She's not really tall. Only 5-foot-9. "Most runway models are at least 5-foot- 10," says model Claudia Orellana.
But that didn't stop the former co-captain of Belmont High's drill team and current student at East L.A. City College from going toe to pedicured toe with towering Nadja Auermann and Tatiana Patitz at the recent Richard Tyler fashion show in New York.
No one in the audience seemed to miss the extra inch. Indeed, few who encounter the willowy 20-year-old find her lacking. All her short life, Orellana says, "people would always come up to me and tell me I should model." But until three years ago, she was happy to drill and study for her honors courses--as much for her mother's sake as her own. "Education is really important to her because she only went up to sixth grade."
Higher education, however, must take a back seat for now because at 20, Orellana is at the peak of her beauty. She can earn $1,500 a day modeling for catalogues in New York and Europe, and she uses it to help support her mother and younger brother. "I was brought up by a single mom who has worked so hard all her life. I owe her so much," she says. For now, Orellana goes to school during alternate semesters. And learns about the fashion world the rest of the time.