We know them familiarly as Cindy, Linda, Claudia, Kate or Nadja. Ditto our understanding that they make beaucoup bucks, get to trounce around in fabulous clothes, jet-set from Milan to New York and other chic places and in between fraternize with the Beautiful People.
So why shouldn't any teen want to share the spotlight with the supermodels?
The reality: It's not easy for young men and women to crack the highly competitive world of fashion modeling.
Chelsea Galanti, 16, of Laguna Niguel is one of the lucky ones. The 5-foot-10 Dana Hills junior recently signed up with the top-notch international agency Elite Model Management and her life now includes trips to New York, Sydney, Miami and Paris (where she heads this weekend).
But the trips didn't happen overnight. Nor did the sessions with renowned photographers, including Bruce Weber, who slotted her as a rising star in an issue of Interview magazine last year. Likewise the runway work for Isaac Mizrahi, the editorial work for Shape magazine and the Singapore and Greek issues of Elle.
Things didn't really get moving until she turned 15, three years after she started. Chelsea spent the first year or so in "development"--model-ese for an agency shaping the look of potential working models and hiring them out to lower-rate jobs to cultivate their experience in front of a camera and build their portfolios.
Then last spring Chelsea went to a casting for a Volvo commercial Weber was shooting in nearby Balboa. She hesitated showing up for such an unglamorous product. But she did. And she ended up serving as one of the principal models ("I love my mom for making me go," she gushes).
Weber personally called her agency and requested she return for a test. That led to the seductive, tousled-hair black-and-white in Interview, followed by a Banana Republic assignment on Long Island last September--the "highlight so far" of her career. Her mother, who works for an airline, accompanied her on the weeklong job and shared a room as has become customary.
Working with Weber and more experienced models provided Chelsea a sort of crash course in modeling. "I was so nervous. I had to kiss a guy!" she pipes. "I kept thinking my dad's going to kill me--he's 100% full-on Italian."
But there was more to it than that: "I learned so much from Bruce Weber. He changed my idea of what a model should be. He taught me to just be a real person in front of the camera."
Work? Cynics might balk at this notion. But consider that being out and about in New York or Australia means hitting a dozen castings daily. There's the gym, although Chelsea prefers to tone and keep her shape via her in-line skates--the one risky behavior she won't drop.
As for food, she again calls attention to her Italian heritage, saying she continues to eat well "but it's everything in moderation--don't gorge. From Thanksgiving to Christmas I told my agency I'm going to be a teen-ager and enjoy the holidays and the food."
Modeling consumes much of her time, not to mention "you have to give up a lot of fun things," she says, "boyfriends who get (upset) if you appear in a photo with a guy, skipping parties because you have to wake up the next morning early and without dark circles under your eyes."
For Irvine High senior Jennifer Kettner, the sacrifices are just beginning along with her career. "When I play basketball, my mom makes me wear kneepads which are really dorky," says the 17-year-old all-American beauty with long, wheat-colored hair and legs making up a considerable amount of her 5-foot-11 height.
"If I get a zit, it's let's go to the doctor, let's get a facial," she grimaces. "I eat pretty good anyway. But I won't give up chocolate."
School breaks haven't been total treats either since her sophomore year, when her mother sent snapshots into Marian's, a Costa Mesa agency that deals in the fashion industry.
During spring recess that year, Jennifer went to New York City for the first time after meeting a scout from the Next agency at Marian's office. She returned to the city for a month in the summer, again with her mother and again staying in an apartment provided by Next.
Appointments with prospective employers--magazines, clothing companies--are stacked from 9 a.m. until as late as 11 p.m. daily.
"They look at your book, look at you and take a Polaroid--over and over again," recalls Jennifer. No casting proved as nerve-racking as when she visited Seventeen magazine: "I was so scared. I read the magazine and I kept thinking what if I might be in it."
She jetted to Germany last summer for six weeks, again at Next's bidding. Next connected her with an agency in Hamburg and lined up living accommodations. First, she lived with a family, then she moved into her own apartment with another 16-year-old model from Memphis, Tenn., who within a couple of weeks was replaced by a 19-year-old German model.