There's no room here for gum-snapping slouches. Clean faces, shiny hair, poise, and an oh-so-cool cover girl stroll--that's the language spoken by Connie Stahl.
Stahl, a former model, teaches modeling to kids through the Ventura Parks and Recreation Department. They learn some basic modeling tips, but the classes cover everything from grooming and makeup to social graces.
"They learn how to sit properly," she said, demonstrating how they should slide into the chair rather than plop. "It's especially good if they're wearing mini skirts."
Stahl began modeling when she was 15. Now 53, she's been teaching modeling for 15 years. She coaches the girls on how to stand properly (with one foot in front of the other), and how to walk, pivot and turn the way models do.
They learn how to take care of their skin and apply makeup. "If they put on too much, it's off to the ladies room," she said. She shows them how to do their nails.
Stahl said she doesn't push them toward professional modeling, but they get a lot of exposure to it. Three times during the eight weeks of classes the girls--and sometimes a few boys--participate in modeling shows at the Buenaventura Mall in Ventura.
The stores and shops at the mall provide the clothes, shoes, hairstyling and makeup application for the models. The students help select the outfits and the music that will accompany the show.
"Not everyone wants to or can be a model, but anyone can be a model of self-esteem," said Stahl, who places an emphasis on the kids feeling good about themselves and their appearance.
For high fashion or runway modeling, girls must be at least 5 feet, 9 inches tall, she said, and 10 pounds under normal weight. But there is a need for petite and full-figured modeling. Some of her students have become professional models.
"The market for children is growing and growing," she said. Professional child models in the Los Angeles area can earn more than $250 an hour, she said. "But they do want trained people, and you have to have an agent."
Jimmi Hunt is another former model who now teaches modeling for kids. She offers a six-week series of classes through the Conejo Recreation and Park District at the Teen Center in Thousand Oaks.
Hunt, 43, a former department store and photographic model, also gives modeling tips, and like Stahl, she emphasizes grooming, poise and manners.
"I stress manners on the telephone and how to introduce people," she said. It's casual and fun. "Sometimes we just talk about what jerks boys are."
During the class they go on a field trip to a shopping mall where they might test perfume or peruse table settings or china at a department store, she said. Or they might go to a dress shop and look at accessories.
"These girls are not serious about getting into modeling," she said. "I have a good time with them."
For those who want more intensive modeling instruction, there are a couple of modeling schools in Santa Barbara County and one in Westlake Village.
At Hollywood Film School in Westlake Village, Carol Lynn Wenger offers a 14-week self-development class that teaches kids 8 to 13 how to make proper introductions, how to stand, walk and sit, and how to take care of their skin and hair.
"It's very intensive," said Wenger, noting the three-inch-thick book that accompanies the course, which costs $598.
Girls 13 and older can enroll in the professional modeling series which costs $698, she said. They learn everything to prepare them for a career in modeling.
Modeling work is available for children and teens, she said. Without union membership, kids can earn at least $50 a day, and that goes up to at least $110 when they become union members, she said.
"There is such a demand for kids in modeling and commercials now," she said, especially for young boys.
Other events for the kids:
* A Soviet-American children's art exhibition is on display at the Ventura County Museum of Art and History, 100 E. Main St., Ventura, through Feb. 16. Call 653-0323 for information.
* Local teen bands will perform Saturday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Teen Center in Thousand Oaks, 1375 E. Janss Road. Cost is $2.
* The Carnegie Cultural Arts Center, 424 S. C St., Oxnard, is hosting a photography workshop for children 6 and older on Saturday from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Another photo workshop is scheduled for Feb. 23. Cost is $3. For information or to reserve a spot, call 984-4649.
* Children's entertainer Linda Arnold, a singer and storyteller, appears Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at Buena High School in Ventura. Advance tickets are $3.50 for children and $5.50 for adults, $1 more at the door.
WHERE AND WHEN
* The Ventura Department of Parks and Recreation offers modeling for kids 7 to 11 years old on Fridays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Barranca Vista Center, beginning Feb. 1. The six weeks of classes cost $42. The teen modeling class is offered for kids 12 to 17 years old and costs $63. Beginning classes are Tuesdays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. starting next week, and advanced classes are Thursdays from 4:30 to 6 p.m. starting Jan. 31. Call 658-4726 for information.
* The Conejo Recreation and Park District offers modeling for teens 12 to 14 years old on Wednesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. beginning March 19.
* The eight-week series at the Teen Center in Thousand Oaks cost $15. Call 494-5156 for information.