drop-dead gorgeous, but because San Diego is considered one of the best hunting grounds for future high-fashion models--of both sexes--in the country.

"In the last few years, San Diego has earned a reputation as a premier model-development area," said Fred Sweet, owner of San Diego Model Management, the agency that first signed Seymour in 1984.

Natural Environment

"I was just up in San Francisco, at a national convention for agencies like ours that are affiliated with Elite in New York, and everyone was coming up to me and saying that San Diego is a great place . . . to scout (models)," Sweet said.

"I think it's because of the natural environment down here. People on the West Coast are generally more into health and fitness and beauty than anywhere else, and with San Diego's perfect weather, people just tend to look good."

Julie Anselmo, vice president of Elite in New York, agrees.

"We send scouts to San Diego on a regular basis," said Anselmo, whose agency represents such top models as Paulina Porizkova, Kim Alexis, Tatjana Patitz, and now Stephanie Seymour.

"Everyone's trying to find models with the natural, healthy look, and one of the best places to find them is California, and particularly San Diego."

Another international agency that regularly sends scouts to San Diego is L.A. Models of Los Angeles, whose professional roster includes frequent Vogue cover girl Tara Shannon and "Avon Lady" Sabine.

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